Workforce Investment Board relocates

Published 9:41 am Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Workforce Investment Board, previously located at 130 Legrande Ave. in Charlotte Court House, is moving to a new location.

The board’s new home will be located at 285 George Washington Hwy. in Charlotte Court House and will provide about 3,000 square feet in space.

However, concerns were raised about how business was conducted surrounding the space rental for the new location.

The rental property is currently owned by Workforce Board Member Gary Walker, who also serves as Chairman of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors and is a member of the Facilities Committee.

At a Facilities Committee Meeting Wednesday, April 4, Facilities Committee Member Kay Pierantoni said the end result is the county lost $8,400 and “in my mind that’s wrong.”

Walker said Debra Crowder, executive director of the Workforce Board, approached him about needing a handicap accessible space after checking with the County Administrator, and there were no available spaces from the county.

Walker said the organization was going to move to Chase City if adequate facilities were not found in the county.

“The Workforce Board has been in the Red Cross Building and they wanted something, just like the Registrar, that was handicap accessible and they wanted it now,” said Facilities Committee Member Nancy Carwile at the April 4 Facilities Committee meeting.

She said the organization asked County Administrator R.B. Clark for a place, however, there were no handicap spaces available at that time.

“We knew . . . well, we didn’t all know, but Mr. (Gary) Walker knew because he’s on the (South Central Workforce) Board, that when they go to another county, they will use that other county as a fiscal agent and we get $20,000 from them for being the fiscal agent,” said Carwile.

“If ya’ll don’t think that, that was wrong and to skew it by . . . we as a fiscal agent, absolutely if we had lost workforce we would’ve lost the revenue as fiscal agent. I understand that,” said Pierantoni.

At an April Budget Work Session of the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors, Pierantoni asked Walker to explain the loss of $8,400 in revenue to the county from rent.

During that time, Walker said as a member of the South Central Workforce Board, the discussion reflected the organization would probably have to look for a building in another county since there were no handicap accessible spaces available.

“Ms. Crowder came to me after Mr. Clark told her he didn’t have any space and said that her alternative was to leave the county and she was aware that I had a building down the street that was vacant . . .,” Walker said.

He said Crowder asked if he’d be interested in renting the building. “I told her if she couldn’t find anywhere else that I would make it available to them and make it available for almost half the rent to what I was previously getting, so I know this is something you think might be a conflict of interest . . .” Walker said.

He said there is no local money involved and he is not appointed by the Board of Supervisors to the Workforce Board.

During the facilities committee meeting, Carwile said Walker did not bring the matter before the Facilities Committee; however, he should have for his own protection. “He left himself wide-open for people to go around and say Mr. Walker is making money off of county business, which was wrong, wasn’t the situation, but he left himself unprotected,” said Carwile.

Pierantoni said if Walker was aware that space was needed, it should have been brought to the facilities committee.

“Kay is right, we should be protecting ourselves and not have people coming in saying ‘favoritism, favoritism’ when we do things . . .,” said Carwile.

She said it should not have been a back room deal.

“If Mr. Walker came to you Mr. Clark and talked about what space was needed, especially considering that then Mr. Walker was going to be the benefit of that revenue, that should’ve not been a back room deal,” said Pierantoni.

“ . . . you accused me of a back room deal and I didn’t do any back room deal,” said Clark. “Don’t accuse me of anything else for the next 90 days.”

“If ya’ll try to run this county that way, you’re going to have a tremendous turnover,” said Clark, referencing a new county administrator following his July 1 retirement.

Pierantoni said Walker had a responsibility to disclose to the facilities committee that space was needed. “You’re on facilities and you have a responsibility to disclose to facilities that there was a need for space,” said Pierantoni to Walker. “And yes, I can think of some spaces . . . but that’s water over the dam. Even If the end result would’ve been the same, you had a responsibility to disclose . . .,” she said.

Pierantoni said to Walker, “you tried to skew it to say that the rent money is paid with federal funds,” noting when she previously mentioned the matter at the Supervisor’s Budget Work session.

“I just don’t like calling down employees in a public meeting,” said Carwile.