Friday, July 22, 2005


The Polk County Opportunity Council, which operates the Head Start and other assistance programmes to Polk County's low income citizens, had to acknowledge Thursday that it's Executive Director, Carolyn Speed, violated federal rules when she purchased a $16,232 Canon copier on a no-bid contract and then accepted a trip to Las Vegas --- including a free spa treatment and Cirque de Soleil tickets --- all on Canon's coin.

Speed, who has been working without a contract since the end of June and is on a month-to-month basis presently, approved three other no-bid contracts during the past year totalling $28,000. And PCOC billed Head Start $150,000 for hurricane damage at a Head Start centre parking lot in Bartow --- work that at least one person said could be done for much less --- and $90,000 for two undamaged portable classrooms in Medulla.

Only earlier this week, the board chairman was smothering Speed with praise, and was saying that she should have a new contract within two months.

"While she's running the agency, we're very supporting of her," Ozell Wilson, the chairman of PCOC's board, said Wednesday. "She's done an outstanding job."

But will she be disciplined in any way for this lack of judgement? That is the question.

According to the story in today's Lakeland Ledger, PCOC has until the end of September to answer and resolve 14 issues primarily regarding lax financial safeguards and procedures in how it runs the federally funded Head Start programme. If the Feds don't like what they hear, they could strip PCOC of it's Head Start programme and the $7.5 million in annual funding...which is the vast majority of the agency's budget. So far, the Ledger reports that PCOC has resolved five of those issues, including it's willingness to have more than one official sign off on some financial transactions.


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