Thursday, October 05, 2006


In the midst of the financial and administrative craziness gripping the Polk County Opportunity Council, he was supposed to be the agency's saviour. Gary Hartfield was tapped to bring some stability to the organization and guide it through the state probation and federal probes into sloppy bookkeeping and administrative practices.

Instead, after only less than a year at the helm, Hartfield was forced to resign as the community action agency's executive director this week after acknowledging that federal Head Start investigators had been surreptiously recorded while reviewing agency records to insure that longstanding sloppy bookkeeping and other financial-related issues had been corrected. He was the third executive director in as many years.

Hartfield's predecessor, Carolyn Speed, was forced to resign last November following a list of problems within the agency last year and for accepting an all expenses paid trip to Las Vegas in 2004 from a vendor after signing a no-bid contract to purchase a copy machine. Her predecessor served jail time for using agency assets for personal use.

It is yet another burden for PCOC, which runs the local Head Start programme and provides other services to benefit the area's low income residents. It has endured a litany of problems, mainly based on sloppy bookkeeping and overspending. Congressman Adam H. Putnam (R - Bartow) has called on a number of occasions for funding to be pulled from PCOC and it's programmes contracted to other agencies.

While PCOC may be working hard to correct it's problems, and I sincerely hope that it is, the stupidity of this latest episode provides little comfort or reason for confidence.


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