Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Go Hillsborough: A Tale of Cronyism, Corruption and Collusion

As posted consistently at the Eye for the last year, the Go Hillsborough campaign was NEVER a "good faith" public engagement effort to create a transportation plan.  Simply search our blog posts using "Go Hillsborough, Beth Leytham, Parsons Brinckerhoff, or transportation."

Go Hillsborough was a well orchestrated marketing campaign, now costing taxpayers almost $1.5 MILLION dollars, to force a sales tax referendum on the 2016 ballot.

Go Hillsborough was orchestrated behind the scenes with no transparency and outside of our Sunshine laws.

We always speculated and have known for quite sometime that there was back door collusion going on with Go Hillsborough.

Collusion reigned king in the Go Hillsborough phony baloney crony taxpayer funded campaign led by the well connected political insider Crony Queen Beth Leytham.
10 Investigates's Noah Pransky investigates cronyism
 in Hillsborough County and in Tampa
Thanks to Noah Pransky and his 10 Investigates report now we know who has been colluding within this entire Go Hillsborough crony process.
  • County commissioners, some of who have close associations with Crony Queen Leytham.
  • Parsons Brinckerhoff, Crony Queen Leytham's client, a crony engineering firm who has a colorful history of using their political prowess and band of mercenaries to ram tax referendums through that they can then benefit from.
  • Bob Clifford, former TBARTA Executive Director who resigned from TBARTA last May and conveniently went to work for Parsons in June 2014 sat in the audience of the August PLG meeting when the vote was taken to hire the Parsons/Letham team. He's been the face of Parsons throughout the campaign.
  • County Administrator Mike Merrill - he enabled the crony procurement process that circumvented any normal bid process for the public engagement work. He has always wanted another boatload of your tax dollars and has been the face of pushing the sales tax referendum for over a year. 
  • Kevin Thurman, Executive Director of Connect Tampa Bay, the local transit lobbyist who helped the process from the outside by being a leaker of certain information at various times - Crony Queen Leytham was so close to him that she hijacked Connect Tampa Bay's campaign theme "Go Hillsborough" and suddenly CTB removed their Go Hillsborough presentation from their website (but of course we already had a copy of it)
  • The Tribune, who has been pounding the pavement for a sales tax hike since the transportation initiative started over 2 years ago, and instead of investigating Go Hillsborough, has continued to circle the wagons to protect the corrupt process.
  • Mayor Buckhorn, his close ties to Crony Queen Beth Leytham are well documented and he sat as a voting member of the Policy Leadership Group and voted to hire Parsons knowing that hundreds of thousands of tax dollars would get laundered to his campaign PR consultant Leytham.
  • And the cog of this crony wheel is the Crony Queen Beth Leytham. She owns her PR/lobbyist business that is a staff of one - her; and the sucking sound of your tax dollars funneled to her PR firm The Leytham Croup go all to her.
Beth Leytham
This collusion helps explains why there has been little transparency but much deception with this entire Go Hillsborough process.

County commissioners cannot feign ignorance. I have made numerous public comments at BOCC meetings. I have spoken to county commissioners, some numerous times, about the crony Parsons Brinkcerhoff contract and the corrupted process. 

In fact, I asked the county commissioners to stop funding Go Hillsborough at the July 15 BOCC meeting, the day before the July 16 Policy Leadership Group meeting Merrill wanted the Policy Leadership Group to vote to continue pursuing the 1/2 percent sales tax increase proposal. Click on the second HTV link (afternoon session) here and scroll to about 3:52 at the end to listen to my public comment. 

On July 16 all the county commissioners, except Stacy White, voted to continue pursuing the 1/2 percent sales tax hike proposed. They also agreed to handing the crony Parsons/Leytham team another $350K of our tax dollars. This time Merrill conveniently worked out for the municipalities to chip in a $100K so the county would cough up $250K, the upper limit of what Merrill has authority to unilaterally approve with no vote needed by the county commissioners.

County Administrator Mike Merrill cannot feign ignorance. Merrill cannot say he had nothing to do with procuring the Parsons contract. I began submitting Public Records Request for documentation about the Parsons contract and how this public engagement work was procured on September 9, 2014. I have a paper trail since then that can be a post for another day.

County staff cannot feign ignorance as I have spoken to too many of them since September 2014 about too many issues swirling around Go Hillsborough and the million dollar blank check no bid contract "handed" to Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Leytham, who supposedly was known for her crisis management skills for others cannot coverup her own crisis that she created and enabled.

When cronyism and collusion collide, there is corruption.

There's more so stay tuned.

But you can take action NOW! The county commissioners cannot allow this corrupted process to continue.

Contact our county commissioners and DEMAND they vote to shut down the crony corrupt Go Hillsborough campaign at tomorrow's BOCC meeting. Not another taxpayer dime should be spent on the corrupt Go Hillsborough campaign.

Better yet - show up at the BOCC meeting tomorrow, sign up before 9am to make a public comment and tell the county commissioners directly.

1 comment:

  1. Sharon, I think it's about time for someone to begin a petition drive to end Go Hillsborough. I have to admit, you were correct on many fronts when it came to the entire process. It truly is a circus act...and one that will land the county in a situation where they will pitch TBX as the "only alternative" for transportation.

    Now don't take this comment as a 180 on what I've said before. I am not going to agree with you on everything. Most definitely not what you say about Connect Tampa Bay. You always chastise them every chance you get. Furthermore, this circus isn't going to wind up the way you think it will. Stay tuned for that.