Juanita Heinzen, executive director of Pinellas Head Start
Largo, Florida -- Head Start is such a popular program, parents - many of whom can't speak English - line up to get their kids in. Clearly, Head Start has had a positive impact on families nationwide and in Pinellas County, but documents 10 News has obtained, and the agencies demeanor when we tried to ask tough questions, including hanging up on us three times, puts Head Start in a different light.
Much of the problem surrounds Executive Director Juanita Heinzen, who has been with the agency since 2003 and earns $136,036. Heinzen is currently on administrative leave after being arrested for filing a false police report and lying. She told Largo police a van had been stolen from an agency Head Start funds.
But, in truth, it was taken by Kevin Scott Edwards from the house where Heinzen lives with Edwards. He's also her fiancé and is a contractor for an organization funded by Head Start called Friends and Family. The agency pays $144,000 in consultant expenses. It's not clear how much goes to Edwards.
The Pinellas Juvenile Welfare Board is one of the agencies which funds Head Start. Communications Director Ben Kirby says JWB watches how taxpayer money is spent and it is investigating. Kirby says the agency is aware others are also investigating. He says when information like this comes to the JWB it raises concerns.
Also read: Juvenile Welfare Board Memo (.pdf)
In addition, an audit is raising issues about documentation, benefits, financial statements and time sheets. All of this seems to have Pinellas Head Start taking a step backward.
Mike Deeson, 10 News