Gov. Rick Scott vows to end wasteful spending at workforce boards

5:08 PM, Oct 14, 2011   |    comments
A cartoon character called "Dr. Evil Unemployment" was one misguided PR attempt by Workforce Central Florida that cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. Gov. Scott thinks that money should have been used to help people find jobs.
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Tallahassee, Florida - When Workforce Central Florida decided to spend $14,000 to buy 6,000 red "superhero" capes for unemployed workers, the agency got skewered for using bad judgment and wasting federal tax dollars.

Now Gov. Rick Scott is using that situation as one of several examples to build momentum for major changes in Florida's federally funded workforce system.

The superhero capes were part of a public relations campaign that Workforce Central Florida developed last spring. It included a cartoon character called "Dr. Evil Unemployment."

The board said it wanted to use a lighthearted approach to connect with unemployed people. It's fair to say most of them did not appreciate the humor.

Gov. Scott believes there has been a pattern of questionable spending and management practices at some of the local workforce boards in recent years. The Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance was another board that received harsh criticism last year for using tax dollars to throw lavish parties and buy expensive meals for employees.

The governor's new legislative agenda unveiled this week reveals Scott is going after the 24 workforce boards and will demand more accountability from them over the money they spend.

"Those dollars are supposed to be spent on helping get people back to work. Not buying things like capes that people won't wear. Some of our workforce boards have wasted a lot of money. That's your tax dollars whether they're federal tax dollars or state tax dollars, that's your money. We're going to make sure that money is spent well helping people again get re-employed."

Gov. Scott has ordered widespread changes at Workforce Central Florida, including getting rid of all the board members and replacing top managers.

Scott says he wants more emphasis on helping people find jobs by giving them the necessary training, rather than just paying them jobless benefits.

The workforce centers in Florida receive more than $300 million in federal cash each year for job placement and training.

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