Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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CareerSource Florida Crown Under Investigation by DEO for Recurring Financial Improprieties

CareerSource FL Crown workforce board meeting
September 13, 2023, FL Crown meeting. One month before, DOC sent FL Crown Chairman Noah Walker a registered letter advising him and others of financial improprieties. People at the meeting who should have known about the financial problems: Jeff Geering (finance dir.) second from left; Robert Jones (executive dir.) at head of table; Noah Walker (chairman), Ron Jones (IT and Business Services dir) 4th on right.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA – CareerSource Florida Crown is under investigation for financial improprieties going back three fiscal years: 2020, 2021, and 2022. Over the course of time, former Florida Crown Chairman Noah Walker and County Commission Board members were notified. In Columbia County, these financial improprieties were not reported to the public.


Florida Crown is one of Florida's twenty-four local workforce development boards. According to the Florida Department of Commerce (DOC), "CareerSource Florida works with partners in business and industry, education, economic development and community development to achieve our vision to make Florida the global leader for talent, and we fulfill our mission with honesty, accountability and transparency.”

At one time, Florida Crown fulfilled its mission. With the departure of former Executive Director “JC” John Chastain in 2013, Florida Crown’s finance director Robert Jones took over.

Things went along reasonably well until the hiring of Ron Jones as IT Director in April of 2017. Mr. Ron Jones became Executive Dir. Robert Jones’ right-hand man and took over many functions of the Executive Director. Getting information regarding the Ron Jones application and background information required a public record lawsuit by your reporter to get Florida Crown to shake loose the information.

Pointing to an insider deal, information received from Florida Crown indicates that Ron Jones was the only applicant for the IT Director position.

One of the first conversations your reporter had with Mr. Ron Jones was about the deficits of the Florida Crown website. Those problems remained until fixed recently (six years).

Mr. Jones still cannot get a Zoom meeting to work without attendees calling in.

Ron Jones was promoted to Director of IT Business and Programmatic Services. It is unclear when, as documents provided by Florida Crown regarding the new Ron Jones job description are undated and unsigned.

To be fair, undated documents are a problem in Columbia County.

Florida Crown employees also questioned Mr. Ron Jones' work habits and demeanor.

Dept. of Commerce Findings
Years of "deteriorating financial condition"

FL Dept of Commerce chart showing FL Crown financial improprieties For at least four years (DOC went back four years), Florida Crown has not been able to demonstrate that it has not offset its declining negative position with federal funds.

DOC has significant concerns about Florida Crown’s ability to meet its federal financial management and internal controls requirements.

According to DOC, Florida Crown has been unable to demonstrate whether the issue has been resolved. DOC believes the accounting and grants management practices employed by Florida Crown do not meet the criteria set by the federal government.

What does this mean? Florida Crown cannot establish that Federal funds have been “used according to the Federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and conditions of the Federal award.”

Florida Crown has not established and maintained “effective internal control over the Federal award that provides reasonable assurance that the non-Federal entity is managing the Federal award in compliance with Federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and conditions of the Federal award.”

DOC’s findings do not paint a pretty picture

According to DOC's Quality Assurance Report for Program Year 2022-2023, Florida Crown’s year-end net position demonstrates an increasingly deteriorating financial condition, a recurring finding in its prior single audit reports over the past four years.

DOC investigation found that Florida Crown's continued deteriorating financial condition is due to a lack of control over unrestricted expenditures and a lack of management action.

DEO claims that Florida Crown management has been made aware of Florida Crown’s fiscal stress from its single audit reports, but has failed to strengthen budgetary monitoring and control for several years. Additionally, Florida Crowns’ corrective action plan “does not include established policies and procedures that would provide the detailed, specific processes necessary for consistent monitoring and control over the budget.”

DOC found that without Florida Crown's "commitment to fiscal integrity and budgetary control, its year-end net position will likely continue to deteriorate, exposing federal awards to further risk of misuse.”

Cash management a big problem.

FL Dept of Commerce chart showing FL Crown financial improprieties
DOC chart from Quality Assurance Report. Florida Crown cash draw amounts.

DOC sampled five cash draws totaling $662,002.30. Florida Crown’s draw amount was $449,600.28 more than the estimated cash draw calculation worksheet expenditures. DOC reported that "based on discussions with Florida Crown, additional expenditures were considered but were not documented during the cash draw calculation process.”

Because of its lack of effective planning, budgeting, documentation, and record-keeping, the management of Florida Crown has put itself and taxpayers at risk.

It is also unclear how much of the almost one-half million dollars went into people's pockets, if any.

DOC Is Giving Florida Crown Two Options

Option 1: Designate CareerSource North Central Florida, Local Workforce Development Board (LWDB 9) as the fiscal agent for Florida Crown and agree to transfer all funding to LWDB 9 to implement programs and administer Florida Crown’s operations. LWDB 9 is Alachua County’s workforce board.

Option 2: Elect to go forward under a cost reimbursement model consistent with and as allowed by the federal government. Upon such election, DOC will strictly enforce deadlines and designate LWDB 9 as the fiscal agent for implementing programs and administration of operations at Florida Crown.

DOC has pointed out that neither option 1 nor option 2 will relieve Florida Crown from the financial liability associated with any determinations by DOC of ultimate disallowance. LWDB 9 will not be liable for assuming any disallowance before the date of designation of LWDB 9 as the fiscal agent, nor will LWDB 9 be liable for any subsequently discovered disallowance that was incurred as a result of Florida Crown's activities before the date of LWDB 9's designation.


If it is found that Florida Crown misallocated funds, misused funds, came up short, and owed the government money, the local member counties, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, and Union, will have to come up with the difference.


*Updated March 6, 2024 2:02 pm: fixed two typos.

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