Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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CareerSource Florida Crown – MUTINY: Under investigation by Florida Workforce’s top financial investigator, exec-dir - board staff exit en-masse

CareerSource Florida Crown Executive Director resigns

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA – The three-year-long investigation into CareerSource Florida Crown has culminated in the mass resignation of Florida Crown's Executive Director Robert Jones, the Director of Finance Jeff Geering, the IT/Program Services Director Ron Jones, and the two other office staff members.

As mentioned in last Wednesday's article, CareerSource Florida Crown Under Investigation by DEO for Recurring Financial Improprieties, CareerSource Florida Crown is under investigation for financial improprieties going back three fiscal years: 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Note: There is confusion, nothing new in Florida, this time about the name of the Department of Commerce. Florida had a Department of Commerce until the early 1990s when it switched names. In 2023, Florida switched back. See: Florida Politics.

However, Florida presently does not use the acronym DOC, but FloridaCommerce, which we will use for present-day references to the Florida Department of Commerce. DEO, or the Department of Economic Opportunity, was used before 2023 and will be referenced that way if DEO was the responsible entity.

During a special called FL Crown meeting on March 7, 2024, the FL Crown Executive Committee met to review the findings of FloridaCommerce and to take action.

Florida Crown Chairman Eugene Dukes explained the reason at the special March 7 meeting [abridged]:

We're here for the determination for CareerSource FL Crown reoccurring financial monitoring findings. We're talking about something that has not just happened but has been occurring allegedly over the last few years. We're looking at the recurring financial monitoring findings from several years. We're trying to come to the bottom as to why these findings were found: if these are legitimate findings – if they're not legitimate findings.

They've (DEO) been asking for explanations from what I've read for several years. They've been asking for Florida Crown to provide them a record or some kind of evidence that they have not been comingling federal funds.

I think that's a reasonable request.

Long time FL Crown Executive Dir. Robert Jones explained his side of the story for about forty minutes.

He said DEO never wrote up FL Crown for any disallowed costs; no one at FloridaCommerce could tell FL Crown what it was doing wrong; FL Crown was always stable; this organization never spent dollars they should not have spent out of federal funds.

Mr. Robert Jones said, "To say this is a deteriorating organization, I totally disagree… I promise you that I have never spent one dollar in a manner that was not approved by law or whatever laws there is. I need some proof.”

Sometime later, Executive Director Jones said, "All the negative fund balances [are] in the unrestricted account. It has nothing to do with the federal accounts.” He complained that no one at FloridaCommerce “gave us help."

Chairman Dukes asked what money was in the unrestricted account.

Finance Director Jeff Geering said, “Able Trust is in the unrestricted account and everything else that cannot be used for state funds -- state grants and everything else… the summer youth employment programs -- that they're not eligible [summer programs which have been reported to be used by County and City employees who pay the difference because they don’t meet the poverty requirements for their children] that the City and the County fund… anything here that's not -- so like – waters, if we had staff luncheons or something like that. All that comes out of unrestricted.”

If a fund is unrestricted, it doesn't mean you can pay for anything

Things like staff luncheons also included funding for staff Christmas parties. Funding staff luncheons and Christmas parties, while they come out of unrestricted funds, have been found not to be proper expenditures by the Florida Atty. Gen.

Florida Crown is not the only local special district that funded staff Christmas parties. The North Central Florida Regional Planning Council did this for years until your reporter threatened to sue them to stop.

As the conclusion of the March 7 meeting came to an end, the Executive Committee voted the 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.

The alternative option of FL Crown funding its programs on a cost reimbursement basis was a nonstarter because FL Crown did not have the money to fund the programs.

The full FL Crown Board must approve the actions of the Executive Committee.

While there was originally a full board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, March 13, there were issues. The main issue was that Chairman Dukes asserted his prerogative of approving the agenda before it was approved and distributed. This is common practice in Florida.

It was reported that on Thursday/Friday of last week, folks at FL Crown balked at the Chairman approving the agenda before distribution. When Chairman Dukes refused to approve the agenda, tempers flared.

Yesterday, March 11, at 3:44 pm, the board administrative assistant, finance director, IT/Programs director, and office assistant resigned.

The Florida Crown personnel manual requires two weeks' notice when quitting.

An email announcing the resignations from administrative assistant Christina Williams said, “This email is typed on behalf of Mr. Robert Jones. Effective immediately, March 11, 2024, Mr. Robert Jones, Executive Director for CareerSource Florida Crown, has resigned from his position as the Executive Director and all responsibilities assigned to this position. A formal letter is forthcoming from Mr. Jones confirming his resignation."

At this time, it is not clear if Ms. Williams' statements regarding the Executive Director's resignation are legal. Executive Director Jones did not sign the email.

Executive Director Robert Jones, who claimed at last week's meeting to do everything by the book, apparently did not read his contract, which states he may leave employment with or without cause “by providing the other party with written notice no less than sixty (60) days prior to the date of said termination [resignation].”

At 4:14 pm yesterday afternoon, your reporter received a call from IT/Program Director Ron Jones, who told your reporter that he and the entire board staff had resigned because Board Chairman Dukes had caused a hostile workplace.

The Board meets today to approve the actions of the Executive Committee and now to deal with the mass resignations. Meeting information has not been posted to the FL Crown website because permissions for access were removed sometime yesterday.


Nobody at FL Crown admits to having removed the permission for access to the FL Crown website. CareerSource will be investigating.

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