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Head Start managers go to fancy resort on public dime | News

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Head Start managers go to fancy resort on public dime
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Largo, Florida -- How does a three day training summit at a first-class resort and spa sound to you? Well, that's where Pinellas Head Start held their summit for the second time... and once again it's on your dime.

This is an agency that has been under fire before and has been reeling since a highly critical Health Human Services audit came out last May. It appears that the agency and its executive director, Juanita Heinzen, haven't changed and you are paying for it.

When we last reported on Heinzen, she was walking out of the Pinellas Courthouse after agreeing to a plea bargain for lying to police. But Heinzen, who makes $136,036 a year, has been at much fancier digs lately. She conducted a three day planning summit at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.

Pinellas Head Start could have conducted its training in its own building that has facilities to accommodate everyone who went to the training. Their offices have the latest audio visual equipment, big screen TV's, computers, the works, all paid for with your tax dollars.

But Heinzen believes this facility just isn't good enough. 

"Because of the constant interruptions, people walking in... the cross traffic here is tremendous," says Heinzen.

This is the second time Pinellas Head Start held a training summit at Safety Harbor Resort and Spa, and it spent between $5,000 and $6,000 in taxpayer dollars. It's money that won't be spent on people who some say need it the most.

The latest federal audit:

  • Cited the agency for Improper charges of $31,704 for seven training trips
  • It noted two of the trips with head start employees and board members were to Las Vegas cost $13,569
  • A management conference with nine staff member spent $616 for dinner

It something Heinzen didn't want to talk about. "Thank you very much, have a great day... thank you very much," said Heinzen as she walked away from us.

The agency has also been cited for conflicts of interest and favoritism involving board members and Heinzen's own daughter. The improper use of Head Start funds is also being investigated by the FBI, and critics say they wouldn't be surprised if Heinzen was in court again and not able to walk away so easily.

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