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Editorials

Another ugly episode at the PTC

Published:   |   Updated: September 13, 2013 at 04:16 PM

Add another ugly episode to the ongoing drama surrounding Hillsborough County’s Public Transportation Commission.

County Commissioner Les Miller’s abrupt resignation in the middle of a PTC board meeting this week put the troubled agency back in the news for reasons that have nothing to do with helping our community regulate its taxis, limos, ambulances and tow trucks, which is why the agency exists.

Miller’s resignation was preceded by the sudden retirement of the PTC’s longtime executive director, who was caught moonlighting on another job while calling in sick to his $107,000-a-year PTC job. That occurred as a nonprofit legal organization was filing a lawsuit that claims the agency’s regulations are unfair to limo drivers.

As we’ve said before, state lawmakers should disband the PTC during their next legislative session, and its regulatory duties should be assigned to county government. Hillsborough remains the only county in the state with a separate agency regulating limos, taxis and other vehicles. That’s a distinction it should shed.

Miller quit this week after objecting to the way PTC Chairman Victor Crist, also a Hillsborough County commissioner, was running the meetings. He was particularly upset Crist had initiated contract negotiations with the agency’s executive director before the sudden retirement. Miller complained the board had not authorized the negotiations.

When Crist wouldn’t budge, Miller quit on the spot. We find that unbecoming of an elected official.

Miller says he resigned knowing an alternate member, County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, would take his place. Still, Miller should have showed more professionalism. He should have waited until he could be replaced in an orderly manner.

Constituents deserve better from an elected official — even if Miller’s concerns are warranted. Indeed, those concerns should be discussed by county officials.

As for Crist, perhaps he needs to evaluate how he conducts PTC meetings and how he operates as chairman.

Three county commissioners serve on the PTC along with two Tampa City Council members and representatives from Temple Terrace and Plant City.

Crist is making a stand to save the PTC by tightening procedures, and Miller says he agrees with Crist that the agency is needed, despite his decision to quit. Without it, they both say, the quality of the services they regulate will deteriorate and customers can’t be assured that the driver they hire is a professional.

We disagree. County government can police limo and taxi drivers, and make certain tow trucks and ambulances are professionally run.

The time and energy spent managing the PTC is not worth the effort. The agency is better known for its scandals — including a bribery conviction that sent a former board member to prison — than for its regulatory work.

Miller’s resignation is another sign of dysfunction in an agency that has outlived its purpose.

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