TAMPA After serving eight sometimes turbulent years as director of Hillsborough County Head Start, Louis Finney Jr. suddenly and without public explanation left the $95,000 a year county job.
His resignation letter May 3 said only that he was leaving “to take on another challenging opportunity to continue working with children and families in the State of Florida.”
He didn’t go very far.
The Wednesday after his Friday resignation, Finney started a new job as vice president for the Head Start division of Lutheran Services Florida, just a few doors away from where he ran Hillsborough County’s $30 million a year Head Start program.
“We’re happy to have him,” said Lutheran Services Human Resources Vice President Matt Rosen. “We hired him because we are expanding Head Start. He knows more about Head Start than anyone else.”
Rosen said Finney will receive $125,000 a year at Lutheran Services, $30,000 more than his county job paid. He joins a nonprofit organization whose top four executives collectively earn less than a million dollars a year to help deliver a variety of social services.
Rosen said Finney will not compete with Hillsborough Head Start in his new role with Lutheran Services. He will, however, be doing business with his former colleagues as a county services provider.
“Grants through Head Start go through counties and then different agencies like ours,” Rosen said.
The Head Start office Finney headed came under fire in 2011 when its former chief financial officer, Michael Jimenez, was convicted of federal fraud charges after arranging for the office to buy copies of his wife’s book. The conviction was overturned earlier this year.
Finney was not implicated in the case, but during the investigation, he did decline to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.
Last October, Finney was arrested on a DUI charge in Orlando while attending a conference for the county. His blood alcohol level fell below the state standard where motorists are presumed to be impaired but above the level that permits a DUI arrest. The charge was later reduced to careless driving.
A video of the arrest, reviewed by News Channel 8, showed Finney pleaded with the arresting officer, saying, “I’m a retired military police officer. I’m gonna lose my job and my veterans benefits after this.”
Finney’s resignation came just days after a reporter began asking questions about the arrest video.
His boss, county Family and Aging Services Director Venneria Thomas, said Finney told her of the arrest and she passed it up the chain of command. There is no record of Finney’s arrest or of any reprimand in his personnel file.
“There was no adjudication based on that arrest,” said Deputy County Administrator Sharon Subudan. “We don’t take action on employees based on arrest and our policy has been consistent.”