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May 9, 2014

FDLE investigating SVTA

Live Oak —

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has confirmed they have an open investigation at Suwannee Valley Transit Authority which is headquartered in Live Oak.

“We do have an active investigation regarding the Suwannee Valley Transit Authority,” FDLE spokesperson Gretl Plessinger said. 

Plessinger said no additional information can be given during an active investigation and would not state the nature of the investigation. 

The SVTA has been under the microscope lately since the Florida Department of Transportation discovered through an ongoing financial audit of SVTA that the ousted administrator and director of operations racked up more than $119,000 in additional pay over their current salaries last year.

Former Administrator Gwendolyn Pra’s salary was $78,748.80 in 2013. She received extra payout in the amount of $82,609.92. Former Director of Operations William “Bill” Steele, 58,  

had a salary of $71,427.20 in 2013 and received extra pay of $36,395.46.

Robert E. Clift, inspector general of FDOT, said SVTA’s cost accounting system is not sufficient “to make a precise determination of the sources of these payments.”

Clift said SVTA has received limited revenue from commercial, non-government activities such as transporting people to and from the Wanee Festival at The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and the Olustee Battlefield Reenactment.

“The limited revenue generated from these private activities as reflected in SVTA records was not sufficient to fund all additional compensation paid to Ms. Pra and Mr. Steele,” said Clift. “This indicates the use of some (undetermined) amount of public funds for these payments.”

It was also learned that Steele had a soiled military past that included a court-martial in 2007 that Pra did not disclose to the SVTA board. Pra, 64, has since resigned and the board voted recently to abolish the director of operations position. 

 

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