TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Some vendors under contract to provide services to Hillsborough County government say the county is behind in paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars and they complain they’re not getting answers as to why.
“The continued thing I hear is that it’s not my job. It’s not my department, but it’s their department when they need something in a hurry,” said Gary Anzulewicz, owner of Respitek Medical Services.
Anzulewicz called Better Call Behnken for help, saying he can barely make payroll because the county owes him more than $100,000.
Hours after questions from investigator Shannon Behnken, a spokesman for the clerk’s office said a virtual check for $57,000 is getting cut Thursday for Anzulewicz and another one, for around $45,000 is scheduled to go out on Friday.
A spokesman for the clerk’s office says the office legally has 45 days to make payment – after Hillsborough County staff submits the invoices. He said internal records show that the clerk has 3,600 outstanding invoices still in that 45-day period and 133 that are over 60 days.
However, one vendor tells Better Call Behnken that his company was just paid this week for invoices that were approved by the county in July and that this week’s payment was around $2,000, even though more than $400,000 is due and more than $200,000 is over the required 45 day period.
The clerk’s office points to a transfer to a new computer system as part of the problem and says the computer system was down for a week during the transfer and kinks are continuing to be worked out.
As a result of questions from Better Call Behnken, the clerk’s office on Thursday set up a new email and phone number for vendors to reach them directly about billing issues. They can contact them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 813-307-7153.
A county spokesman referred questions to the Clerk of Court.
Cindy Stuart, Clerk of Court, sat down with Better Call Behnken to explain.
“We thank you for bringing this to our attention,” she said. “And we apologize to the vendor.”
She says the county has paid out $65 million in the past two weeks but admits there’s a backlog of payments. She blames a switch to a new computer system, miscommunication with county staff and a staffing shortage in her office.
“… There are kinks in the system, we have to work through all of that,” she said.
Stuart says she is hopeful the new email and phone number will help her team get vendors paid faster.