TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — When Gary Anzulewicz called Better Call Behnken for help, he was fearful he couldn’t continue delivering oxygen and other medical supplies to low-income residents who need it.
That’s because the Hillsborough County government was more than $100,000 behind on its bill to his company, Respitek Medical Services. Less than 24 hours after Better Call Behnken got involved, he got every penny.
“It’s amazing because of the 30 phone calls that went unanswered, in one day you were able to get results. So what you did in one day, we didn’t accomplish in 30 days,” he said.
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 email@example.com 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.