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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hillsborough commissioners kick off county attorney search



Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to hire an outside firm to begin searching for a new county attorney.

The 5-1 vote authorizes the county to solicit offers from a head-hunting firm, to cap the payment for that firm at $25,000 and to conduct a statewide search. A recommendation on what firm to hire must go back to the board before the actual search begins.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner voted against the motion, arguing that the position ought to be advertised nationally. He also suggested that the county's Civil Service Board could conduct the search and that, if an outside firm was picked, the fee shouldn't be capped to ensure that the county gets the most qualified firm.

Commissioner Al Higginbotham was absent due to a death in his family.

Board Chairman Ken Hagan, who brought the matter forward, noted that issue has been lingering for some time. Former County Attorney Renee Lee was dismissed last year amidst allegations that she blessed a stealth raise for herself and engaged in email snooping. Acting County Attorney Don Odom is due to retire by July 1.

Hagan argued that Florida law has lots of state-specific quirks that make it important for the county to hire someone familiar with them. He said the statewide search wouldn't preclude someone who is licensed in Florida but has moved out of state from applying.

He also said that hiring an outside firm provides the best assurance that the search is conducted at arms length, preventing the process from favoring any prospective candidate.

"I think by hiring an outside firm," Hagan said, "it depoliticizes the search and keeps us above the fray."

Beckner pressed several times for at least advertising the position in national legal publications, but was generally rebuffed by other board members.


[Last modified: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 12:04pm]


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