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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas commissioners tangle over aides again



Remember the bickering and standoff when Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche wanted to hire an assistant?

The tensions reared again in an off-camera work session Tuesday – the board refuses to televise discussion of its own budget, unlike other department spending – after the proposed 2011-12 spending plan was unveiled.

Commission Chairwoman Susan Latvala didn’t pull any punches -- or her dumbfounded stares, or exasperated sighs -- toward her fellow commissioners and their executive assistants.

In a conference room just down the hall from where they answer phones, Latvala adamantly pushed for them to absorb more responsibility and cover the needs of other offices -- or else.

“No other employee gets to say that they won’t do that on a regular basis,” Latvala said. “(My assistant) has been going upstairs to help out. It’s not a hardship.”

Latvala said she was surprised all seven commissioners still had their own executive assistants (layoffs have hammered other departments). Roche countered by saying that all board members have “unscheduled schedules.”

Roche cited a memorandum scribed by assistants and sent to some but not all commissioners that indicated an unwillingness to take on a heavier load.

Shaking her head and sighing throughout Roche’s statements, Latvala had asked the board, “Are you comfortable telling taxpayers you need a full-time assistant?”

And when Roche said he was wary of changes, Latvala butted in, asking, “Of getting your own coffee?”

-- C. Ryan Barber, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 1:51pm]


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