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Bean wants Hillsborough County to pay her full severance, plus legal expenses

TAMPA — Former Hillsborough County Administrator Pat Bean is seeking her full severance and reimbursement for legal expenses related to her firing last year.

County Commission Chairman Al Higginbotham said an attorney for Bean has stood firm in discussions during the past two weeks about her severance payoff.

He said her attorney has expressed some potential flexibility with the legal fees she amassed to defend herself against allegations of wrongdoing that led to her dismissal. However, Higginbotham said he has not been told yet how much Bean amassed in legal bills, or the amount she spent on the criminal investigation vs. the attorney costs tied to negotiations over her dismissal.

Higginbotham echoed comments from other commissioners two weeks ago expressing a desire to resolve the matter quickly. A discussion of the payout is scheduled for today's commission meeting.

"I want to put this to rest," Higginbotham said. "I don't think it's to the benefit of the taxpayers, the County Commission or Ms. Bean to drag this out."

Commissioners fired Bean in June for what some of them said was a pattern of poor decisions and an inability to adapt to challenging economic conditions. Under severance terms in her contract, she was due a year of pay and benefits, along with unused sick and vacation time, all valued at about $455,000.

However, commissioners voted to deny Bean most of her severance, giving her about $191,000 before taxes for the unused sick and vacation pay. They cited a 1 percent pay raise she gave herself and other top officials in 2007 without their permission as cause to fire her without paying full severance.

Under the terms of her contract, Bean could be fired without severance for committing a felony, a crime of moral turpitude or any illegal act involving personal gain as part of her job. They said the pay raise tripped that last provision since the county's charter says commissioners set the administrator's pay.

A Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation concluded that Bean showed poor judgment in awarding herself a raise but that it could not be proved she committed a crime. The investigative report noted Bean got an opinion blessing the raise from by County Attorney Renee Lee, who also got a pay bump as part of the same action.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe has been the most adamant advocate for not paying Bean any more in severance. He said Tuesday that his position has not changed.

"It's not her money," Sharpe said. "It's the taxpayers' money. She violated her contract."

Bean's attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

Bean wants Hillsborough County to pay her full severance, plus legal expenses 05/03/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 11:57pm]
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