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Embattled Hernando HR director resigns

BROOKSVILLE — After hours of negotiations with County Administrator David Hamilton Thursday afternoon, human resources director Barbara Dupre agreed to resign her position effective immediately.

After signing the separation agreement, she was escorted from the government center by deputy county administrator Larry Jennings for her safety and in keeping with county procedures, Hamilton said.

For waiving any future legal claims against the county, Dupre will receive a cash settlement of $24,900 and will be able to collect standard employee benefits such as accumulated sick pay.

Hamilton said the decision to part ways "is in the best interests of the organization and of Barbara.'' He said the discussions were "very cordial and very professional. At the end, we shook hands and I wished her well.''

After leaving her office Thursday, Dupre said, "I have had a great time and learned a lot over the last 10 years. I've had the opportunity to work with some awesome individuals, many of whom I consider great friends.''

Over the years, she said, she has had several other job opportunities crop up. "Now I intend to explore those and I look forward to the great challenge of taking on that new role, no matter what it is,'' she said.

Dupre, 35, has been human resources director for 10 years. Her salary is approximately $92,000.

Hamilton said the separation agreement takes into account her 10-year career with the county as well as positive evaluations from previous administrators. But he also had to consider the recent legal report detailing numerous serious problems with her operation.

Dupre's departure is part of the county's investigation into racial harassment and discrimination in the utilities department. Hamilton had sought an independent review of the county's findings before deciding how to handle the situation.

The Tampa law firm Glenn Rasmussen Fogarty & Hooker reviewed materials ranging from the testimony of the utility workers to Dupre's handling of the complaint. They determined, among other things, that the review conducted by Dupre's department followed current county policy; however, it strongly recommended changing those policies.

Suspended without pay for five days in January for having candidate petition cards on her desk, Dupre was warned then that she would be terminated for any other policy violations. The investigation also turned up e-mails in March in which Dupre was again soliciting petition cards using her county e-mail.

Hamilton also has pointed to a series of audits and audit follow-up reports since 2000 in which Dupre was told ways to tighten up her processes and procedures to better protect the county and its employees. Many of those she never implemented including repeated audit recommendations to write standard operating procedures for her department and the county.

Dupre, the county administrator and the county attorney at the time told the auditor they believed there was "zero business risk'' by doing business without those written procedures. The auditor disagreed.

Hamilton has said that, without such standard rules and procedures that everyone operates under, problems like the racial harassment in utilities can occur anywhere in the organization.

"That has ended,'' he said. Hamilton said that after dealing with the immediate personnel issues, he and his staff will update the policies.

Dupre has defended herself by saying her record speaks for itself. She said that she has never been written up for poor job performance and the county never had to pay out for a lawsuit related to human resources.

Dupre also argued that, under her tenure, employee satisfaction with the department's functions has increased and she pointed to two failed attempts at employee unionization as proof.

Hamilton said next week he will assemble a committee to discuss the next steps for interim operation of Human Resources and what should be looked for in a long-term leader.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

>>Fast facts

Severance package

In return for waiving future legal claims against the county, Barbara Dupre, the county's former human resources director, will:

• Receive a cash settlement of $24,900

• Collect the normal employee benefits such as accumulated sick pay

Embattled Hernando HR director resigns 04/24/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 27, 2008 8:59pm]
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