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Ethics complaint fuels Hernando County Commission discussion and calls to resign

BROOKSVILLE — The ethics complaint filed earlier this month by County Commission Chairman Jim Adkins against fellow Commissioner Jeff Stabins fueled a spirited discussion Tuesday, including calls for various officials to resign their positions.

First, Stabins called for County Administrator David Hamilton to quit because he had ordered Administrative Services Director Cheryl Marsden to investigate employee complaints that Stabins used inappropriate language and displayed unprofessional behavior on several occasions.

Stabins asked why the investigation was conducted and why Marsden "never had the decency to ask my side of the story or interview me.''

Hamilton said he asked Marsden to get involved because his job is to protect the county employees.

Marsden's interview notes were forwarded along with a cover letter from Adkins to the Florida Commission on Ethics earlier this month.

"I am writing to request an opinion to determine if a commissioner on our board has violated the standards of conduct and, if so, what action can be taken,'' Adkins wrote.

Next, Hernando County NAACP head Paul Douglas called for Adkins to resign as chairman and pass the gavel to Wayne Dukes. He defended Stabins' right as an elected official to represent his constituents in whatever way he chose.

He said Adkins was "not anointed with inherent powers'' because he was chairman. "You have extra duties, not extra powers,'' Douglas said.

Douglas recounted the complaints against Stabins, including that he had brought his two big dogs into the government center, used foul language with county employees, and assembled a DVD about Hamilton's tenure with the help of county staff.

"Where do these actions rise to the level of ethics violations?'' Douglas asked.

Adkins declined to comment during the discussion.

Other audience members also questioned Adkins' actions and said the county administrator is the proper person to handle employee issues. Long-time government observer Janey Baldwin said such a complaint should never have gone to Tallahassee.

Former commissioner Rose Rocco said the ethics complaint "made no sense" and she urged commissioners to take a hard look at Hamilton "and how he's doing business.''

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

>>COUNTY COMMISSION

Other business

• The board approved a new taxing unit that will finance mosquito control efforts in the new budget year; the tax rate will be set later in the summer when other tax rates are set. The county administrator recommended a tax rate that equals what is now levied for the sensitive lands fund and essentially to replace this new assessment with the one for sensitive lands in the new year.

• The commission unanimously approved an ordinance to provide local regulation of pain management clinics. The ordinance, pushed by Sheriff Al Nienhuis and brought forward by County Commission Chairman Jim Adkins, will require a certificate of use, among other provisions.

• The board delayed until July 26 a discussion of County Attorney Garth Coller's contract. Adkins has called for the attorney's job to be eliminated, with the two assistant county attorneys assuming the role.

Ethics complaint fuels Hernando County Commission discussion and calls to resign 06/14/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 8:56pm]
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