Ethics complaint targets Hernando County Commissioner Jeff Stabins

BROOKSVILLE — County Commission Chairman Jim Adkins has filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics against Commissioner Jeff Stabins based on the reports of four county employees.

Adkins said Friday he was seeking an opinion from the commission on whether Stabins had violated the law when he used a vulgarity and other inappropriate language in the presence of employees. Adkins also sent along a CD of part of a recent commission meeting in which Stabins harshly questioned Community Development director Jean Rags.

"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 to Phillip Claypool, executive director and general counsel for the ethics commission.

He told Claypool that County Administrator David Hamilton was informed that Stabins had used inappropriate language toward an employee and acted unprofessionally.

He also noted that employee statements are included in his submission and tells Claypool that Stabins "often brings his two large dogs to the courthouse with him and expects employees to get them water, leaves them in their offices while he is in meetings, etc.''

Adkins also told Claypool that Stabins asked Rags, who has filed a discrimination suit against the county, about the outcome of the complaint during a public meeting. "(Rags) was very upset and shocked by his behavior,'' Adkins wrote. "We were told we could possibly be sanctioned for this.''

The statements by employees describe how Stabins asked for help from Government Broadcasting employees and Brenda Frazier, community relations coordinator, in developing a special DVD presentation on Hamilton's tenure with the county at a time when Stabins was very critical of Hamilton's performance and stated that he wanted him fired.

Stabins reportedly called Frazier a "f------ traitor'' since she was working with Hamilton temporarily. Video assistant Richard Johnson also reported that on May 24, Stabins left the commission chambers and entered his office. Johnson asked Stabins if he was supposed to be in the board meeting and "Stabins said f--- 'em. He said Commissioner Stabins often makes derogatory statements about other commissioners.''

Frazier told human resources that she was uncomfortable helping Stabins with the DVD project. "She said Commissioner Stabins wanted to narrate it like Walter Cronkite and be funny,'' according to the human resources report. "She said she was very honest with him and told him not to make it funny.''

Frazier expressed discomfort in doing the video about Hamilton, who is her boss. She expressed concern about losing her job. "He (Stabins) said Mr. Hamilton had it in for all of them,'' the report states.

She also expressed discomfort with the dogs in the office and voiced concern to Stabins about using a Star Wars theme because of copyright law. Stabins never made the DVD presentation to the board.

Frazier provided a copy of the completed DVD to Hamilton and talked to him about the whole situation.

"She said since this event Commissioner Stabins has not talked to her. She said she never felt so uncomfortable or intimidated as she was with this situation in all of her 30 plus years here,'' the report states.

Adkins said Friday he has not gotten a response from the ethics commission.

He also said he was not comfortable having to file a complaint but that "there is a certain standard we have to keep'' as a public official.

Stabins said he did not recall using inappropriate language and he was sorry if he offended employees. "I care deeply about our employees and I try to show it to them publicly in my actions and my words,'' he said. "If I've done this, I am sorry.''

But he had harsher words for Adkins. He said that he didn't understand why the complaint had to go to the state. If employees were upset they should have followed the chain of command and made a complaint through human resources.

"I know that I've been told that Adkins can be a back-stabbing son of a b---- and he is an inept chairman, but he's a nice guy,'' Stabins said.

The letter to the ethics commission comes on the heels of some behavior by Stabins, which recently raised the eyebrows of other commissioners.

Stabins had missed a meeting in April because he was traveling and had sent Adkins an odd e-mail asking him to read it to explain his absence which led some people to speculate on whether Stabins had killed himself.

Adkins only said that Stabins was having "issues.'' Other commissioners said later that Stabins has seemed to be acting strangely in recent weeks and expressed concern about him.

They noted that he was "a card'' and often jokes around with people but recent behavior was more unusual.

Stabins announced around the same time that he didn't plan to run again for the seat in 2012.

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

Ethics complaint targets Hernando County Commissioner Jeff Stabins 06/10/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 10, 2011 9:35pm]

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