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Fired Hillsborough Administrator Pat Bean claims county owes her money

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners cited a raise former Administrator Pat Bean gave herself as justification for firing her last year without a severance payout.

Now that law enforcement has concluded the raise could not be proven criminal, Bean says the county owes her some money.

An attorney commissioners hired to assist them with Bean's termination has informed the board of her "demand." His letter does not make clear how much Bean wants and he did not return calls seeking comment.

"Her counsel renewed her demand for monies he asserts are due and owing to Ms. Bean under her employment agreement with the county," said the letter from Richard McCrea, the attorney hired by the county, to Commission Chairman Al Higginbotham this week.

Commissioners fired Bean last June from her job as county government's top executive after castigating her for months over what they considered weak leadership and poor decision-making.

They cited 1 percent pay raises she gave herself and other top officials in 2007 without commissioners' knowledge as reason to fire her with cause.

They used that determination to deny paying her a full year of salary and benefits worth $455,000 under the severance terms of her contract. But Bean left with a portion of that — $191,737 before taxes — for unused sick and vacation pay.

Neither Bean nor her attorney returned phone calls seeking comment about what specifically she is seeking.

Higginbotham said he queried McCrea on what he thought Bean might be expecting. He said the lawyer told him that she may be looking for the balance of her severance — which the county calculates at about $260,000 — plus legal expenses connected with the criminal investigation.

Higginbotham said he got the impression from McCrea that Bean would like to resolve the matter without litigation. The board chairman, who initially opposed firing Bean, said he's inclined to listen.

"I think it's our responsibility to discuss a settlement without going to court," he said.

Commissioners had faulted Bean for failing to get in front of challenges caused by a declining economy. She then came under fire for the raise she gave herself and also bigger raises she gave to some of her top deputies.

A former auditor accused her of improperly snooping through sensitive e-mails as well.

Commissioners struggled for months with how to respond, in part due to her contract. It entitled her to a year of pay and benefits if fired for any reason, unless it could be shown commissioners had just cause.

Bean's contract narrowly defined that cause to mean she had committed a crime of moral turpitude or other illegal act for personal gain.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner requested an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. But the board voted to fire Bean before the agency finished its work, finding that Bean's raise to herself was cause enough.

Beckner said he would need to hear specifically what Bean is seeking before passing judgment on her demand.

Mark Sharpe, one of the commission's earliest and fiercest critics of her leadership, said he still doesn't believe Bean is owed anything. He said it is clear to him that Bean improperly used her power for personal gain.

Besides, he said, it's not like she walked away with nothing.

"She should be satisfied with the payout she did receive," Sharpe said. "That's taxpayers' money."

Fired Hillsborough Administrator Pat Bean claims county owes her money 04/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 11:17pm]
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