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Hernando administrator wants full severance; commissioner says he should be fired

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Administrator David Hamilton has asked for his full severance package as he prepares to leave his job at the end of the year, a move that has prompted one commissioner to call for him to be fired immediately.

Commissioner Jeff Stabins said Hamilton's request for full severance was the last straw, and in an e-mail he wrote Wednesday to commission Chairman Jim Adkins and copied to every county employee, he asked for an emergency meeting and said Hamilton should be terminated.

"We must ensure the safety and integrity of public records and documents which are at his disposal as I write this e-mail. David is adept at firing his subordinates and sending them packing. We must afford him the same treatment ASAP,'' Stabins wrote.

In a letter to the county attorney's office Tuesday, Hamilton's attorney, Robert McKee of Tampa, requested "severance pay and benefits as if (Hamilton's) employment has been terminated'' and offered a resignation effective Dec. 31.

That package, including five months of pay and unused sick and vacation time, could cost the county a total of $89,372.34.

As he continues to prepare a transition plan and negotiate details of his exit, Hamilton, 62, is a step closer to a possible new job in Sarasota County. Culled from a pool of 45 applicants, Hamilton landed on a short list of eight candidates for the job of Sarasota County administrator this week.

His application for that job concerned some commissioners in Hernando. It was one of the factors that led to an agreement between Hamilton and the commission on Oct. 25 to have him leave Hernando at the end of the year.

Hamilton's request for the full severance is something the County Commission will have to discuss, said Commissioner John Druzbick, who made a motion last month to fire Hamilton.

Druzbick said Wednesday he wants the commission to decide Tuesday whether to simply give Hamilton his walking papers now, rather than allow him to stay until Dec. 31.

Stabins told Adkins in his e-mail that he has had serious concerns about Hamilton for some time and that in late summer 2009 he wrote an e-mail "to warn everyone of what appeared to be (Hamilton's) dictatorial traits.''

Hamilton talked him out of sending it, according to Stabins.

"These are the most challenging times our country has faced in decades, Jim, and we can no longer afford to have the wrong man at the very top of our organization being compensated on a daily basis with taxpayer funds,'' Stabins wrote to Adkins on Wednesday. "I implore you to call an emergency board meeting for the immediate termination of David Hamilton.''

Adkins had not yet read the e-mail when contacted Wednesday afternoon, but said he did not believe there was time to call an emergency meeting prior to Tuesday's regularly scheduled commission meeting. He said he would talk to Hamilton about the latest developments when he meets with him today.

Hamilton declined comment.

"It would be inappropriate for me to comment on Commissioner Stabins' e-mail,'' he said.

Hamilton's hiring of a lawyer and request for full severance caught the attention of commissioners. Since their Oct. 25 meeting, several commissioners have talked about negotiating an agreement that would not be as costly as the full severance package.

McKee says in his letter that he hoped Hamilton could negotiate an agreement with the County Commission that will "provide a benefit to the county while accomplishing what appears to be a desire by the majority of the commissioners to end its employment relationship with Mr. Hamilton.''

According to McKee, Hamilton plans to meet with commissioners this week to outline the county's ongoing projects.

"Mr. Hamilton will assist the county to ensure a seamless transition to a new leadership team,'' McKee wrote. "As I understand the situation, there are a number of key projects that will require the attention of Mr. Hamilton's successor and, ultimately, the commission.''

Druzbick said he is unclear on just how much help Hamilton will provide while he is collecting full salary over the next two months, especially since he is taking time off this month and around the holidays.

"I would think that he is trying to get as much (money) as he can according to his contract,'' Druzbick said. "Whether or not that happens is a board decision. We'll see what happens on Tuesday.''

The Sarasota County Commission is slated to further trim its field of administrator applicants Tuesday. Those who make the next cut will then attend a series of meetings with county staffers and the public before the commission makes an offer, which could come as early as Nov. 15.

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

Hernando administrator wants full severance; commissioner says he should be fired 11/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 7:38pm]
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