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Hernando County might cut longtime parks manager

BROOKSVILLE — Longtime Hernando County government official Pat Fagan says he believes he's about to lose his job — and if that happens he would have to resign from his seat on the School Board.

Fagan, the county's parks and recreation manager, told the Times on Friday that his boss, land services director Ron Pianta, will recommend that the County Commission eliminate his job.

Fagan said Pianta delivered the news Friday.

"When I asked what that means for me, his comment was, 'You've got two weeks' notice,' " Fagan said.

Pianta could not be reached for comment late Friday.

County Administrator David Hamilton confirmed that Pianta would be bringing recommendations to the County Commission on Feb. 22 for cuts to the parks and recreation budget, which is short roughly $115,000.

"At the time when the board requested those options, we indicated we would be looking at management positions as one of those options," Hamilton said. He declined to be more specific.

Fagan, 61, said he was recently offered a deal that would have allowed him to stay until May 27 if he signed a release stating he would not bring litigation against the county. He declined.

"I was told (Friday) because I would not sign that release that they're going to the board on the 22nd and they're going to recommend my job be eliminated," Fagan said.

Fagan said he asked director of administrative services Cheryl Marsden for a copy of the release Friday.

"She said, 'Since you said you wouldn't sign it, we didn't draw one up,' " Fagan said. "According to them, the May 27 date is definitely dead. It's up to the board."

When a Times reporter relayed Fagan's account, Hamilton declined further comment.

"You're free to print whatever Mr. Fagan told you," Hamilton said. "(When) the board gives us their direction, we'll proceed as instructed."

Last month, the commission decided not to make youth recreation leagues pay fees to use county fields. Officials estimated that those fees would have generated about $229,400 to help pay for field maintenance.

Instead, the board opted to pay maintenance costs by taking $115,000 from interest earned on the county's judicial center fund and by cutting another $115,000 from parks and recreation department expenses.

Fagan has worked for the county for 33 years. He had served as parks and recreation director until a reorganization that changed his title to "manager." His compensation is $118,916, including benefits.

Fagan's second term on the Hernando School Board ends in late 2012, but he says he would have to resign from the post if he loses his county job because Florida law would prohibit him from drawing retirement benefits while still being employed by the state. The father of 16-year-old twin girls, Fagan said he can't afford to put off those benefits.

"As soon as the board makes a tough financial decision, I would have to make a tough financial decision," he said.

County Commissioner Jeff Stabins wanted to use interest from the judicial fund to cover the entire parks shortfall, but agreed to the compromise that included reductions in spending.

"How those reductions were to take place would be up to the people we employ, and they apparently have made this decision, which I will support," Stabins said Friday. "I think my good friend Pat — I hope my good friend Pat — would agree with me that no position not required by Florida statute is indispensable.''

Fagan is one of three supervisors in the county department that oversees parks, recreation and waterways. Harry Johnson is recreation coordinator; Roy Link is maintenance supervisor. The department includes 26 1/2 positions.

Commissioner Dave Russell said he hadn't heard that Fagan's job was on the chopping block and declined to indicate which way he would vote, saying he wants to hear from the staff.

"He's been with us for 30 years, and I like the guy," Russell said, "but very difficult decisions are going to have to be made, and personalities can't play a role."

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431.

Hernando County might cut longtime parks manager 02/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 11, 2011 8:24pm]
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