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Hernando County's top pick for administrator considers contract offer

BROOKSVILLE — Len Sossamon, the man Hernando County commissioners want as their next administrator, is mulling over a contract proposal he received Thursday from commission Chairman Wayne Dukes.

The proposal offers Sossamon, of North Carolina, an annual salary of $120,000, the bottom of the advertised range, and a severance package of four months, a month less than the previous administrator.

Dukes said Friday he was being realistic with the proposed contract. While Commissioner Jim Adkins had suggested several times that the county should offer the new administrator a salary closer to $100,000 and Dukes said he wasn't opposed to that, the county couldn't offer less than what it had advertised, Dukes said.

In the brochure produced by the county's recruiter, the salary range was listed at $120,000 to $150,000, with a caveat that the board intended to hire at the lower end of the scale.

"That was where I felt comfortable starting at,'' Dukes said of the $120,000 figure.

He said he intended to talk with Sossamon, 61, over the next several days to "feel him out.''

Because of the county's tight budget, the County Commission recently negotiated a lower salary with County Attorney Garth Coller. He and the most recent county administrator, David Hamilton, each had been earning $135,000 a year; Coller's salary is now $122,866.

Dukes said he also wanted to reduce the number of months of severance pay from five to four. The commission got some criticism from the public for Hamilton's five-month buyout package after commissioners fired him in November.

In addition, Dukes dropped from the contract any reference to a county car for the administrator, pointing out that in his final months Hamilton had given up his county car.

Also missing from the proposal to Sossamon is a provision that Hamilton had in his contract for reimbursement for continuing education. That was abandoned while Hamilton was still in the job, during which time he was pursuing his doctorate.

Officials have not yet penciled in a length for the contract or a starting date. There are provisions in the proposal for Sossamon to keep more of his accrued leave time the longer he stays in the position. Longevity is one of the things the commissioners are seeking in their new administrator.

Dukes was hopeful that Sossamon would look on the proposal favorably, and he voiced interest in seeing the new administrator on board in about a month.

"I'm looking forward to our conversation,'' Dukes said. "I'm hoping it is successful.''

Sossamon also expressed a positive attitude toward the negotiations.

"I've received it, and I'm looking at it. The chairman and I are going to talk some and see if we can come to a meeting of the minds,'' he said.

Depending on the outcome of those discussions, commissioners may take up the contract and Sossamon's arrival date during their meeting Tuesday.

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

Hernando County's top pick for administrator considers contract offer 04/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 20, 2012 7:55pm]
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