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Hernando court clerk names consultant to key purchasing, contracts position

BROOKSVILLE — When Lisa Hammond took a contract job at the Clerk of the Circuit Court's office several months ago, she figured she'd complete a simple software installation and be done with it.

Instead, she landed in the middle of the most hotly contested county issues of the day serving as a consultant on purchasing and contract matters.

She even found herself in front of the County Commission this week being dressed down by a commissioner.

On Friday, Hammond dropped the consultant title when she was hired by Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai to serve as the clerk's new full-time strategic planning director.

Hammond will now earn an annual salary of $105,000 and be a key player as Nicolai and County Administrator David Hamilton continue to reorganize county purchasing and contracts operations.

Since Hamilton eliminated purchasing director Jim Gantt's position in May, Hammond has been working with the clerk and the county to streamline the functions of the department.

Nicolai has been paying Hammond $55 per hour for her consulting work. Both said that, because of the long hours, the new salaried position would likely cost less in the long run.

Nicolai said the changes that have been accomplished since Gantt's departure and the work Hammond has done on the high-profile issues such as the Hernando Beach Channel dredge and the Hernando County Jail has more than saved the cost of her salary.

Additional changes in purchasing are also anticipated. Nicolai said that the county will hire a new contracts monitor to replace several employee positions that have been eliminated. Someone with those skills is needed because the county has not done a good job in writing and monitoring contracts, Nicolai said.

"We need to be watching the dollars and not the pennies,'' she said.

Hammond is chairwoman of the county's Planning and Zoning Commission and a member of the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando counties.

Since 2006 she has operated the BHER Group, a firm that provides grant management services. Her resume also lists several management positions at various financial institutions in California and Minnesota.

Nicolai, who went before the County Commission on Tuesday to protest Commissioner Jeff Stabins' treatment of Hammond, was highly complimentary of Hammond.

She said she has every faith in her abilities, adding that she was aware that some in the community have questioned her qualifications for the job.

With public questions raised about her background, Hammond made the unusual move on Friday morning to send the local media her resume and explain that she has had some difficult issues in her life.

"I thought I would compile all of the dirt and headline-generating issues I can think of,'' she wrote.

She includes a 1999 bankruptcy with the explanation "options market took a big bite out of me,'' a tax lien about the same time resulting from "a disagreement as to what was owed to Uncle Sam'' on the execution of options, "lots of excessive speed infractions,'' a divorce in 2007 and a foreclosure in 2008 that she said was a complication of the divorce.

Her e-mail goes on to state, "no misdemeanors, felonies, repossessions or abortions. No murders, thefts or assaults. … I recycle. I'm kind to animals, but I don't like to clean.''

Nicolai said that, being a finance officer, the bankruptcy was the only issue that caused her to think twice about Hammond's appointment. But it was more than 10 years ago and she has held some very responsible positions in her career.

"I think she's a very quality individual,'' Nicolai said.

Hammond said that she looked at the new job as a challenge and she wanted to get out in front of those who were criticizing her background.

"Now I'm standing here as a lightning rod,'' she said. The problems in the past, "you live and you learn. … I just figured, let's get it all out there. I've got nothing to hide.''

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

Hernando court clerk names consultant to key purchasing, contracts position 10/01/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 1, 2010 7:56pm]
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