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Hernando HR chief slammed in independent review

HR director Barbara Dupre’s fate has yet to be decided.

HR director Barbara Dupre’s fate has yet to be decided.

BROOKSVILLE — County human resources director Barbara Dupre's job is on the line today after a scathing review cited several instances of unprofessional conduct, concluded her performance is lacking, and questioned whether county employees even trust her.

A Tampa law firm hired to review complaints of racial harassment in the Utilities Department recommends sweeping changes in the county's complaint and harassment policies. It also examined how Dupre handled the racial discrimination complaints as well as her overall performance.

"There is little doubt that there is a lack of confidence in (Human Resources), at least insofar as its management of employee relations issues is concerned,'' wrote attorney Alysa Ward of the firm Glenn, Rasmussen, Fogarty and Hooker. "Moreover, there is an expressed lack of trust and confidence in HR Director Barbara Dupre at every level of the agency.''

Dupre met with Deputy County Administrator Larry Jennings and a representative of the county attorneys office on Wednesday after the report was released. Neither Dupre nor County Administrator David Hamilton would describe those discussions; another meeting with Dupre and county officials is planned for noon today. Dupre would not say if she has been asked to resign.

Ward's report details a series of instances in which county officials ran into problems with Dupre. In January, Dupre was suspended for five days without pay for keeping candidate petition cards in her office and she was warned that additional problems could result in her dismissal. The report said it appears that Dupre violated the policy again by using county e-mail to arrange to get candidate petition cards.

Hamilton also said Dupre had made "unprofessional and angry comments'' to public works director Charles Mixson and his now-retired secretary Jeanette Soto. Dupre learned of Jason Booker's alleged harassment after Soto, who is Booker's grandmother, complained in a letter about the incidents.

County Attorney Garth Coller related an incident involving an assistant county attorney with whom Dupre disagreed. A witness stated that she reportedly yelled at and addressed the attorney as "you idiot.''

Utilities director Joseph Stapf expressed frustration that Dupre had not contacted him about the racial harassment allegations. "As a result, Stapf felt blindsided when (the allegations) surfaced publicly and, as a result, felt that his effectiveness in handling the issues within his own department was adversely impacted,'' according to the report.

Audit services director Peggy Prentice reported that Dupre was either slow in providing or failed to provide public records requested for audits. After an employee survey and report on her department in 2002, Prentice said Dupre tried to learn who participated in the survey and influence the format for reporting it.

"Prentice also noted that, in general, it is unpleasant to work with Dupre because of her difficult personality,'' the report states.

Human Resources has undergone audits several times since 2000. Hamilton said Wednesday that a review of the audits shows that numerous shortcomings in the department have not been addressed. For example, Dupre's office has never developed standard operating procedures; instead, individual departments set their own rules.

The county's risk manager Flo Boles reported that Dupre engages in favoritism "using her influence to secure employment or promotion of her friends, despite deficiencies in their qualifications as compared with other candidates or applicants.''

The report concludes that, given all the problems with Dupre "it is difficult to conclude that Dupre is carrying out all of her essential job duties satisfactorily.''

Dupre, who is paid $92,000, said her department has made strides in increasing customer satisfaction and, in a recent survey, 549 employees said they were satisfied with her department's performance while only 14 were not. She also noted that, in her 10 years in her position, all of her evaluations have been above average and nowhere has she been criticized for her job performance.

"I have to let my record speak for itself,'' she said. "There are so many positive things that this office has done in the last 10 years and so many employees would agree to that … It's unfortunate that they only interviewed eight people out of 1,200.''

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

Hernando HR chief slammed in independent review 04/23/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2008 4:44pm]
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