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Hillsborough's Bean offers to step aside if kept on as $190,000 adviser

TAMPA — County Administrator Pat Bean, who has been suspended with pay since March, has proposed a deal to leave her post but stay on the county payroll until the end of next year.

The agreement calls for her to step down as soon as Hillsborough County commissioners approve it. Commissioners are scheduled to consider the proposal Wednesday.

The deal would make Bean an as-needed adviser for the rest of her contract, which expires Dec. 31, 2011.

She would receive $190,400 for her services, or about 15 percent less than the salary severance that would be due to her under her contract if fired without cause.

She also would receive about $176,330 for unused sick and vacation time, also about 15 percent less than what is spelled out in her contract.

Bean did not return calls Monday for comment.

County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan said he is "cautiously optimistic there will be finality on this issue" when the board meets Wednesday.

"One way or the other we have to get this behind us," he said.

Hagan was among those who backed a failed measure this month to fire Bean with cause — which would not require severance, but is more difficult to uphold under the terms of her contract.

If she's fired without cause, Bean's contract would require a total payout of about $450,000.

"This appears to be a much better deal," said Hagan, but he declined to comment further because he hadn't read the agreement thoroughly.

The agreement says that Bean believes "it is in the county's best interest" to "alter her employment arrangement" in a way that ensures a "smoother and orderly transition" to a new county administrator.

Bean and County Attorney Renee Lee have been on paid leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates allegations against them.

Bean is accused of giving Lee and herself 1 percent pay raises without approval from commissioners, who set their salaries under state law. She is also accused of trolling through the e-mails of the internal auditor.

The agreement put forth by Bean would allow the county to stop paying her if she was "deemed by a third party, who has appropriate legal jurisdiction, to have committed any felony, any crime of moral turpitude or any other illegal act involving personal gain to her in conjunction with her employment."

Since she was put on leave for 90 days on March 23, Bean has collected more than $49,000 in salary. The county's top executive position is being filled in her absence by Mike Merrill, who was a deputy administrator.

Six of seven Hillsborough County commissioners have said on the record that it's time for Bean to go, and attorneys have been negotiating the terms.

County Commissioner Mark Sharpe is unmoved by Bean's offer.

"I haven't shifted from where I was from the beginning. We have the cause," he said. "When you're making a substantial payout like that, and you're using taxpayers' money, you've got to make absolutely certain the person receiving that money is deserving. And I don't believe that's the case. I believe there is cause. So if there's cause, why make a payout?"

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Hillsborough's Bean offers to step aside if kept on as $190,000 adviser 06/14/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 11:49am]
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