Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

List of contenders for Pasco County administrator narrowed to 10

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One resigned after he was investigated for snooping into confidential emails. Another, among the highest paid public servants in Texas, was accused of accepting tickets to professional sporting events from vendors.

Both men were cleared of any wrongdoing — and now are on a recruiter's top 10 list of candidates to succeed retiring Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher. Gallagher, who in 1982 inherited an operation that brought grand jury scrutiny and the arrest of the commission chairman, was known for cleaning up government.

"He won't even let someone buy him lunch," Commission Chairman Ted Schrader said.

Tomas Gonzalez, city manager of Irving, Texas, earns $450,000 in salary and benefits to manage a city with a population of 216,000, about 2,100 employees and a $500 million budget.

He lists himself as a "black belt" in a program aimed at improving efficiency, and said his efforts saved the city $44 million. Under his leadership, the city won numerous awards.

Yet he also faced ethical questions. According to the Dallas-Fort Worth TV affiliate WFAA, the CEO of a large firm emailed Gonzalez in April 2008, saying, "I didn't forget your desire to take your family to a [Texas] Rangers-[Boston Red] Sox Game … compliments of me." Gonzalez took the tickets and attended the game, the station reported.

Three years later, Gonzalez urged the Irving City Council to award the firm economic incentives and a 40 percent tax break.

Schrader, who met with Gonzalez recently when he visited as a candidate for the top job at Tampa Bay Water, said he was impressed but would "have a conversation" about ethical issues should Gonzalez make the next cut. Schrader said an Irving official told him that Gonzalez committed no violations because the city has no policy against accepting gifts.

Pasco has a policy forbidding employees from accepting any gifts of value.

Robert Bartolotta served as Sarasota city manager during the toughest part of the recession, from 2007 to 2012. He recommended pension cuts and cut the work force 24 percent. Last year, allegations surfaced that he and another employee read confidential emails and erased public records during an investigation involving the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bartolotta resigned under pressure. He was later cleared.

Bartolotta told the Tampa Bay Times his departure "was a mutual agreement."

Others making the cut included: Pasco's second-in-command, Michele Baker; Carl Harness, an assistant administrator in Pinellas County; Eric Johnson, strategic planning director for Hillsborough County; Pensacola consultant Charles Oliver; Washington, D.C. consultant Ronald Rabun; Tampa consultant Lee Evett; Mascotte City Manager James Gleason; and Michael Jones, administrator for Paulding County, Ga. Commissioners are expected to select a few finalists by May 14 and schedule interviews for May 24.

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