BROOKSVILLE — A day after County Commissioner Jeff Stabins submitted a scathing analysis of what he calls the "reign" of County Administrator David Hamilton, several of his fellow board members said they were not sure where Stabins was coming from in his criticisms.
Stabins said he wants a full discussion on Tuesday of how Hamilton has performed in his three years as administrator, particularly his work on the long-delayed Hernando Beach Channel dredge.
In his letter, Stabins blasted Hamilton for recommending that the board hire Greg Jarque and his Gritz Development and Construction firm as the project's construction manager.
He questioned Jarque's lack of dredging experience, his limited project management experience and noted that Jarque owes the county money through unpaid assessments.
Stabins also called Jarque a "crony'' of Hamilton's wife, Linda, because they both worked on the Arc Nature Coast's new training center and hurricane shelter in Spring Hill.
Jarque could not be reached for comment. His cell phone and office phone mailboxes were full and he did not return a call placed through his wife.
But Stabins' attacks left several colleagues scratching their heads.
Commissioner Wayne Dukes said Linda Hamilton's connection to Jarque "means absolutely nothing to me.''
If Jarque had not completed the Arc Nature Coast project —which came in under budget and four months ahead of schedule — the county wouldn't have hired him "even if he knew Jesus Christ,'' he said.
Dukes, who recently gave Hamilton a perfect score on his formal evaluation, noted the board had approved other decisions related to the dredge that had just as many questions attached.
The firm picked to do the dredge, BCPeabody of Tampa, like Jarque, has never overseen a dredging project before and yet the firm was chosen, Dukes noted.
BCPeabody is using a dredging firm that was pulled from a project in North Carolina for non-compliance. "Nobody had any problem with that,'' Dukes said.
Dukes also brushed aside criticism about Jarque failing to pay county fees and owing some back taxes.
"Right now, there are probably a bunch of decent, upstanding people behind in their taxes,'' he said. Some people hold onto their money as long as they can "because they don't want to give it to the government.''
Commissioner John Druzbick said some business owners decide not to pay fees and taxes because they eventually will be collected by the county when they sell their property.
Stabins had questioned why Jarque's unpaid debts to the county were overlooked when the county had made an issue of money former road builder and developer Gary Grubbs owed when he was proposed as a subcontractor of the dredging firm.
While Hernando does not have a ban on hiring companies that owe the county money, the prohibition that dealt with hiring Grubbs was specific to the deal with the dredging contractor.
Commission Chairman Jim Adkins said an overall ban "might preclude a bunch of good people'' from doing business with the county.
Adkins and Druzbick both said they would be talking to Hamilton today about Jarque and other dredge-related issues.
They also both said it is critical that a project manager be on site to be sure the contractor is getting the job done correctly and on schedule.
"I believe Mr. Jarque can do the job,'' Druzbick said.
He also noted that Jarque did not hide that he had never done a dredging project before.
Druzbick said that he cannot say he has agreed with everything that Hamilton has done with the dredge or other issues but the commission's job is to hire the chief operating officer to make decisions.
To Druzbick, if there is an issue with Hamilton, it is the job of the commission as a whole to direct the administrator's efforts.
"One member does not direct the administrator,'' he said.
The board should set the goals for its administrator so that when the time comes to evaluate whether he has done his job, the commissioners have the pre-approved yardstick to measure his performance.
Dukes agreed that the commission holds responsibility in what has been done. The board voted unanimously to allow the decisions on the dredge to vary from normal purchasing procedures because of the tight deadline for completion.
As for Hamilton taking the hit for ongoing issues with the dredge, Adkins said he took the longer view.
"That dredge has been going on for a long time, what 16 years?'' he said. "There are a lot of people to hang it on, but we're just the ones that are here now.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.