Two make final cut in bid to become Hillsborough County attorney

TAMPA — Two lawyers with local government experience made the cut Tuesday in seeking to succeed former Hillsborough County Attorney Renee Lee.

Charles R. "Chip" Fletcher, the city attorney for Tampa from 2008 to 2011, received supportive votes from six of seven county commissioners to proceed to one-on-one interviews. Jim Porter, who left the county attorney's office as a chief assistant county attorney after 14 years in 2004, also heads to the final round.

Commissioners are expected to make a hiring decision Oct. 3.

Porter, considered an early favorite for the job, barely made the cut after interviews with five finalists Tuesday as information about circumstances preceding his departure from the county circulated among commissioners in the past week.

Each of the commissioners was asked to submit two top choices after a series of nearly hour-long interviews with the finalists.

Porter initially collected three votes, the same as Henry G. "Hank" Ennis III, one of eight managing attorneys currently in the office. In a tie-break vote, Porter got four votes to three for Ennis, with commissioners Sandy Murman, Victor Crist and Les Miller supporting Ennis.

The county attorney's job has been vacant since June 2011, when commissioners ousted Lee for a variety of perceived misdeeds, including blessing an unpublicized 1 percent raise for herself and former County Administrator Pat Bean.

Fletcher, 43, currently is of counsel to the Gray Robinson firm, where he landed after former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio left office. He serves as general counsel to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit.

Porter, 48, has been a partner with the Adams and Reese law firm since 2010 and left the county attorney's office to join the Ruden McClosky firm, where he also was a partner.

Porter faced the most pointed questions Tuesday, initiated by interim county attorney Don Odom. Odom asked him to discuss the relevance of accusations he faced while at the county of treating employees poorly. His boss at the time, former County Attorney Emmy Acton, was facing allegations of running a hostile workplace and some employees said Porter, too, was abusive. Acton later stepped down.

The allegations are 10 years old and largely anonymous, Porter noted, making it difficult for him to respond at the time and now. He had disclosed news stories and a preliminary audit about the allegations in his application.

Two make final cut in bid to become Hillsborough County attorney 09/25/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 11:00pm]

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