Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Volunteer board members in Hernando resign over liability waiver

BROOKSVILLE — Within 24 hours of the Hernando County Commission's decision Tuesday to continue requiring members of advisory boards to sign liability waivers, five of those members or potential members announced they would not serve.

Three of them are on the county's embattled Aviation Authority, where the liability issue originated. Member Derrill McAteer, resigned effective Thursday. Morris Porton and Ron Wilhite told Commission Chairman Dave Russell they plan to resign.

Russell said he had also heard from Sonny Vergara, a former executive director for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and Vergara's wife, Pam.

Sonny Vergara had been set to apply for the county's Fine Arts Council but said he would not do so if the waiver were required. His wife resigned Thursday as an alternate on the county's Planning and Zoning Commission.

"This is going to seriously inhibit our ability to attract quality leadership to our advisory boards and seriously hinder our ability to retain those leaders,'' Russell said.

Russell on Tuesday strongly urged the County Commission to exclude advisory boards from the waiver requirement faced by other county volunteers. He admitted that he had made the original motion to approve the waiver policy two years ago but hadn't realized the implications.

It came to light recently that not all volunteers and not all advisory council members had signed the waivers holding the county harmless on any "losses, damages, or injuries caused or alleged to be caused in whole or in part by the negligence of the County.''

The issue arose when the majority of the County Commission declined to pay the legal fees of Aviation Authority Chairman Gary Schraut, who is being sued by an airport tenant for defamation, which is not covered by county insurance.

Several weeks ago, the county sent out notice to those volunteers and advisory board members who had not yet signed the waiver. By Tuesday, all but about 20 of the 70 volunteers had signed. On Monday, a new letter went out to those who didn't sign. This letter included a paragraph explaining that volunteers are covered under the county insurance if they are acting in their official capacity with the county.

Commissioners Diane Rowden, Wayne Dukes and Nick Nicholson, the same three commissioners who denied Schraut legal representation, voted on Tuesday to keep the policy, including advisory boards, in place.

They had argued previously that Schraut was not acting in his county capacity when he told Tampa Bay Times columnist Dan DeWitt that the airport tenant and his company were ""troublemakers, were liars, were bomb throwers and were like terrorists.''

The commission is slated to determine next week whether to let go of volunteers who won't sign. Russell said that if he cannot persuade another commissioner to change their vote ''we might as well just send out the pink slips.''

Volunteer board members in Hernando resign over liability waiver 12/11/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 8:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Looking Back: Have you ever heard of Goose Pond?


    I've lived in St. Petersburg most of my life. After a brief spell in North Carolina, my family moved back to St. Petersburg for good in 1978. And in all that time I've never heard the area around Central Plaza referred to as "Goose Pond."

    1952: Factors which made the Central Plaza development logical can be discerned in this photo, by those who know the realty situaiton here. Low grade and a 55-acre school site in storage kept the 90-acre Goose Pond (upper center) almost bare until now. 


  2. Red Cross finds launching pad for Hurricane Irma help at Idlewild Baptist

    Human Interest

    LUTZ — The Rev. Ron Alexander, pastor of Baxterville Baptist Church in Lumberton, Miss., stirred gallons of chili in the mid-afternoon heat on Monday.

    The Rev. Ron Alexander, pastor of Baxterville Baptist Church in Mississippi, stirs a pot of chili. He is part of the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief team stationed at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.
  3. Young girl injured by 105 mph foul at Yankee Stadium renews call for more netting


    NEW YORK — A young girl at Yankee Stadium was injured by a 105 mph foul ball off the bat of Todd Frazier during Wednesday's game against Minnesota, leading some players to call for protective netting to be extended.

    Baseball fans reacts as a young girl is tended to before she is carried out of the seating area after being hit by a line drive in the fifth inning of a baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at Yankee Stadium in New York. [Associated Press]
  4. Florida education news: Accountability plan, post-Irma, turnarounds and more


    ACCOUNTABILITY: The Florida Department of Education submits a revised Every Student Succeeds Act plan without the waiver requests it had originally proposed. Experts and advocates …

    High Point Elementary teacher Kristen Bierman works with English language learners on their reading skills. The state wants to test all students in English, saying it's Florida law.