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Hillsborough County administrator taking heat, facing scrutiny from commissioners

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said Wednesday that he doesn't think County Administrator Pat Bean should be in charge in today's economic climate, a statement he later said could signal a move toward a leadership change.

During a discussion about Bean's controversial decision to give six assistant county administrators raises that ranged from 7 to 17 percent, Sharpe said the move was sloppy and a terrible management decision that has crushed morale.

"I don't say this lightly, because I work well with you, but I just believe in light of the environment we are in and the challenges we face, I'm not sure you are the right person to lead us through this," Sharpe told Bean.

After the meeting, Sharpe said Bean's evaluation comes in October, and that he will have conversations about her performance then, if not earlier.

Commissioner Rose Ferlita said she is just as frustrated as Sharpe, but noted that commissioners would have to pay Bean a year's salary in severance if they terminated her contract before the end of 2011.

Bean's yearly salary is $226,366.

"If it were my business," Ferlita said, "I'd say, 'This is not working. Let's move on.' "

But Ferlita doesn't want to spend all that taxpayer money on severance — at least not yet.

"We can't afford the luxury of eliminating the contract," she said. "Hold her accountable, take steps first. Obviously, that's an option in the end."

In a move to hold her accountable, Ferlita made a request that caught Bean by surprise.

Ferlita asked that the raises of the two most recently appointed assistant county administrators be rescinded because Bean did not follow policy guidelines.

Ferlita said Bean did not provide commissioners the necessary information about the appointments, including salaries, when she asked them to support her office's reorganization plan last year.

Bean consolidated positions and elevated management and budget director Eric Johnson and debt management director Mike Merrill to administrator roles. Both kept their old duties and were assigned other departments to supervise.

Both got 10 percent raises, on top of cost-of-living increases.

Ferlita said Bean should have given commissioners salary information for the two appointees, adding that the board's vote of confirmation should be null and void because she didn't do so.

Bean said she thought she had submitted everything that was needed, and she vowed to return to the commission's budget workshop today with a report.

At today's meeting, commissioners also plan to discuss double-dipping and raises Bean gave to four other top deputies in the fall, including one who got an extra $20,000 added to her salary.

Two of them have already offered to give up their raises. Bean has argued that she saved administrative costs in consolidating jobs, and that the deputies have taken on more work.

"Everyone's got more responsibility," Sharpe said. "But they're not getting a pay increase."

Commissioners can only make requests and do not have the power to rescind raises for assistant county administrators.

Pat Bean does.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Hillsborough County administrator taking heat, facing scrutiny from commissioners 07/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 16, 2009 12:02am]
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