Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Buddy Johnson makes it expensive to remove top aide

TAMPA — Incoming Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Phyllis Busansky will have to deal with at least one more curiosity when she takes office, in addition to a budget headache.

She will inherit departing Supervisor Buddy Johnson's top deputy, like it or not.

Johnson signed an employment agreement with Kathy Harris, his chief of staff and general counsel, this year that keeps her on board until May. Busansky takes office Jan. 6.

The terms were crafted that way even though Johnson faced a re-election challenge in November, which he ultimately lost.

The agreement contemplates that possibility and that Johnson's successor may not want to keep his most trusted adviser. It then obligates Busansky to provide Harris three months' notice if she decides to let her go, with full pay and benefits.

At Harris' $175,032 annual salary (as of Nov. 11), that's worth at least $43,000, plus the cost of benefits.

Johnson declined an e-mail request for comment, saying, "The document is very straight-forward and speaks for itself."

Harris declined to answer questions sent by e-mail as well.

"I do not anticipate any issue about my leaving or staying or the time frame," Harris wrote. "I serve at the pleasure of the supervisor and my leaving has always been a matter of timing and professional protocol."

She has indicated she intends to remain on the job until an April 6 Plant City municipal election, to ease the transition.

The County Attorney's Office has been asking questions about the agreement at the behest of County Commissioner Rose Ferlita. Ferlita used the agreement last week as fodder when Johnson asked commissioners for an extra $2.3-million to pay unanticipated costs from the November election.

She was particularly angry that Johnson sent Harris to make the request, holding out the hand-me-down expense to Busansky as a matter deserving explanation.

"Why should she absorb (the cost) that's she's going to pass on to the taxpayers?" Ferlita asked.

Harris provided a copy of the agreement to the County Attorney's Office, which will be the legal counsel for the supervisor's office when Busansky takes office. The copy includes no witness or notary signature, though the body of the document indicates it was signed and executed May 12. It runs through May 12, 2009.

It also includes several typographical errors, referring to the "supervisor of elections" without the "s" at the end of "elections" in various spots, for instance.

County Attorney Renee Lee said that a witness or notary is not required for such an agreement, though it is customary. She also said nothing prevents elected officials from signing employment contracts with underlings that extend beyond their term.

"You would think he would end the term of the contract so that it would coincide with the term of the office," Lee said. "So he has left that whole situation for Phyllis to clean up. Now it's on her to handle that."

Busansky has said she is not sure what to make of the agreement. While she has her own chief deputy coming in, she may welcome some help in the transition. For how long, she's not sure.

She said she'll deal with it after she's sworn in.

Bill Varian can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3387.

Buddy Johnson makes it expensive to remove top aide 12/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 29, 2008 11:55am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.