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Embattled Hillsborough auditor gets more criticism

TAMPA — Hillsborough County's internal performance auditor, who has attracted his share of enemies in his three years on the job, is courting one more.

Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank sent a scathing letter to commissioners this week describing internal performance auditor Jim Barnes' recent actions as disturbing, inappropriate and unprofessional.

Frank was reacting to a letter Barnes wrote to commissioners March 16 in which he questions the selection of outside companies to conduct performance audits. He notes the time it took for Frank's office to make the recommendations, questions qualifications of the firms and says he wasn't included at all.

Citing a concern voiced by others about Barnes, Frank says he failed to share any of those thoughts with her before writing his letter to commissioners.

"I think he lacks professionalism in the way that he does things and that makes it difficult to work with him," Frank said. "I'm not going to let someone who doesn't even have the credentials my employees have criticize and disparage them."

Barnes said nothing in the critique he prepared for commissioners was directed at Frank or people in her office. He said he was simply sharing observations with commissioners so they could make informed decisions.

Barnes' future with the county has been in question of late. He has faced criticism from the board for doing too few audits and not doing a great job on the ones he does complete. A recent peer review found that his office does not meet accepted standards for government auditors.

In recent months, Barnes has released a pair of reports that have turned county government upside down. In one, he found that County Administrator Pat Bean gave herself, County Attorney Renee Lee and others secret 1 percent raises in 2007. The second accused employees of Bean and Lee of snooping through his e-mail some time afterward.

Commission Chairman Ken Hagan has proposed firing all three. The board voted more than a week ago to suspend Bean and Lee with pay for up to 90 days. Barnes is scheduled for an evaluation Wednesday.

In response to criticism of Barnes, commissioners voted last year to essentially strip him of performance auditing duties. They asked the clerk's office to seek bids from outside companies to conduct up to three audits.

The clerk's office recommended auditing the county planning, administration and the Fire-Rescue Department, but bids came in nearly $75,000 more than the $150,000 that was budgeted.

Embattled Hillsborough auditor gets more criticism 03/31/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 12:07am]
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