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Hillsborough administrator officially revokes aides' controversial pay raises

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Administrator Pat Bean rescinded the controversial 10 percent pay raises for two of her top six deputies Friday.

The action came a day after commissioners retroactively revoked permission they granted in November for Bean to reorganize her top staff.

Thursday's vote effectively stripped Eric Johnson and Mike Merrill of promotions to assistant administrator positions last year. The promotions were the basis for the raises, which have brought a torrent of criticism on County Center in recent weeks.

For now, Bean said, both men will remain in their jobs with an "interim" attached to their titles while she figures out their duties going forward.

"We're still trying to figure out what it means in terms of their responsibilities," Bean said.

Ultimately, even with the interim tag, both men may be entitled to some pay raise under county policy, but Bean said she also has to research that.

The St. Petersburg Times revealed last month that Bean doled out raises ranging from 7 to 17 percent to her top six deputies late last year. For one, it meant a more than $20,000 boost in salary.

Bean said each had been asked to take on new duties as part of a reorganization that ultimately shaved $500,000 from her office budget, even after the raises. All county workers received a 2.25 percent pay raise for cost of living.

But the raises to deputies already near the top of the county pay scale sparked a furor from residents and rank-and-file county workers. Employees across the county are facing layoffs and pay cuts while being asked to take on added tasks, and the county is proposing to cut several popular programs.

Commissioners for weeks have grappled with a response. They have claimed varied levels of awareness about the raises that came with the reorganization they approved.

Under the county's charter, they have no authority over what Bean pays her workers, beyond approving pay ranges by job title. But they do have a say in who Bean picks as top supervisors, so they revoked their support of the reorganization.

Technically, only Johnson and Merrill got promoted with the office reshuffling, from budget and debt management director respectively, so only they are losing their raises and titles.

Johnson made $163,092 after the pay raise, while Merrill got $166,566.

Bean got rid of their old jobs, posing a dilemma over where to place them now. Restoring the posts and putting Johnson and Merrill back in them means she would have two deputy openings, creating another problem. Filling them would significantly balloon her payroll.

Bean still has not ruled on an offer from two of her other deputies to give up their pay raises. She said she will meet with her management team soon to determine a resolution.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

Hillsborough administrator officially revokes aides' controversial pay raises 07/17/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 17, 2009 11:50pm]
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