Hillsborough Administrator Pat Bean faces unhappy commissioners today at yearly evaluation

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe says he will call for County Administrator Pat Bean's departure during her scheduled evaluation today.

Two other commissioners also express pointed criticism of Bean's performance in written evaluations they have submitted in advance of today's discussion. That should spell a rough day for the administrator.

In his written evaluation of Bean, Sharpe calls Bean "unimaginative" in dealing with budget and "weak" in her oversight of some departments. "Exhibited poor judgment on some issues," he wrote.

Sharpe said he is not sure what recommendation he will make today — whether it is to fire her or to ask her to voluntarily resign by a specified time.

He said in an interview Tuesday that he has been frustrated for some time with a lack of leadership from Bean on a host of issues and doesn't think she is the person to lead the county now.

"I'm working on a motion what will begin to set county government on a new course," he said.

Bean did not return a phone call late Tuesday seeking comment. After 30 years in county government, six as administrator, she has been facing one of her roughest periods of scrutiny.

She has come under ongoing criticism over the past year or more for problems within the county's Affordable Housing Office and for doling out raises to herself and her top deputies without telling commissioners or the public.

Commissioners have also faulted her for lacking creativity in handling spending cuts to deal with falling county tax receipts.

Bean has two years left on a contract that pays her $226,000 annually and would be entitled to a year's pay if fired under its terms. Whatever the outcome of today's discussion, she won't be receiving a raise, as all county employees had their pay frozen by commissioners this year.

In addition to Sharpe, commissioners Rose Ferlita and Kevin Beckner administer some tough love in their assessments of Bean, and allude to her recent problems.

Ferlita praises Bean for past accomplishments but takes her to task for failing to consistently be responsive and for deflecting blame for mistakes she has made.

"Pat's leadership has, in some cases, shown cracks," she wrote. "Leadership demands two things — you do the very best you can at that leadership and, more importantly, you acknowledge the mistakes or bad decisions you have made as quickly as they have been detected."

Ferlita did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Beckner, who just finished his first year in office, offers perhaps the most detailed, point by point assessment. He praises her for assembling a competent and caring leadership team, and says he is impressed with its commitment to the community. But...

"Many times I feel that I am told what I want to hear and not always what I need to hear," he wrote.

He says the administration often lacks transparency, such as in handling the pay raises, and often seems to be reacting to problems rather than getting in front of them. He says she responds best when given "very clear and defined tasks."

While her institutional knowledge after 30 years in county government — six as administrator — serve the county well in some ways, it appears to stifle innovation, Beckner says. Mostly, he says, she has a tough time of balancing the varying goals of commissioners and using them to shape a long-term vision and strategic plan for the county.

Beckner said he's not sure how he will react to what Sharpe proposes today about Bean's future. He wants to hear the discussion.

"There are certainly some ongoing concerns that I have," he said.

It's not clear whether the other commissioners share those concerns, and how strongly. They declined to turn in written evaluations by Monday's deadline. That is a becoming a growing trend among commissioners -- failing to fill out written evaluations of the three county officials who report directly to them — though all other county employees get annual written assessments.

Of those commissioners, Chairman Ken Hagan, Jim Norman and Kevin White did not return phone calls. Al Higginbotham said he offers his evaluation of Bean year-round, and has been among her harshest critics, particularly in her handling of budgetary matters, even if he has been less critical lately.

"To me an evaluation is not just a one-time occurrence. It's an ongoing process," he said. "I certainly don't think there's a lack of information on my opinion of Pat in the past."

Hillsborough Administrator Pat Bean faces unhappy commissioners today at yearly evaluation 12/15/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 11:44pm]

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