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Daniel Ruth

Commission finally uses the old bean

No sane bookie in the world would take these odds. Nor would a county commissioner with even a single functioning brain cell.

Had Pat Bean, the County Administrator-In-Exile Who Came To Dinner, gotten her half-a-million dollar bundle of parting gifts to simply stop haunting the hallways of government to become a matronly consigliere to people for whom the mutual loathing is on a par between Sunni and Shiite, uh, just how much "advising" do you think would have actually taken place?

Imagine in a month or so, the Hillsborough County Commission finding itself caught in a quandary — hardly an unusual occurrence — whether to suck up to fancy-pants real estate developers who want to pave over a wetland before the lunch break.

What do you suppose the odds are Commissioner Mark Sharpe would have seized the floor and proclaimed: "Hey! I have a great idea! Let's call Pat Bean! She'll know what to do!"

For the past two months, Bean has been sitting around on her sedan chair, peeling grapes and collecting her paycheck to perform less work than an inmate in solitary confinement while the commission fretted over a decision to either: A) give the de facto defrocked administrator a ton of money to go away and/or B) give the de facto defrocked administrator a little less than a ton of money to go away.

Decision, decisions.

In the end, the commission opted for the Slim- Fast solution to finally put an end to the County Center's version of Pat and the Greenstalk, firing the polarizing administrator, which means she will receive about $190,000 in unused vacation and sick pay benefits rather than the nearly $500,000 air kiss she was attempting to wheedle out of the taxpayers.

It is the nature of the often frazzled relationship between county administrators and the elected commissioners they serve that these things eventually turn into a bad Charlie Sheen marriage.

County administrators come into these jobs because they understand public administration and how to make these complex, large bureaucracies function. Then they find themselves reporting to a board of commissioners who come into their jobs knowing precious little about the machinations of government.

Or put another way, this job is like having to answer to seven George W. Bushes.

Imagine being a longtime, experienced administrator suddenly finding yourself reporting to and having to kowtow to folks like former Commissioner Brian Blair, who once made his living as a phony wrestler, or the bumptious Jim Norman, or Ken Hagan, who has played more footsie-wootsie with developers than a Mons Venus lap dancer, or Kevin White, the Casanova ultra-lite of Kennedy Boulevard.

Thus it happens that over time the administrator begins to regard the commission as obstacles to doing his or her job, mere factotums who merely need to be humored, as opposed to obeyed.

And it doesn't take long before administrators begin to feel a misplaced sense of entitlement. So it was with Bean, who while other county employees were being laid off and services cut finagled a 1 percent raise to add to her already handsome salary of $215,000 a year, or about a $2,000 bump.

By county charter, the County Commission must approve any salary increases for the administrator. Bean had pulled an end-run around the commission by giving herself — and some inner circle cronies — a raise.

This was like Paris Hilton getting caught shoplifting a Maybelline tube of lipstick. And so for a lousy, stinking two grand, an already very well compensated Pat Bean was blithely willing to put her livelihood and her reputation at risk.

Bean, through her mouthpiece, attempted to salvage what was left of her career by offering to officially step aside as administrator and serve out the remainder of her employment contract as a consultant to the county, which would have been a bit like Bernie Madoff proposing his services as a financial consultant to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

About the only pol who had an appetite for Bean's suggestion was Kevin White, who has also cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay off a sexual harassment lawsuit the commissioner lost after he clumsily attempted to seduce an aide.

White explained he was trying to help Bean avoid the ignominy of being the first administrator ever fired from the post. "I can appreciate not wanting to be labeled something," White offered. Like being a ham-handed lecherous dim-bulb, perhaps?

"Let's (lift) the anchor from around our neck," added the anchor around the commission's neck.

On paper, at least, the commission acted 6-1 (with Norman voting no) to can Bean, ostensibly because of the unauthorized improper bonus payments. But as a practical matter, Bean was sacked for engaging in obtuse stupidity, arrogance and favoritism.

There's a price to pay for this sort of hubris, and the going rate starts at around $2,000.

Commission finally uses the old bean 06/17/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 17, 2010 9:19pm]

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