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Hernando commissioner unfairly using administrator as scapegoat

Commissioner Jeff Stabins' quest for a smoking gun continues.

Stabins is looking for a reason to fire County Administrator David Hamilton. Or at least justification to criticize him publicly. This search comes two months after Stabins and the rest of the commission gave Hamilton satisfactory grades on his three-year performance evaluation.

Two weeks ago, Stabins planned to use personnel management as his leading gripe.

"This guy is hated the way Al Dunlap was hated at Sunbeam,'' Stabins said in his usual unsubtle rhetoric. "He destroyed morale at a good organization from the custodian on up. I'm getting really fed up with it.

"I'm embarrassed that I'm the last commissioner here to vote for him. If this were Japan, I'd probably have to fall on my sword.''

At the time, the commission had just been fed a line of malarkey from one of the transportation services department's fiscal officers. She stood before commissioners and attempted to scapegoat another department for her own failure to provide timely information to the county's budget office.

Stabins even found a way to blame that on Hamilton.

"That kind of behavior is not only tolerated, but encouraged by David Hamilton,'' the commissioner said. "He has created an environment of hatred and mistrust. He's pitted employee vs. employee.''

Stabins' sentiment fails to recognize sufficiently that morale just might be a bit dim because of: A multi-year wage freeze, forced time off, job eliminations, talk of whacking benefits and a gender bias complaint.

His comments also show a lack of self-awareness and personal accountability.

Stabins and the commission approved the budgets that included no raises and reduced personnel. It is the commission that wants to have a workshop to trim employee benefits. The commission failed to follow recommended salary adjustments that brought the discrimination complaint from community development director Jean Rags. And let's not forget that the termination of 33-year parks and recreation chief Pat Fagan came because the commission reneged on plans to charge youth sports fees to offset park maintenance costs.

No matter. I'm sure it's Hamilton's fault.

Stabins comments came in a March 25 interview that the commissioner promised would be a prelude to a written statement he planned to submit to Hamilton for discussion at the board meeting Tuesday.

Well, the eight-page statement is out and employee morale has taken a back seat to expedited management of a channel dredge nearly two decades in the talking stages.

Stabins is critical of Hamilton for not telling the commission who it was they were hiring as project manager — Greg Jarque, who had overseen the completion of the ARC Nature Coast training center and hurricane shelter that came in early and under budget. Stabins says the commission should have been told Hamilton's wife knows Jarque through the ARC and that the project manager's company was in arrears on county assessments.

On this point, Stabins is correct. Transparency is key, particularly after sloppy background work on past consultants — procurement official Lisa Hammond's dubious education credentials and a proposed dredge subcontractor's, Grubbs Construction, tax problems — embarrassed the county.

However, there is no evidence to substantiate Stabins' suggestion that a quid pro quo existed between the Hamiltons and Jarque. But that didn't stop Stabins from labeling Jarque as a Linda Hamilton "crony'' or characterizing the county administrator's management style as "cavalier, conniving and cold-hearted.''

Conniving? That would be Stabins. Then again, show me a politico who isn't conniving.

Stabins can go on record as appearing to be the defender of the downtrodden county workers and gatekeeper of the public trust even though he knows there are not three votes to fire Hamilton. In the meantime, if Hamilton's strategy of naming a project manager for the Hernando Beach dredge is successful, Stabins can campaign for re-election as a commissioner who supported completing the long-delayed project.

If it's still not done by November 2012 (or August if Stabins faces a primary opponent), then he can blame Hamilton. Stabins doesn't want an administrator. He wants a punching bag.

Forget falling on a sword. The commissioner's search for a smoking gun is likely to end with Stabins shooting himself in the foot.

Hernando commissioner unfairly using administrator as scapegoat 04/09/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 8, 2011 10:59pm]
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