It is predictable that a county administrator who could not grasp the challenges that the recession forced on government would be milking the government for every penny on her way out the door. The time has come for Hillsborough County commissioners to fire Pat Bean and to get on with hiring a new, permanent administrator. The county has more important issues to worry about than Bean's personal drama.
It might have been tolerable a year or two ago to give Bean a face-saving departure. She was a weak and uncreative leader but largely benign. That changed over the past year after Bean got caught giving herself a secret pay raise and snooping through the e-mails of then-county auditor Jim Barnes. The judgment she has shown in dragging out her departure — long after a majority of the board said she should go — captures the corrosive influence she has at County Center.
Commissioners put Bean on a 90-day paid leave in March; that suspension ends Monday. The board had hoped that a state criminal investigation into the pay raise would give the board an indication of whether it could fire Bean and avoid paying her severance. But the legal questions could play out for years. Bean has not been accused, much less convicted, of any crime. The board needs to decide now: Pay her to go away, or contend her pay raise amounted to official misconduct.
The last thing the board should do is engage in any new negotiations. Bean has asked for the $454,000 in severance pay due under her contract. A third option that goes to the board Wednesday calls for Bean to waive her severance in exchange for getting a do-nothing job for the next 18 months at a salary of $190,000 plus benefits. That would only be throwing away more public money. The county already has wasted tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers and Bean's paid leave when it should have fired her outright months ago.
The interim administrator, Mike Merrill, has the experience and a talented team to take it from here. It is not fair to Merrill to have this cloud hanging over County Center any longer. The commission should fire Bean and then explore legal options to withhold her severance. She abused the public's trust, she should not be rewarded — and she certainly should not be calling the shots.