What does Pat Bean have to do to lose her job as Hillsborough County administrator? Provide no leadership — done that. Take a secret pay raise — done that, too. Spark calls for a criminal probe by poking through staff e-mails? Done. Bean has zero credibility left as a public official and as chief executive of county government. She should resign at an emergency meeting today or county commissioners should fire her.
Commission Chairman Ken Hagan called the meeting to consider whether to fire Bean, County Attorney Renee Lee and county auditor Jim Barnes. In a report last week, Barnes said Bean's office had obtained as many as 6,000 e-mails from his agency tied to ongoing audits, which are exempt from public view under Florida law. Hagan said the three have shown bad judgment over time and have created a "toxic" working environment at County Center.
This circus needs to end and Bean should be the first to go. She has been a sorry administrator. She has few solid ideas for moving the county forward and is quick to throw her staff under the bus. The only question now is whether Bean is a sneak. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is looking into whether granting herself a raise broke state law. The agency should also broaden its probe to examine whether she broke the law by obtaining confidential investigative records.
Clearly, Bean does not have the character or integrity to lead a government for 1 million people. She was already on probation of sorts for bad performance even before acknowledging that she sought Barnes' e-mails. Bean said she sought the documents after feeling "under siege" by Barnes, who investigated her pay raise last year. Her backhanded tactics are mind-boggling for a CEO and 33-year county employee.
Commissioners should not get bogged down with details that FDLE is working to answer. The question for them is simple: Do they have confidence in Bean's judgment and integrity, in her respect for the governing process and in her commitment to being held accountable? How can the board trust Bean's professional guidance when her conduct is so easily corrupted by a personal vendetta?
Lee and Barnes should be removed, too; their performance has been lacking for years. But above all else, they and Bean have created a poisonous culture at County Center. Hillsborough faces many major decisions, from whether to create a county mayor and increase taxes for transportation to how to recover from the recession. The last thing the commission needs are top administrators who split hairs, lawyer up and stab one other in the back.
County government needs a fresh slate, and it needs to regain the public's trust before elections this year and another round of painful budget choices. In that spirit, Bean, Lee and Barnes should forget about seeking any severance. They should not be rewarded for lackluster work and for damaging public faith in county government.