How much money will it take for Pat Bean to go away?
The former Hillsborough County administrator who was fired last year for poor performance is back at the trough. Bean wants a bigger payout now that the state has found that she did not break the law by taking a secret pay raise in 2007.
This drama is like a flu that never ends. A short history: The commission fired Bean last year amid allegations that she took a secret raise and snooped through e-mails of a county auditor who blew the whistle. State Attorney Mark Ober said in February the conduct was "questionable" but not criminal. Bean, true to the poor judgment she showed in office, hailed the backhanded slap as a vindication. A county attorney now says Bean's lawyer is seeking to recoup severance pay that commissioners denied by firing her for misconduct.
The commission chairman, Al Higginbotham, says he's inclined to hear Bean out. He ought to hit the brakes. Commissioners, if anything, should have fired Bean much sooner. She provided no real leadership to guide the county through the recession. The ax she took to the budget showed no sense of priorities or vision for the future. Morale at County Center under Bean was terrible. The county had a poor working relationship with the city of Tampa; the idea of saving money by consolidating services was almost out of the question. Then there was the way Bean strung along her departure from office when it was clear board members wanted a change in leadership. There was even talk of avoiding litigation by giving her a six-figure, do-nothing job.
Taxpayers have paid Bean handsomely for her service, and it is incredible at this stage to imagine her coming back for up to $200,000 in severance. Bean was a bad enough distraction last year. The board has bigger issues to confront, from growing the economy to cutting the budget. The new administrator, Mike Merrill, is busy making his mark — and doing a fine job repairing the county's relationships and its public image.
Bean might still have her job if she had shown the same urgency to her duties as she apparently is applying to grabbing a bigger payout. Maybe she can't move on, but the board should. It made the right move in firing her and has no good reason to revisit the decision.