Public service is more than drive-by clerking, but that is what has become of the duties performed by Pasco Clerk of the Circuit Court Jed Pittman.
Pittman, nearing the end of a 32-year tenure as clerk to both the circuit court and the Pasco County Commission, is obese, diabetic and hobbling on damaged knees. He uses a motorized scooter and hauls it on his publicly owned Chevrolet Suburban, a $30,000 vehicle commissioners were lobbied to acquire last year for Pittman's comfort.
Pittman, 66, could use his position as a public servant to encourage others to live a healthier lifestyle or to demonstrate to people with physical limitations that they can overcome barriers to remain productive members of the work force. Instead, Pittman is the poster child for government largesse. His trips to the office are infrequent, and he delegates his chores to subordinates. When he does come to the West Pasco Judicial Center, business often is conducted inside his SUV in the parking lot. If you want to see the clerk, Pittman said, just make an appointment. He didn't say whether to be prepared to sit shotgun.
The clerk didn't even defend his proposed disbursements last year as commissioners attempted to whittle budgets to meet a state-imposed spending cap. The clerk's top deputy had to explain the reasoning for trading in Pittman's 2-year-old vehicle for a newer model.
The dubious work ethic does not come with a corresponding pay cut. Pittman is paid $136,576 in annual salary plus a $74,904 yearly pension under a loophole in state law that allows public employees to "retire,'' collect a lump sum benefit and then remain on the job drawing two checks. When Pittman did file his pension papers, he collected $362,687 in deferred benefits.
It's an abuse of a system designed to encourage older workers to retire to create promotional opportunities for younger employees earning smaller salaries. Pittman isn't alone in his gouging. More than 8,000 public employees are doubling dipping, Times senior correspondent Lucy Morgan reported in February, including Pasco Commissioner Ann Hildebrand. Unlike Pittman, however, she remains a productive and highly visible public official.
Pittman's infrequent trips to the office were reported first by a television station and confirmed by the clerk in an interview with Times staff writer Jamal Thalji. Pittman detailed his medical issues, but he defended his job performance and saw no reason to leave office until his term expires after the November election. Pittman boasted he is "doing a pretty good job for the people of Pasco County. I hope they appreciate it.''
On the contrary, Pittman should appreciate the people of Pasco County, of whom he is taking advantage.