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Audit finds administration ills

An internal audit into the office of County Administrator Chuck Hetrick found ill-defined roles for employees and "low morale, lack of team effort, poor communication and dissension among staff."

Monday, Hetrick and county commissioners said they were not surprised by the results of the audit, which was completed last week, and have already taken steps to solve the problems identified.

"It might be overstating the case a little bit, but it's accurate," said Commissioner June Ester.

Hetrick said he asked for the audit _ performed by Michael Hoskins, who works for the Hernando County Clerk of Circuit Court _ because he perceived problems in his office.

One of the basic flaws was that Hetrick's office performs too many diverse functions. "The office needs to get back to basics, and concentrate/focus on its primary purpose," the audit said.

The audit also found there is not sufficient written policy to define employees' roles.

The 10-person staff in Hetrick's office is responsible for the administration of all departments. In addition, several offices, such as that of County Engineer Charles Mixson and Budget Officer Bob Simpson, work directly under Hetrick.

Office difficulties extend beyond organizational problems to include personal ones, the audit found. The commissioners are too involved in day-to-day operations, which commissioners said is caused by their own ranks being too meddlesome and Hetrick not wielding a firm enough hand over his employees.

Commissioner Ginny Brown-Waite said she does think commissioners have sometimes overstepped their bounds. "But I think that it's part and parcel of having a very weak county administrator. I have begged Chuck not to be weak. I have tried to assist him."

Brown-Waite said she was preparing a detailed response to the audit and would present it at this morning's commission meeting.

Commissioner Ester acknowledged she may have been overstepping her bounds last week when she introduced a motion in the commission meeting to fire County Engineer Charles Mixson.

But, she said of Hetrick: "He's not a strong administrator. I want him to run it like it's a profit-making organization. . . . Instead of treating everyone who works for him like relatives, he should treat them like employees."

The audit's main recommendations include:

The creation of a separate department to handle purchasing and contract administration.

The development of written policies and procedures that specifically detail each employee's duties.

Promotion of the current executive secretary to a position of office manager and elimination of the position of executive secretary.

Hetrick and the commissioners said they have long seen the need for a contract administrator and a purchasing department that would be better able to analyze its contracts.

The need for a contracts administrator was demonstrated two weeks ago when it was discovered that the contractor doing a $107,000 sidewalk building project did not have a license to do concrete work in the county.

Hetrick said in his written response to the audit that he would like to see the county hire a full-time employee to oversee purchasing and administer contracts, but he does not favor a separate department to handle the work.

Brown-Waite said she has heard talk of hiring such an employee for several months.

Ester said she would like to see a county department handle the jobs, and said it is the most important recommendation the audit offered.

"If that doesn't happen, then I don't think anything else will," she said.