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Most don't revel in Dyga resignation

Several prominent members of the Good Government League are low-key about County Administrator Bonnie Dyga's quitting.

County Administrator Bonnie Dyga has made no secret of her disdain for the Good Government League. She considers its members frequently misinformed and "disruptive" and a drain on staff time, however good their intentions.

The sentiment is mutual. Members of the citizen watchdog group call her deceitful, unmindful of taxpayers' concerns and bent on pushing her own agenda on the County Commission.

Now that Dyga has announced her resignation, one might expect to hear gloating from her loudest detractors. But instead of a roar, there has been barely a whisper.

While prominent league members certainly shed no tears, most insisted they had little reaction to the surprising decision. And they definitely accepted no share of the responsibility for her hasty departure.

"When you do something on your own, you make your own decision," said John Tenini, who said he was speaking for himself. "How can you blame somebody else?"

One exception was Claire Richter, who co-founded the group in 1993 and has been among Dyga's more vocal critics. She did not mute her response.

"I think that's the best thing that can happen to this county," Richter said Friday. "I believe she deliberately disseminated inconsistent, incorrect information."

Richter, working with Commission Chairwoman Pat Novy, grew so suspicious of Dyga's handling of county finances that she contacted state officials. She also typed Novy's secret letter inquiring about a state audit of county operations. (The director of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee suggested last month an audit is unlikely.)

Other members took a more blase stance on Dyga's departure, downplaying its significance.

"The county certainly will survive this," said Dick Pritchard, who worked hard to derail Dyga's $21-million bond proposal to fix residential roads. "I don't see this as having any traumatic effect."

Good Government League co-founder Joe Fox said: "It's similar to people thinking, well, you could never replace General MacArthur. But the country is still here."

That's not to say Fox was a Dyga fan. Like Richter and Pritchard, he repeatedly questioned Dyga's analysis of the county's financial condition. Despite her insistence to the contrary, he insists the county has enough money to pay for road repairs without raising or extending the gas tax.

Fox said Dyga could have solved the road paving conundrum by dedicating a large share of the $28-million that commissioners added to this year's budget. Most of the "found" money was left over at the end of the fiscal year, Dyga said, a result of lower-than-expected costs and higher-than-expected revenues.

Before Dyga's arrival, similar leftovers were plowed into the next year's budget. Dyga said she wanted to fully disclose the funds to the public. Most of the money was off-limits, however, she said, because of state laws and bond covenants.

She became so frustrated trying to explain the financial picture that she publicly said she was "almost sorry" for revealing the presence of the $28-million. The comment riled Good Government League members.

"I thought it was bad taste," said Fox, who like Tenini attends almost every weekly commission meeting.

Richter said the remark confirmed her view that Dyga had a tendency to withhold information.

Tenini once had high hopes for Dyga. He clearly recalls how, when still a candidate in December 1997, she was asked by commissioners what she thought Hernando County's best asset was. Her two-word answer, "the people," prompted applause and sealed Dyga's selection in a unanimous vote.

Since then, Tenini said in June, he has concluded Dyga "doesn't give a damn about the people."

For all his criticism of Dyga, Fox is not sure she could have averted the conflicts with Novy and Commissioner Bobbi Mills. Dyga said those clashes contributed to her decision to leave for a job as assistant city manager in Port St. Lucie.

"You always have a faction that would agree with you, and you always have a faction that would disagree with you," Fox said.

Fox said he tried to warn Dyga at the outset that she could be in for a rough ride.

"I said, "Bonnie, it's not going to be easy. You're going to be hit from many different sides.' And I didn't mean the Good Government League," he said.