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Hernando County closes the door on McIntosh era

(ran PC, PS editions)

Hernando County commissioners officially severed ties with former Administrator Paul McIntosh on Thursday.

After two days of legal back-and-forth over specific language, commission Chairwoman Nancy Robinson signed the settlement agreement that makes complete the divorce from McIntosh.

He gets the golden parachute; county commissioners get a fresh start and protection from a lawsuit.

The agreement is worth about $65,000 to McIntosh and includes:

+ Six months of severance pay;

+ $9,000 in vacation and leave pay;

+ Six months of insurance coverage;

+ And $2,000 to cover the fees of McIntosh's high-profile attorney, Robert F. McKee of Tampa.

When McIntosh initially approached commissioners with the settlement plan on Monday, he had sought nine months of severance pay. His contract allowed for only four. Robinson thought six was more reasonable, and that is what the commission approved Tuesday.

McIntosh agreed to leave _ for a price _ after the latest revelations appeared last week in the St. Petersburg Times about gifts he had accepted from business leaders.

SunTrust Bank/Nature Coast chairman and chief executive officer Jim Kimbrough treated McIntosh to golf at the exclusive Black Diamond course in Citrus County. McIntosh attended a Devil Rays baseball game, a Buccaneers football game and a golf tournament, courtesy of Oak Hill Hospital. Rick Michael, former head of the Hernando County Economic Development Commission, also provided Devil Rays tickets to McIntosh.

Before that, McIntosh had been criticized for the questionable splitting of contracts to avoid the bidding process for Hartman & Associates, an Orlando utility consultant offering advice to the county about plans to purchase Florida Water Services.

And then he found himself in trouble again for attending a golf tournament as a guest of Hartman & Associates.

Initially, McIntosh's problems with gifts led commissioners and County Attorney Garth Coller to the conclusion that the county's policies on accepting gifts were too confusing and needed to be more like the state's policies, which are more lenient. At that point, commissioners voted 3-2 to let McIntosh keep his job.

Commissioner Betty Whitehouse asked whether McIntosh had taken any more gifts; he responded that he would have to consult his attorney before answering.

Then came the revelations in the Times, and his future with the county was looking doubtful again.

Although the gifts he accepted did not rise to the level of illegality in the opinion of Assistant County Attorney Kurt Hintzemann, McIntosh violated state reporting requirements.

On Tuesday, soon after commissioners voted 4-1 to accept the terms of McIntosh's compromise settlement, the county's technical staff locked the administrator's computer access.

"That's standard procedure when an employee separates with the county," said Garry Allen, Technology Services Department director. "You no longer have unrestricted access to information."

On Wednesday, McIntosh cleared out his office.

On Thursday, Robinson's signature brought to an official end the county's relationship with McIntosh.

Commissioner Chris Kingsley is ready to put the past behind him: "It is a time to put things back together."

That's not too far from Commissioner Diane Rowden's wishes.

"Right now, what this county needs to do is settle down and get back to the business of being caretakers for the citizens of Hernando County," she said.

McIntosh, reached for comment by telephone, declined to talk about the agreement.

"I don't have any comment on that," he said. "I'm a private citizen now, and I don't think that's anyone else's business."

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