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Ex-administrator takes parting shot

Outgoing County Administrator Paul McIntosh has cast himself as the innocent victim of a hostile local press in his farewell memo to all county employees.

The letter, in which McIntosh announced his "resignation," came just days after he won a six-month severance package in exchange for his promise not to sue the county for any reason. McIntosh had hired a high-profile Tampa lawyer, and commissioners acknowledged publicly their concern that he might sue them.

They decided last week to part ways with the administrator after four months of controversy and inquiry over purchasing, personnel management and gift taking issues. Inquiries found McIntosh legally in the right, but he had become a political liability for commissioners who, one by one, began to question whether they could trust him and depend on his leadership style.

In his letter, McIntosh attacked his predecessor, Bonnie Dyga, as having left behind a staff that was intimidated and afraid to make decisions. He claimed to have fostered more a collegial, effective management team that had met with great success.

"These positive steps into the future of Hernando County, though, have been overshadowed by the newspapers' appetite for tabloid journalism," McIntosh wrote Friday, three days after commissioners forced him from office.

McIntosh blamed the newspapers for his increasingly bad reputation.

"For the past several weeks, the local newspapers have gone to great lengths to distort facts and issues involving Hernando County government, creating an atmosphere of distrust centering upon me as the target," McIntosh wrote. "To maintain my integrity to my family and myself, I chose not to play this game."

Mike Konrad, Hernando County bureau chief of the St. Petersburg Times, denied any effort by the newspaper to "get" McIntosh through articles that examined his acceptance of gifts, his questionable contracts with a utilities consultant and his handling of problems in the Emergency Management Department.

"Our only agenda is open and honest government," Konrad said.

Commissioners tiptoed around McIntosh's commentary and said they preferred to put McIntosh behind them.

"People view things differently," Chairwoman Nancy Robinson said, suggesting she did not agree with McIntosh's analysis. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion."

Commissioner Diane Rowden ventured a bit further toward criticism.

"It's typical of someone who can never recognize he's part of the problem, or is the problem," Rowden said, refusing to elaborate.

McIntosh, reached on his county-issued cellular phone, said he did not have to talk about his positions because he is a "private citizen" and further comment would not benefit him.

According to the terms of his settlement, McIntosh remains on the county payroll through April 15 and can keep his phone, computer, pager and other such property until his official departure.

He has cleaned out his office, and commissioners have stripped him of all duties.