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Counselor's ad leaves a lingering question

A technological faux pas has put the city in an embarrassing and awkward position.

After City Council members voted this month to hire Karla Owens as city attorney, another local lawyer saw the job advertised on the Web site and expressed interest.

City Manager Steve Spina says the only graceful solution is to let Kara Hardin interview.

Now he plans to introduce her at Monday's council meeting, which is also when the council is scheduled to vote on Owens' new contract.

"It's kind of an unfortunate thing," said Spina, who explained the ad was left on the Web site advertently. "The staff has put the council in a box."

Hardin did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday. A 2000 graduate of Stetson University College of Law, she served on the city's search committee for a new police chief.

City Council members voted Jan. 12 to hire Owens after the death of longtime attorney Tom McAlvanah. Owens, also Dade City's full-time attorney, had been Zephyrhills' acting attorney since McAlvanah became ill in September.

If her new contract is approved, Owens will earn $100 an hour, not to exceed $25,000 a year. Zephyrhills will reimburse Dade City $6,000 a year for services rendered during business hours.

A former county attorney, Owens earns $60,000 a year from Dade City.

"I'm comfortable with Karla, just because we've developed a working relationship, and I think all she's ever done really is government work," Spina said.

"That said, I'm sure I'd be happy with anybody council selected, Kara included."

Hardin served on Spina's search committee that selected the new police chief.

Spina said he'll have to "fall on the sword" during Monday's meeting.

"I think that Kara is entitled to (an interview). Because it was our (mistake), I felt that she was entitled to have her say before City Council," he said.