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Officials as PR agents is duty of bygone era

Appointed city officials shouldn't be public relation agents for their elected bosses. But that is part of the job description in Dade City where City Manager Harold Sample, City Attorney Karla Owens and City Clerk Jim Class received their evaluations last week.

Included in the evaluation form for each of the three employees is this tidbit: "Effectively represents the City Commission's positions and policies giving sufficient credit to Commission members and assisting in promoting Commission members' visibility in the community.''

It is a job requirement that should be eliminated. The appointed employees are hired to serve the public, not the political whims of the elected commission. It is an outdated duty from a bygone era when making the boss look good was reason enough for employee retention.

The city manager is hired to run the day to day operations of the city and to implement the commission's directives. The city attorney's job is to provide legal advice and planning services, and the city clerk has clerical duties and doubles as finance director. Each has enough to do without worrying whether they're supposed to arrange for convertibles for commissioners to use in parades or talk up their bosses to the public. Besides, how are you supposed to do that when there are conflicting points of view coming from the dais?

The public relations requirement isn't the only area needing an update. Ideally, the clerk should not be subjected to commission evaluation. Oversight should be assigned to the city manager's office and the ongoing review of the City Charter should incorporate that change.

The newest commissioner, Camille Hernandez, said the evaluation forms don't accurately reflect the employees' job descriptions. Regardless, she was the most critical of Sample. It is becoming a familiar routine in east Pasco municipalities where first-year elected officials with preconceived notions seek to put their stamp on the government administration. Just think of Zephyrhills and the unwarranted criticism heaped upon City Manager Steve Spina over the years by Cathi Compton, Gina King and most recently, Luis Lopez.

This time, Sample finds himself whacked by a single commissioner out of step with her more experienced colleagues. Among other things, Hernandez criticized Sample's employee management skills, personal integrity and teamwork with commissioners. She was the only commissioner to rank Sample's performance as failing to meet her expectations in all important areas and she demanded immediate improvement.

Still, Hernandez gave Sample the highest score possible (5) for giving sufficient credit to commission members for their positions and policies, but knocked him down to a score of 3 for promoting her visibility. Commissioner Steve Van Gorden did likewise for the city clerk, even underlining the requirement to promote commission visibility.

Next time, commissioners should rely on the more accustomed political tool: Self-promotion.