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Pinellas County leaders warn IT manager: No more drama

Pinellas leaders back Martin Rose’s plan to address discord among his team.
Pinellas leaders back Martin Rose’s plan to address discord among his team.
Published Aug. 21, 2015

CLEARWATER — Keep doing your job and quell the drama.

That was the message for Martin Rose, Pinellas County's chief information officer, courtesy of his high-profile bosses Thursday after a survey found discord among his executive leadership team.

The Business Technology Services board expressed concern about the survey but told Rose they supported his plan to get the department back on track.

"There are opportunities for improvement and we expect Marty to move on those," said County Commissioner Ken Welch, who chairs the board.

In April, the board agreed with Rose's idea for the human resources department to interview 19 members of his executive leadership team. The move came after an investigation into allegations that Rose sexually harassed a female managers. He denied the claims and the county's Office of Human Rights director Paul Valenti concluded there wasn't enough evidence to prove harassment.

But some of the findings — and Rose's written responses — troubled some board members, especially county administrator Mark Woodard, who said Rose failed to take personal responsibility and instead blamed the culture of an office he's supposed to lead.

That criticism, however, came in April.

Woodard did not attend Thursday's meeting because he recently got the blessing from the Board of County Commission to step down from the board and have the commission chairman or a designee serve instead. Woodard had felt serving on the board limited his ability as county administrator to advise the County Commission and BTS board members without violating the state's open government law. The BTS board approved the move Thursday.

Woodard's departure removes Rose's most outspoken critic from the board that oversees him.

The survey, which posed open-ended questions about the BTS department and Rose's leadership, produced a mixed bag of feedback that showed the schism in Rose's ranks but no clear consensus, human resources staff members told the board Thursday.

"(Rose) is trying very hard to do good things with the organization," one employee said.

Said another: "His inability to lead an IT organization, bullying, isolating people away from each other, his behavior and conduct are destroying the performance of BTS. I don't feel it can be fixed. He shouldn't stay."

The dueling answers indicated a tension between a faction loyal to Rose and one aligned with James Russell, a longtime employee who served as an interim CIO but was passed over for the permanent job. Rose started in November 2013 and is paid $167,107 a year.

Rose offered a three-pronged approach to address the problem. He said he will use feedback to make personal changes in his management style; make necessary staff changes; and bring in an outside consultant to conduct team-building workshops.

"I think there are going to be some hard decisions we're going to have to make, and if people truly aren't happy I'm not forcing them to stay here, so we would have to transition some people out if they really don't want to be part of the new organization," he said.

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Board members gave their blessing to the plan with hopes that Rose can improve his team's ability to work together.

"If Marty determines it can't, Marty needs to run the show," said State Attorney Bernie McCabe.

The BTS department provides technology services to all of Pinellas County government. The BTS board, until Woodard's departure, was composed of two county commissioners, the county administrator, all five constitutional officers, the state attorney, the public defender and the chief judge.


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