Pasco commissioners halt job hand off to the outgoing property appraiser

Gary Joiner was recommended for a top job but now the county will seek applicants.
Gary Joiner
Gary Joiner [ Gary Joiner ]
Published Nov. 17, 2020

DADE CITY — Pasco county commissioners on Tuesday balked at a staff recommendation to move departing Property Appraiser Gary Joiner into a new job as the county’s building and construction services director.

Raising concerns about past customer service issues with the appraiser’s office and wanting to be sure they get the best pick for the director position, they voted unanimously to seek applicants instead.

County administrator Dan Biles and assistant administrator Sally Sherman spoke in glowing terms about Joiner, who will leave his current job as property appraiser at the end of the year. They said he was the right person to take the $125,000 a year position as director because it requires strong customer service skills that Joiner has demonstrated in three decades of public service.

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, however, wanted to delay the hiring because of what she said was his unresponsiveness when she had found a problem in his property appraiser’s office. She said problem was costly to the county and “the inaction in fixing the problem does not sit well with me,” she said. “I think we maybe need to keep looking.”

Sherman said it would be her job to make sure that Joiner would answer concerns related to his new job. Starkey wasn’t convinced, and said Joiner’s previous lack of responsiveness showed her "a lack of leadership.”

A similar concern was raised by Commissioner Jack Mariano. He said that when Joiner’s office approved an agricultural exemption for a closed community golf course in his district, residents wanted to meet with the appraiser for an explanation but the meeting never happened.

Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick, who was sworn in as a new commissioner on Tuesday, questioned whether Joiner had the right education for the position and if the job had been advertised. Biles said it had not been advertised. He told commissioners he saw Joiner as a candidate who would be available soon and was perfectly suited for the job.

Joiner worked in the Pasco County Tax Collector’s office in various jobs for years and was credited with managing a large staff, instituting policies, building a new office and having good working relationships with other officials and departments.

Joiner was elected property appraiser in 2016 but chose not to seek a second term when Mike Wells quit his county commission seat mid-term and seek the job. Wells won without any challenge and begins as property appraiser in January — the same job his father Mike Wells, Sr., held for 20 years.

Commission Chairman Mike Moore said the typical hiring process has been that any director-level position would be advertised before it would be filled. Biles said he simply saw Joiner as a talented individual he wanted on his team.

Fitzpatrick also asked why Joiner was recommended for a salary of $125,000 while the employee he was replacing, Paula Baracaldo, would be moving into a new job that paid $105,000. Biles said the construction services position salary was based on the market salary. Baracaldo had been filling the job in the interim until Joiner was available.

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Mariano congratulated Baracaldo for doing a good job in a difficult position in the interim. “It’s a very, very critical position," he said adding that he wanted to know what applicants might be available.

Baracaldo, who has been with the county since 2011, was unanimously approved by commissioners for a newly-created director of support services position.