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Pinellas County HR Director Holly Schoenherr resigns before board could decide her fate

Officials placed Holly Schoenherr on paid administrative leave until a severance package can be negotiated.
Pinellas County Director of Human Resources Amy Schoenherr resigned Thursday evening from her $166,000 position. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]
Pinellas County Director of Human Resources Amy Schoenherr resigned Thursday evening from her $166,000 position. ANDRES LEIVA | Times]
Published Mar. 6, 2020|Updated Mar. 6, 2020

Holly Schoenherr, the embattled director of Pinellas County’s Human Resources Department, resigned late Thursday from her $166,000 position and requested to stay employed until May 8.

But public officials rejected the overture. Multiple county leaders recently gave Schoenherr either poor or fair ratings regarding leadership, interpersonal skills and organization.

Instead, they placed her on paid administrative leave until the chair of the Personnel Board can negotiate a severance package, officials said.

The county’s Personnel Board -- which consists of seven people appointed by commissioners, constitutional offices and others -- will vote on the severance package on May 7 at its next meeting.

Related: Pinellas County HR Director Holly Schoenherr under fire for poor performance

Pinellas County administrator Barry Burton opposed Schoenherr remaining until May 8, but said Friday he agreed to a severance package because she didn’t commit any misconduct.

Schoenherr answered to the board, but reviews from elected officials and other top administrators carry influence with the group. A review of evaluations showed Schoenherr received either poor or fair ratings from a majority of public officials regarding leadership, interpersonal skills and organization.

Personnel Board members also submitted a mix of positive and negative reviews for the past year.

Still, several of Schoenherr’s top deputies defended her at the meeting.

Jack Loring, an administrator, said the process used to evaluate Schoenherr failed “to meet the best practices of performance assessment...In other words, an employee should never be blindsided when it’s time for their performance evaluation."

Schoenherr joined the county in 2016 and earned $166,000 annually She held prior held leadership roles at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, Rice University in Texas and the University of South Florida.

Her resignation letter said she decided to resign "to pursue other professional opportunities. She said it was a “privilege to work alongside so many caring and dedicated professionals” and was proud of “what we’ve accomplished together.”

On Wednesday, Schoenherr said the negative reviews surprised her and were disappointing because she thought she had good relationships with other officials.

“Much of what I have been reading has been quite surprising to me,” Schoenherr said.

State lawmakers created Pinellas County’s personnel system.

The Florida Legislature passed a special act in 1975 to establish the Unified Personnel System, which consists of 10 appointing authorities. Some include the clerk of the circuit court, county administrator, county attorney, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and tax collector. The 10 appointing authorities have about 3,100 employees in the personnel system.

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Officials appointed Loring to be acting director. Burton said he and other appointing authorities will begin the search for a new director.

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