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Pinellas board member appointed son-in-law to top HR job, didn’t disclose conflict

Paul Rogers never told the board about his relationship to HR administrator Jack Loring.
For the latest breaking news, check tampabay.com
For the latest breaking news, check tampabay.com [ Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Mar. 9, 2020
Updated Mar. 9, 2020

A member of the Pinellas County Personnel Board voted Thursday in a public meeting to appoint his son-in-law to be the interim director of the county’s Human Resources Department.

A transcript of the public meeting shows that Paul Rogers never told the board about his relationship to HR administrator Jack Loring. On Friday, Senior Assistant County Attorney Carl Brody told Rogers that Florida law prohibits public officials from voting in matters involving relatives.

“A public official may not appoint, employ, promote or advance … a relative…” Brody told Rogers.

“Please inform your appointing authority regarding this conflict in order to provide them an opportunity to replace you in your position on the Board. Alternatively, you may remain on the Board, but a new interim director will need to be chosen because of the ongoing conflict.”

Rogers told Brody about the conflict after the meeting. In the email, Brody thanked Rogers for his candor Thursday evening.

Late Monday, Rogers said he planned to immediately resign from the board. He blamed Brody for the issue with his “step son-in-law.”

He said Brody has known about his relationship for eight months and should have spoken up before the vote. Rogers also blamed Ricardo Davis, the chair of the Personnel Board, for rushing through the matter without discussion.

“It didn’t make a difference if I voted or not,” he said. “The vote was unanimous. It all happened in seconds.”

County Attorney Jewel White said her staff attorneys are prepared to answer questions related to agendas and those questions raised in meetings.

Board members get paid $100 each meeting to serve on the board. The board chair receives $150 per meeting.

Davis said he was not aware of the relationship between Rogers and Loring.

Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters said Rogers should have disclosed his ties before voting, adding: “Transparency is very important.”

The board unanimously selected Loring to replace Holly Schoenherr, who resigned under fire because of poor performance evaluations. She was placed on administrative leave until the chair of the Personnel Board can negotiate a severance package. The board will vote on it in April.

The county’s Personnel Board — which consists of seven people appointed by commissioners, constitutional officers and others — is supposed to provide accountability over the Human Resources operation.

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.