Hillsborough County internal auditor under fire

04/15/09 Mitch E. Perry
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The embattled Internal Performance Auditor for Hillsborough County, Jim Barnes, today retained his job for the time being, but only after receiving blistering criticism from some members of the County Commission.

Already under siege for a variety of reasons, Barnes further alienated some Board members recently when it was discovered that he was on a taxpayer-funded education course in Las Vegas.

After being questioned by Commissioner Mark Sharpe that his audits on the county’s affordable housing program were suspect, Barnes reacted testily.

Talk of a lack of production in the Internal Performance Auditor’s office has grown loud in recent weeks, much louder than Commissioner Jim Norman said should be the case.

Much of the discussion between Barnes and other Commissioners was about what the Board actually wants out of the internal performance auditing position. A beleagured Barnes said at one point that he’d do whatever the Board wanted him to do.

But one of his harshest critics, Commisioner Rose Ferlita, wasn’t impressed by the urgency in Barnes’ voice. Ferlita said if she had her way, she would get rid of Barnes office, originally approved by voters as a charter Amendment in 2002, but plagued by controversies under previous directors and Barnes ever since.

Ferlita was particularly irked about a budget process meeting called for by Senior Auditor Ken Gentile at a conference room within the Skypoint condominium with just a day’s public notice.

Ferlita then proposed a motion to ask the Clerk of the Circuit Court, led by Pat Frank, if that office could pick up performance audits. But fellow Commissioners then altered that to ask the Clerk’s office how Barnes office should actually function.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner said it was important to define what the job is supposed to do.

The Board then decided to hold a one-hour workshop on defining what the job should do at an upcoming board meeting, as well the Clerk of the Court’s possible involvement.

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