Assistants to Pat Bean demoted
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07/16/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

On a 6-1 vote, the Hillsborough County Commission today demoted two of County Administrator Pat Bean’s top assistants, after trying unsuccessfully to rescind their pay raises.

Budget Director Eric Johnson and Debt Management Director Mike Merrill were 2 of 6 employees who were given promotions last November, and with them came pay raises of 10%.

But those raises had become lightning rods, considering that those employees already made over $100,000 a year, while the county is laying off people and giving furloughs to others to contend with an over $100 million dollar budget shortfall.

On Wednesday, Commissioner Rose Ferlita said that she had no idea that when she was approving the re-organization of Bean’s top assistants last fall, she was also approving their pay raises. Bean admitted today that that information was not fully conveyed.

But the Board was informed that they did not have the power to rescind those pay raises, leading Commissioner Ferlita to express her frustration about her lack of power.

But Commissioner Jim Norman questioned the accuracy of Ferlita’s comments that she was blindsided by the news that Bean’s assistants had received raises, when it was reported by the St. Petersburg Times last month.

Although Bean apologized, she also said that her re-organization had saved much more money than it had cost the County. She claimed the savings were over half a million dollars.

Commissioner Ferlita was relentless in putting the pressure on Bean to ‘do the right thing’ and rescind the pay raises.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe, who on Wednesday called Bean’s appointments and pay raises ‘sloppy’ and questioned her leadership, admitted that he had always known about the raises, and said he questioned them all along.

The meeting grew more heated as Commissioner Ferlita challenge Human Resources Director George Williams, who told the Board that if they demoted Johnson and Merrill, they could not force them to do the extra work that came with their promotion.

Commissioner Jim Norman chimed in, saying he agreed with Williams because the County is bound by a Civil Service structure in terms of raises and promotions. But he said that all the hue and cry sounded like politics to him.

The Board then voted 6-1 to rescind the promotions, meaning the County now has two vacancies in those Assistant County Administrator positions.

Later, the board then took up the issue of 'double-dipping' employees. Commissioner Norman apologized for singling out Planning Administrator Bob Hunter, who recently retired, but then was asked to come back to work earlier this year.

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