Hillsborough Commissioners rip into County Performance Auditor's report

09/16/09 Mitch E. Perry
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A report by Hillsborough County’s internal performance auditor on pay raises that County Administrator Pat Bean gave to her staff – and herself – became almost a secondary issue today, as Commissioners tore into the man who prepared the audit.

Jim Barnes has been the previous subject of criticism from some Commissioners for his previous work. The fact that he prepared this report without getting response from Bean or County Attorney Renee Lee, both criticized in the report, angered several Board members. Barnes found that Bean and Lee both gave themselves the equivalent of 1% salary raises for identifying efficiency savings in the 2007 fiscal year budget.

The audit was requested by Commissioner Kevin Beckner .

The request for an audit came after it was reported that Administrator Bean had offered raises to six aides – raises that Commissioners didn’t learn about until several months later, when the County was trying to save money any way they could under dire economic circumstances.

Beckner said he believed the raises, or bonuses that Bean and Lee earned, should not have been up to them to declare.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe thanked Beckner for requesting the audit. But trouble ensued when he asked the Independent Performance Auditor, Jim Barnes, if he gave Bean or Lee an opportunity to respond to his report.

One of Barnes’ biggest foes on the Board, Rose Ferlita, lit into him for not answering the question.

First she asked how many hours had Barnes and his team worked on the audit, which Ferlita said she had not seen.

Ferlita then reiterated prior communication problems she had with Barnes and his office. She said that she had requested that he publish on a weekly basis all reports he had been requested to work on from previous Commissioners. She also said she had seen a math error on one page of the report.

Then Budget Director Eric Johnson, whose boss is Pat Bean, the main subject of the critical report, told Commissions that the audit lacked integrity in both its produce and policy.

Commissioner Jim Norman then weighed in, and blasted Auditor Jim Barnes report.

But Norman then looked over at Bean and said that if it was true that she had given herself a raise, that rule needed to change.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe then said that though he was in support generally of Barnes audit, it had been discredited, and there needed to be an ‘audit of the audit’.

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