Bean and Lee placed on paid leave

03/23/10 Kate Bradshaw
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After weeks of spirited debate, the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners has finally made a decision on the issue of whether to fire two highly-paid county staffers. The administrator and attorney were placed on paid leave this afternoon.

Today’s discussion of an issue that has captured headlines for weeks has been put to rest – for now. The question of whether or not to fire County Administrator Pat Bean and County Attorney Renee Lee for possible records law violation will have to wait. In the mean time, in accordance with a motion Commissioner Al Higginbotham put forth at the start of the two-hour meeting, they get up to 90 days paid leave.

The leave will take place while Florida Department of Law Enforcement carries out the investigation of claims that the two had accessed emails concerning ongoing investigations of a one percent pay raise Bean awarded them in 2007. Robert McCrea, the county’s employment law attorney, said the board had no cause to fire them at this time. Higginbotham’s motion was on floor alongside Mark Sharpe’s call to fire Bean and Lee.

Sharpe modified this at the suggestion of Commissioner Rose Ferlita, who said that this issue has hindered the county’s normal functioning. She suggested that the Bean and Lee should be dealt with separately, and that Bean be allowed to resign and still collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance pay.

Commissioner Jim Norman has said for weeks that he does not want to leave the county 'rudderless'. Instead, he said, he wants to see what comes out of FDLE has to say about the two.

Commissioners Sharpe, Ferlita, and Kevin White voted down the motion to put Bean and Lee on paid leave for up to 90 days. White said he didn’t think the two should be paid to do nothing.

The commission unanimously elected to appoint Deputy County Attorney Don Odom and Utilities and Commerce Administrator Mike Merril to replace Lee and Bean, respectively, in the interim. Lee’s attorney told the Board that FDLE had indicated that they hope to complete their investigation next month.

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