Consultant on hiring committee to replace controversial Hillsborough auditor might apply for the position

01/04/12 Janelle Irwin
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A year and a half after Hillsborough fired its controversial performance auditor the county is taking steps to replace Jim Barnes. Two applicants were interviewed Wednesday morning, but hiring committee members weren’t convinced either is a good fit. That’s why one member said he might just apply for the job himself.

Barnes was fired in May 2010 after an employee he let go stepped forward to claim Barnes was fudging numbers. In a report, the employee claimed the county had been overcharged by Home Depot. A consultant for the county, Richard Tarr, said the issue directly contributed to an overhaul of the county’s auditing process that would outline ideal qualities in an auditor.

“Someone who is not going to create an adversarial relationship with anyone in the county administration. The problem we had, or that occurred last time, there was, under the previous internal auditor – the title of course was performance auditor – was that there was there was not a good working relationship.”

Hillsborough County commissioners adopted a charter to start the hiring process in 2010 after Barnes was fired. The hiring field was narrowed down to six applicants, but only two, Stuart Grifel and Sam Kulumani, showed up for the interviews Wednesday. Joanna Weiss, the committee’s chair, said neither seemed qualified to adopt stronger relationships with county staff.

“No where did he talk about going and meeting with anybody, you know, going and having those periodic meetings and it does concern me that he has never worked for a board that’s elected.”

Tarr said two of the six applicants chosen by the committee accepted other jobs, but the controversy surrounding this position also drove away some that may have been a good fit.

“One of the candidates who I felt was a strong candidate – Mr. Allen from Texas – basically called me up and said ‘I’ve done some research and there’s a lot of controversy with this job and I don’t want controversy in this job.”

And the controversy may not be over. Tarr himself expressed an interest in throwing his name in the hat for the $155 thousand per year position.

“I helped write the changes to the county charter and I wrote the resolution that was approved by the board describing what the responsibilities of the position are. I felt that, why not? I would like to be considered as a candidate for the position. Particularly since I have seen, up to this point, no one that has come forward yet that has been an outstanding candidate for the position and consequently maybe I should be considered at this point.”

Tarr doesn’t think there is a concern with applying for the job even though he’s spent months working with the Internal Audit Committee looking for a qualified applicant.

“Other people who have not had that opportunity, of course, may not necessarily know what is wanted in the way of an internal auditor for that position. Again, maybe I’m a better candidate because I understand more of what the job is all about. Of course there will always be those who say I’ve had an unfair advantage, but in order to reduce those concerns, I’ll take myself as a consultant, out of the process.”

The committee is opening the application period up to new and returning applicants until the end of the month. They will conduct another round of interviews in mid-February with plans to recommend someone to county commissioners at a February 22nd meeting.

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