County administrator misled state legislators
Although he appeared calm, sitting still in the audience of the public hearing, the Executive Director of the Planning Commission, Bob Hunter, had to have been aghast as he watched the County Administrator blithely break the county’s promise to protect his agency from state-sponsored meddling. I know I was flabbergasted. Was this the blatant act of insubordination it appeared to be on the surface? Or was the County Administrator carrying out a hidden agenda, contrary to her public charge and contrary to the will of the people?
On Dec. 7, at the annual public hearing on proposed laws affecting Hillsborough County, state legislators were considering a bill that would change the balance of county and city representation on 3 local boards, to give the county more power on each: the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC), the Sports Authority, and the Planning Commission. The public has been largely opposed to this change to the Planning Commission ever since it was first proposed last year, so citizens were relieved when our County Commission seemed to respond to the public will and voted unanimously to support the bill only if the Planning Commission were removed from it.
Commissioners had asked Rep. Ambler, as the bill’s sponsor, to amend the bill so that it would not affect the Planning Commission. Rep. Ambler did so, but the amendment became controversial among the other legislators, so Ambler finally suggested that his amendment be withdrawn, and offered his bill with the Planning Commission in it after all. Even though this went against the express direction of our County Commission, the County Administrator, Pat Bean, smiled knowingly (she practically winked!) and told the legislators that the County Commission would be fine with it.
>>[County Administrator] PAT BEAN: OKAY. MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT THE BILL THAT YOU’RE LOOKING AT NOW IS A BILL THAT CONTAINS ALL THREE AGENCIES, THE EPC, THE PLANNING COMMISSION, AND THE SPORTS AUTHORITY.
…[lots of talk about the sports authority]
>>[Representative] FAYE CULP: … I HAVE A QUESTION AS TO THE OTHER TWO PARTS OF THE BILL. WHAT IS YOUR FEELING OR — ON THE EPC AND THE PLANNING COMMISSION, …?
>>PAT BEAN: WELL, THE EPC WAS INCLUDED IN THE BILL THAT THE BOARD VOTED ON WHEN THEY TOOK THEIR POSITION ON THE LOCAL BILLS. … AND THEY VOTED TO SUPPORT THE BILL … THE BOARD DID NOT — AT THE TIME THAT THE BILL WAS BEING CONSIDERED, THEY ACTUALLY RECOMMENDED TAKING OUT THE PLANNING COMMISSION FOR THIS YEAR, BUT I AM CERTAIN THAT THEY WILL SUPPORT THE BILL AS — IF YOU PASS IT TODAY AS IT HAS BEEN AMENDED HERE. BUT THEY DID RECOMMEND TAKING THAT OUT. …
>>PAT BEAN: … AS I SAID, I’M CERTAIN THE BOARD WILL SUPPORT THE BILL THAT YOU’VE GOT NOW AS AMENDED [emphases added]
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern, Bob Hunter and several citizens spoke against including the Planning Commission. (Terry Flott & I also spoke against Pat Bean’s move.) Bean was the only person to speak in support of this unpopular legislation.
>> BOB HUNTER: … AT THE PRESENT TIME, LEGISLATORS, THERE IS NO LOCAL GOVERNMENT SUPPORTING CHANGE TO THE PLANNING COMMISSION. NO LOCAL GOVERNMENT IS ASKING FOR THIS.
Not publicly, anyway.
Pat Bean is nobody’s fool. She knows her 6-figure salary would be in jeopardy if she defied her 7-headed boss, the County Commission. So why was she smiling as she told our state legislators that our county would support something the commissioners unanimously voted to oppose? Did she have reason to think commissioners would support her in her job, even after her apparent betrayal of their public position?
Bean has often been used by the commissioners to do their dirty work. In this year of painful staff and budget cuts, she proposed that their monthly car allowances should be doubled to $600 — so they wouldn’t have to propose this let-them-eat-cake raise themselves. She has also been dispatched to campaign against tax cuts, and citizen initiatives like Ruskin incorporation and the county mayor proposal. Citizens are often told “the administration” is pushing an unpopular road, borrow pit or development, while county commissioners remain politically unscathed —and unaccountable.
In speaking for legislation which the county commission had not (publicly) supported, it is unlikely Bean was acting as a renegade. It is much more likely that she was doing the bidding of her bosses while they pretended to go along with the citizens’ position. I called Commissioners Mark Sharpe and Rose Ferlita to see where they really stand. Both seem appalled that the board’s unanimous vote was dismissed at this hearing. Commissioner Sharpe wrote the legislators after the hearing, detailing his objections to the proposed legislation.
Unless the other commissioners were just pulling the wool over our eyes with their unanimous vote against this change to the Planning Commission, they all ought to direct the County Administrator to write the legislators explaining the true position of the board. And the commissioners should ensure that Bean does not intentionally misrepresent the county again.
We don’t elect Pat Bean, and she has no authority to act independently of our elected officials. We pay her (a lot!) to carry out the publicly determined positions of our elected officials, not the secret agendas of a few of those commissioners.