Bean to commissioners: Take my polygraph, please take my polygraph!

By George Niemann

PoHo contributor and R-LAND, UCAN, FSP, Amendment 4 member/activist

Views expressed are my own and may not be the same as the organizations to which I belong

    Photo Credit: Michael Spooneybarger

Yesterday was truly an amazing day down at Hillsborough County Center. We had County Administrator Pat Bean and County Attorney Renee Lee fighting to hang on to their jobs. And believe it or not, the county administrator even submitted the results of a lie detector test to prove she didn’t actually read the restricted emails that she got copies of. I will provide you with some additional information so you can sort it all out because when it comes to trying to terminate these embedded bureaucrats, it’s like watching a fire break out at a Cirque du Soleil performance – you don’t know where to focus or what’s going to happen next.

Renee Lee brought her attorney, Chinwe Fossett, to the meeting just to put a scare into the commissioners. I have a feeling it may not be that easy to fire a county attorney. Many citizen advocates that have watched her during land use hearings question the value of having her advise this board on management and growth decisions. If the board decided to literally hang someone at a commission meeting, she normally just sits there and rarely will intervene even if they're headed down the wrong path legally and procedurally (White voting "No" on whether to sue himself being just one example). If they ask her for an opinion she might say, “oh, I don’t think you guys should do that because that would be murder”. But if they don’t pull the advice out of her, they usually end up going down dangerous paths without a peep out of her. And most of the attorneys on her staff follow that same rule when it comes to the board - don't speak unless spoken to. Is that good legal counsel? NOT.

They were originally scheduled to select the ballot language for the transportation referendum, but they ended up adding the Bean/Lee termination affair to the meeting. There’s so much politics involved here. Because the press has been positioning it as one of their top stories, Chairman Ken “Half-Truth” Hagan wants to make it appear that he’s actually leading the county through this mess. You may recall, though, that Hagan and others decided not to do anything to Bean or Lee last year for violating their contracts and giving themselves raises. They decided to coach Bean rather than fire her. Well that decision has come back to haunt them. And now Half-Truth has no option but to pursue some type of action, however, it’s late in the game to start being a leader. And for good measure, he’s decided that Internal Performance Auditor (IPA) Jim Barnes should also be put in front of the firing squad. No action was taken because they didn’t have all board members present. Higginbotham was missing and Jim “I will never vote to fire Bean” Norman said he didn’t have a chance to look at the evidence.

The room was packed with press and citizens, as well as, a few developers. Why are developers attending a hanging? Well, I suspect they just want to monitor things. You see, they might be fearful of Hagan’s new persona as someone in control. If he can pull-off feigning a true leader, it might go to his head and he might actually try doing it for a living. And the next thing you know, he could start pushing his colleagues to make growth pay for itself and remove the taxpayer subsidies for developers, and their gravy train could end up getting derailed…nah, forget it…that’s too far fetched. Ok, back to the story…

Many were there to see Bean, Lee and Barnes get fired while some showed up to beg the commissioners to keep Renee Lee, and many thought that adding Barnes to this cauldron was bad timing. In spite of the many factions that were present, there were no Bean supporters that I could see, anywhere in the room….no wait, that’s not accurate…Edith Stewart and Lucia Garsys were in the room to offer moral support, I guess. They want to see their boss survive this hanging…hey, if their boss gets canned they might end up on the chopping block as well, especially considering the fact that they, as her henchmen, got hefty raises while the county eliminated hundreds of positions.

We held up signs, 2 of which are shown below…

FYI - Bean had no makeup on and looked like she just stepped out of a bread machine. Maybe her lawyer told her to look worn-out, so as to curry favor with the pro-Bean-hanging mob.

Now for the most amazing part. When Bean gets her turn to comment, she tells the board that she didn’t ask her attorney to attend this meeting. She didn’t think she would need the attorney just yet. Huh??? Maybe this attorney is giving her a discount if she waits until after she’s fired before having him/her dig into the case?

She tells the board that she has just taken a polygraph (lie detector) test and would like them to see the results. As she explains it, she hands copies of the results to board members. Everyone sitting in the audience was dying to see this report but she didn’t put it on the overhead so I had to wait until later in the day when one of our citizen advocates managed to dig up a copy…

In looking at the report there is something that jumps out at you, as you read the questions she was asked:

After dealing with, and observing Ms Bean’s management style, I would have told the polygraph examiner to ask her if she shared any of the information with her staff. I would have asked, “to your knowledge did anyone else read the contents? Did you share this information with anyone else? Did anyone else discuss the contents with you? Even though you may not have read it yourself, did anyone read it for you??? I seriously doubt that the examiner only asked 2 questions of Ms Bean, as indicated in the report. As with everything else she does, we never quite get the complete story.

Here’s an artist’s rendition of what Bean’s actual polygraph readout might look like:

The 2 blue lines at the top are the Pnuemographic readings (breathing and movement). The red line is the Cardiosphygmographic readings (tracking changes in blood pressure & pulse rate). The green line is the GSR (Galvonic Skin Response), measuring changes in skin resistance.

I am going to try and get a copy of Bean’s actual polygraph results. I want to see that green squiggly line going all over the map.

Food for thought:

Going forward, it might be worthwhile to have the next county administrator wear a polygraph every time he/she appears at meetings with the board, and display the results on the overhead throughout the meetings. Then when the board instructs the county administrator to do a self-investigation, as has happened so many times in the past, when he/she comes back before the board and reports no wrongdoing found, we can get an instant readout from the polygraph. When everyone sees the needle bouncing back and forth like a bell in a church steeple, we’ll know that the integrity tank is empty. How refreshing would that be?

Stay tuned. The follow up will be on March 17, 2010. In the meantime, concerned citizens may want to let their commissioners know that they want action taken. They may want to ask them not to wait until their department heads actually commit crimes, but get rid of them just because they lack good judgement and make a mockery of good government.

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