High and low drama as Hillsborough officials answer back to calls for their termination

Fossett then chided Rose Ferlita and other board members who in the earlier discussion on the transportation proposal, who kept on complaining of a "rush to judgement," saying that's exactly what they were doing with her client.

Like Barnes, Lee had supporters - even more than the county auditor in the house.  One, Gerald White, held aloft a sign calling on the board to keep her on.

County Administrator Pat Bean told commissioners that she has also hired an attorney, but did not invite him because she didn't think he would be given the opportunity to defend her in the meeting.  She kept with her response from last week, that she did pull the e-mails in question, but did not actually ever read any of them.  She then said she had taken and passed a polygraph test verifying the accuracy of her response, and distributed those tests to board members.

The meeting got off to a somewhat rocky start, as Commissioner Jim Norman criticized Commissioner Hagan for even calling the meeting in the first place , with fellow Commissioner Al Higginbotham away and unavailable to participate.    He said he himself had to scramble to make the meeting as well.

Meanwhile, Tampa City Councilmember Linda Saul-Sena got into the act, while not even at the meeting.  In a press release issued this afternoon, Saul-Sena,  who is running against Hagan in the County Commission District 5 County wide seat, calling on Hagan to turn in his resignation, saying:

“The chaos that the county finds itself in is a direct result of the failed leadership of Ken Hagan and only now, in the middle of an election year is he trying to fix the mess that he made, stated Saul-Sena. “Ken Hagan is what I would call an Arsonist and a Firefighter, he is responsible for the many ‘fires’ that keep occurring throughout the county and then tries to swoop in an act like the hero trying to put those ‘fires’ out.  This isn’t the first time this behavior has happened and as long as he remains on the County Commission it won’t be the last.”

One side note: Commissioner Rose Ferlita took time out to criticize local reporters Bill Varian of the St. Pete Times and Christian Wade with the Tampa Tribune for not getting comments from her on the record when reporting their initial stories about the controversy.

A day after Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan called for County Administrator Pat Bean, County Attorney Renee Lee and County Auditor Jim Barnes to resign by next week in the wake of a newspaper report about Bean and Lee inspecting e-mails of the Barnes, the three responded in kind in their own fashion on Wednesday afternoon.

After learning that it could cost the county over $720,000 to terminate all three employees in terms of salaries and benefits, Commissioner Kevin Beckner began the discussions by asking Clerk of Court Pat Frank to evaluate labor lawyers who can advise the commission on the legality of firing the three.  He also questioned why Barnes, a whistleblower in the case, should be mixed in with Bean and Lee (several citizens in the audience held signs supporting Barnes, including one by CL contributor George Niemann that compared Barnes to the television character Columbo).

When it came time for him to defend himself publicly, Barnes boldly declared that he would not resign today, tomorrow or next week.

Next up was County Attorney Lee, who defended herself as innocent of any wrongdoing.  She then had her attorney, Chinwe O. Fossett, give a verbal smackdown on the board.  Fossett said she was offended and disturbed by the call for Lee's firing, saying the board had "no reason to question her integrity."  She called previous criticisms of Lee (as well as the FDLE investigation into her getting a 1% pay raise) "irrelevant things based on speculation."  


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