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."