Times story paints Bean in bad light - but will Commissioners act?

And in what might be the biggest local story of the day, the Times' Bill Varian has a front pager on how Hillsborough County's internal auditor, Jim Barnes, has released a report on how his emails were pulled by the "offices" of County Administrator Pat Bean and Attorney Renee Lee.

Varian reports that:

Indeed, Bean acknowledged late Thursday that she instructed a staffer to pull a swath of Barnes' e-mails, after reading news accounts about his audit that contained surprising details. But she said she later thought better of the request and never read them.

"I guess I was feeling at that point in time like I was under seige," Bean said. "When you feel like you're under siege, your first reaction is not always your best."

Now, requesting county emails as a public records request is not illegal.  However, Varian reports that Florida law includes an exemption for review if there is an audit in progress, which has been the case with Barnes researching Bean and Lee's granting themselves  pay raises that were discovered last year.

Commissioners Kevin Beckner and Al Higginbotham are both quoted in the story as being very unhappy upon hearing this latest news, with Higginbotham quoted as saying that "it reeks of resignation material."

Note the good commissioner's words - resignation, not termination.  Actually, Commissioner Beckner does use the T word in the story.

The point is this:  Commissioners have reacted hot and heavy to revelations about Pat Bean over the last year, but they have always held back from firing her.  They've said that such a move would be disruptive (which it would be), and that with all the budget and other pressing issues, they'd prefer to hold her more accountable by having her give regular quarterly  reviews of her vision for the county.

Well commissioners, to paraphrase Sarah Palin, how's that working for you?

Bean did appear on Wednesday, but nobody appeared too pleased.  Let's see what, if anything, develops now.

This morning's local papers provides many interesting stories to discuss. In Tampa, the Mayor and City Council have cut tens of millions of dollars in the budget in recent years,  but increased park fees have aroused the ire of the populace, and yesterday the city council voted 4-1 to support John Dingfelder's motion to have voters decide next year to pay for a $1 monthly tax to property owners to reduce those new fees.

It's interesting.  Tampa (like all local governments in recent years) has had to cut so much, yet really, there hasn't been too much blowback to public officials.  But public protest can matter.  And the fact that those folks who have been squawked about this in recent weeks obviously are reacting.

Also in the news this morning.  Louis Miller bids adieu.  Yesterday the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority accepted Miller's resignation, but not before a new controversy arose.  This time, over violations of the state's open government laws.

As the Tribune reports:

Before the aviation authority's board accepted Miller's resignation, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Tampa developer Al Austin, both Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board members, questioned counsel Gigi Rechel's failure to inform them that certain contract reviews might not have been subject to proper public notice.

"I've been on the board for more than 10 years," Austin told Rechel, "and I had not heard of this problem. If we had, it could have been prevented."

Aviation Authority  records indicate Rechel had alerted Miller to the issues on several occasions since 2002.

Meanwhile, attorney David Smith with GrayRobinson continues his investigation on whether airport officials might have violated laws regarding the way that zoning variances and building demolitions decisions were made in the Miller era.  Smith, who formerly worked for Mayor Iorio as the city of Tampa's attorney, told CL earlier this week that his research into that had been delayed somewhat because he's also helping the authority reformulate their zoning requirements.  He said a problem he's had was has been working with the interlocal agreements with Tampa, Plant City and the County.  But he said he hopes to have a report wrapped up and made available by the next airport board meeting, which will be on April 1.

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