Hamilton off track
Hernando TodayThe issue: County Administrator David Hamilton makes end run around commissioners, county attorney's office. Our opinion: Three wrong-headed decisions have commissioners shaking their heads.
Published: May 10, 2009
Published: May 10, 2009
What's going on with our county administrator?
For someone who's done an admirable job since landing here in March 2008, David Hamilton has county commissioners shaking their heads of late.
Revelations in the past week of three boneheaded decisions that Hamilton made has us wondering if he's succumbing to the pressures of trying to gain control of a bloated government that he's been working to streamline.
In the past week, Hernando Today reported two cases where Hamilton approved paying liability claims from private citizens for vehicle damage the county's insurance carrier had already denied and the county's risk management department warned would set a terrible precedent.
While the two cases may only total $1,308.89, it's the act of not following prescribed protocol or obtaining county commissioner approval to spend taxpayer dollars that's of grave concern.
One of the claims - $763 in damage to the truck of the husband of Supervisor of Elections Annie Williams - sends the additional message cronyism still exists in county government at the highest levels. While that may be entirely false, the perception exists. Government officials need to constantly remind themselves that perception is reality and act accordingly to ensure all processes are above board and transparent.
That didn't happen in the cases Hernando Today reported on in the past week.
Hernando Today also learned this past week that Hamilton, without the advice of in-house counsel or the consent of commissioners, hired an outside law firm to represent the county in negotiations with the Teamsters - the union recently voted by county employees to represent them.
To add insult to injury, the county has a full-time attorney on staff - one of five - who specializes in labor law. The county attorney's office was never even consulted.
Not only was it a waste of money - $2,186.61 - the move also violated state law. County commissioners are the only officials allowed to hire outside legal representation for the county. Our five commissioners didn't even know Hamilton hired the firm until they heard about it from Hernando Today reporter Mike Bates.
While both instances add up to less than $3,500, the money isn't the point - although strapped taxpayers might argue otherwise. The main point is the county administrator does not have the authority to spend taxpayer dollars without first obtaining the approval of county commissioners.
To not consult the county attorney's office on matters of law and whether to secure outside legal representation is perplexing, if not foolish, as well. What do we pay them for? Is there a disconnect between Hamilton and County Attorney Garth Coller? Is Hamilton making an end run on Coller's office as a power play?
In all three cases, Hamilton acted behind commissioners' backs.
Overall, Hamilton has done an admirable job since taking over the post, especially considering the bloated government bureaucracy he inherited and the economic cards he's been dealt to manage under.
To his credit, Hamilton admitted that he erred in these three cases, apologized and vowed never to stray again.
Hamilton needs to continue to provide leadership, streamline government, offer great advice and counsel to his bosses - our county commissioners - and then carry out their wishes.
They have the final say and responsibility to the taxpayers and voting public, at whose pleasure they serve.