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McIntosh allowed to keep looking

As long as county Administrator Paul McIntosh remains devoted to the job, commissioners accept that he is a candidate in Marion County.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 11, 2002


BROOKSVILLE -- Paul McIntosh refused Thursday to abandon his quest to become Marion County administrator, or to resign his Hernando County job.

"As far as I'm concerned, I don't have anything to decide until Marion County offers me a job," said McIntosh, the Hernando County administrator who applied for the Marion County post a week ago and made the short list this week.

The Texas-based firm running Marion County's search was conducting reference checks Thursday. It is scheduled to meet with Marion commissioners Feb. 4 to whittle down the list of 14 hopefuls, and again March 4 for candidate interviews, a spokesman for the Marion commission said.

Hernando commissioners, some of whom had demanded that McIntosh choose one or the other after learning he had applied, did not seem to mind his inflexibility.

"He and I had a discussion," Commissioner Betty Whitehouse said. "He is committed to being the administrator here and he will commit 100 percent to the job. If he progresses on and gets the job with Marion County, he will let me know."

As long as McIntosh does not pursue other positions during work hours and he continues to perform here, "I'm okay with that," Whitehouse said.

Commissioner Chris Kingsley, who told McIntosh on Wednesday to make clear his loyalties, acknowledged Thursday that McIntosh had a valid point -- that McIntosh does not have to pledge to a job he does not have.

"However, that's not exactly what I asked him to determine," Kingsley said. "I really do need to talk to him before I make a judgment."

Chairwoman Nancy Robinson agreed that McIntosh has a right to seek other employment. While working for Hernando County, though, McIntosh must reassure the commission and community that he will dedicate himself to his work, she said.

"We have a contract," Robinson said. "Whatever happens in this scenario I believe should be consistent with the existing contract."

McIntosh responded simply: "I will do my job."

Neither Robinson nor Commissioner Diane Rowden, each of whom pushed for McIntosh's dismissal this week, wanted to stand in his way out the door. Each wished him luck in the job search.

So far, McIntosh has applied for only the Marion County job. He said he was not interested in the Escambia County administrator position. No other similar jobs were advertised in Florida as of late Thursday.

McIntosh also put his house for sale Jan. 2, but said he did so because his daughter is about to go to college and the family no longer needs a four-bedroom home. The reduced costs will help pay tuition, room and board, he told commissioners in a memo.

He wants to remain in Florida, he said, because his daughter is a Bright Futures scholar and hopes to attend the University of Florida.

"I can anticipate the rumors that will swirl over this news, if and when it becomes public, but assure you this decision was purely a financial one made regardless of other issues," he wrote in the Jan. 4 memo.

Commissioners attached no importance to McIntosh selling his house. They said he told them about the possible move in December, before his job security came under fire.

"When the memo came out, I thought, well, okay, I've known about this," Rowden said. "No big deal."

McIntosh applied for the Marion County post amid speculation that commissioners might fire him. They have harbored concerns about the way he handled contract matters with a consultant chosen to help the administration prepare a water protection plan.

The State Attorney's Office began an inquiry into the matter Thursday. Prosecutors interviewed McIntosh and two other officials during the day. The information gathered will be used to determine whether the state attorney will launch a criminal investigation of the contracts.

-- Staff writer Jeffrey S. Solochek covers Hernando County government and can be reached at 754-6115. Send e-mail to solochek@sptimes.com.

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