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Planning and growth head asked to resign

An assistant county administrator who oversaw the director's department is demoted. Neither is given much indication why.

By JOSH ZIMMER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 27, 2002

TAMPA -- In a major personnel shakeup at one of the county's biggest bureaucracies this week, the director of the Department of Planning and Growth Management was asked to resign and an assistant county administrator was demoted.

Director Sue Adams confirmed Wednesday that she was asked to resign from her top spot Monday in a meeting with Deputy County Administrator Pat Bean. Meanwhile, Assistant County Administrator Tony Shoemaker, who oversaw Adams' department, said he met Monday morning with County Administrator Dan Kleman and has accepted a demotion to the Department of Management and Budget.

Planning and Growth Management is a powerful office with multiple divisions and dozens of employees. By wielding control over what projects get built, where they are built and how, the department affects jobs and the quality of life of people throughout the county.

Because of its development role, Planning and Growth also comes under frequent criticism from people who say the department promotes too much building as well as those, among them developers, who say the office is too restrictive.

"I'm sure things are going to be much different in the future," said County Commission Chairwoman Pat Frank, a frequent critic of the department.

Both Adams and Shoemaker said they were not given detailed reasons for being pushed aside, leaving some to wonder whether it was related to recent controversies.

One involved allegations of nepotism, with revelations that Construction Services Manager Gary Pailthorp may have approved the promotion of his son, Scott Pailthorp, to a better-paying position as the manager of the department's Plant City satellite office.

Scott Pailthorp has since been fired. Gary Pailthorp was suspended for three weeks without pay.

Adams, who has until the end of today to negotiate a lesser position or leave, said the county administrator's request came without warning. Since being hired to lead Planning and Growth in March 1999, she has received high performance reviews, all from Shoemaker.

Adams, who earns $102,419 a year, said she requested an explanation but Bean rebuffed her.

"I got the same statement several times," Adams said, "which is (Kleman) wants a change in leadership. He wants the department to go in a different direction. I haven't been told what that direction is."

Frank has complained to Kleman about nepotism claims. At County Commission meetings, she also has criticized the department's past practice of allowing changes to development plans after they have been approved by the commission.

Although Frank said she never targeted Adams personally, she didn't rush to her defense Wednesday.

Commissioner Jan Platt, a strong environmentalist, said that under Adams, the department is perceived as too cozy with developers.

"I don't know where the fault is, but there's a need for major change," Platt said.

Neither Kleman nor Bean, who are attending an out-of-town Florida Association of Counties conference, returned calls seeking comment.

Shoemaker was hired in 1999 and earns $114,067 a year. He said he is talking with Kleman about filling a proposed position that would advise administrators on better management practices. He could leave Kleman's office as early as Friday or early next week, he said.

"I'm not exactly thrilled," said Shoemaker, who has received average to above-average performance reviews. "It's a demotion. But you have different things come your way in life and you deal with them the best you can."

Adams, who has been a planner most of her career, said she helped bring improvements in two major areas: integrating three formerly independent departments into Planning and Growth and moving the community planning process from concept to reality.

She said she isn't sure what she will do if negotiations for a lower-profile position break down. However, after working closely with Kleman's office for three years, she said she felt she deserved better treatment.

"I think there's a difference between the minimum legal requirement and the right thing to do," she said. "Hillsborough County's meeting the minimum legal requirement."

-- Josh Zimmer can be reached at 269-5314. Times staff writer Bill Varian contributed to this report.

What happened?

SUE ADAMS, director of Hillsborough County's Department of Planning and Growth Management, was asked to resign. She has until the end of today to negotiate a lesser position or leave. Adams was paid $102,419 annually.

TONY SHOEMAKER, the assistant county administrator who oversaw Adams' department, accepted a demotion to the Department of Management and Budget. Shoemaker was paid $114,067 annually.

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