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Attorney chain of command may shift

A charter change would have the county attorney report directly to the commission.

Times Staff Writer
Published November 6, 2003

TAMPA - If county commissioners have their way, the county attorney will be reporting directly to them in the future.

The commissioners voted 5 to 2 Wednesday to begin a process that could amend the county charter, which as it stands provides a nebulous indication of who is suppose to be the county attorney's boss.

While the commissioners can start the process, the charter cannot be changed without a countywide referendum.

The issue came to the fore front in recent months as the current county attorney, Emmy Acton, was accused of running a hostile work environment and other allegations.

Acton, who suffers from diabetes, is on extended leave because of worsening health.

Most city and county governments place supervision of the top attorney with either the top administrator or the commission. When the board approved its charter in the 1980s, it chose to craft a fairly unique hybrid system.

The county's charter puts the administrator in charge of day to day operations of government. Commissioners set policy and approve a budget, but are forbidden from meddling in personnel and administrative decisions.

But regarding the county attorney's office, the charter says only this: That the county administrator may hire and fire the county attorney, but only with the "advice and consent" of commissioners. The county administrator also does annual evaluations.

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