Without his own office, county attorney floats

He is one of the county's best-paid employees, but Bob Sumner has no desk to call his own. Depending on the day of the week, he might be roaming the government center to find a room.

Published July 4, 2006

NEW PORT RICHEY - Forgive Bob Sumner if he doesn't know where his office will be today.

His files and family photos sit in a spare office on the first floor, two stories down from the rest of the county attorney's office.

Some days Sumner uses that office, unless county lobbyist Joe Mannion needs it. Then he works out of an upstairs conference room, until someone needs that. Then he looks for an unoccupied office, or uses the time to catch up with the other attorneys in their offices.

Doesn't that make him hard to find?

"That's the nice thing about it," Sumner said, chuckling.

As the county attorney whose advice and signature are needed before most items go to the County Commission, Sumner is one of Pasco's most powerful men. As someone who earns $158,369, he is one of the highest-paid county employees.

But as his staff multiplied to handle the grist of local government, Bob Sumner became a man without an office.

For seven years he had a modest office, nestled among a growing number of assistant county attorneys, on the third floor of the West Pasco Government Center. But when the ninth one, Alyssa Ruge, arrived last month, Sumner had nowhere to put her but his own desk.

"I need it less than she does," Sumner said matter of factly. "She needs to be in one place with a desk and a computer and all of her research materials."

Sumner said the other attorneys do the research and the drafting of memos and ordinances. He reviews all of their work, and he can do that from almost anywhere.

At first he landed in Commissioner Ted Schrader's office on the first floor of the government center. The space is rarely used because the east Pasco commissioner primarily works from the historic courthouse in Dade City.

"Then after I got everything down there, I found out (county lobbyist) Joe Mannion uses the office on Wednesdays and Fridays," Sumner said. "So I have an office downstairs Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I kind of just float around and look for an empty office the rest of the time."

Mannion said he doesn't mind sharing the space, which now has Sumner's books on the shelves and Sumner's law degree from Stetson University sitting against the wall. When the lobbyist is on the phone, he can't miss the framed picture of Sumner's grandchildren gathered around the Christmas tree.

"It's like, they're here, I have company now," Mannion said.

Sumner has no complaints.

"I guess we're going to have to start looking for some space someplace, maybe move some of the attorneys into another building. I don't know," he said. "I haven't figured it out yet because I really haven't concentrated on it."

Naturally he's got bigger things on his plate, from the usual mix of ordinances and rezonings to the recent changes to the comprehensive land use plan that riled the Pasco Building Association.

He doesn't even think about his nomad status until he's waiting in the elevator and someone steps in with a smart remark:

"Mind if I come into your office?"