County needs to give candidate job it offered
By CHRIS LLOYD
Published July 21, 2006
It is obvious that the Citrus Times does not have undiluted enthusiasm for Charles Saddler as our next county administrator.
In a recent column, editor Greg Hamilton expressed a preference for a Lee Iacocca. Later this morphed into an endorsement for the current deputy administrator, Tom Dick. I am certain that Tom would be supremely flattered by the comparison.
Well sure, it is nice to dream, but these sorts of heavy hitters (Iacocca) do not drift downward to a small residential community to work for chump change.
So Citrus County has to settle for the best available. Our commissioners chose to retain Mercer Group Inc. to conduct an executive search. Mercer is a big player in this game. The company runs a billboard Web site service that lists 120 current public sector vacancies plus a similar number already filled.
Mercer is a recruitment agency that brings together applicants and employers. They are not classic "headhunters." The latter group are highly predatory individuals who seek out best of breed and charge appropriately. Think $200,000 consultants' fees, and that is just for starters. Mercer's contract was for a humble $25,000, the cost equivalent of a classified advertisement.
Consider another factor: Our county was offering a maximum salary of $130,000 when similar positions in Florida are trading for $180,000, another reason that Lee Iacocca might be hesitant to apply.
The specifics of the Saddler appointment are worth noting. He was short-listed by Mercer and scheduled for interviews June 19 and June 20.
On June 18, in a previous Citrus Times column, Hamilton had advocated consideration of Tom Dick and of Frank DiGiovanni, the Inverness city manager.
Hindsight might suggest that editor Hamilton was gifted with a paranormal view of the future. Actually, the rumor mill was extensively speculating that Dick's name would enter the skirmish through the back door.
Let the story continue. June 19, Saddler and five other hopefuls underwent interviews with the collective Board of County Commissioners, followed by individual appearances before senior staff and finally with the county attorney. Later than evening they attended an informal gathering at which the proletariat was allowed to scrutinize the candidates first hand.
During this event, the county IT manager, Darryl Clouse, dropped a hint to Saddler that Dick was likely to be offered the job. If this rumor was a secret, a whole lot of insiders need to wake up and smell the coffee.
The following day, June 20, the same six stalwarts were interviewed one on one by the commissioners and it is at this point that Saddler informed Jim Fowler that he was aware of the scuttlebutt and that, if appointed, he would "deal with" those who were spreading such a rumor.
The same day, the Citrus County Chronicle ran a piece which clearly identified the Tom Dick rumor and Fowler's support for Dick's undeclared candidacy. A copy of this newspaper was seen by several candidates.
Later that day Saddler was the top choice of four commissioners, with Fowler rating him as No. 2.
Within a couple of days, questions were being asked as to why Saddler was fired in 2002 from his job with Jefferson County, Washington, like it is a surprise that county administrators are terminated, when we all know that this happens with the same frequency as the sun rising.
For confirmation, ask Richard Wesch, the previous county manager. It is a risk factor which is inextricably linked to employment at the "pleasure" of the commissioners. That means at the pleasure of the ruling majority.
The latest development came last week when Fowler again raised a problem question. This time it was the ominous words "deal with" and the implied suggestion that this meant "firing" As an act of retribution or vengeance.
Again Fowler raised Tom Dick's name as the obvious preferential choice. Dennis Damato was not far behind.
Citrus County has treated Charles Saddler with a total lack of respect. He came to us via a well-known management consultant. We offered him the job and now we are dancing with this gentleman in a most extravagant manner.
I say to Commissioners Gary Bartell, Vicki Phillips and Joyce Valentino, go ahead, use your 3-2 voting majority and offer Charles Saddler the employment contract which has been agreed to by both parties. This filibuster has already endured far too long.
Chris Lloyd is a Lecanto resident and occasional commentator. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect those of this newspaper.
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[Last modified July 21, 2006, 06:36:28]
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