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Rowden's bitterness must be confronted
By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published October 19, 2007
Inappropriate. That's only one word to describe Diane Rowden's tirade against an employee at Tuesday's Hernando County Commission meeting.
Human Resources director Barbara Dupre brought the board three options for recruiting the next county administrator. Before Dupre even opened her mouth, Rowden preempted the presentation, saying that Dupre should not be involved in the screening process because it would be a conflict of interest to be involved in hiring her next boss. Rowden preferred that the commission screen all the applications.
A few minutes later, after Dupre explained the options, it was clear a majority of commissioners supported the least expensive one, which allowed Dupre to vet the applicants' qualifications and formed a panel of residents to narrow the field to a handful of finalists, from which the commission then would choose.
Still, Rowden continued to press her colleagues to see things her way. She called the process "a joke" and "nonsense." But then the second-term commissioner crossed the line from pleading her point to pointing fingers. Rowden's rant spiraled downward into a personal attack, accusing Dupre of not being an effective human resources director, of telling co-workers she controls the administrators and - this is the most damning of all allegations - that "most county employees" don't trust her.
Well, commissioner, that unsubstantiated dig just gave every county employee a reason to not trust Dupre, and that is not in the best interest of the government workers Rowden is usually quick to defend.
There has been bad blood between Rowden and Dupre for years. In 2003 Rowden said to Dupre's husband that she "hated" his wife. Dupre, with the blessing of then-administrator Richard Radacky and other commissioners, confronted Rowden with that information during a commission meeting. The ambush reduced Rowden to tears, although it was not clear whether they were induced by anger or embarrassment. Rowden later apologized and clarified that she only "hated" Dupre's job performance, not Dupre herself.
But the bitterness between the two remains palpable, as evidenced by Rowden's ill-advised verbal assault this week.
If Rowden has concerns about Dupre's competency or conduct, her job is to express those concerns to the county administrator and urge him to take action. If she wants her colleagues to know how she feels, too, she can put her arguments in writing.
But dressing down an employee in public, especially as a pretense to gain consensus for her own proposal, is unprofessional and unkind. The other commissioners should have condemned Rowden's churlish behavior on the spot, and reminded her that the job at hand was to agree on how to hire an administrator, not critique a manager.
Hopefully, the next administrator the commission hires will be confident enough to speak up in a similar situation.