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Leaders should stick to roles prescribed by county by-laws

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THE ISSUE: County commissioner attempts to bypass administrator.
OUR OPINION: Respect the process.

If you tuned in to the most recent Board of County Commissioners meeting, you may have seen an interesting interchange between Commissioner Scott Adams and County Administrator Brad Thorpe. Commissioner Adams called for two county employees to step forward so he could question them about a recent capital equipment issue. Administrator Thorpe negated that, saying questions should be directed to him and he would get the answers.

Thorpe was correct in reminding Adams of how it’s supposed to work. He further pledged to put the item in question on the next meeting’s agenda, supply background packets for the commissioners and be prepared to discuss the issue in detail at that time.

Put aside any notions you have about politics or personalities. The issues here are the different roles of commissioners and employees, and the smooth operation of Citrus County government.

The BOCC’s own website outlines it clearly enough:

“Since 1980, Citrus County has operated under a commission-administrator form of government. The commissioners, serving as the board of directors, are responsible for establishing policies and procedures. The county administrator serves as the chief executive and is responsible for implementing the policies set by the board and for the day-to-day operations of the county government. Departments and divisions report to the county administrator.” 

Adams isn’t the first elected official to have a rough transition from private business to public service. While entrepreneurs may operate more casually, corporate businesspeople certainly should understand the difference between policy leadership and operational management. 

This issue has real-world repercussions. When employees are apprehensive they may be called out by a board member, particularly at a public meeting, their guiding principle becomes CYA, not “give it 100 percent to meet the mission.” Punitive environments are not productive and they’re not conducive to retaining top employees.

Adams is correct in raising questions he believes are important and relevant, but he’s out of line in trying to exert his will among the employee ranks. The commission’s employee is the administrator, just like it says on the county website. There’s a process in place, and it should be respected.