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County attorney receives good review
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Jim Bennett
CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Attorney Jim Bennett got some good news when results of his annual job review were made public April 1.

Bennett scored 371.9 out of a possible 400, garnering a 93 percent average, based on scores given by each of the seven commissions. His highest score, a perfect 4 out of 4, was given for integrity. His lowest, 3.46, was for communication.

Bennett scored a 3.9 for provision of major legal services – routine internal activities, 3.81 for staff effectiveness, 3.66 for provision of major legal services, 3.58 for leadership, 3.5 for organization, planning and management.

“The rankings were very, very good,” said Commission Chair Karen Seel, who thanked Bennett for his leadership.

She commented that the county’s legal department had “a lot of retirements” lately and praised Bennett for his cross-training efforts. His 2015 budget proposal is 1 percent less than for the current fiscal year.

“He’s doing an excellent job,” she said.

Bennett thanked the commission for its “support, trust and confidence in my staff.”

In other business, the commission:

• Approved a request from Bennett to initiate litigation against Dorothy Yeakle to get her to comply with an order of care involving animals. Bennett said she had already agreed to reduce the number of animals in the home to 10. Bennett said staff wants the ability to ensure she keeps to only 10 and that their care is adequate.

• Approved an amendment terminating the administrative services agreement with the Housing Finance Authority. The county has provided administrative support to HFA since it was created in 1982.

Approval of the amendment allows HFA to become operationally independent. It will still report to the commission on a regular basis.

The move means a loss of $875,000 in staff-related costs previously paid to the county by HFA. In FY 2014, the loss will be $755,340. To recoup that loss, budget adjustments were made, including a “lapse” of a $310,750 transfer from the general fund to the community development fund; adding $140,000 gained by staff retirements and unfilled vacancies; and adding a potential $304,590 in grant money.

• Denied a health program agreement with Baycare Health Systems. Commissioners asked staff to go back and negotiate with Bayfront HMA Medical Center and Florida Hospital North Pinellas as well as Baycare to try to get a more inclusive contract for medical services.

The services providers are unhappy with a recent change in the funding distribution formula. The county currently has no contract for service for hospital care for its indigent population. Local hospitals are providing procedures for life threatening conditions only.
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