Then there’s John Pricher’s demand letter.
As Mike Bates reported in Sunday’s Chronicle, Pricher apparently believes the cards are in his favor as the county tries to dismiss him for going against board directive.
Pricher’s letter, which County Administrator Steve Howard dismissed immediately, lays out a series of steps the county can take to save face and allow this valued employee to walk away.
I downloaded the Pricher letter to run with today’s blog because the sheer arrogance is just so impressive and should be shared as is.
A brief recap:
Pricher is the county’s tourism director. He brought an idea to the County Commission to partner with the Cincinnati Zoo for a manatee promotion and commissioners, on a 3-2 vote, said no thanks.
Apparently, Pricher’s one of those don’t-take-no-for-an-answer kind of leaders because he went ahead with the Cincinnati Zoo promotion anyway. Commissioners weren’t happy to get a $50,000 bill from Madden Media, the county’s tourism advertising firm and, in fact, refused to pay it.
County Administrator Steve Howard asked for Pricher’s resignation. Pricher declined, and then Howard learned he couldn’t just fire Pricher and had to go through a hearing process instead.
All the while, Pricher’s on paid administrative leave in a disciplinary policy that has no real time element from start to finish.
He sent a letter to the county on Friday, which Howard promptly shared with commissioners via email, which is where I found it.
His demands to leave include:
This last one is my favorite. Pricher said in his letter he contacted an attorney but apparently not one who knows anything about the Sunshine Law. I’m pretty sure only a judge can seal a public record and that’s what personnel files are.
You come to work for the government and, guess what? It’s open book time. Personnel files are public records other than what’s expressly exempt, such as Social Security numbers.
That a public employee wants to bar taxpayers from seeing his disciplinary records is preposterous and insulting.
As for the other stuff, I mean…is he serious? When I first read Pricher's letter, I wondered whether it was a joke. Here’s a guy getting fired and he’s making the kind of demands one makes when he has the other side over a barrel.
He could, in one unrelated way. Frankly, I’m not sure how long this process can go on. If Pricher wants to delay the next hearing, as he did last week, can the county say no? Now that he’s waved the I’ve-talked-to-a-lawyer thing in front of the county, along with a list of “resignation terms,” it's fair to show concern of this being dragged out.
One thing you can bet: County Attorney Denise Dymond Lyn is no doubt instructing commissioners to clam up about Mr. Pricher. Just watch. If it comes up at all during today’s County Commission meeting, expect no-comments from the dais.
(Repeat: Paid administrative leave. Pricher is at home not earning biweekly checks of $3,371.73. Fortunately, we're doing so well with the tourist tax we can afford to promote Crystal River manatees in Ohio, so maybe this is no biggie.)
However, the $50,000 problem isn’t going away.
Commissioner Holly Davis didn’t want the zoo to get stiffed; turns out, it didn’t. According to the clerk’s office, the Cincinnati Zoo received $15,000 and the rest is due to Madden Media for its promotion of the promotion.
I don’t know Madden Media, but the company’s on thin ice with three commissioners who believe it is complicit with Pricher and separated the Cincinnati bill into three invoices to avoid detection.
These are very serious allegations involving the finances of our tourism office. I certainly hope someone with the county is getting to the bottom of it.
We had a little fun with Pricher’s letter but it’s not amusing. This is a serious distraction at a time when the county is dealing with one huge issue after another. Through conversation, we’re slowly starting to become proactive instead of reactive. Things are on the move. Commissioners don’t agree on everything but they’re finding a rhythm. Howard’s positive energy is catchy.
But, hey, that's the government. Doesn’t always go smoothly. Pricher’s looking out for himself, I get it. I just hope we dispose of the issue as quickly as possible, shore up policies to avoid this problem again, and move on.
This is barely a blip on our radar. Don’t make it more than that.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.