You’re probably as tired of reading about the Randy Oliver drama as I am tired of writing about it, so let’s have one more go and move on.
First off, he’s staying. After the 4-1 vote denying Oliver’s request for the separation-with-severance agreement, I sent Randy this email:
“Randy, I gotta ask…staying?”
He answered a few minutes later:
Whew. And I can’t emphasize this enough. WHEW! Forget for a minute whether you think Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. is right or Commissioner Holly Davis is right. It doesn’t matter who’s right if your government is imploding.
Few would have wanted the day to end with Randy Oliver walking out for the last time, severance or not. Just a dumb way to govern, frankly, with no backup plan. Sometimes the best decision is to do nothing.
There’s enough uncertainty in Citrus County at the moment to lose the county administrator, especially when he’s already announced his retirement this year.
All that said, don’t think for a moment that Oliver was being “forced” out. Hey, I’ve been around the block a time or two and it’s pretty clear when there’s a forced resignation and when the person in the chair just is fed up and wants to leave.
There’s a huge difference. In one case, it’s borderline harassment. A commissioner can’t help him/herself and is in the administrator’s business all the time. We’ve had that. We’ve seen that. Commissioners rat out each other and put a stop to it.
That’s what Kitchen insinuated about Davis but provided no proof. Even his allegation that Davis marched into Oliver’s office and told him to hit the road — emphatically denied by Davis — doesn’t fit into the harassment category. It isn’t nice and we’d prefer commissioners not do that, but it’s not harassment. It’s politics.
Here’s what Kitchen was alluding to but didn’t make the case: A county commissioner can’t give direction to the administrator on his or her own. The administrator’s job is to carry out policy. The county commission in its entirety, not individually, sets policy.
WHAT’S OK: “Mr. Administrator, I think we should have a plan for recruiting and retaining employees.”
NOT OK: “Mr. Administrator, give me a plan for recruiting and retaining employees.”
See the difference?
Even if we believe Kitchen’s account and it happened exactly the way he described it, Davis didn’t cross that line.
Commissioner Scott Carnahan was ready to let Oliver walk with the severance because he had no choice but to leave. Poppycock. An administrator who lets a couple of commissioners get under his skin isn’t being forced to resign.
(By the way, some irony. Oliver’s job performance is centered around whether he reacted properly to a worker morale survey.)
Randy Oliver isn’t the best administrator we’ve ever had and he’s far from the worst. He came in a time when the county was in dire financial straits, and his leadership moved the county out of that mess.
Let’s hope that Oliver can use these next few months to help the county bring in his successor, so that all the good he’s done is not swept away.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.