No Oliver? Fine, but then what?
There is no single bigger job in unelected public service than administrator. City manager, county administrator — those are the people who rarely get the accolades they deserve, but always the headaches whether deserved or not.
So when the county government is faced with the county administrator leaving Tuesday under not so pleasant terms, and there is no one in the wings to take his place, it’s a bit of a concern.
This is an awful situation. Randy Oliver is a good guy, a valued administrator who led this county out of a financial quagmire. While the political winds are shifting, that’s not Oliver’s fault.
But it’s clear something has to give. I’ve been compiling some information about how all this came to be, and I’ll get into that later this week. For now though, some scenarios that may result from from Tuesday’s discussion as it relates to Oliver:
— The board could accept his request to terminate the contract immediately and give him 20 weeks severance. Frankly, this is the worst option. Severance isn’t a terrible idea but only if we’re getting something in return. Remember that Oliver already resigned in January with no talk of severance. The fact he’s fed up is understandable but not the taxpayer’s fault.
— The board rejects the request. Then it’s Oliver’s decision whether to simply leave or not with no severance.
Those are the two Randy-leaves-today scenarios. Either with severance or without. Seems pretty cut and dried.
— They could convince Oliver to stay. The only way I see this working is if A) there is a specific timeline of events (job posted, applications reviewed, interviews etc.) that includes Oliver’s farewell date, something closer to summer than November. And B) all five commissioners would need to swear to be nice to Oliver and his staff during the transition.
And that schedule could include severance rolled into it so that when everything is accomplished, Oliver leaves with a well deserved bonus.
Oliver’s in a tough spot. He works for a singular board composed of five individuals who often think he/she is the actual one in charge.
He’s also a boss and I’m telling you, ever since that public performance evaluation in January, where I watched the senior staff just cringe in the audience as this played out, he’s concerned about credibility with the staff.
It’s difficult to have discussions about long-range planning or even next month’s project if you’re wondering if the boss will be here next week.
The cringing doesn’t just come from the criticism. It’s embarrassing when one or two commissioners go over the top in their defense of the administrator.
Unfortunately, the issue Tuesday isn’t only whether Oliver stays/goes/severance, it’s the immediate crisis it potentially creates in the bureaucracy of county government.
The bottom falls fast under Oliver. There is no assistant county administrator. The public works director recently resigned. The assistant public works director, who had 34 years on the job, just retired. We have very competent department directors but only the bravest one will want the “interim” administrator title, having to deal with five diverse commissioners.
So what’s the best case result Tuesday? Depends on your outlook, but I’d go for anything that creates stability and safety — for employees and citizens alike, even in the short term. We need to come away from Tuesday knowing the county commission and administration are on the same team.
Citrus County residents are ready to move on from the daytime drama.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.