Sarasota County fires former Alachua County manager Reid


Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid leaves County Commission chambers after being fired Wednesday afternoon.

Thomas Bender/Halifax Media Services
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.

SARASOTA — The Sarasota County Commission voted Wednesday to fire Administrator Randall Reid, who had moved to Southwest Florida in early 2012 after having served as Alachua County manager for 12 years.

Commissioners in Sarasota said he has moved too slowly on projects and failed to enforce county policies or improve employee morale.

Differences between commissioners and Reid had grown over the past few months. During their performance review of Reid at Wednesday's meeting, commissioners voted 4-1 to remove him.

"I think Randy Reid is a good person. He's a good man, but I still have the concerns I wrote about in the evaluation," Commission Chair Carolyn Mason said. In her review, she stated he was no longer a good fit for the county.

Mason repeated that view, then proposed terminating him. Joe Barbetta, Charles Hines and Christine Robinson also voted to fire him. Hines said he did not support the decision, but did not want the situation to "fester." If the vote was 3-2, the commission would have needed to vote again in a few weeks to remove him.

Commissioners said they will ask Deputy Administrator Thomas Harmer, hired by Reid, to be the interim administrator.

Reid was a county administrator in Martin County in 1997 when Alachua County officials first considered him among seven finalists picked from 59 candidates to replace County Manager Bob Fernandez.

In a 3-2 vote, the County Commission chose interim county manager Richard Tarbox over Reid to lead Alachua County government. Tarbox was fired two years later, and Reid was again named a finalist. Reid was unanimously picked as Alachua County manager on Oct. 11, 1999, and he remained in the position until he announced in November 2011 that he had accepted the county manager job in Sarasota County.

At the time, Reid said the ability to make a larger salary in Sarasota County had a lot to do with his decision to leave Gainesville.

"I've been here 12 years. It's paradise, but I need to be compensated," Reid said on Nov. 16, 2011. "I'm 57, and I have a limited period of time left to contribute to local government."

On Wednesday in Sarasota, some community members called the decision to remove Reid unfair and rushed, and said it will have a ripple effect on the future of county government.

The county hired Reid, now 59, less than two years ago to clean up the policy and ethical issues surrounding a purchasing practices scandal that led to the resignation of former administrator Jim Ley. Reid has restored public trust and improved policies, several county government observers said, and needs more time to do his job.

Reid is highly regarded in the professional world, and to scrutinize and remove him after such a short time sends a poor message to the administrator's peers, said Cathy Antunes, president of the group Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government.

"Who would want to come and uproot their life and work for this kind of board?" she asked. "This is a very disappointing day for the residents of Sarasota County."

Nora Patterson was the lone vote to keep Reid on. Patterson wrote in her review that commissioners who disagree with Reid needed to better resolve conflicts.

Commissioners critiqued how Reid handled finance official Suzanne Gable's resignation in July. Reid hired Gable, who had served under him in Alachua County as county budget director. When she left Sarasota 11 months after being hired, citing family matters, officials found out she was not a certified public accountant, which they thought she was. Robinson looked into the situation and said Reid did not keep the board apprised of what was going on.

Barbetta and Reid clashed over the plan that guides future development in Sarasota County east of Interstate 75.

The plan is under review, and Reid suggested using academics to analyze a controversial section that requires developers to bear the full cost of services, like schools and jails, for a new community. Some commissioners and members of the development community said the requirement is onerous and prevents growth.

Barbetta told Reid that economists should look at the section instead of the academics, but Reid proposed the idea anyway.

Reid will receive a severance package including 20 weeks' pay, about $73,000, along with deferred compensation and health care insurance.

The county administrator oversees about 2,100 employees. A month after Reid started work in Sarasota he sent a memo to all of them outlining his vision for the county.

"Our citizens and Board of County Commissioners will be proud of the staff, their professionalism and expertise, and have a high degree of trust in the integrity of the organization," he wrote.

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