With the county manager controlling her own departure instead of being considered for termination and a slew of staff resignations, Lee County Commissioners turned Tuesday to employee expectations.
Commissioners had originally planned to talk about the fate of Karen Hawes, the Lee County manager who has been embattled in a controversy surrounding the Medstar program. Hawes said Monday she is working on an exit plan.
In recent weeks, a couple of high-level employees – from the Director of Public Safety to the EMS chief -- have resigned or retired due to the Medstar fiasco and an ongoing investigation into improper billing. And on Monday, County Attorney Michael Hunt announced plans to resign for different reasons.
With the sudden staffing depletion, Commissioner Tammy Hall called for more unifying discussions in conducting employee evaluations, which were recently unfavorable for both Hawes and Hunt.
"We haven't had benchmarks for what we're expecting from our employees," Hall said. "(It's) healthier to share with employees what you would like to see improved.”
She also raised concerns about commissioners speaking to the media about employees without speaking to each other, first.
Last week, Commissioner Frank Mann called for Hawes to resign or he’d bring her up for termination. Hall said Mann should have waited to request terminating Hawes until the county completes its investigation.
"I'm looking for a thoughtful discussion with the board to make sure we are all on the same page and not five individuals," Hall said. "At the end of the day, the buck stops here with the five of us."
To Hall, Hawes’ weekly updates about the Medstar investigation, which was prompted after the air ambulance program was shut down because of improper billing and lack of safety certifications, should be discussed at the commission meetings collectively, and not through email or to the media individually.
Clerk of Courts Charlie Green, who is conducting an audit into the Medstar shutdown, was called to give an update on the progress.
Green said they've completed interviews, put most of the billing pieces together and should have the report ready by the end of the month.
Hawes is expected to bring her attorney to the next commission meeting and detail her exit plan from the county.
Mann said he's been meeting with Hawes for months discussing a possible way out of the mess, without sacrificing the public's needs and the respect of her nearly 30 years with the county.
"I didn't know you were meeting with Hawes for months, we should have a thoughtful discussion, not throw down the gauntlet without telling," Hall added.
Commissioners agreed to develop a better evaluation process, in which staffers that report to the board are aware of their expectations and their needs.
They also discussed Hunt's resignation letter, which he sent out on Monday.
Despite poor evaluations by Hall and Mann, Hunt said his resignation, which wouldn't take effect until for 10 months, is for family reasons and nothing else.
"I have no personal animosity, no ill will, I'm in a good state," Hunt said. "I was an excellent attorney before I came here, I was an excellent attorney when I was here and I will be an excellent attorney when I leave here."
Commissioners Ray Judah, John Manning and Hall said they were uncomfortable with the length of Hunt's requested time.
Hall asked Hunt to meet with Manning, who is the chairman of the board, to discuss the time-frame. Hunt's Aug. 9 2013 departure would only be a month before the county's fiscal year closes.
The commissioners expect to discuss Hunt's departure either at a special meeting, or at the next commission meeting.