Corruption in Hillsborough County must be stopped

Hillsborough County has suffered under corrupt and incompetent officials for the past several years and they only seem to be getting more proficient at wasting taxpayer money.

County Commissioner Kevin White, who was found guilty last year of sexually harassing an aide, used taxpayer money for a full-page ad in La Gaceta and the Florida Sentinel Bulletin, two local papers in his district.

The ad was an open letter to Hillsborough County District 3 expounding on all White has accomplished as a commissioner. But the letter looks suspiciously like a campaign ad for White, who is running for re-election.

The two ads cost more than $1,800 – a figure that pales in comparison to lawyer fees racked up by the county in the sexual harassment lawsuit. The case, in which the county and White were sued, cost nearly $500,000 in taxpayer money. The county commission has tried for months to get White to help pay the bill, but that’s not likely.

White’s opponents were quick to criticize his misuse of money.

“It does surprise me in the midst of budget cuts, people getting laid off, plus the fact that members of his own body are suing him for repayment for the costs of a lawsuit, that money is being spent now to promote his supposed accomplishments,” former state Sen. Les Miller said to the St. Petersburg Times.

Clearly, White does not deserve to be re-elected. He should have had the dignity to resign after the sexual harassment controversy.

Unfortunately, getting rid of corrupt officials in Hillsborough County can be harder than one would expect. The commission has also been trying to remove three incompetent employees: County Administrator Pat Bean, County Attorney Renee Lee and Internal Performance Auditor Jim Barnes.

Bean gave herself and others a 1 percent raise in 2007, which the commission didn’t know about until 2009. The controversy cast suspicion on all three.

It would cost taxpayers $720,000 in severance packages if all three were fired. Bean would receive more than $400,000 from a retirement plan and $103,920 each year in retirement benefits, according to 10 Connects News.

The commission voted last month to put Bean and Lee on a 90-day paid suspension. Each will collect more than $50,000 to do nothing for three months.

At best, county officials have no idea what they are doing. At worst, they are milking Hillsborough County for all it’s worth.

It is time for Hillsborough voters to clean house. Inept officials who can be voted out need to be, and residents should put pressure on elected officials to fire those who can’t.