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Old September 12th, 2007, 02:28 AM   #1
HARTride 2012
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Pinellas County administrator resigns

I knew this was going to happen...

Pinellas County Administrator Steve Spratt resigns


CLEARWATER -- Embattled Pinellas County Administrator Steve Spratt resigned Tuesday afternoon, one week after the county attorney was fired and two weeks after a grand jury issued a blistering report on the county's purchase of land from Property Appraiser Jim Smith.

Reading from a prepared statement, Spratt told the County Commission that he had discussed the standing of his administration with many of his top managers.

"Many of these executives and other employees are experiencing great anxiety and uncertainty about he county's reputation, its future and my relations with the the board," Spratt's statement said. "Frankly, like you, they are hurting and this is a very real distraction for our important work for the people of Pinellas County."

He offered his resignation as a "corrective course" because, "in short, your conscientious and dedicated employees need your full support."

County commissioners unanimously voted to accept Spratt's resignation at the end of a work session on another matter.

The resignation is effective Sept. 30. It will wipe out a public reprimand that commissioners had voted to give Spratt.

Spratt has been under fire since the grand jury criticized the way his staff handled the county's controversial purchase of a piece of vacant land that Smith owned in East Lake. After an appraisal and negotiation process that county officials admit was rushed, County Commissioners voted unanimously June 5 to pay Smith $225,000 for the land. That was nearly four times the value that Smith's own office had assessed the property for tax purposes.

At a volatile County Commission meeting last week, Commissioner Susan Latvala made a motion to fire Spratt, but it received no support.

This afternoon she was gracious in accepting Spratt's resignation.

"I have agonized over what's gone on the last few weeks," Latvala said. "This will give us an opportunity to clear the slate and move forward."

Last week, Commissioner Bob Stewart said that if Spratt left, the county would be "a ship without a rudder."

On Tuesday he said he was disappointed.

"If I were in Steve Spratt's situation," Stewart said, "I would do exactly what he is doing. ... My disappointment is that that we’re going to lose Steve Spratt."

County Commission Chairman Ronnie Duncan called this decision "painful" and "difficult" but said it was the right move for the county. "We've got to have confidence in the leadership of this organization."

Until his recent missteps, Spratt had received praise from his bosses for his tenure at the helm of county government. Commissioners have lauded his diligence, dedication and integrity.

"I think you've been a fantastic leader for this county the last six years," said Commissioner Ken Welch.

"You'll always have a friend here in Pinellas County," added Commissioner John Morroni.

"This is tough," said Commissioner Calvin Harris. "But one of the things we have to realize is that organizations always outlast people."

Spratt's resignation follows the County Commission's decision last week to fire County Attorney Susan Churuti.

Spratt, 52, has been the county's administrator since 2001. His annual salary is $223,476. Before coming to Pinellas, Spratt spent 25 years working in Miami-Dade, the last four as assistant county manager. He lives in Dunedin, and his and his wife Lora have three sons. He has a bachelor's degree in transportation management from Florida Institute of Technology.
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