With no discussion by members of the Pinellas County Commission and after a unanimous vote to terminate his contract without cause, Bob LaSala is out as Pinellas County Administrator.
After the Commission’s vote, LaSala made a brief statement, acknowledging the “mixed emotions” he being forced out. After making his comments, LaSala left the dais and was followed out of the room by a handful of staffers.
LaSala had come under intense scrutiny in the last week after he received critical evaluations from a majority of the County Commission.
In response to these evaluations, LaSala met on Monday with several commissioners to discuss their evaluations, but said he had not had the chance to meet with Norm Roche or Seel, whose evaluations were the most critical of his performance, according to reporting from Chris O’Donnell of the Tampa Tribune.
Roche told the Tampa Bay Times that the final straw for him was LaSala’s hiring of Louis Kwall of Clearwater as his personal attorney regarding his employment status.
“To me, that was shocking,” Roche said Tuesday. “That took me aback. You got a bad review and you got lawyers?”
Yet, as late as Monday night, the issue of LaSala’s future was still in doubt. However, according to one County Commissioner, the difference was a blistering Tampa Bay Times editorial in Tuesday’s newspaper calling for a “swift exit” for LaSala.
“There is no reason to make this a messy fight that leaves scars,” the editorial board writes. “Like baseball managers, county administrators often have short expiration dates. LaSala has hit his, and he and the commission should arrange for a tidy exit.”
LaSala would’ve needed a strong defense by the Times, said the Commissioner. When that did not come, the writing was on the wall.
Because LaSala was not fired for cause, O’Donnell notes, his contract guarantees him six months of severance pay and benefits, which would add up to about $120,000 in salary and car allowance. He also has accrued roughly $40,250 in unused sick and vacation leave, according to the county’s human resources department.