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Kevin Beckner says Pat Frank has failed women and minorities in hiring at the Clerk of the Courts office, but Frank fires back

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Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, by all indications trailing incumbent Pat Frank in the Democratic primary for Clerk of the Circuit Courts office in Hillsborough County with three weeks to go, released a statement on Tuesday accusing Frank of failing women and minorities in how she runs the clerk’s office.

“Despite her statements to the contrary, Ms. Frank’s organizational chart does not reflect equal opportunity for minorities or women in the senior executive branch of her own office,” said Beckner.

Included in his statement are the salaries of white men in the clerk’s office in comparison to women and blacks. A breakdown of Frank’s senior executive branch in her office (as conveyed by the Beckner statement) lists no individuals of color, making salaries ranging from $164,320 (for chief of staff Dan Klein) to $98,966 (for county auditor Steve Hooper).  The senior staff also includes program sponsor Harry Cohen, who also serves as a Tampa City Councilman (The Beckner statement listed Cohen’s salary as $157,476. But Frank spokesman Ian Whitney says that was incorrect, saying he was paid $65,000 in 2015 and “expects to be paid LESS this year”).

The Beckner camp then shows that the group of Chief Deputy Clerks consists of two white males and two white females, with the women making less their their male colleagues.

Marshall (Rick) Vanarsdall, Chief Deputy Finance and Budget                      $150,883

Douglas Bakke, Chief Deputy Courts                                                                      $131,310

Julia Poupart, Chief Deputy Records Management                                             $124,529

Rachel Diny, Chief Deputy Administration                                                             $119,475

“Despite her statements to the contrary, Ms. Frank’s organizational chart does not reflect equal opportunity for minorities or women in the senior executive branch of her own office,” said Beckner.

The Frank camp fired back with their own set of statistics.

“Pat Frank is extremely proud of her office’s diverse workforce,” said Frank campaign spokesman Ian Whitney. “Of its current 670 employees, 73.8% are women, 31% are African-American, 21% are Hispanic and 4% are Asian. 24% of employees in management positions are African American and 17% are Hispanic. The second highest-paid staff member in the Clerk’s office is African American (Tim Simon, the director of finance, who makes $160,617). In contrast, during his two terms as County Commissioner, Kevin Beckner has personally hired six aides- 100% of whom are white. Voters should be deeply concerned by the lack of diversity in Commissioner Beckner’s own hiring practices.”

The Beckner statement also refers to the fact that the U.S. Dept. of Justice sued the Clerk’s office in 2007 on  behalf of Tracey Y. Marshall, a black first sergeant in the Army Reserve. The suit claimed the clerk’s office demoted Marshall after she returned from active duty and began fighting for her old job.

“Pat Frank has failed to promote minorities to her executive staff and to award women equal pay for equal work,” said Beckner. “These are not progressive values, and the voters of Hillsborough County should carefully consider whether her actions are the same as her campaign talking points when choosing who is best qualified to serve as the next Clerk of the Circuit Court.”

Whitney calls the statement “just the latest desperate attempt by Kevin Beckner to swiftboat Clerk Pat Frank.”

“His overtly negative campaign has been one of misinformation, unfair and out-of-context narratives, and disgusting character attacks,” Whitney continued. “After more than a year of campaigning, Beckner has been unable to make a case for why he should have the job. Instead, he’s attempting to tear-down a respected Democrat who has brought integrity to this and every office that she has ever held.”

The race between Beckner and Frank will be decided on Aug. 30, though early voting begins next Monday.

 

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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