County commissioner's move criticized
Dec 05, 2012 (Hernando Today - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Civic activist Anna Liisa Covell told county commissioners Tuesday it is inappropriate for newly elected Commissioner Nick Nicholson to conduct his board duties out of the confines of his engineering firm.
"I just think it gives a real bad appearance of impropriety," Covell told board members during a workshop. Covell's concerns were echoed by two other residents who spoke.
Government watchdog Anthony Palmieri said he found it hard to believe Nicholson was allowed to make such a move without getting approval from someone.
Palmieri joined Covell in saying that all commissioners should be located in one spot: the downtown government center.
"This is the county seat -- this building," Palmieri said.
County Administrator Len Sossamon said there is an office in the government building that would be suitable for any of the five commissioners to meet with constituents at any time.
Another resident said he had concerns about Nicholson conducting government business at his engineering firm because he would come into more frequent contact with potential clients who may approach the board on zoning or other issues in the future.
County Attorney Garth Coller, addressing the resident's concern about possible liability problems should a constituent visit Nicholson's office and become injured, said the commissioner can meet with the county's health insurer representative and make sure he has proper insurance coverage.
Soon after winning election to the District 3 seat, Diane Rowden announced she would not occupy the satellite office at the State Road 50 westside library because it was too far from staffers, would inconvenience constituents and would take up valuable space needed by the library employees.
Rowden is now using a spare office in the legal office on the fourth floor.
Last week, Nicholson told Hernando Today he was converting his office at his engineering firm at 7468 Horse Lake Road into a place where people can stop and see him if necessary.
Nicholson said the office is closer to the downtown government center so he can keep better tabs on County Administrator Len Sossamon. It is also centrally located in the county, he said, to make it easier for constituents.
An added bonus, he said, would obviously be the ease of continuing to monitor his own engineering business.
In 2009, county commissioners relocated to their satellite offices throughout the county.
The move was part of a county reorganization plan to create room on the fourth floor for the property appraiser's office and get him out of a leased building at city hall.
The plan also was supposed to make commissioners more accessible to their constituency by having them situated in their district.
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