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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

County commission to again discuss volunteer liability waivers


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BROOKSVILLE - Morris Porton said unless county commissioners come up with a better waiver liability plan at their Tuesday meeting, he may have no choice but to resign from the voluntary Hernando County Aviation Authority board.

Porton, a member for more than four years, said without the assurance of having the county's insurance department backing him up in case someone in the community sued him, he didn't feel comfortable continuing as a volunteer.

"I have too much to risk," Porton said.

Another aviation authority member, Derrill McAteer, has already submitted his resignation.

Commissioners earlier this week voted 3-2 to continue making all people on a county volunteer or advisory board sign a waiver of liability form.

The board Tuesday will discuss the ramifications of their vote, which caused some divisiveness. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 North Main St. in downtown Brooksville.

Commission chairman Dave Russell said this week he feared volunteers would turn in resignations because of the action. And he doesn't blame them.

"I would not sign it," Russell said. "I have too much to risk."

Commissioner Jim Adkins agreed and backed Russell on the vote.

However, Commissioners Diane Rowden, Nick Nicholson and Wayne Dukes said the waivers should remain intact because it doesn't hold the county liable should a volunteer or advisory board member incur legal bills because of something said or done while not representing county business.

The liability waiver has been on the books for two years and was not a problem until October, when an equally divided board voted to deny a request to pay Aviation Authority Chairman Gary Schraut's legal fees in a slander suit.

Russell and Adkins also ended up on the losing side of that motion.

Both believe that members of volunteer boards who represent Hernando County, such as the aviation board or the planning and zoning board, could be handcuffed if faced with legal action in their line of work.

For example, planning and zoning board members "from time to time have to do and say things about people who are petitioning the county, and they may not like their decisions and may turn around and sue them," Russell said at the time.

Also Tuesday, county commissioners will:

Present a resolution to Steve Whitaker, assistant public works director, who will retire at the end of December after 26-and-a-half years with the county.

Consider the construction drawings for Cortez Commons, a commercial project proposed for the southwest corner of State Road 50 and Mariner Boulevard.

Cortez Commons has already attracted the interest of 10 chains that have expressed an interest in opening a location at the busy corner.

Consider making an employment offer to James Friedrichs as the county's new building official. The position has been vacant since the retirement months ago of William Baxter.

Friedrichs is employed with the City of Milwaukee and can start on Jan. 14, contingent on board approval. The county advertised the job at a pay range of $56,784 to $91,568.

To view the entire agenda, visit http://hernandocountyfl.iqm2 .com/citizens/

(352) 544-5290

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