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Revised policy removes liability waiver form for certain Hernando volunteers

Published:   |   Updated: January 12, 2014 at 12:32 PM

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BROOKSVILLE - The new year has begun but it brings an old controversy that Hernando County commissioners hope to settle for good Tuesday.

Staff will present the board with a revised volunteer policy that spells out in greater detail the role of volunteers representing Hernando County on various agency boards. It also removes the requirement that volunteers who serve on advisory boards or committees sign a liability wavier form, which has been an area of contention.

The existing policy requires all volunteers to sign the form and it led to the resignation of an aviation authority member.

The waiver form absolves Hernando County from liability if volunteers are sued. It has been on the books for two years and was not a problem until October, when a divided board voted to deny a request to pay Aviation Authority Chairman Gary Schraut's legal fees in a slander suit.

The revised policy exempts volunteers who serve on various boards, including the aviation authority, planning and zoning, environmentally sensitive lands, fine arts council, tourist development and library committee.

However, the new policy stresses such volunteers will undergo training and complete an orientation program. They also will undergo background checks. Such a requirement was on the old policy but was vague, said Christi Charlow, the county's risk management director, who wrote the revised document.

All "regular service" volunteers still will be required to sign the liability waiver form, as well as take orientation and training programs. Those include occasional service volunteers, those who help out with special events and court-ordered community service.

"We're making some changes, yes, but adding some things that need to be in (the policy)," Charlow said.

Derrill McAteer, who resigned from the aviation authority board last month, said he would reconsider.

"If the liability issue is resolved to protect me and my family, I will be pleased to serve another term on the aviation authority," McAteer wrote in a memorandum to the county.

Commissioners Dave Russell and Jim Adkins had supported removing the waiver liability section because it would discourage volunteers from doing their jobs. But commissioners Nick Nicholson, Diane Rowden and Wayne Dukes said the county needed the protection to safeguard taxpayers against potentially large legal bills if someone is sued.

The revised policy also tightens up language regarding volunteer background checks and the method of approving volunteers' applications.

The commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 North Main St. in downtown Brooksville. Also on the agenda:

In December, commissioners agreed to allow County Administrator Len Sossamon assume the duties of economic development director for six months. They asked the legal office to return with a contract and salary adjustment, and Tuesday the board will be asked to approve additional compensation of $3,333 for each month he performs the extra duties.

The board will elect a new chairman, vice chairman and second vice chairman for 2014.

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

(352) 544-5290

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