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Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 21, 2011 10 years ago

County hires embattled search firm

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Sarasota County will enter into a contract with a management-recruitment company, in spite of concerns that have been raised about that company’s effectiveness.

Interim County Administrator Terry Lewis said July 18 he would sign the contract with Mercer Group, so it can begin a search for a new county administrator to replace former County Administrator Jim Ley.

“We went to its last 10 clients, and the responses were very favorable,” said Lewis. “They all said they would hire (Mercer Group) again.”

Nonetheless, the company came under fire during the 2007 search for a city manager.

Mercer Group did not know that then-candidate Bob Bartolotta had been accused of domestic violence and that another finalist had filed for bankruptcy.

The city was forced to conduct its own investigation. It determined that the allegations against Bartolotta were false, and he eventually was hired for the job.

Former Sarasota Vice Mayor Ken Shelin traveled to Bartolotta’s former town of Jupiter to conduct that investigation.

He said unless the county has reassurances the same mistakes won’t be made, he wouldn’t advise using Mercer Group.

Lewis said he’s confident company will not make the same mistake again.

“I spoke directly to Mr. Mercer, (the company’s owner),” said Lewis. “The employee who did the city’s search is no longer there. Mr. Mercer said he would handle this job personally.”

Mercer Group will be paid $23,000.

Lewis expects the search for a new county administrator to be complete by November.

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].


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