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Sparks fly as city hires new auditor and clerk

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  • | 5:00 a.m. February 25, 2010
  • Sarasota
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A spat between two commissioners and a loud shout of protest from the audience spiced up the appointment of a new city auditor and clerk.

The City Commission gathered Thursday to name one of four candidates to replace retired City Auditor and Clerk Billy Robinson.

A seven-member committee interviewed all four candidates and unanimously recommended the only one with any local experience — Pamela Nadalini, who worked for 19 years under Robinson.

Committee member Jody Hudgins said the group struggled to come up with a consensus on a second choice.

“It’s hard to overcome (Nadalini’s) institutional knowledge,” Hudgins said.

When it came time for the commission to vote on the recommendation, sparks flew.

Commissioner Suzanne Atwell, Vice Mayor Kelly Kirschner and Mayor Dick Clapp all praised Nadalini.

“Clearly Ms. Nadalini rises to the bar higher than anyone else,” said Atwell.

But Commissioner Terry Turner was the lone vote against Nadalini.

“I agree with many of the positive assessments of (Nadalini),” he said. “But there was a candidate who had more experience and was a better candidate.”

Turner wanted to chose Debra Eastman, clerk for the Miami suburb Surfside.

When Turner explained that the city’s charter required the commission to pick the most competent candidate, Fredrick Williams, chairman of the editorial board of Tempo News, shouted from the audience: “That’s incorrect, sir.”

Williams was one of about 20 north Sarasota residents in the Commission Chambers watching the proceedings.

Turner had raised the ire of fellow Commissioner Fredd Atkins and some of his constituents, because when Atkins suggested a couple of months ago to avoid a lengthy job search and immediately hire Nadalini, who is black, Turner said it was the commission’s duty to interview several candidates before making a decision. The majority of commissioners agreed with Turner.

Several north Sarasota residents alluded to racism and sexism as the reasons why Nadalini wasn’t given the job immediately.

Before hearing the committee’s recommendation, Turner upset Atkins when he asked if Hudgins would be relaying the positive attributes of all candidates, not just their top choice.

“What are we doing here?” Atkins asked Clapp. “They have a report on one candidate. Why can (Turner) tell us what to do here?”

Turner said he thought he was just following human-resources policy.

Nadalini took Turner’s vote in stride.

“For those of you who have doubts and concerns, I’m sure I’ll win you over,” she said. “Just give me some time.”

Turner said after the meeting that he agrees that Nadalini had great knowledge of the city and feels that she will grow into the role.

Nadalini is the first black city auditor and clerk and the first female charter official in Sarasota’s history.

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].


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