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Lee County Commissioner Tammy Hall says she wants a discussion before she considers a vote that could terminate the county’s top executive.

Hall could create the commission majority needed to cast out County Manager Karen Hawes at Tuesday’s meeting.

But first she wants nine county staffers to appear in front of the commission for a conversation about the county’s medical flight fiasco and botched stimulus grant that prompted calls for Hawes’ departure, according to an email Hall sent commissioners Wednesday.

“Whether any action is taken or not at that time will be for members to decide, but I believe a discussion is warranted under the circumstances,” Hall writes.

Commissioner Frank Mann asked Hawes to resign Tuesday, announcing that he will move for a vote to terminate her at the upcoming meeting.

His request was made in response to Hawes’ handling of the county’s medical flight program, Medstar.

Hawes grounded the county’s rescue helicopters in August, while her subordinates publicly claimed the measure would help the county receive a voluntary accreditation.

It wasn’t until The News-Press presented county officials with proof that they had violated federal rules by billing for millions of dollars in medical flights and failed to meet federal safety standards, that they confessed the program had problems.

Hall did not immediately return calls to her cell phone for comment Wednesday. She was in Washington, D.C.

Hawes has not commented on Tuesday’s meeting and Hall’s letter.

Hawes said an attorney advised her not to comment on her possible termination. She declined to provide the name of that attorney Wednesday.

Mann also faulted Hawes’ handling of VR Labs, when he asked her to step down.

The county gave that company $5 million to build a bottling plant and create 214 jobs. But with $4.7 million of the money spent, construction on the facility has come to a halt and only nine people are on the company’s payroll.

A contractor hired to build the facility has sued VR Labs and subcontractors have filed liens to recoup money for the work they performed.

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In its original grant application, the corporation claimed to own a legitimate health food supply company, but that allegation was untrue. County officials failed to highlight that in their vetting process.

Mann said he hadn’t spoken to Hall about her email.

“I guess she just wants to be on record and let everybody know where she is coming from next week,” Mann said.

Commissioner Brian Bigelow has repeatedly called for Hawes’ resignation, as the mismanagement of Medstar came to light over the past several weeks.

“Hawes just cannot survive this because this is one of the final cuts that exposed her as not being able to manage personnel.” Bigelow said. “Since she can’t manage personnel, she sure can’t manage the issues.”

But Commission Chair John Manning said he supports Hawes, while Commissioner Ray Judah has not voiced criticism of her performance.

“I’m totally against Commissioner Mann’s motion,” Manning said. “If he brings it up, I’m going to support retaining her services.”

Even if she doesn’t resign and is not fired Tuesday, newly elected commissioners could terminate her in November.

Hawes makes about $185,000 a year, including a base salary of $170,000 plus about $15,000 in deferred compensation, according to her assistant.

If Hawes steps down at Mann’s request, the county will have to give her a year’s severance pay, according to the 2009 contract she signed

But if commissioners terminate her with cause – for reasons such as incompetency, insubordination and failure to maintain the public’s confidence -- the county doesn’t have to pay her anything, according to Hawes’ contract.

Hall asked Hawes, assistant county managers Pete Winton and Holly Schwartz, County Attorney Michael Hunt, assistant county attorneys Andrea Fraser, Greg Hagen, and Donna Marie Collins, along with Economic Development Office Director Jim Moore and former economic development office attorney Glen Salyer to appear at Tuesday’s meeting.

Manning said he wants to wait for the Federal Aviation Administration, Clerk of Court and Hawes to complete their reviews of Medstar, before he makes any decisions.

The county’s former public safety director, John Wilson, and his second-in-command, Kim Dickerson, resigned in the wake of revelations the program was mismanaged.

Manning chalked up VR Labs to a “private” civil dispute between the company and contractor it hired to build the facility.

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