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Lee County Manager Karen Hawes to resign today, if asked

Manager prepared to leave if majority of commissioners say that they want her gone after Medstar, VR Labs fiascoes.

Oct. 22, 2012   |  
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Interim Lee County Manager Karen Hawes sits for a live chat interview at The News-Press on Thursday, May 7.
Interim Lee County Manager Karen Hawes sits for a live chat interview at The News-Press on Thursday, May 7. / News-press.com file photo

Before County Manager Karen Hawes agrees to step down, she wants a majority of Lee County commissioners to call for her resignation today.

In a brief conversation with Commission Frank Mann, Hawes said she’s ready to hand in her resignation letter on that condition that at least three commissioners say they want it from her, he said.

Hawes told Mann her last day would be Oct. 31, he said.

“I think she is prepared to leave on that day, if asked by a majority of the commission,” Mann said.

Mann previously threatened to hold a vote to fire Hawes, if she refused to resign in the wake of Medstar. However, he said, he would prefer her resignation.

Commission Chair John Manning said he won’t tell Hawes to leave, but he thinks she will.

“I will not be asking for her resignation tomorrow, but based on my conversations and her letter to the Board, she will offer her resignation,” Manning stated.

Hawes will receive a year’s severance pay, $170,000, if she resigns at the commission’s request, according to her 2009 contract.

Commissioners could skip the payout, should they decided to terminate her with “cause,” according to her contract.

Failure to maintain the public’s confidence, incompetence and insubordination are among the reason Hawes could be fired for cause, according to her contract.

Hawes stayed silent as her subordinates in the public safety department told taxpayers they grounded the county’s medical rescue helicopters to seek a voluntary accreditation.

The decision to ground helicopters, however, would have actually hampered the county’s efforts to receive the accreditation, according to the director of the group that awards it, Eileen Frazer.

County officials also refused to admit they violated federal rules by billing for $3.3 million in medical flights and failed to meet federal safety standards, until the News-Press presented them proof of the transgressions.

Former public safety director John Wilson and EMS Chief Kim Dickerson abruptly resigned in the weeks after the program’s failings were revealed.

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Hawes’ subordinates in the Economic Development Office also recommended giving $5 million to VR Labs.

The company was formed just a week before it applied for the tax dollars, in an application that erroneously claimed it was doing business as an established health food manufacturer, according to reports published by The News-Press.

With $4.7 million of the tax dollars spent, the company only had nine people listed on its payroll — including former lieutenant governor Jeff Kottkamp.

It was supposed to create 214 jobs — building a bottling plant — by 2016.

But construction on the facility has come to a halt. The general contractor has sued the company, sub-contractors have filed liens and the supplier of the company’s bottling equipment won’t deliver until it receives payment, according to reports by The News-Press.

Manning stated he doesn’t think Hawes should be fired for cause.

“She was not directly involved with the issues and the Board has not gotten to the bottom of either issue at this time,” Manning writes.

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