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Clerk of Court absent from work for months while shifting blame for problems | News

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Clerk of Court absent from work for months while shifting blame for problems
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Tampa, Florida -- How would your boss feel if you were making a six figure salary, didn't show up at the office on a regular basis for six months, and when there were problems you tried to blame a lower-level employee? Well, in this case, you are the boss and the six-figure employee is Hillsborough Clerk of Court Pat Frank.

You may remember Pat Frank from the time she gave bonuses to everyone of her 800 employees in the Clerk of Court office. Or, maybe you remember the ticket fixing scandal, or the $3.5 million computer system debacle.

Well now the 10 News Investigators have discovered the clerk hasn't been regularly coming to the office for about six months now.

"I'm not totally back yet. I'm operating out of the house," Frank told 10 News during a phone interview from her home in Tampa.

"Remember, I have a full home office," she added.

There were times when, because of heart surgery, she wasn't able to work at all. She didn't take short or long-term leave and collected her $145,000 plus a year salary. 

The office couldn't tell us how many other employees in the clerk's office have had to take short or long-term leave when they had an illness.

Her office wouldn't tell us if she is back at County Center on a Monday through Friday schedule but we were told she is working full time.

Frank tells us, "I am not required to be at a specific fortunately we live in this age of sophisticated technology."

In other words no, she is not back.

"So it's not dropping of my duties by a long shot," says Frank.

But while Frank has been out of the office, there have been problems.

Since Frank has been out, Hillsborough County judges in Family Law Court have sent emails to the her office blasting them for failure to get court files to them.

Among the complaints

I started the actual trials without files from the clerk's office and they had been ordered weeks before. This is so unacceptable someone owes me an explanation as to how and why this happened.

Frank admits there were problems.

"Yes there was, and I had spoken to the person who was in charge about that and it took us about, I'd say, three months to reorganize the office and put someone new in charge who had come out of another area and everything is going quite well now," says Frank.

But judges we talked to said that is not true. Since our first story, judges tell us there are still problems getting some files and sources tell us it is not just in family law.

But to be fair, the same judges say some of the problems were caused by massive budget cuts resulting in layoffs. But as far as Frank is concerned everything is running smoothly.

"No there aren't any, nobody has told me there are any problems and I think they are very well taken care of I'm perfectly pleased with the reorganization," says Frank. 

Before Frank reorganized the office, managers tried to throw 25-year employee Rita Bass under the bus saying she was to blame for the files not showing up where they were supposed to show up. Her actions they say were egregious and unacceptable. She was demoted, had her salary cut and sent to Plant City.

However, when Bass showed she had the emails alerting managers to the problems and threatened to sue, the clerk's office agreed to reinstate Bass to her old job, move her back downtown, give her back pay and remove a letter of reprimand from her file if she agreed not to sue.

"She's happy and we're happy,"  says Frank.

Asked if it was a mistake to move her out in the first place, Frank said it was necessary and the error has been cleared.

But the big question now is, will the 82-year-old clerk continue and try to come back to work and run for reelection in November?

She is already receiving $8,916 from the Florida Retirement System from her years in the legislature and on the school board. Frank will get an additional $60,900 if she retires as clerk for a total of $69,816 a year from taxpayers for the rest of her life if she rides into the sunset.

Some critics say it is time for the iconic politician to call it quits and move on.

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