Pinellas County’s finances have taken a hit in the recession. And Democrat Bob Hackworth uses it to deliver punches to County Commissioner Susan Latvala, whom he is looking to unseat Nov. 2.
His message: He knows how to better manage the county, and for proof, voters should look to how the county has fared under Latvala’s tenure.
"I’m also struck by the irony that as we talk about jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, that the downsizing of Pinellas County government resulted in about 1,200 people being laid off in a 12 percent unemployment market," Hackworth told a crowd at a Dunedin candidate forum Sept. 14, 2010.
"And so I think we have to be a little sensitive and we also have to be fiscally responsible and acknowledge that as you downsize and cut the cost of government there is a cost that you as the taxpayers bear to deal with that high unemployment number. … I can tell you that every one of them was hired from the time that Ms. Latvala went into office in 2000."
Every single one? And 1,200 layoffs?
We decided to see if voters should rely on Hackworth’s math.
Hackworth said afterward he was referring to job losses in the years since the economy slid, starting in 2007.
Since 2007, 465 county employees were laid off, according to records provided by county agencies.
That count excludes people who received layoff notices but decided to retire instead, or people who wound up with a new county job as departures shook out.
If you look at the number of people who actually received a layoff notice, the count is 799, still short of Hackworth’s 1,200.
The next question was whether all the people who were laid off were hired under Latvala’s tenure. Her first meeting as a commissioner was Nov. 21, 2000.
Using that timeline, only 341 people hired after that date were later subject to layoff.
"It’s parsing," Hackworth responded, saying many more positions were cut.
Here we’re checking two related statements from Hackworth: "The downsizing of Pinellas County government resulted in about 1,200 people being laid off in a 12 percent unemployment market. … I can tell you that every one of them was hired from the time that Ms. Latvala went into office in 2000."
On that broader point, he’s right. The county government has eliminated 1,612 positions since 2007. But not all of those jobs involved layoffs, because some were vacant, and some involved retirements that were not filled, for example.
But Hackworth said "layoffs,’’ and specifically of people hired during Latvala’s tenure, which numbered only 341.
So we rate his claims False.