INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- A large crowd showed up at the City Hall February 8 with the expectation that they might see a bloodletting -- specifically, the firing of the city manager, John Coffey.
That didn't happen, but this week Coffey's head may be on the block. A commission investigation began Monday and it is a probe that was triggered by Coffey's firing of a city employee.
When that employee, Steve Andrews, who apparently is well liked by the citizenry, balked it led at last week's commission meeting to an agreement that the firing would be looked into.
The word that was out last week was that Coffey, who is paid about $70,000 a year, would be fired at the February 8 meeting. That didn't happen, but hard on the heels of the Andrews' firing probe is the investigation that could cost Coffey his job.
Coffey came under pressure last week from city officials to resign. It is hard to define exactly what support he has among the commission, but it is clear that there is no strong and unified support for him.
Mayor Bob DiNicola told the Clearwater Gazette and Beach Views that if there were a split vote on the commission he would vote to fire Coffey in the interests of city unity.
Coffey fired Andrews, the city's building official in January. Coffey initially came under fire when he refused to reinstate Andrews. Andrews claimed his termination was unjustified and wanted to be reinstated.
Under the City Charter, the commission cannot overrule the manager on personnel matters. But the commission has the power to investigate and fire the manager.
The nub of the matter was that Andrews wanted a probationary employee fired while Coffey and Pete Pensa, the director of economic development, both of them Andrews' superiors, said he failed to properly supervise and train the employee.
Coffey said that that Andrews had consistently not followed orders from both him and Pensa, his immediate supervisor.
On February 8, three of the commissioners -- Bill Okunzzi, Jim Palamara and Jeremiah Carmody -- agreed on holding a full review of the case.
But the commission voted to do an evaluation of Coffey's job performance. Commissisoner R.B. Johnson was against any investigation, calling it an inquisition.
Mayor Bob DiNicola sort of agreed with Johnson but was lukewarm on the issue, saying that perhaps an investigation could clear up things.
Coffey has held his office for a little more than a year. He was appointed January 29, 2004, succeeding Tom Brobeil. He had been an assistant to Brobeil who moved on to Gulfport. Coffee had served as interim manager until the commission unanimously approved him.
A native of Illinois, Coffey grew up in Florida and graduated from the University of Florida and took a master's degree in public administration at Florida State.
Before joining Indian Rocks Beach he worked in city administration jobs in Texas and Georgia.
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