INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- John Coffey, the city manager, was effectively fired Tuesday night at the Indian Rocks Beach City Commission meeting.
A meeting is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (tonight) for the next step in the process, though Coffey could deem Tuesday's action as an official firing and leave with three months severance pay and benefits.
The action came on a 3-2 no confidence vote with Coffey getting support from Mayor Bill Ockunzzi and Commissioner R.B. Johnson.
Coffey got a vigorous defense from a citizen, Victor Wood, who is also president of Action 2000, a city civic group.
Jose Coppen also supported Coffey, pointing out that statements and accusations made by Coffey in defending himself "merit investigation."
Coffey maintained that an unnnamed city employee undermined him and took actions that exacerbated the situation in the city.
A process of elimination left no doubt in anyone's mind who that person is but because the person was not named on the record and the accusations are significant, the name is not being used in this report.
The departure of Coffey leaves the city in dire straits. Johnson put his finger on it, taking into account the leavetaking of Mary Karayianes, the city's financial director. "We are at the verge of the budget season and with the city manager and finance director this is catastrophic," he said.
Karayianes's announcement last week that she was departing for a similar job in next door Indian Shores sent shock waves through Indian Rocks Beach.
Imagine the Yankees without DiMaggio, the Red Sox without Williams, the Cardinals without Musial, salt without pepper -- now you have it.
Karayianes was the one anchor point in a city that is unraveling. Obviously, she's had enough, and the there is no doubt that the fault does not lie with Coffey.
Not too long ago, Indian Rocks Beach was as smoothly and efficiently functioning a government as you could find in Pinellas County. It was a parargon of comity, a place where the job got done without a lot of noise and nastiness.
No more. The place is now a mess, on the verge of officially losing its city manager. Many key city employees have departed.
Typical of Karayianes with her professional manner, she gave no hint of personal or job dissatisfaction. Her departure for Indian Shores has been handled by her as a routine job change.
Karayianes has played a key role in Indian Rocks Beach for years. She long has been the city's finance director and in recent years in charge of human resources as well.
When Eric Meserve left some years ago as city manager, Karayianes stepped in as interim CM until Tom Brobeil, as good as they come, came along. That interim job lasted many months and the city functioned smoothly.
Coffey's two main antagonists -- Commissioners Jim Palamara and Jeremiah Carmody -- stuck to their guns in their strong criticisms of Coffey Tuesday night.
Johnson deplored the no confidence vote as absolutely the wrong thing to do and he was joined in this by Ockunzzi who gave a fair analysis of Coffey's job performance, stopping short of dismissal.
But the 3-2 vote ruled and the process is in gear to remove Coffey if he, in fact, has not already left since this paper went to press.
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