INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- For the next several weeks a gentlemanly ruptured duck will occupy the city manager's office in Indian Rocks Beach.
The City Commission on July 14 completed the action it began two days earlier which, in short, results in the departure of John Coffey, the city manager.
Actually, the procedure, on a 5-0 vote, came down to the commission accepting Coffey's offer to resign. The commission, under the deft guidance of Andy Salzman, the city attorney, did some oral tweaking of Coffey's offer and the result was that Coffey will remain in place for at least two weeks and beyond that to assist in transition.
Coffey's head has been on the chopping block for a long time, but he showed no rancor or bitterness and, in fact, was helpful to the city which now finds itself totally beheaded of top staff management.
His leavetaking, coupled with the departure of Mary Karayianes, the finance director and human resources director, puts the city dramatically short-handed in the crucial budget season.
But Coffey magnanimously offered to stay on during the budget process and will be on hand until the commission finds a new city manager, an interim manager or indicates to him that his help is no longer required.
In return, he gets health insurance benefits paid through next January 18 and four months severance pay.
So rather than a vote of dismissal, Coffey leaves on a commission vote of acceptance of his resignation.
Salzman was instructed by the commission last Thursday night to begin a search for an interim manager and to start to put together the advertising needed to fill both Coffey's and Karayianes's positions.
Coffey had been assistant to Tom Brobeil, his predecessor, and when Brobeil left to become the manager in Gulfport Coffey was named interim manager.
The commission promoted him to the official job January 29, 2004 with his pay jumping from about $35,000 annually to the $60,000 range.
Coffey's problems began several months ago with the attempted firing of a staff member which turned into a cause celebre in this beach community.
Then a series of charges criticizing him surfaced. When the commissioners gave him a review a couple of months ago the handwriting on the wall was writ large with strong criticisms from two commissioners.
Interlarded with all this was some very strong politics with the manipulation of who would be vice mayor (and successor) with the imminent departure of Bob DiNicola, long time mayor, who resigned.
Also going on was some strong infighting in city hall which left Mayor Bill Ockunzzi scratching his head June 12 and wondering what that was all about -- certainly not money, he speculated, but maybe ego and a power struggle.
Whoever succeeds Coffey faces the same internecine warfare unless Ockunzzi can get personalities under control.
Coffey is a native of Illinois, 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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