Why I Voted No
First, my apologies to those who didn't get a chance to voice their opinions about the contract terms and the hiring of the new City Manager (CM). The CM contract was not advertised as an item on the published agenda, however four out of five commissioners - - with me as the "No" vote - - approved it last Tuesday. While my "No" vote was properly reported, the reasons why I voted as I did were not fully explained. Be advised that the approved City Manager contract provides for the following items:
An annual salary of $95,500. A retirement plan contribution beginning at 15 percent of annual salary to a cap of 21 percent. (All other employees start and stay at 10 percent.) An automatic 2 percent of base salary annual increase in retirement plan contributions (up to the 21 percent max) without any tie to performance. Award of the same cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) during the first year of employment that is granted to other employees. (The CM's proposed budget includes a 3 percent COLA for all employees, usually granted on 10/1, which will mean an additional $2,865 to the CM's annual salary.) Fully-paid health insurance for the CM and his dependents. (The city pays for city employee health insurance, but only contributes about 50 percent toward the cost of their dependent coverage.)
Two (2) two-year terms, with the second term "automatic" unless City Commission provides at least 180 days (6 months!) notice of non-renewal. No prohibition against the CM "seeking" other employment and only a 60-day notice is required if he decides to resign. Six (6) months severance in the event of termination. (Not clear if this is payable should the City Commission decide not to renew for a second term.) Accrual of up to 720 hours of sick leave allowed (value of about $34,000) to be paid in full at separation . . . a benefit not extended to any other employee. Individual and exclusive use at all times, at city expense, of cell phone, laptop computer and printer that the CM selects. Use is limited to business and incidental personal use. Four (4) weeks paid vacation per year (accrual of eight (8) weeks allowed) and unlimited use of vacation time, before accrual, during the first year. In addition to the contract terms listed above, a few other highlights that prompted my NO vote are listed below:
No background check or report provided to the Commission as required for all other city staff hires. Phone call from the CM advising me that "four Commissioners want me as City Manager," a few hours prior to Tuesday's meeting. The same phone call disclosed that it was planned for the City Attorney to bring up the CM contract proposal for consideration that evening with only one change, increasing CM's severance from three months to six months. The final contract was provided to me only hours before the meeting. No mention that the contract terms proposed by the CM are far more generous than those of former City Managers Brobeil, Coffey and Grieshaber and far more generous than the "boilerplate" contract approved by previous and current commissions. No mention of the other qualified candidates, who were scheduled to be interviewed the week of 8/20, who were requesting salaries of $80,000 to $85,000. No "counteroffer" by the Commission to lower the cost of the package to IRB taxpayers. No public "interview" that would have exposed our citizens to the CM's views regarding new and increased taxes, density and building height, etc. Overall, I don't believe the process and contract terms properly balanced the interests of the taxpayers, the city and the CM. The hiring process and consideration of contract terms should have been more open, transparent, careful and thoughtful; including advance public notice, disclosure and opportunities for citizen input. Because the Commission voted four to one to approve the contract, I am obligated to sign it and will do so.
FINANCIAL OVERSIGHT - On another matter, a requirement that the Commission be provided and review the check register and quarterly statement (after the fact) was deleted from Commission Rules. I also voted "No" on this item for two reasons:
Provision of and review of financial statements is a City Charter requirement and lets us and the citizens know where we stand. I believe review of the check register would be an added deterrent to questionable checks being issued, such as the infamous Grieshaber moving expense check, and certainly result in much earlier discovery of such checks. I don't believe any "corporate" board (private or public) can provide adequate financial oversight without basic data and information being provided to them and, in our case, available to the citizens.
CURRENT ISSUES: THE BUDGET - The major item facing the Commission through September is the budget. The "tentative" millage rate is above the "rollback" rate established by the legislature. A few of the proposals being considered include:
Two budget workshops are scheduled this week, Monday, 8/20/07 and Thursday, 8/23/07 - - both beginning at 5 p.m. It is your money, so let us know your views regarding new and increased taxes, services, etc. Increased Development Density, Intensity and Building Height. The County Commission is considering an ordinance that will allow density and intensity increases for hotels and motels. In IRB, this could mean a density increase from 30 units per acre to 125 units per acre, depending upon the property's land use category. Density increases of varying amounts are authorized in all categories that front on Gulf Blvd. IRB can exempt itself from this County ordinance if we choose to do so. Final action by the County is scheduled for Tuesday, 8/21/07. Once densities are raised Countywide there are fewer obstacles to density increases by any one jurisdiction. IRB Commission's consideration of exempting ourselves from the County ordinance will probably be scheduled for October 2007. The City Commission will also consider a proposal to reduce the maximum height limit on the east side of Gulf Blvd. from three stories above parking (in some areas) to two stories above parking everywhere east of Gulf Blvd. The City Commission will also consider making the current maximum 3-story-above-parking height limit on the west side of Gulf Blvd. attainable via "special exception" approval only. The Planning and Zoning Board has recommended more stringent reductions in allowable building height for all areas west of Gulf Blvd.
Commission meetings in September, October and November should be very interesting. It is your city and your money; so please make your views known.
Bill Ockunzzi, Mayor
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