Against the Rule, Only Zimmet Gets a Raise in Largo
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Some months ago the word went out from the city manager's office - no raises.
No little raises, no tiny raises, no token raises, no insignificant raises, no nominal raises. No raises. Pretty clear.
And understandable, given the parlous financial situation around here - yea, around the whole world these days.
No raises - which means, among other things, that the pending fire fighters scrap with the city, which will eventually come to the City Commission, will result in no raises.
Tough times. Buckles tighten. Parks close down. Every penny is counted twice. Norton Craig, the city manager, and his squad have a tough time cutting, cutting, cutting.
And now comes Alan Zimmet, the city attorney.
And he wanted a raise. Oh, it's just a little itty-bitty, teeny-tiny, almost not there raise. Just a "nominal 1 percent" increase, as recommended by the city manager, Norton Craig.
Zimmet got the raise at Tuesday night's commission meeting. Only Commissioners Mary Black and Curtis Holmes held the line on the dictum of no raises.
"Is this for real?" one former commission member said. "Either Mac (Craig) is breaking his own rule or Zimmet is defying the rule. It's outrageous, regardless of the amount."
Turns out it was Zimmet defying the rule. Asked, Craig said it was not his independent recommendation but a request from Zimmet for the increase. Thus, Craig broke his own rule.
Zimmet now gets $117,837.36 year (that's $2,266.10 a week) as a retainer. That means he receives that sum for being available to answer questions from the staff and the commission, to review and draft ordinances, resolutions and contracts, and attend commission meetings.
Also, he gets to direct litigation to his law firm and that comes under the heading of "hourly rate" his firm gets. The current hourly rate is $170.
Zimmet didn't take a raise in his retainer last year, but did get a $10 increase in the firm's hourly rate.
When asked last year what that $10 increase amounted to altogether, Henry Schubert, an assistant city manager, said $10,000.
So, at $117,837.36 a year and with a $10,000 increase in firm's hourly rate, Zimmet and Company in effect got an 8.4 percent increase in 2009.
A "nominal 1 percent increase" now means a raise of $1,178.37 - about equal to a 3 percent increase for a fire fighter.
But the fire fighters nor anyone else in Largo's employ is getting a raise in fiscal year 2011. So why should Zimmet, whatever the amount? Zimmet has done well by Largo and Largo has been well served by Zimmet.
He started, in 2000, with an $84,000 retainer. The increases over the years represent, on the average, a steady 4 percent increase a year. Not bad.
Accompanying the city manager's plea for a raise for Zimmet is something called "City Attorney Accomplishments May 2009 - May 2010."
Most appear to be pretty routine and within the scope of city attorney's duties - interlocal service boundary agreement, community redevelopment districts, annexation work, development agreement, Belleair Bluffs fire agreement, a construction loan.
All are ordinary lawyer's work and routine and could have been handled if necessary by Mary Hale, the city's staff lawyer.
The two litigations in federal court that were mentioned in which Zimmet prevailed for the city come under the other than retainer status and were jobs shuttled to the firm.
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