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Agreement spells end of Port of Tampa deputy director's tenure

Deputy Port Director of Operations and Engineering Zelko Kirincich was "relieved of duty" last month after almost 17 years at the port.

Deputy Port Director of Operations and Engineering Zelko Kirincich was "relieved of duty" last month after almost 17 years at the port.

TAMPA — The Tampa Port Authority has cut loose its No. 2 executive.

Deputy Port Director of Operations and Engineering Zelko Kirincich, 53, was "relieved of duty" last month after almost 17 years at the port, including a brief stint as interim port director in 2004. The Tampa Port Authority, however, declined to explain what that meant.

But a 15-page separation agreement Kirincich signed on March 6 filled in the blanks. Kirincich was banned from port property and will continue to draw paychecks from his $209,851 annual salary until May 22, when his employment will officially end.

The agreement allows Kirincich to do work for the port at home and seek other employment while on the port's payroll. But he needs the CEO's permission to return to Tampa Port Authority property.

There's also a "non-dispargement" clause in the agreement that prevents Kirincich from making "disparaging remarks, whether orally or in writing" about the Port of Tampa.

In return, the port's CEO, chief financial officer and general counsel also have to refrain from disparaging Kirincich. The soon-to-be ex-deputy port director also waived his right to sue the Tampa Port Authority.

The only comment from the port about Kirincich was this statement from CEO Paul Anderson saying that "we can't discuss the details of personnel issues." But he did say this:

"I'm organizing for success," Anderson said. "With that reorganization comes change; some will be process, some will be branding and some will be personnel.

"We will work through all those issues as a team."

Most Tampa Port Authority employees are civil servants and thus enjoy certain protections on the job. But not Kirincich. As a port executive he served at the discretion of the CEO and could be fired without cause.

University of Florida law professor Joseph Little said the agreement appears to be standard. It also appears to have been brokered by both sides to settle several outstanding issues, allow a clean break and eliminate the possibility that Kirincich might sue his former employer.

"It seems to me, as I read it, that there's a lot of behind the scenes stuff why he was discharged or why he chose to leave," Little said. "But there appears to be a working out of the severance of the relationship and the employer wanted to make sure he was not going to meddle in the affairs of the authority anymore, so whoever new comes in won't be encumbered by that."

Kirincich's personnel file showed he received nothing but high marks and praise. But his brief turn as interim director in 2004 did not end well. He fired the port's chief legal counsel and real estate director, and was himself replaced until a permanent director was hired.

Anderson's first big personnel move was hiring Raul Alfonso to become the Tampa Port Authority's new chief commercial officer in January. Alfonso was the senior director of trade development and global marketing at the Jacksonville Port Authority, where Anderson previously served as CEO before moving to Tampa.

Kirincich could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3404.

Agreement spells end of Port of Tampa deputy director's tenure 03/12/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 9:50pm]
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