PORT RICHEY — Breaking a silence urged by attorneys at a meeting Thursday night, City Council member Steven O'Neill blasted the contract of fired City Manager Ellen Posivach, which may force the city to write a $90,000 payout check.
O'Neill forecast a bleak prognosis for Port Richey's hope to avoid paying the full amount, which includes $33,856 in severance pay, $42,397 in unused vacation and sick time, and $14,303 in compensatory time. And he aimed his criticism at the legal advice the council got upon entering into the contract with Posivach.
"I realize we are in a position perhaps of weakness. This was not a great contract for the city," O'Neill said. "We won't see this again. At least while I'm in this chair."
Thomas Hogan of the Hogan Law Firm, which provides legal services to the city, described those 2009 contract negotiations with Posivach and her attorney as "vigorous." But he said the payout terms of Posivach's contract are "open to interpretation."
He told council members during a special meeting at City Hall not to discuss particulars of the contract until an attorney specializing in labor law could review recordings of two public meetings during which the council first suspended Posivach, and then weeks later fired her.
The council members said Posivach twice purchased expensive equipment for the city without consulting them. The council had also blasted Posivach for working from home and taking expensive trips on the city's dime. She was fired Feb. 22.
Port Richey City Attorney Michael Brannigan, who is a lawyer with Hogan's firm, recently told the Times he saw no argument for the city not to pay Posivach the $90,000 outlined in her contract.
But Hogan told the council Thursday night that the firm is reviewing the contract and the city's options. He urged officials not to inadvertently put anything on the record that would contradict their prior public statements.
O'Neill was the only council member to comment at the meeting, expressing his frustration with the terms of Posivach's contract.
"I don't particularly view us as being in a position of strength," O'Neill said.