Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dunedin city manager resigns amid sharply different appraisals of his performance

Rob DiSpirito will receive six months of severance pay.

Rob DiSpirito will receive six months of severance pay.

DUNEDIN — Two weeks after he was surprised by the Dunedin City Commission's failed motion to fire him on the spot with no explanation, City Manager Rob DiSpirito came to Thursday night's meeting prepared.

The city manager of nine years offered commissioners two proposals: place him on a six-month probation period for a chance to address their concerns or accept his immediate resignation with a comfortable severance package.

The commission voted 4-1, with Mayor Julie Ward Buljalski against, to accept his resignation — but not before about two dozen residents took turns at the microphone to scold the commission for what many said was an unfounded attack on the city manager crafted behind closed doors.

"I think there's an undercurrent in this town right now that says those of you on the commission are above the Sunshine Law, and I'm here to tell you you're not. We will hold you accountable," said resident David Thomas. "We are the citizens. We own this town. There is no clique that owns this town … and right now, ladies and gentlemen, I am disgusted in this town."

Residents criticized the motion made close to midnight on Jan. 7 by Commissioner Heather Gracy to fire DiSpirito without providing reasons why. The motion needed a supermajority and failed 3-2 with Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski and Commissioner Deborah Kynes in opposition.

It came after DiSpirito's positive evaluation and salary increase last year.

After hearing from residents who praised DiSpirito's work ethic and called the commission's actions "disgraceful," "shady" and "despicable," commissioners each read their evaluations of the city manager before voting to accept his resignation.

Vice Mayor Bruce Livingston apologized to DiSpirito, his family and the public for the way the talk of firing came up and spiraled over the past two weeks, but then delivered a scathing review.

Livingston said his relationship with DiSpirito "has eroded to the point where I doubt he and I can effectively work together."

He said DiSpirito does not provide consistent information to all commissioners, has fostered high turnover in the finance department, micromanages staff and plays favorites with the mayor.

Gracy said she knows her motion to fire DiSpirito "unleashed a tornado," but that "as time moved on, he became less of a leader and more of a keeper of the status quo."

While Livingston read his prepared remarks, many of the roughly 50 in the audience mocked him and threw insults at the commission.

Most of the complaints from Livingston, Gracy and Commissioner John Tornga focused on DiSpirito's handling of the city's long-debated parking plan; his ability to negotiate with the Toronto Blue Jays franchise, which has a spring training facility in Dunedin; and his management style. The comments clashed with glowing praise from nearly two dozen residents who spoke during the meeting about DiSpirito's passion and competence, and with the mostly positive comments from Buljalski and Kynes.

DiSpirito's exit package includes six months of severance pay equal to $76,997; health and dental coverage for six months; $4,738 in unused vacation leave; $54,187 in unused sick leave; $17,173 in retirement contributions and an agreement to work as a city consultant for 13 weeks, for up to 40 hours a week, at $195 an hour beginning immediately.

After the meeting, DiSpirito said he was in disbelief over the commissioners' complaints. He said he had received mostly positive evaluations over his nine years and the parking plan was discussed in public and followed the commission's direction.

"Ninety-five percent of what was mentioned were concerns I've never heard before," he said. "I love this community. I just thank the employees and department heads for their talent and efforts."

Contact Tracey McManus at tmcmanus@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

Dunedin city manager resigns amid sharply different appraisals of his performance 01/22/16 [Last modified: Friday, January 22, 2016 10:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: How Moffitt Cancer's M2Gen startup won $75 million from Hearst

    Business

    TAMPA — A Moffitt Cancer Center spin-off that's building a massive genetic data base of individual patient cancer information just caught the attention of a deep-pocketed health care investor.

    Richard P. Malloch is the president of Hearst Business Media, which is announcing a $75 million investment in M2Gen, the for-profit cancer informatics unit spun off by Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. Malloch's job is to find innovative investments for the Hearst family fortune. A substantial amount has been invested in health care, financial and the transportation and logistics industries.
  2. A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. [Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte | Associated Press]
  3. 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 149, collapses buildings in Mexico

    World

    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 149 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

    A woman is lifted on a stretcher from of a building that collapsed during an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. [Rebecca Blackwell | Associated Press]
  4. FHP seeks semitrailer truck driver that left fiery wreck on I-75

    Accidents

    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol is looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an Interstate 75 crash that left another car burning on Tuesday afternoon.

    Troopers were looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an accident scene on Interstate 75 in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon that caused a car to catch fire. [Courtesy of Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.