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Dunedin commissioners give City Manager Rob DiSpirito a thumbs-up

DUNEDIN — City Manager Rob DiSpirito scored a largely glowing review and a raise from the Dunedin City Commission during his fifth annual employee evaluation Thursday.

However, his bosses did toss out a few pointers for the upcoming year. Their biggest criticism of DiSpirito? He's sometimes "too nice" of a guy.

Under a 5-0 vote, DiSpirito will receive the same 1 percent raise and $1,000 one-time bonus extended to other employees this fall.

Commissioners complimented DiSpirito, 52, on establishing a good working relationship with them, other city employees and residents. Also, for freely speaking his mind, accepting criticism with grace and maintaining his sense of humor.

The group praised DiSpirito's strategic planning and analytical skills, which they credit with saving Dunedin millions of dollars over the last several years. It was DiSpirito, they said, who led the grueling task of reorganizing and eliminating dozens of staff positions while managing to maintain Dunedin's service levels.

"You see how this city has been able to handle these interesting financial times. Other cities in the county seem to be wringing their hands over financial decisions, and we seem to be doing quite well, and that falls mainly on your shoulders," Commissioner David Carson told the city manager Thursday.

"I hope no one around the county or state finds out about Rob DiSpirito," he added, "because they'll whisk you away from us in a heartbeat."

In a year-end report, DiSpirito listed his staff's 2011 accomplishments, including the opening of Weaver Park, savings gained through ratification of a new fire contract, and Dunedin's status as the only Pinellas County city to lower its tax rate.

For 2012, commissioners urged DiSpirito to:

• Reduce his work hours and use his accumulated vacation time. Commissioners said they frequently receive 3 a.m. emails from DiSpirito and worry he'll burn out.

• Get tougher on employee discipline and annual reviews, which Carson said hadn't been done consistently or sometimes lacked vital information, such as reprimands, until last year.

"These reviews are supposed to be constructive, they're supposed to be educational, and yep, they're supposed to call people on the carpet," Mayor Dave Eggers said.

• Spend less time trying to sway commissioners to consensus following split votes. "I believe too much time is spent trying to convince that last person to come along with the program," Carson said. "With me, once I say I've heard enough, I would stop and just count me as a lost cause."

Eggers also wants DiSpirito and his staff to continue their efforts to prevent future utility billing problems. In 2009, Dunedin discovered it had been undercharging commercial users of stormwater, water and sewer lines, costing the city $2.2 million over seven years.

"We've made great progress, but we're not there yet," Eggers said.

DiSpirito thanked the commission, accepted responsibility for their criticisms and deflected praise to his staff. He's proud to have hit the five-year mark, the average length of service for city managers in Florida.

"I will redouble my efforts to make 2012 the best year yet," he said.

The jury's still out on how much his salary might rise.

Carson pushed for a larger bonus or raise than the one approved for DiSpirito on Thursday. He noted that, "In the business world, had an individual like Rob come in and done the things that he's done, there'd be a sizeable bonus waiting for him."

DiSpirito last year earned a base salary of $143,691 and another $20,492 worth of benefits, according to city records. He also receives an annual $6,000 car allowance.

Other commissioners agreed that DiSpirito is extremely valuable. But Eggers wants to review what other cities are doing. And Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski wants to look at 2013 budget projections before discussing extra compensation for DiSpirito.

The commission agreed to schedule that conversation for a workshop.

On Friday, DiSpirito said he appreciated the sentiment, but called it a moot point: "I would not accept anything above what the general employees got. It's a team effort."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Dunedin commissioners give City Manager Rob DiSpirito a thumbs-up 02/17/12 [Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2012 8:03pm]
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