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Efforts to oust Port Richey City Manager Ellen Posivach fall short

PORT RICHEY — Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

For all the anger and acrimony among City Council members, their special meeting Tuesday regarding City Manager Ellen Posivach's contract ended just the way it started: A lot was said, but little was changed.

The night's discussion was mostly dominated by what council member Bill Colombo called the "incendiary language" of members Nancy Britton and Terry Rowe, who criticized Posivach's city-sponsored travel and sporadic hours and called for her termination.

"I've honestly lost trust," Britton said. "It'd be like a girlfriend telling you she had an affair. What do you do, pat her on the back and tell her everything will be okay?"

Britton slammed Colombo, Mayor Richard Rober and Vice Mayor Steven O'Neill for approving Posivach's contract last year. The contract — which grants her $135,000 in pay and benefits, the freedom to choose her own hours and no limits on the travel and conference expenses she submits for reimbursement — was targeted as a symbol of council ineptitude.

"You looked at this contract. You read this contract. Did you understand this contract?" said former member Phyllis Grae, one of City Hall's most vocal regulars. "If you did understand it, then shame on you."

Rober defended Posivach and the council from what he called an outsized minority of city cynics.

"I don't see the groundswell of men and women, residents, taxpayers … that are looking for somebody's head on a platter," Rober said. "The constant divisiveness among the few handfuls of men and women who take a role in this city continue to be the undoing of this place."

O'Neill said news of Posivach's travel was a distraction from what she had accomplished.

"Part of this job is being out and being around others who think the same thing," O'Neill said. "Don't talk about the hours. Let's not focus on the travel. Let's talk about what citizens want, and that's results."

Two motions to terminate Posivach — called by Britton and seconded by Rowe, the two members who joined the council after Posivach was hired — failed 3 to 2. Rober, Colombo and O'Neill said keeping Posivach would allow for more continuity in city affairs.

Rober asked Britton whether she would, as a compromise, be open to pushing for a renegotiation of Posivach's contract.

"I can't sell my soul that way. I just can't," she said. "I can't stomach it."

Posivach's contract, which included an 18-month commitment to the city that ended Monday, will continue as is for the foreseeable future. The council did, however, vote to seek new bids on the city attorney position, in an attempt to cut its budget. City Attorney Michael Brannigan is paid a retainer of $4,125 a month, with $185-$200 an hour more for work over 25 hours a month.

Posivach kept mostly quiet through the discussion, circulating a short memo she wrote to the council in response to a Times story this month questioning how closely her timesheets — nine of which listed comp time for the imaginary day of Feb. 30 — had been scrutinized.

"There have been some misleadings here that I'm out to take advantage of the city," she said. Her name, she said, had for months been "dragged through the mud."

But Rowe said he believed the biggest hit was to the city, for allowing Posivach's "embarrassing" conduct to continue unchecked.

"We're looking foolish. They see she's charging us for days that don't even exist," Rowe said. "Gentlemen, if you don't act, you don't act. But you have to be prepared for the consequences."

Contact Drew Harwell at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

Efforts to oust Port Richey City Manager Ellen Posivach fall short 11/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 8:57pm]

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