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Firings of two New Port Richey officials remain unexplained

Susan Dillinger says she has been advised not 
to discuss 
the firings.

Susan Dillinger says she has been advised not to discuss the firings.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Four days after firing two high-ranking New Port Richey officials, interim city manager Susan Dillinger would not explain her actions — even to at least one of the people she dismissed.

Dillinger informed Mayor Bob Consalvo on Thursday that she had fired city finance director Doug Haag and human resources director Lindy Thomas. But on Monday, the firings were not addressed as the City Council unanimously approved New Port Richey's budget — the creation of which Haag oversaw — for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

After the meeting, Dillinger shed no more light on the situation saying the city's labor attorney, David Miller, advised her not to discuss the firings or complete any written documentation as to why Haag and Thomas were fired. The only documents on file with the city were generic letters letting the two directors know they were no longer employed.

"I know how to take legal advice," Dillinger told the Times.

Miller declined to comment for this story.

Consalvo said last week he has not been told why the directors were fired, an assertion Deputy Mayor Bill Phillips echoed after the meeting Monday.

"I was told by the interim city manager and the police chief (Kim Bogart) that there were grounds," Phillips said.

Bogart declined comment, as did Thomas, 53, who had been with the city since April 2011. For his part, Haag is in the dark as to why he was fired, but declined to discuss the matter further.

The city hired Haag, 60, in June 2011.

"I was given no reason, and beyond that I have no comment at this time," Haag said.

The firings come as Dillinger's tenure as interim city manager appears to be winding down. Last week, the City Council re-opened its search for a permanent hire but pledged to have interviews of candidates completed by the end of October.

Dillinger, who has not sought the permanent position, was appointed in October 2012 following the departure of former city manager John Schneiger, who was given severance pay after saying he had lost the support of the City Council.

Prior to Dillinger's appointment, it was actually Haag who spent weeks leading New Port Richey as acting city manager while Schneiger took weeks of medical and vacation leave prior to the announcement of his departure.

Tax rate not rising

For the first time in two years, the New Port Richey council is not raising property taxes in the city.

On Monday, the council unanimously approved setting its tax rate at $9.5799 per $1,000 of assessed property value, the same as last year. So on a property valued at $100,000, an owner would pay $957 in city taxes next year.

The last time the city opted not to raise the millage rate is 2011. Last year, the council faced a huge deficit and increased the millage rate by 14 percent. Also on Monday, the council unanimously approved a $52,818,745 budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year which begins Oct. 1.

Firings of two New Port Richey officials remain unexplained 09/24/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 7:24pm]
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