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Indian Rocks Beach wins lawsuit, loses money as a result

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — More than two years after suing a former city manager, it appears the city will spend much more money than it says the manager was improperly paid.

Thus far, the city has spent $33,734 in legal fees in its effort to get back the $15,650.05 it says former City Manager Al Grieshaber Jr. overcharged the city for compensatory time and reimbursed moving expenses.

The city won its case in court, but also was ordered to pay Grieshaber the $6,620.70 in vacation pay the city withheld when the dispute began in 2007.

The city, therefore, will net $9,029.35 from the split jury award.

It is legally barred from getting back any of its legal fees. The city does hope to get back $3,227.18 in court costs.

In the best case, this would result in the city getting back $12,256.53, or only about one-third of its legal costs.

The city's loss on its legal investment could increase even further, however, if Grieshaber wins his effort to force the city to pay part or all of the $31,866.05 he spent on attorney's fees and court costs.

City Attorney Maura Kiefer told the City Commission last month that Circuit Judge John A. Schaefer says Grieshaber should be limited to no more than one-third of his legal expenses, since he lost the major part of the case.

That would mean the city might have to pay Grieshaber $10,622.02, reducing the city's best-case net return to $1,634.51.

No money has yet changed hands, and a court hearing is scheduled for January.

City Attorney Maura Kiefer defended the city's decision to pursue Grieshaber in court.

"I still stand behind what the city for what they did. Everybody complains about government waste, and here is the city trying to do something about it. The jury did find Grieshaber made negligent representations to the city," she said.

Grieshaber, who is general manager at Sun n' Lake, an improvement district near Sebring in Highlands County, resigned his post in Indian Rocks Beach in 2006, less than a year after he was hired.

Shortly after his announced resignation, but before he actually left, the city questioned several checks it had issued Grieshaber for moving expenses. The city said the expenses were not properly documented.

Grieshaber never provided that documentation, instead signing an affidavit that the money was spent only for moving expenses. He told the city he had traded personal goods and/or cash to friends and individuals who helped him move.

Grieshaber also maintained that his contract was "not subject to interpretation" and allowed him to take whatever comp time he deemed appropriate.

Grieshaber was the second in a series of city managers who quit over disputes with the City Commission.

John Coffey, who was promoted to city manager in 2003, resigned in 2005 after coming under sharp criticism for his handling of the firing and subsequent rehiring of a popular building official.

Grieshaber was replaced by Steve Cottrell, who resigned after less than a year, saying he "regretted" taking the job.

The current city manager, Chuck Coward, remains popular and has not experienced the difficulties experienced by his predecessors.

Indian Rocks Beach wins lawsuit, loses money as a result 11/03/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 3:26pm]

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