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Professional group censures Safety Harbor city manager who left briefly for job in St. Pete

SAFETY HARBOR — A national professional group censured City Manager Matt Spoor last week for leaving a job he took with St. Petersburg after only six weeks and for interfering in Safety Harbor's attempt to recruit a replacement city manager.

The International City/County Management Association accused Spoor of three ethics violations, saying it was "inappropriate and unprofessional" for him to sign on as director of management and budget for St. Petersburg in January 2012, only to resign six weeks later.

The ICMA, based in Washington, D.C., wrote in a news release that Spoor "provided insufficient justification" for leaving the position so soon.

He should have kept his commitment for at least two years, the release states. Only extenuating circumstances, such as severe personal problems or if the employer doesn't honor commitments about employment conditions, would have been acceptable reasons to leave.

The association also called it an ethics violation for Spoor to call other applicants when he was seeking to return as Safety Harbor's city manager. One of the applicants withdrew, according to the ICMA.

The ICMA doesn't have the authority to remove Spoor from his job.

Spoor, who is generally well-regarded as Safety Harbor's city manager, had held the position for four years before he took the position in St. Petersburg.

When he wanted to return to the Safety Harbor job, city commissioners welcomed him warmly, voting 5-0 to cancel scheduled interviews with the five finalists they'd recruited to replace him.

Spoor did not immediately return calls to his cellphone last week.

But former Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold, who was in office when Spoor left and returned, said he doesn't think Spoor did anything unethical.

The two discussed ICMA's two-year rule when they talked about Spoor returning to his post.

"Things were not as they were made out to be for him in St. Pete," said Steingold, adding that Spoor would not say anything negative in public about an employer.

Steingold also thought at the time that it was a good idea for Spoor to call the finalists for the Safety Harbor job to let them know that he was trying to get his job back.

"I think it would have been unethical … for him to jump in, unbeknownst to them. He called to give them a heads up" before they went through the final interview process.

Steingold said no one from the ICMA called him to discuss the situation. He learned about the censure from a Times reporter.

"I don't think they know the situation," he said of the ICMA board members who issued the censure.

"I understand they have their technical violations. But I never felt Matt Spoor was anything but professional."

Staff writer Diane Steinle contributed to this report. Contact Brittany Alana Davis at bdavis@tampabay.com or (850) 323-0353.

Professional group censures Safety Harbor city manager who left briefly for job in St. Pete 04/02/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 5, 2013 3:37pm]
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