KENNETH CITY — As council member Troy Campbell struggles with how to handle allegations of poor management in the Police Department, he's ever aware of a factor hanging over his head — Chief Doug Pasley's contract.
The three-year contract will automatically renew at the end of this year for another three years unless the Town Council votes by early July not to renew it. Although the penalty to Kenneth City for not renewing would be the same as a later vote to fire the chief — six months' pay plus accrued vacation and sick time (about $30,900 in salary and $5,200 in accrued sick and vacation pay as of April 30) — a decision not to renew would be a cleaner break than a decision to terminate during Pasley's second term. Campbell has said he wants to have answers and recommendations by that deadline.
"I really feel under the gun," Campbell said recently.
The fact that Pasley has a contract is not unusual. Chiefs from two of the county's four biggest cities — Largo and Clearwater — also have them.
Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne said his city has had contracts with all of its senior administrators at least since the late 1990s when he took over. The contract can be a good thing, he said, to protect both sides if a relationship goes sour. And, he said, it's the professional thing to do.
The agreement can be tailored to the situation so that every one is a little different.
Clearwater police Chief Anthony Holloway's contract specifically states that "nothing in this employment agreement letter shall be construed to establish a fixed time or fixed term of appointment."
Pasley's contract, on the other hand, provides for a term of office. It gives him a three-year term that's automatically renewed for another three unless the council tells him otherwise in writing at least 120 days before the Nov. 12 renewal date.
Not all cities agree that a contract is the way to go when hiring a chief.
St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park — the largest and fourth-largest municipalities in the county — do not have contracts with their chiefs.
"I'm fine, I'm fine with that," Pinellas Park police Chief Dorene Thomas said. Thomas was promoted from within the department and had about 20 years in the Pinellas Park system when she was appointed in October 2000. The department was in turmoil, generally a touchy time to take over leadership. But the idea of a contract never arose.
"I knew what I had here; maybe that's the difference," Thomas said. "It's almost like a good-faith situation. They're trusting me to do the right thing, and I'm trusting that I'll have a job when I come in tomorrow."
If she went somewhere else, would she want a contract? Perhaps.
"If you're coming from the outside, maybe that's the difference. I don't know," she said.
Although Horne said he believes in contracts, he said the Legislature had its reservations in this past session by passing new rules that affect some provisions. One of those is limiting the severance package.
"They didn't question having contracts," Horne said. "They questioned how generous you are in providing certain types of benefits."
Reach Anne Lindberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.