Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Madeira Beach appoints interim city manager, is sued by former city manager

MADEIRA BEACH — Madeira Beach city managers — past, present and future — made news at City Hall last week, just days before an election that will determine how the city will be run for at least the next two years.

On Tuesday, fire Chief Bill Mallory was appointed interim city manager to replace departing City Manager W.D. Higginbotham Jr.

On Thursday, the city was served with notice of a lawsuit filed by former City Manager Jim Madden, who is challenging the City Commission's decision last month to pay Higginbotham a severance package that includes six months' salary.

And Friday was Higginbotham's last day serving as the city's manager.

Higginbotham, 69, asked the commission to terminate his contract last month, saying he could not work with the commission that will exist after Tuesday's municipal election.

He declined to comment Friday on what he will do next, but he did have some advice for the city.

"It will be important for the new commission to understand the difference between the general fund, enterprise and capital funds, between onetime and ongoing expenditures," he said Friday. "It is not true, it is flat not true that the city's budget is not balanced."

Higginbotham came under fire last summer for his then-recommended city budget from a group that will now form a majority on the commission — Commissioners Carol Reynolds and Nancy Oakley and Robin Vander Velde, who, because of no opposition, will automatically fill the District 4 seat now held by Steve Kochick.

Kochick is running for mayor against Travis Palladeno, who has also been critical of the city's finances.

Last summer and fall, Palladeno, Oakley, Vander Velde and others, including Madden, met privately to discuss the city's budget and future course.

A state attorney investigation of one of those meetings found no evidence that it violated the state Sunshine Law, even though Oakley was a city commissioner and Palladeno and Vander Velde were members of the city's Planning Board.

Management of the city's finances is a major issue in the current election campaign.

Oakley, who was not opposed for re-election, recently asked the city for copies of pay and benefits contracts with its general employee and firefighter unions.

During the commission debate Tuesday over what to pay Mallory as interim city manager, Oakley initially objected to any contract longer than a month.

"That would give the next commission an opportunity to make their own decision. We don't know what they would do," she said.

When the city attorney pointed out that Mallory could be relieved of his city manager duties at any time, she agreed to the contract, which will pay Mallory an extra $1,000 every two-week pay period.

Mallory makes $74,672 a year as fire chief. The raise brings his salary to an annual equivalent of $100,672. Higginbotham was paid $92,250 a year.

"We need to take into consideration that Bill (Mallory) will be doing four jobs: fire chief, city manager, code enforcement officer and community health officer," Mayor Pat Shontz said.

The scuttlebutt around town and on blogs is that Oakley, Reynolds, Vander Velde and Palladeno want to hire Madden back as either city manager or to fill the now-vacant post of community development director.

When asked directly, all say they "like" Madden but deny that is their intent. Madden has had no comment, but he remains critical of financial decisions made by the city.

His lawsuit contends that the city improperly approved Higginbotham's severance package that he says totals more than $78,800 with pay and benefits.

He maintains that because the formal resolution terminating Higginbotham's city manager contract was not advertised on the official agenda, or read out during the meeting, that violated both state law and city codes.

According to official minutes, the commission voted 4-1 to accept Higginbotham's request for termination and the "appropriate resolution." It was not until after that Feb. 8 meeting that the city attorney provided the formal resolution that was subsequently signed by the mayor.

Madden is asking the Circuit Court to prevent the city from executing Higginbotham's severance package without a "proper" vote.

If the court were to agree, it likely could not occur before Tuesday's municipal election.

Such a vote would be made by the new commission, and the majority might be reluctant to ratify the severance package, even though Oakley and Reynolds did vote for it last month.

Madeira Beach appoints interim city manager, is sued by former city manager 03/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 5, 2011 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics


    Winner of the week 1: 'Liquor wall’ proponents. Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of a bill to allow Walmart, Target and other big box stores to sell liquor was a victory for an array of groups, from smaller merchants and Publix (which has stand-alone booze shops near its stores) to those who feel the hard stuff …

  2. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  3. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  4. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  5. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.