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Madeira Beach city manager choice seeks more than officials want to pay

MADEIRA BEACH — Plans to hire Scott Sundermeier as city manager hit a roadblock Wednesday when he demanded a salary and benefits package nearly $80,000 more than the city offered another candidate just two months ago.

The commission instructed its attorney, Tom Trask, to counter with a much lower package.

Sundermeier told Trask in an e-mail Friday morning that he would study the offer over the weekend and respond Monday.

The city has been without a city manager since February, when W.D. Higginbotham Jr. suddenly asked the commission to fire him, explaining that he could not work with the commission that he expected would be elected in March.

Commission members are trying to find a permanent city manager who would also serve as public works director.

Their first pick, Belleair Beach Public Works Director Allen Godfrey, turned down the job, citing a lack of support from two commission members.

The commission then began a two-month search and interviewed their top three picks July 29.

Sundermeier was offered the job and asked to fill in numbers on a proposed contract.

The advertised salary range was between $80,000 and $100,000.

Higginbotham had earned $92,250. With benefits his pay package totaled $123,431.

Godfrey was offered an $83,000 salary for a total $109,040 pay package.

On Wednesday, the commission learned that Sundermeier wants to be paid $125,000 as well as significantly higher retirement, life insurance and other benefits. He also wants five months of severance pay — $52,000 — in addition to the pay package, if the commission were to fire him without cause.

The commission quickly dismissed the requested salary and reduced many of the proposed perks as well.

"It should stay within the advertised dollar amount," Mayor Travis Palladeno said to unanimous agreement.

"If he came in and in two months we found it was a very bad fit for him and for us, I don't want to be set to pay him five months' salary," Commissioner Robin Vander Velde added.

Commissioner Nancy Oakley also objected to a flat $5,000 relocation payment and instead wants any housing or relocation reimbursement to be based on actual costs.

The commission also reduced a requested $500 monthly car allowance to $350 and cut his requested $18,000 retirement benefit in half.

On Thursday, Trask told Sundermeier the commission would pay him a $90,000 salary and itemized the reduced benefit package. Sundermeier, 58, is a part-time construction consultant in Boynton Beach and previously worked for the city of Coconut Creek for more than 27 years, including as public works director. He served briefly as the city's interim city manager in 1993.

The $187,343 pay package sought by Sundermeier clearly will not achieve the level of savings Palladeno sought when he was elected in March.

Public Works Director Mike Maxemow, who is slated to lose his job, currently earns a $73,228 salary, and his total package with benefits costs the city $87,782.

Under the current city budget, the combined pay and benefits cost to the city for Higginbotham and Maxemow is $211,213.

If Godfrey had been hired, it would have reduced that total by about $100,000.

If Sundermeier accepts the city's counteroffer — or he and the city agree to other terms — he apparently will not be able to assume his new duties full time until Sept. 6.

The commission has asked, however, that he attend four budget workshop meetings in August.

Madeira Beach city manager choice seeks more than officials want to pay 08/06/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 5, 2011 4:45pm]
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