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New Port Richey city manager plans to step down

NEW PORT RICHEY — City Manager John Schneiger's tenure is coming to an end.

Schneiger, 57, who has been on medical leave since Sept. 7, had been due to return Monday, but instead called for a meeting with Mayor Bob Consalvo and announced his desire to leave the city. Schneiger could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

"He feels he has lost the support of the majority of council. He does not feel he can be an effective leader of the city," Consalvo told the City Council during a meeting Tuesday night.

The council instructed the city attorney to draft a settlement in which Schneiger will resign in return for the severance outlined in his contract. That roughly $44,000 payout includes four months of pay plus compensation for his unused vacation and sick time. The agreement will also include a clause saying neither side will make negative comments about the other. The council is expected to vote on the settlement at a special meeting Tuesday.

Consalvo also asked council members to come to the special meeting with ideas on an interim city manager and the process to hire a new one. City finance director Doug Haag has been serving as acting city manager since Schneiger went on medical leave.

Consalvo told the Times on Wednesday that he believes the city's grueling budget season, which included layoffs, took its toll on Schneiger. Consalvo said he met with Schneiger on the day he took medical leave and found him to be "distraught, tired and exhausted."

"I told him he had pushed himself to the limit," Consalvo said.

Consalvo did not hear from him again until Monday. Schneiger did not go into detail about why he thought he had lost support from certain council members, only that it was based on individual conversations, Consalvo said.

Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe told the Times he also had a conversation Monday with Schneiger during which he said three of five council members no longer supported him.

"He'd done the math and saw that he had lost," Marlowe said. "I am very disappointed that we are losing him. The job really took a toll on him."

Marlowe praised Schneiger's work, saying he faced an uphill battle combatting the city's dire financial problems. He instilled tighter oversight of employees and reduced funding for nonprofits and special events that rubbed some people the wrong way, Marlowe said. Last year Schneiger had proposed eliminating about $180,000 in city support of various special events, including Chasco Fiesta and the holiday parade, but after outcry from event organizers, council members restored a portion of the funding.

"He had alienated so many people that I knew this day would come," said real estate broker Greg Armstrong said, who runs the Holiday Rotary Christmas Parade. "He would come in and tell people here's how we are going to fix this, instead of asking for input to find a solution."

Still, Marlowe said the city's financial straits demanded such an approach.

"You've got a prescription for making a lot of people unhappy as you clean up these issues and he became a lightning rod," Marlowe said. "He stepped on a lot of toes, but those toes needed to be stepped on."

Council member Bob Langford agreed, saying Schneiger did an "exceptional" job turning around the culture in the city.

"I think he's a great man. I haven't worked with anyone more honest," Langford said. "I just think it overall got to him, taking heat from the public sector and employees for basically going in the direction we told him go, then being blamed by outsiders for the direction that the City Council had given him."

Langford also said he believed a faction of three council members no longer supported Schneiger, though he declined to name them.

"It was very clear at least to me, that three members of council did not support him. If you have five bosses, and three of them think you ought to move on, are you going to continue to work there?" Langford said. "I mean, you kind of get the hint."

Consalvo said he has disagreed with Schneiger on policy issues but feels he always had a good relationship with the city manager.

"He may have felt because of that he didn't have my support, I don't know. He never said that to me," Consalvo said. "I think he cares about the city and his heart was in the right place."

Council member Bill Phillips declined Wednesday to discuss "personal" conversations he had with Schneiger. Council member Judy DeBella Thomas could not be reached for comment.

"We're in the middle of this process so I really don't think it's prudent to say anything. I will say Mr. Schneiger could have made this situation much more difficult on the city and he didn't. It's really admirable when someone looks at a situation and says, 'You know, it's time for me to move on, and I want to do it in a cooperative way,' " said Phillips.

New Port Richey city manager plans to step down 10/03/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 8:23pm]
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