DADE CITY — Pasco County commissioners on Tuesday gave newly hired County Administrator Michele Baker a two-year contract with a $170,000 annual salary and a $10,000 raise at the end of a year if she receives a favorable evaluation.
Commissioners voted 4-1, with Henry Wilson Jr. dissenting, to give Baker the deal, which also includes a $450 a month car allowance and 20 weeks of severance pay if she is fired without cause.
Wilson insisted on a change to a clause that said commissioners "may" evaluate Baker after a year. He asked that it be changed to "will" evaluate. He also said he disagreed with the $10,000 raise.
"If she gets a good review, she'll get a raise like everybody else," he said. He also took issue with the car allowance, saying Baker had access to the county fleet if she needed to travel.
Commission Chairman Ted Schrader defended both the raise and car allowance, which was the same monthly amount given to retired County Administrator John Gallagher.
"I think it's more than fair," he said of the raise, adding that Baker's salary is lower than what most large counties pay. It also is $10,000 less than what Gallagher earned.
"It gives her an opportunity to demonstrate she's capable of doing the job," Schrader said.
Other commissioners said the car allowance was fair given that Baker would use her personal car to travel all over the county.
"It's easier than giving her a county vehicle," Schrader said.
Commissioners tweaked a section of the contract that would cover her retirement health insurance benefits once she puts in 30 years of service. They added 30 years of service "to Pasco County." Baker has 20 years of service to the county and 30 years in the Florida Retirement System. Wilson said the county insurance committee was considering ending a policy of providing retirees' health coverage if they have worked for the county or a constitutional officer for 30 years and are too young to be eligible for Medicare, and he wanted Baker's arrangement to be consistent with county policy.
The contract renews automatically unless a 60-day notice is given. It includes provisions for termination if Baker commits a crime of moral turpitude or malfeasance or if she files to run for public office.
Baker, 51, served six years as the county's chief assistant administrator before being chosen two weeks ago to replace Gallagher, She was the county's Plan B after commissioners' top pick, Irving, Texas, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez declined a job offer last month.
A total of four candidates were interviewed.