PINELLAS PARK — Officials here pride themselves on trying creative, out-of-the-box solutions to issues facing the city.
But their latest innovation — to let a police captain and the fire chief train and compete for the job of city manager — may have collided with the state Constitution, which forbids dual office holding.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi ruled on April 18 that the dual-office-holding clause prohibited a Miami police officer from simultaneously serving as acting city manager, The ban applies, Bondi said in the opinion, even if the "appointment is of a limited and finite duration, without tenure or additional remuneration."
She referred to a 2006 opinion "in which this office concluded that a city police chief could not serve as city manager until a successor was appointed without violating the dual office-holding prohibition."
Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell said the city does not believe the ruling applies to Pinellas Park.
"We do not believe we have a problem with the ruling the way things are set up now," Caddell said. "It's not the same situation."
But, at least on the surface, the situations appear to be very similar.
City Manager Mike Gustafson announced earlier this year that he planned to retire sometime in the next few years. Fire Chief Doug Lewis and Capt. Mike Haworth, the second-in-command in the Police Department, told him they wanted his job.
Gustafson decided to let the two test drive the job. He appointed them co-interim assistant city managers. As such, they will oversee city departments, and complete projects and tasks. Gustafson said the idea would provide on-the-job training, give them a chance to see if they really want the position, and give him a good idea of which is better for the job, or if the council should look elsewhere for a replacement. The understanding was that neither would lose his current position and could return if not chosen to succeed Gustafson.
Haworth, 51, received a 5 percent bump in salary from the $94,613 a year he was earning as police captain to $99,344 a year. Capt. Kevin Riley has taken over his daily duties in the Police Department.
Lewis, 57, also received a 5 percent salary jump from about $115,276 a year to about $121,040 annually. District fire Chief of Training Guy Keirn has been promoted to interim fire chief.
City attorney James Denhardt said he analyzed the opinion and compared it to Pinellas Park's setup.
"It is my belief that our situation does not fall under that opinion," Denhardt told city officials.
Neither Haworth nor Lewis has any powers to set policy and, if Gustafson is gone, his duties are taken over by Assistant City Manager Tom Shevlin. And, Denhardt said, neither the captain nor the chief are continuing to perform the duties they had before the change. Haworth is not carrying a gun, nor serving as a police officer. Lewis is not functioning as fire chief.
"Neither of them are holding or serving in dual offices at this time," Denhardt said.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8450.