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Port Richey delays vote on hiring interim city manager

PORT RICHEY — Former New Port Richey City Manager Tom O'Neill will have to wait to find out whether he will take over as Port Richey's interim city manager.

On Wednesday, a divided Port Richey City Council delayed a vote on the matter until its April 26 meeting.

Council member Nancy Britton moved to approve hiring O'Neill but ran into opposition from council members Terry Rowe, Bill Colombo and Mayor Richard Rober.

"I just think he has the personality to bring the city back and our employees to happier days," Britton said.

O'Neill, 57, spent more than three decades working for New Port Richey. He wants $92,500 a year to serve as the smaller city's interim manager.

He is also requesting $200 a month for medical benefits, a $50 monthly cell phone allowance and either use of a city vehicle or $250 a month to use his own. O'Neill is not seeking a severance package of any kind upon a contract termination, only a payout of unused vacation time.

Rober first proposed entering into negotiations with O'Neill nearly two months ago, after the council fired Ellen Posivach. He still says O'Neill would be an asset to the city, but money is a major roadblock.

"It's not an issue of desire. It's an issue of funding," Rober said.

Finance director Pam Zeiglar said the city could possibly pay O'Neill from the Community Redevelopment Agency and the utilities fund. But any additional money needed from the city's general fund is unavailable, she said.

Rowe has concerns beyond money. He favors putting out requests for a permanent city manager right away. Candidates could include O'Neill if he wished to apply.

Rowe said hiring O'Neill now would give the public the impression that the council was heading down the same road it traveled with Posivach, who also began as an interim city manager.

The council eventually fired Posivach, claiming she violated city purchasing procedures. That had been preceded by months of controversy over her use of city funds for conferences and criticism that she worked too much from home.

Posivach wants about $90,000 in severance and other payments from the city, but officials have not heard from her requesting any kind of settlement, Rober said Thursday.

Rowe also expressed concern that O'Neill has been negotiating a possible contract with Zeiglar and Port Richey police Chief Dave Brown, who is also serving as acting city manager.

"They have been negotiating with a person who could possibly be their boss one day," Rowe said. "That's our job."

Port Richey delays vote on hiring interim city manager 04/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 8:36pm]
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