PORT RICHEY — The City Council has broken its long silence on whether to pay $90,000 in severance and benefits to fired City Manager Ellen Posivach.
On Tuesday night, council members voted unanimously on what they think the payout should be:
Upon the advice of lawyers, council members said little about their reasoning for the decision, instead leaning on a legal stance also issued Tuesday by Port Richey's labor attorney, who argued Posivach is owed nothing.
"The less said up here the better," said council member Terry Rowe.
Under the terms of her contract, Posivach stood to receive $33,856 in severance pay, $42,397 in unused vacation and sick time, and $14,303 in unused compensatory time. But labor attorney Erin Jackson of Tampa wrote a memo arguing Posivach shouldn't get a penny because she breached the city's charter.
The council fired Posivach in February after an audit concluded she had violated city purchasing practices in two instances. She bought a $34,327 data acquisition system for the water department without consulting the council, and later ordered the $25,000 construction of a communications tower without putting it out for bid, the audit found.
Posivach's actions "constitute a departure from generally accepted public management practices and principles, and rise to the level of misfeasance and nonfeasance in office," Jackson wrote.
Not only is Posivach not owed severance, but Jackson also stated she is not "entitled to any accrued leave or other benefits." Nor is Posivach entitled to any pay for unused compensatory time, Jackson contends, because it was her error not to take the time during her employment.
"The city is not obligated to pay Ms. Posivach for unused compensatory time off simply because she failed to exercise her discretion to take that time off," Jackson wrote.
Posivach, who lives in Tarpon Springs where she had also previously served as city manager, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The council accepted Jackson's legal position, and voted to send that memo to Posivach, who on April 26 sent a letter to the city demanding payment of her contract.
Jackson's opinion is contrary to a review of Posivach's contract by former city attorney Michael Brannigan, who days after her firing projected the city would have to pay her the full $90,000.
Council member Nancy Britton asked the city's new attorney, Joseph Poblick, of his opinion. Poblick deferred to Jackson's memo.
He noted that Posivach's next move could be a lawsuit.