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Second Madeira Beach city manager pick bows out of contract negotiations

MADEIRA BEACH — The city was jilted again Sunday when its latest 3-2 pick for city manager pulled out of contract negotiations.

Just what will happen next is unclear, but at least one commissioner does not want Interim City Manager and fire Chief Bill Mallory running the city anymore.

Robin Vander Velde, with the support of a commission majority, called a special meeting for 7 tonight to "consider hiring an interim city manager until a city manager can be appointed."

James "Scott" Sundermeier, a former public works director, was picked by the commission to be the city manager just a week ago.

By Sunday, he had become highly critical of the commission.

After watching last Wednesday's commission rejection of his proposed contract, Sundermeier said in his withdrawal letter he "became more aware of the significant challenges" that the next Madeira Beach city manager must face.

At that meeting, the commission rejected his proposed $125,000 salary and countered with $90,000, as well as more restrictive benefits.

"I am dismayed in the commission's response and believe there is a significant knowledge and expectation gap with respect to the needs of the organization," Sundermeier wrote, saying he plans to pursue "other opportunities."

Vander Velde, who had insisted that the new city manager must be willing to work a six-month probation without a guaranteed severance package, was critical of Sundermeier's decision to withdraw.

A previous city manager pick, Allen Godfrey, also withdrew during contract negotiations.

Sundermeier, who did serve briefly as an interim city manager in 1993, was blunt Sunday about the tasks facing the city.

The city's new manager, Sundermeier said, will be faced with "essentially rebuilding the professional infrastructure of the organization, managing needs and priorities of the commission and community, working closely with the commission to establish positive direction, rebuilding employee morale, and directing the public works department."

Since the beginning of the year, a number of key city administrators have resigned, including the city clerk, the finance director and the development director. The commission also eliminated the city's human resources director and public works director positions.

The previous city manager, W.D. Higginbotham Jr., was fired in February at his request just before Mayor Travis Palladeno's and Vander Velde's election and Commissioner Nancy Oakley's re-election. He said he could not work with the new commission.

The commission is unlikely to pick one of the remaining two finalists — retired Special Forces Col. Ken Hurst or former Treasure Island City Manager Peter Lombardi — according to Palladeno

When asked why Mallory might be replaced, he said the city "needs better management."

Vander Velde, Oakley and Reynolds did not return repeated calls requesting comments.

Commissioner Terry Lister said he is "just appalled" about replacing Mallory and the new commission's recent actions.

"They are really chasing their tail. They have hired two unqualified people. Bill Mallory has bent over backwards to do everything they ask," Lister said. "He has done a heck of a job."

Joe Jorgensen, a former chairman of the city's Board of Adjustment, frequently consulted by Oakley and Vander Velde on issues facing the city, is now pushing for Mallory to be dismissed.

Palladeno acknowledged that he also received "grumblings" from Jorgensen about Mallory.

In an e-mail to the three commissioners just two weeks ago, Jorgensen strongly requested that the commission relieve Mallory.

"He does not have the ability to manage the funds of our city," Jorgensen wrote.

"That charge is unfounded," Mallory responded Tuesday.

When asked who might become the new interim manager, Palladeno said he had "no idea" and then joked, "It might be me. I would love it."

Second Madeira Beach city manager pick bows out of contract negotiations 08/09/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 5:28pm]
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