Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Special Madeira Beach commission meeting to address city attorney's status

MADEIRA BEACH — The City Commission appears intent on dismissing City Attorney Michael Connolly, who has come under fire for his perceived role in the termination of former City Manager W. D. Higginbotham, Jr.

The newly seated commission will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday to consider, among other things, the "status of (the) city attorney."

Connolly became city attorney in 2005 and is paid a $4,200 monthly retainer and $185 an hour for special legal services. He received $66,500 last year.

Jim Madden, who was city manager from 2002 to 2004, when he was fired by the commission, has sued the city over its decision to terminate Higginbotham. He called the city attorney a "potted plant" for his role in Higginbotham's termination.

Madden claims Connolly "was part of the scam" by not telling the commission that its termination vote would trigger a six-month severance package for Higginbotham totaling more than $78,000.

Last month, rather than resign, Higginbotham requested the city commission terminate his contract because he believed he could not work effectively with the incoming commission.

On Tuesday, that new commission took office and immediately began to change the way its meetings are run.

Previously, residents were allowed up to three minutes to speak on any topic, and comments from the commission and staff were prohibited. When commission members spoke separately later, residents were not allowed to respond.

Newly elected Mayor Travis Palladeno made a point Tuesday to ask city staff members to respond immediately and directly to each resident as they rose to speak.

Connolly's role in the Higginbotham termination was one of the topics residents addressed Tuesday.

"I have been present for six commissions, and I have seen city managers fired and seen city managers resign, but I have never seen it done both ways," said resident Dick Lewis during the public comment session.

"Mr. City Attorney, do you have any comment?" asked Palladeno.

"I had nothing to do with the city manager's decision," Connolly replied.

Last month, Connolly said the only recourse for the commission would be to rescind its resolution terminating Higginbotham, which would put his contract with the city "in full force and effect."

If Madden's suit is successful, it would force the commission to do just that.

Joe Jorgenson, a supporter of newly elected Palladeno and Commissioner Robin Vander Velde, as well as returning Commissioner Nancy Oakley, has e-mailed commissioners protesting their Higginbotham decision and calling for "backroom deals" to be "brought out in the open."

Resident Bill Mohns called Connolly "professionally remiss" by not explaining the ramifications of the commission's vote to terminate Higginbotham.

"The city attorney did the city wrong," Linda Horner wrote in an e-mail to the commission, adding that after the February vote, Connolly told her he had talked to Higginbotham before the meeting and "knew what he was going to do."

In addition to reviewing Connolly's contract, which allows cancellation with 30 days notice, the commission on Tuesday will discuss finding a permanent city manager to replace Bill Mallory, who is interim city manager and fire chief.

Last week, Palladeno said he was impressed with Mallory's performance and would like to consider him for the permanent job.

The commission also plans to review an official audit of the city's 2009-2010 finances.

A majority of the new commissioners, as well as Madden, were highly critical last summer of the city budget proposed by Higginbotham and his staff.

In an unrelated matter, former fire Chief Derryl O'Neal also has sued the city, asking for $2,500 in damages, interest, costs and attorney fees relating to his 2009 firing by Higginbotham.

He claims the city has refused to pay him for unused vacation and medical leave time because they claim he did not return a city-owned pager.

Special Madeira Beach commission meeting to address city attorney's status 03/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 26, 2011 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Loggerhead sea turtle found in Islamorada resident's pool


    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on Monday, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys.

    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on June 22, 2017, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys. [Photo from video]

  2. What Wilson Ramos will mean to the Rays lineup, pitching

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer was stumping for all-star votes for Corey Dickerson during a live interview Wednesday morning on the MLB Network when he lifted the right earpiece on his headset and said, "I hear a buffalo coming."

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos (40) waves to the crowd after being presented with the Silver Slugger Award before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
  3. Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players


    Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

  4. She doesn't care if you accept her, as long as you respect her

    Human Interest

    Mary Jane Taylor finds strength walking quietly among the dead.

    Mary Jane Taylor,18, visits Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa when she is feeling low. "When I hit my low points in life I go the the graveyard," she says. "people are afraid of the graveyard. I love the graveyard." The transgender teen recently graduated from Jefferson High School. She is  enrolled in summer classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville studying international business. She plans to transfer to the University of Florida, attend law school and become a civil rights lawyer. (JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times)
  5. Few new details in state investigation of Tarpon Springs officer-involved shooting of Nick Provenza

    Public Safety

    TARPON SPRINGS — An investigative report, released this week by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, into the officer-involved shooting that killed 25-year-old Nick Provenza included largely the same narrative prosecutors released this month that ruled the shooting a "justifiable homicide."

    Stopping while riding by on his bike Michael Prater, 15, hangs his head after looking at the memorial at Safford and Tarpon avenues for Nick Provenza, a 25-year-old who was shot and killed there during a car show Saturday by a Tarpon Springs police officer. Investigators said Provenza pulled a knife on the cop who shot him. Friends find it hard to believe a man they described as a peaceful vegan and musician would be capable of such an act. Prater didn't know the victim but was at the car show.