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St. Pete Beach city manager gets mixed evaluations

ST. PETE BEACH — Tuesday's City Commission review of Mike Bonfield's performance as city manager could mark another end to the city's bitter battles over redevelopment.

Bonfield has been a frequent target of supporters of Citizens for Responsible Growth and earned equally frequent praise from supporters of the rival pro-development group, Save Our Little Village.

In another month, two of his most vocal critics, pro-Citizens for Responsible Growth Commissioners Harry Metz and Linda Chaney, will no longer sit on the commission — replaced by two pro-Save Our Little Village candidates, Beverly Garnett and Jim Parent, who did not draw opposition in the March 10 election.

During Bonfield's evaluation last February, Metz failed to get Bonfield fired.

But the commission did not come to a rousing defense of Bonfield, as three members refused to approve a formal vote of confidence.

Following the March 2008 election, the commission majority shifted slightly with the election of Mayor Michael Finnerty and Commissioners Al Halpern and Christopher Leonard.

Most development-related votes since then put Chaney and Metz in the minority.

Nonetheless, few commission meetings have occurred over the past year without Metz sniping at Bonfield over both major and minor matters.

Tuesday, Bonfield must again face Metz's ire when he, the other commissioners and the mayor will rate Bonfield's job performance on a scale of 1 to 5 (poor, fair, good, very good or excellent).

Mayor Finnerty and Halpern gave Bonfield the highest ratings — averaging 4.46 and 4.67, respectively. Leonard's ratings were more measured at an average 3.63.

As of Friday afternoon, Chaney had not completed her evaluation of Bonfield.

Metz's evaluation was predictably negative. In fact, the only score he gave Bonfield above a "1" was a "3" for "personal appearance."

"If there was a zero in this rating scheme, the city manager would have received a lower score," Metz wrote on an official evaluation form that will be debated at Tuesday's commission meeting.

He charged that Bonfield kept the city in the dark about lawsuits and seemed to enjoy keeping the commission "in a mixed up atmosphere." In Metz's view, Bonfield lacks "mature judgment" and blames others for his inability to properly manage the city.

In stark contrast, Halpern said Bonfield's budget preparation and handling of police and fire contract negotiations was "very impressive."

Halpern gave Bonfield straight 5s for his relationship with the commission and a mix of 4s and 5s in all other evaluation categories.

Mayor Finnerty praised Bonfield for building a relationship with the city's new attorney that "proved to be very stabilizing in this time of confusion."

Leonard gave Bonfield high marks for recruiting and retaining a "very competent and skilled staff," his willingness to meet with him and district residents to resolve problems, and balancing the city's budget without raising property taxes.

However, he criticized as unacceptable the $1.2 million loan from the general fund to the sewer fund and called for more accountability in decisions and actions taken by department heads, city staff and the commission.

"Whenever possible, the city manager needs to take a 'can do' attitude/position rather than citing reasons why something can't be accomplished," Leonard said, adding Bonfield "has more to offer than the level at which (he) is currently performing."

Bonfield currently earns $117,180 and his current contract runs through 2010. He has been city manager in St. Pete Beach since 2002 and formerly served as city manager of Madeira Beach.

St. Pete Beach city manager gets mixed evaluations 02/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 7, 2009 3:31am]

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