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St. Pete Beach considers giving city manager bigger severance package

ST. PETE BEACH — City manager contract, take two, will appear on Tuesday's City Commission agenda.

Last month, the commission offered Mike Bonfield a new contract that was less than what he asked for.

He went on vacation the next day without signing it.

When he returned to work, he still didn't sign it.

There was no rush, he explained Monday, since his current contract does not expire until January.

But now, commissioners are reconsidering their vote and a majority wants to offer him a bigger severance package.

"Last time, I was Humpty Dumpty on that fence. I am not comfortable with my decision, I want to revisit it. I would like to change my vote," Commissioner Bev Garnett said during a commission meeting last week.

Bonfield's originally proposed contract calls for him to be paid a full year's salary if the commission were to dismiss him.

Since he was hired in 2002, Bonfield's contract called for a two-year, renewable term with severance pay limited to whatever was left on the contract term.

That meant Bonfield could conceivably be paid up to a two-year salary — or nothing at all — depending on how far he was into the contract.

Now, Bonfield wants an open-ended contract that can be canceled by either party on a 60-day notice. He also wants a 12-month severance provision.

That proposal sharply split the commission during a lengthy discussion last month.

Vice Mayor Jim Parent and Commissioner Al Halpern wanted to give Bonfield the 12-month severance, while Mayor Steve McFarlin didn't want to give him any severance at all.

Garnett and Commissioner Marvin Shavlan wanted a smaller severance. They and McFarlin finally agreed to a six-month severance package. Now Garnett has apparently switched sides and, with Parent, Halpern and Shavlan, has a commission majority willing to increase Bonfield's severance.

"I am not in favor of it," McFarlin said during last week's commission debate.

He particularly objected to the commission voting to reconsider Bonfield's contract without it being advertised on the agenda.

"I am not going to sit here while everybody has gone out of this room and changed somebody's pay. That is going to come back to haunt us," McFarlin said.

Garnett, who said residents had objected to the commission not giving Bonfield a stronger contract, said she was willing to wait a week.

"Mike does a great job. He has tough decisions to make and this is a political environment," Garnett said. "There is a lot of discourse in this community where it doesn't matter what you do, it's always wrong. They call for Mike's head all the time."

Garnett said the present commission would not fire Bonfield, but pointed out that each year there are elections and his support on the commission could change.

"We just need to address this and move on," Garnett said.

In April, Bonfield interviewed for a newly created city manager position in Vestavia Hills, Ala., an area where his wife still has family and friends. He didn't get the job and now says he has no intention to look further for a new post.

If Bonfield were to resign voluntarily under the terms of either versions of his new contract, he would not receive any severance pay.

In a related matter, the commission indicated last month it planned to give Bonfield a raise in the next budget, the first raise he will have received since 2007.

In a recent evaluation, Bonfield received a 4.45 rating, half-way between a "very good" and an "excellent." The highest score possible was a 5.

Bonfield currently makes $117,180.96 a year and will be considered for a raise this summer when the commission discusses next year's city budget.

Bonfield said Monday that he will recommend that he receive the same pay hike that he is recommending for other city employees in the 2011-2012 budget — a 2 percent cost of living increase in October plus another 2 percent merit pay hike on each employee's hiring anniversary date.

St. Pete Beach considers giving city manager bigger severance package 06/21/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 4:02pm]

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