Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Pete Beach rushes to boost Bonfield's contract before new law takes effect

ST. PETE BEACH — A proposed contract with City Manager Mike Bonfield may be illegal under a city ordinance, as well as an attempt to beat a new state law that goes into effect July 1.

The commission approved a contract several weeks ago, but it was never signed by Bonfield.

Now, several commissioners want to increase the length of Bonfield's severance package and they are in a hurry to do it.

A new state law that restricts severance pay for government employees to no more than 20 weeks will go into effect Friday.

Severance is an amount that may be paid to an employee who is fired for reasons other than cause.

Further complicating the issue is a city ordinance last updated in 1983 that specifically restricts a city manager's severance pay to no more than two months.

The code reads:

"Upon the adoption of a final motion of removal, the city manager shall be paid an amount equivalent to two months' salary as severance pay. This subsection shall not apply where the city manager's removal is based upon a violation of any state, county or municipal law. No severance pay shall be paid unless the city manager has been employed with the city for 12 full months."

City Attorney Mike Davis said Thursday that the code does not apply to severance pay specified in a contract.

"That has always been the interpretation, that the code only applies where there is no contract," Davis said.

Mayor Steve McFarlin said Friday he was unaware of the city code, and would have to rely on Davis' interpretation.

McFarlin is in favor of giving Bonfield a six-month severance package, but not increasing it beyond that amount.

"I would not be in favor of enhancing any employees' benefits at this time," he said.

However, a majority of the commission feels differently and appears poised to increase Bonfield's severance pay to at least nine months and possibly a full year at Tuesday's commission meeting.

That meeting is the last chance the commission will have to set Bonfield's severance pay beyond the 20-week limit approved by the state Legislature.

"If the commission acts before July 1, it will be okay," Davis said.

After July 1, the new state law will prevail.

The law applies to contracts and employment agreements that contain a severance provision negotiated and executed by "a unit of government" on or after July 1.

The new law specifically requires that "severance pay provided may not exceed an amount greater than 20 weeks of compensation" and prohibits any severance when an employee is fired for misconduct.

Bonfield's present contract was originally written in 2002 and renewed by previous commissions every two years.

That contract limits severance pay to whatever is left on the contract term, which now expires in January.

Bonfield doesn't want to wait until January to have a new contract in place.

He now wants an open-ended contract that would continue indefinitely until cancelled by either party on a 60-day notice.

He asked that it include severance equivalent to a full year's salary.

In May, the commission agreed to six months' severance, but at Commissioner Bev Garnett's urging is now reconsidering increasing that amount to at least nine months.

"We've got laws changing in July," Garnett said recently. "We just need to address this and move on."

Bonfield, who never signed the contract approved in May, now plans to wait until after Tuesday's meeting.

"We'll have to see what happens," he said.

St. Pete Beach rushes to boost Bonfield's contract before new law takes effect 06/25/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 25, 2011 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Romano: C'mon Rick Baker, tell us how you really feel about Trump

    Local Government

    A brief timeline of presidential politics in St. Petersburg:

    Rick Baker, center,  waves to drivers while holding a sign that reads "Thank You" along with his family and supporters.
  2. In St. Petersburg mayor's race, Rick vs. Rick is also Rays vs. Rowdies


    ST. PETERSBURG — Maybe before the NFL's national anthem uproar you assumed professional sports were apolitical endeavors. You'd be dead wrong in the case of St. Petersburg's mayoral race.

    Rep. Janet Cruz D-Tampa, left, Rafaela Amador, Tampa Bay Rays Senior Director of Public Relations, center, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman talk with reporters during a press conference at Signature Flight Support in Tampa after returning from Ponce, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 11. (WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times)
  3. What we've learned from the Bucs' and Bills' playoff droughts


    Is it possible for the Buccaneers and Bills to be any farther off the NFL's radar? You get the feeling schedule-makers didn't think twice about putting this one down for 1 p.m. Sunday — the let's-hope-no-one-notices time slot.

    [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Motorcycle driver killed after hitting turning car on Keene Road in Largo


    A motorcycle driver was killed Friday evening when he struck a turning car, Largo police said.

  5. Drive-by shooting near Robles Park injures four people standing outside in crowd


    TAMPA — Four people standing in a crowd were hit by bullets during a drive-by shooting near Robles Park in Tampa late Friday, Tampa police said.