ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Bill Foster lost two key members of his staff this week.
Wayne Finley, a contracts and grants officer who makes about $73,000 a year, resigned around noon Thursday. His departure surprised Foster and City Council members.
Finley, who started working for the city in 2006, will take a new position doing similar work for Hillsborough County. The job came with a 25 percent raise.
"I've been a little stifled here," he said. "We've been through budget cuts. It's giving me an executive management position."
Earlier this week, Lori Matway, the city's education and government services manager, announced she is going back to the Pinellas County School District. She will be an associate superintendent of student and community support.
Matway came to the city in 2007 and earned about $97,000 a year.
Some City Council members were unhappy that they learned about the departures from the Tampa Bay Times.
"I hate to keep hearing these things from others outside of City Hall," said council member Leslie Curran.
Foster said he knew Matway was considering a new job, but he also learned about her resignation by reading the Times.
"I read about it online Tuesday," Foster said. "It was handled terribly."
Matway will earn more money with the school district and have more advancement opportunities, he told the group.
The departures will not hurt St. Petersburg, Foster said, adding: "All of these resignations will provide us with great opportunities to shake things up."
Council member Wengay Newton asked whether more people are leaving. Foster said he didn't know.
Speculation is swirling around City Hall that key staffers are leaving because they fear Foster will not be re-elected later this year.
Foster scoffed and pointed to the higher salaries that Matway and Finley will earn in their new jobs.
"It's an election year," Foster said. "People will say anything they want."
City Council Chairman Karl Nurse told his colleagues that the way the group conducts business contributes to making staffers unhappy. The group routinely bickers among themselves and lobs insults at each other in public meetings
"It's not about money," he said.
Curran replied: "Speak for yourself."
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.