Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg mayor gives bonus vacation to top staffers for RNC work

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Bill Foster has boasted about how great the city looked last month when thousands of visitors invaded during the Republican National Convention.

To beautify the city, employees spent hundreds of hours cleaning streets, hanging banners on light poles and spreading mulch to improve flower beds in intersections.

As a reward for a job well done, Foster gave 70 top staffers 16 hours of paid time off.

"While it can never be enough, I wanted to thank you personally with a small token of administrative leave," Foster wrote this week in a memo to managers, who he said spent countless hours "planning, preparing and executing" to keep everyone safe even as Hurricane Isaac roared in the Gulf of Mexico.

On Thursday, City Administrator Tish Elston said the 1,120 hours of total paid time won't cost taxpayers because the employees, most of them managers, are salaried.

She said the reward wasn't given to front-line workers because they earned overtime for their work. She also said it's likely many of the 70 employees will be too busy to use the extra leave and that they won't be allowed to cash in the hours for money.

"It's a morale booster," she said.

Rick Smith, chief of staff for the Florida Public Services Union, which represents 1,200 city workers, disagreed that the bonus time comes at no cost to the city.

"It's two days off with pay," he said.

Smith doesn't want to cause friction between managers and workers, but he said managers are expected to work longer hours than the rank and file. His union workers have not had raises in four years.

"These people make $100,000 a year," Smith said about managers. "All workers in St. Pete should get a raise. It shouldn't just rise to the top."

Foster defended his action and reiterated that the workers who got paid time off did not get overtime like the front-line workers for their work for the convention and storm. Many, he said, worked 12- to 16-hour days.

"I am trying to run a business here," Foster said. "You take care of your employees.

The City Council learned of Foster's gift from the Tampa Bay Times.

"Oh my God," said Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran.

She said her reaction wasn't about whether the employees deserved a bonus. It was in response to the mayor's need to be more "transparent" on how much the city spent on convention-related activities.

"The expenses are obviously greater than what we're being told. I want a full accounting of all the costs," she said.

Curran pointed to last week's budget hearing where Foster still couldn't say how much was spent to prepare, secure and clean up the city after an Aug. 26 welcome party at Tropicana Field for the Republican National Convention.

Two weeks earlier, Foster included an estimated $580,000 in convention-related expenses in a memo sent to the City Council. This amount was on top of $1 million in security expenses expected to be reimbursed by Tampa from a federal grant.

A day later, he reiterated his vow that taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook for the private party, but later seemed to backtrack when council members pressed him for specifics.

Foster said that some security expenses might not be reimbursed for protecting dignitaries and for training police to control large crowds. He said staff still was tallying up the total staff time that went into the convention.

The council won't learn the actual costs until a November meeting to "clean up" the 2012 budget.

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

St. Petersburg mayor gives bonus vacation to top staffers for RNC work 09/20/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 20, 2012 9:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rubio: Critics distorting facts on Senate health care bill

    Blogs

    Sen. Marco Rubio this morning defended the Senate GOP health care proposal -- though still not saying definitively he's in support -- and accused critics of distorting facts about the number of people who could lose coverage.

  2. Florida issues school grades: F's down, A's and B's up

    Blogs

    Florida's school grades showed marked improvement in 2016-17, according to the results released Wednesday morning.

    Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart
  3. 'Big Bang Theory' star Johnny Galecki loses home to California wildfire

    Blogs

    Johnny Galecki, star of the Big Bang Theory, lost his ranch to a large California fire.

     

  4. Dali a father? He would need to have sex first

    Opinion

    One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, 28 years dead, is about to be pulled from the grave to settle a paternity claim. The case could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Horst P. Horst's portrait of Salvador Dali from the 1930s. [Image from the Dali Museum.]
  5. Aramis Ayala defends stance against death penalty: 'I did what I believe was proper'

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Aramis Ayala, the elected Orlando prosecutor who refuses to seek the death penalty, defended her actions Wednesday as she faced a flurry of hostile questions from Florida Supreme Court justices.

    Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala, far right, said she was "very well pleased" with her lawyer's case. "I violated no laws." [STEVE BOUSQUET | Tampa Bay Times]