PORT RICHEY — The buzz at City Hall was that retiring Zephyrhills City Manager Steve Spina had contacted Port Richey officials with interest in part-time work as a city manager.
Or did he?
City Council members Tuesday night said Spina had thrown his hat in the ring to be considered for a temporary city manager position, taking the spotlight off a discussion on whether to hire former New Port Richey City Manager Tom O'Neill as interim city manager.
That was all news to Spina, who told the Times on Wednesday that he has not sought — and has no interest in — any post in Port Richey.
Spina refuted the claim by Mayor Richard Rober that he sent an e-mail saying he had interest in a city manager position at Port Richey. (Rober was unable to provide that e-mail to the Times on Wednesday.)
Spina said he doesn't know why his name came up during Tuesday's Port Richey council meeting. He is retiring next month from Zephyrhills and moving on from life as a city manager.
"I am going in another direction," Spina said.
But on Tuesday night, as Port Richey council members kicked around the prospect of landing Spina as a part-time city manager, the proposal to hire O'Neill again went by the wayside.
Rober announced he had negotiated an $80,000 yearly salary with O'Neill, which could be broken down into a month-to-month contract of $6,667. But when council member Nancy Britton — who, along with Rober, has pushed for hiring O'Neill — made a motion to approve those figures and hire him, the council went silent.
With no second, Britton's motion died and the council took no action, much to Britton's disgust.
"We have jerked this man's chain for far too long," Britton said.
The council has been in negotiations with O'Neill for months since the firing of City Manager Ellen Posivach in February, but debate over his hiring has been robust among a council still reeling from controversy over a possible $90,000 payout to the former manager. O'Neill declined to comment for this story.
Spina's 15 years' experience as Zephyrhills city manager caught the eye of council member Steve O'Neill (no relation to Tom O'Neill), who called the prospect of bringing Spina on part time on an hourly rate "inviting."
Steve O'Neill also referenced Britton's ire, saying his stance on hiring anyone is "caution, caution, caution."
"Some of us are gun-shy," he said at the meeting.
On Wednesday, Britton said the talk of Spina having interest in working at Port Richey clouded the focus on Tom O'Neill.
"Basing a decision on rumors, shame on that," she said.
Vice Mayor Bill Colombo said he didn't second Britton's motion because he still wants more details on how the city will pay O'Neill. He said he didn't link the Spina discussions to his reluctance to move forward with O'Neill.
Rober said the council can still consider hiring O'Neill at a later meeting. But the question in his mind is whether O'Neill still wants to deal with the city after the council's inaction.
"Quite frankly, I don't know how he is going to receive what we didn't do here," Rober said.