TARPON SPRINGS — City commissioners said they were stunned earlier this month when City Manager Ellen Posivach asked to use city time, not her own, to fly to Arizona for a job interview this week.
Posivach had suggested she "substitute" a weekend she planned to work at a conference for two days she needed for the trip. This month, after three commissioners raised questions, she changed her request and decided to use vacation time.
Commissioners said this week they made it clear months ago: the city doesn't offer compensatory time for salaried workers.
"When I read the city manager's memo, I was flabbergasted because I thought we were completely done with that," Commissioner Robin Saenger said during Tuesday night's meeting.
To eliminate confusion once and for all, commissioners on Tuesday asked City Attorney Jim Yacavone to draft a new policy for upper-level management to address any absences not covered under vacation time or sick leave.
The new policy would require the city manager to get approval from the commission if she intends to take more than one day off in exchange for time worked.
The commission decided to allow the one-day absence without approval so Posivach and other upper-level managers could retain flexibility in scheduling time. Commissioners agreed upper-level managers need some degree of flexibility to get their job done.
Yacavone said Wednesday he was consulting with labor lawyer Tom Gonzalez about the new policy. Yacavone said he would review Gonzalez's findings and present those to the board at a later date.
Commissioners will review the new policy during the April 1 meeting.
But one commissioner made it clear he would like to pursue the issue even further.
Commissioner Peter Dalacos presented the board with research he had conducted that showed previous commissions had okayed extra vacation and sick leave benefits for Posivach. Those extra benefits conflict with the city's contract with Posivach, said Dalacos. Those concessions weren't granted to other upper-level management, he added.
"We're giving her something we're not giving other exempt employees," he said.
Mayor Beverley Billiris and other commissioners said they needed time to review the information Dalacos presented.
But Dalacos persisted, finally telling commissioners he believed Posivach hadn't been upfront with commissioners about the extent of her benefits.
"I've lost confidence in the city manager and her handling of the board as it pertains to her," he said.
Billiris adjourned the meeting without further discussion.
During public comments, former City Commissioner Jim Kolianos said he was "embarrassed" for the commissioners because the city manager was making them look "quite honestly, a little foolish," he said. "Why are you tolerating it?"
Kolianos implied it was time for Posivach to move on.
"I'm asking you to address the problem," Kolianos said. "And I think you know what the problem is."
Posivach, who is in Arizona this week, left a message in response to a phone call from a Times reporter saying she wasn't comfortable commenting on a meeting she had not attended.
But Posivach said she believed it was "imperative" that commissioners provide a "clear policy and a clear process" to avoid similar confusion in the future.
"My concern from the beginning is that whatever the commission wants to be done in regard to the process, I have absolutely no problems with that. I'm happy to follow whatever the process is," she said. "There did seem to be some confusion and I'm hoping that confusion gets cleared up."
Rita Farlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4162.