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Tarpon Springs city manager resigns under pressure

TARPON SPRINGS — After weeks of acrimony, Ellen Posivach's nine-year tenure as Tarpon Springs' city manager ended quietly Tuesday night.

Posivach resigned from her post during a special session requested by the city commission, which voted to replace her two weeks ago.

A separation agreement is being negotiated between city attorneys and Posivach's lawyer, Dave Linesch.

The numbers are tentative and subject to change, said city spokeswoman Judy Staley. But preliminary figures show Posivach will receive three months' severance worth $31,548 and another $49,321 for 813 hours of unused vacation. She'll also get three months of pension contributions totaling $6,965.

The terms of Posivach's employment contract with the city said she would not receive severance pay if she resigned. However, city commissioners voted unanimously to treat her departure as a "firing without cause," which allows for the severance, retirement plan contributions and payment for unused vacation time.

Commissioners decided Police Chief Mark LeCouris would be acting city manager while a national search is conducted to find a replacement for Posivach.

Posivach's departure came after several meetings where commissioners aired concerns about her management style. The growing friction culminated with an early morning vote April 16 to start looking for her replacement.

Posivach, hired in January 1999, had earned praise from many commissioners over the years for her ability to get things done.

But commissioners balked in early March when she asked to substitute two days of time worked for two days she planned to be out of town.

Commissioners said her request amounted to compensatory time, something they had previously told her she was not eligible for. They were further riled when they learned her trip was to Arizona, where she was interviewing for a job.

At their last meeting, several commissioners said they believed there was a "disconnect" between Posivach and the commission. Posivach agreed there was a problem, but said it stemmed from bickering among board members who often gave her conflicting directions.

Mayor Beverley Billiris suggested a mediation to solve disputes, but three commissioners — Peter Dalacos, Chris Alahouzos and Susan Slattery — ultimately voted to look for new leadership. Billiris and Vice Mayor Robin Saenger dissented.

At Tuesday's meeting, several residents thanked Posivach for her commitment to the city.

Frank DiDonato, the former mayor who hired Posivach, said she possessed "honor, integrity, dignity" and had done "a heck of a job" as city manager.

Posivach thanked city commissioners, staff and residents for "the best nine years" of her career before she left the dais, asking politely, "May I go now?"

Billiris said she was disappointed in the way the situation unfolded and offered her support to Posivach. "I am at your beck and call, because you deserve a lot more than you received," she said.

Billiris started a round of applause that spread to the audience as Posivach made her way out of the room.

Posivach said she will do whatever she can to help staff make a smooth transition through to her departure, but hasn't spent a lot of time thinking about her next move.

"I wish everybody well," Posivach said. "I'm looking forward to, really, a positive future."

Rita Farlow can be reached at (727) 445-4162 or farlow@sptimes.com.

Tarpon Springs city manager resigns under pressure 04/30/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 1, 2008 2:10pm]
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