Tarpon Springs commissioners, city manager at odds

TARPON SPRINGS — After years of relative tranquility on the dais, Tarpon Springs is back.

Back to the brand of sometimes charged public discourse that earned past city commissions a reputation for emotion and drama.

Consider this:

Two weeks ago, one commissioner said he had lost confidence in City Manager Ellen Posivach, who recently interviewed for a job in Arizona but now says she wants to stay.

This week, a second commissioner said, with Posivach seated just a few feet away, that it might be time to begin looking for a new city manager anyway. Posivach is capable, Commissioner Chris Alahouzos said, but if she's out looking, the city needs to consider how to replace her.

And at the same City Commission meeting, Posivach herself said three lawyers had contacted her about the possibility of filing slander suits over comments made about her at a commission meeting two weeks ago.

"I kind of resent that," Alahouzos said. "I took it as a threat. I don't think that was very positive."

Not that Posivach has talked to those attorneys, she said. But she did note that she's been in public service for decades and feels that she's done much for the city.

"We've accomplished so much in the last nine years," she said. "What is the point of this?"

Tuesday night, Alahouzos told colleagues he had serious concerns that the city might be left in a lurch if Posivach left to pursue other opportunities.

"She's looking," Alahouzos said. "She has every right to do that, (but) we have the right to look for another city manager."

But Posivach, 56, said she has no plans to leave the city she loves and has helped shape over the last nine years.

"I'm not out there applying for anything," she said.

Posivach said Goodyear, Ariz., is the only city she's interviewed with during her tenure, though she has been named a finalist for jobs elsewhere twice before. One of those was for a job she didn't even apply for, she said.

Posivach withdrew her application for the Goodyear job, where she was one of three finalists, on March 21. The city has since hired someone else.

Alahouzos requested that commissioners discuss the process of looking for a new city manager at an upcoming meeting. At that time, they'll also discuss another unresolved matter regarding Posivach's vacation and sick leave benefits.

That issue was brought up by Commissioner Peter Dalacos during the board's March 18 meeting. Dalacos said he believed Posivach may have misrepresented to the board the extent of her vacation and sick leave benefits.

"I've lost confidence in the city manager and her handling of the board as it pertains to her," Dalacos said at that time.

Posivach responded this week, saying she had not been given the opportunity to explain her point of view. She was in Arizona interviewing for the Goodyear job during the week of that meeting.

Posivach did not name the lawyers she said had contacted her about a possible lawsuit, but indicated that they had suggested that comments made about her during that March 18 meeting could be the grounds to sue.

Asked by the Times which comments could be construed as slanderous, Posivach said she wasn't sure as she had not returned calls to those attorneys and had not yet read the full transcript of the March 18 meeting.

But she did allude to the fact that numbers presented by Dalacos regarding her accrued vacation and sick leave benefits were inaccurate.

During that meeting, several commissioners expressed frustration about Posivach's request to swap two days she worked at a conference for two days she planned to be in Arizona for interviews. When commissioners balked at that request, Posivach withdrew it and took the days as vacation instead.

Commissioners asked the city attorney to draft a new policy regarding compensatory time. That new policy, okayed by commissioners Tuesday night, states that Posivach must get permission from the commission ahead of time if she intends to take more than one day off in exchange for time worked.

Posivach said she intends to clear the air about all of these issues at a future meeting, but said she thought commissioners' concerns had been assuaged with the implementation of the new policy.

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

Tarpon Springs commissioners, city manager at odds 04/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 4:50pm]

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