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Zephryhills city manager runs into City Council 'bombshell'

ZEPHYRHILLS — The City Council postponed a vote to renew the city manager's contract Monday after two members indicated they were not happy with Jim Drumm's performance and appeared ready to vote against retaining him.

The employment agreement, which expires in May, includes Drumm's request for a salary increase in line with the market adjustment the council gave city employees in this year's budget. If approved, it would hike his annual pay from $97,400 to $106,020. Drumm is also asking for a bump in severance pay from two to five months and a contract extension from three to five years.

Council President Lance Smith said he has issues with Drumm over communication breakdowns and his management style; he said he has received numerous complaints from employees of the city and other governmental entities and residents about having a hard time communicating with the city manager. Additionally, Smith said morale is low with employees, many of whom do not feel they have much opportunity for advancement.

"The same people who are talking to you are not talking to me," said Drumm, referring to Smith's comments as a "bombshell." "I would have liked to have heard about this sooner."

Drumm said he is available for anyone who wants to talk and he does his best to return phone calls and emails in a timely manner. He also pointed out that he attends Chamber of Commerce breakfast events and all of the city festivals, making himself as accessible and approachable as he can to residents.

"People approach me in confidence," said Smith. "This is a very difficult position to be in, but I have to speak out. I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't."

Council member Ken Burgess echoed much of what Smith said, suggesting that Drumm's management style and skill set "may be better suited for bigger cities." Burgess said he respects the city manager and recognizes his many positive contributions, but "your management style just doesn't seem to be working here."

Other council members were taken off guard. Council member Charlie Proctor said that while he has heard some complaints about Drumm, they have been few and he believes that overall Drumm is doing a good job. Council member Jodi Wilkeson agreed.

Proctor said his problem with the employment agreement was the numbers — he indicated he did not believe the city could afford the salary increase.

"I was not prepared to fire him, by any means," said Proctor. "If there's a communication problem, we need to address it. This is tough. Is he perfect? No. Am I perfect? No. Is anyone out there perfect? No."

Wilkeson told Drumm she believes he is doing a good job for the city, but that with two council members indicating they do not want him in the position any longer, he should re-evaluate whether he wants to stay.

"There are some strong feelings being relayed here that I had no earthly idea were out there," said council member Kent Compton. "This is a lot to digest. I'm not comfortable taking a vote on it tonight."

Compton's motion to table the item was seconded by Proctor and approved 4-1, with Smith dissenting. The council did not specify when it will readdress the agreement.

City Attorney Joseph Poblick told the council four votes are needed to either reappoint or not retain the city manager. Compton asked him to bring back documents to support his opinion when the council revisits the issue.

In other business Monday, the council voted 3-2 to make a purchase offer on the historic Jeffries Home after hearing from building official Bill Burgess that it will cost roughly $42,000 to bring the 1910 home up to code and make improvements. The council has been discussing a possible purchase since June and last month agreed to offer $111,000 for the bank-owned property. Wilkeson and Proctor voted against the purchase.

The council voted unanimously to accept a guaranteed maximum price of $2.49 million for the new library. Officials expect construction to take the remainder of the year and the new facility to open by January.

Zephryhills city manager runs into City Council 'bombshell' 03/11/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 7:07pm]
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