Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

Madeira Beach city clerk resigns

MADEIRA BEACH — A year after receiving a glowing performance review, City Clerk Ginger Stilton resigned on Oct. 26.

Stilton's departure was a "mutual decision," according to city officials, and apparently it was sparked by differences of opinion over her role in the city's management.

"I wasn't happy 100 percent with what was going on," Mayor Travis Palladeno said Thursday.

In November 2011, Palladeno had joined a majority of the commission that gave Stilton a 4-out-of-4 performance rating, but in July voted against giving her a $5,000 raise.

Commissioner Terry Lister, who also opposed the July raise, said Tuesday he met with Stilton before she decided to resign.

"She was hired before we hired (City Manager) Shane (Crawford)," Lister said. "I don't think their styles were the same. She had her fingers in a lot of different pies, and I didn't think she needed to be in those pies."

Stilton could not be reached for comment.

In approving an eight-page legal agreement Tuesday, the unanimous City Commission approved a lump-sum severance check for more than $24,000 — even though Stilton did not have a contract.

The city is still being sued over a severance package it gave to its former city manager, W.D. Higginbotham Jr., and he did have a contract that called for the severance to be paid.

In addition to the equivalent of five months' salary, Stilton also received accrued vacation, and her health and dental insurance will continue until March.

In exchange, Stilton agreed she would not pursue any future claims for damages or other legal action related to her employment.

Stilton negotiated the "severance, release and hold harmless agreement" with City Attorney Tom Trask who said in a news release issued Wednesday that she "will be pursuing a new career path that is not local government related."

The agreement stipulated that Stilton had not been "influenced or coerced" into signing the document, that she had not previously filed any complaints against the city, that it was her "desire" to resign, and that her departure did not "in any way negatively reflect" on her performance.

"The agreement was something that both sides felt was needed for everybody to leave happy," Palladeno said. "I wish Miss Stilton well in her future endeavors."

Stilton was hired in May 2011 after nearly the entire city administration quit in reaction to the March 2011 election that saw a new majority on the City Commission.

Stilton helped to run the city for months amid high praise before the commission hired a new city manager and finance director.

Previously, Stilton was deputy city clerk in Gulfport. She had also served as city clerk in Seminole for five years before she abruptly resigned that position in October 2009 at a time when that city's council was considering putting the clerk position under the supervision of the city manager.

"I'm a professional. I expect to be treated professionally and with respect," Stilton said at the time.

Until Madeira Beach can find a permanent replacement for Stilton, Aimee Servedio, the assistant to the fire chief, will serve as interim city clerk.

No decision has been made about how a city clerk search will be handled, but the commission is reaching out to the Florida Association of City Clerks and the League of Cities for possible help in the process.

"We want the new clerk's duties to be just what the charter says — to serve the commission, keep the city records, and jell with the city manager and staff in City Hall," Palladeno said.

The commission is expected to discuss the vacant position at its workshop this month.

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