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Gulfport loses city clerk, then manager

Tom Brobeil resigned because of health problems.

Tom Brobeil resigned because of health problems.

In coming months, Gulfport will have to fill two vacancies in its top ranks.

City Manager Tom Brobeil, hired in 2003, has resigned because of serious health problems. Council members accepted the resignation of City Clerk Donna Spano last month.

Mayor Mike Yakes said hiring a replacement for Spano is a top priority. He said the city manager's position will remain open for about a year, with the director of leisure services, Jim O'Reilly, filling in.

At a special Oct. 31 meeting, the City Council agreed to give Brobeil a severance package of $20,197. Yakes said Brobeil's illness qualified him for long- term disability payments through the city's insurance.

While ill health forced Brobeil's leave-taking, other issues appeared to be at play in Spano's departure. Yakes denied that Spano, 40, was forced out, but said her attendance was an issue.

"She was there at the meetings. It was the day-to-day functions that were a concern,'' he said.

Spano could not be reached for comment. Her resignation came after a monthlong absence from the job. She had been placed on administrative leave when she failed to return to work after a doctor's appointment in September.

Brobeil, 55, who had a contract, said the agreement stipulated that if he became ill and did not return to work after 90 days, the city would not give him severance.

"Some of the council members were interested in holding my job open for another three months in the hopes that I would recover to return to duty,'' he said.

During a late August meeting, which Brobeil described as "vitriolic," some Gulfport residents objected to an extension of his medical leave. Council members voted 3-2 to grant it.

Brobeil said his doctors say it's unlikely that he will be able to work again.

The former city manager has been diagnosed with chronic pulmonary eosinophilia, an inflammation of the lungs associated with an increase in eosinophils, a type of white blood cell. He said he has additional health complications.

Brobeil said his doctors wanted him to stop working in August but that he resisted because the city was in the middle of the budget process. He prepared the budget for the first public hearing and went on medical leave in early September. He called the city's severance package "very generous.''

Before he took the Gulfport job, Brobeil was the city manager of Indian Rocks Beach and assistant to the city manager in Largo. He also worked for Pasco County government.

Yakes and council member Bob Worthington praised the former city manager's knowledge, professionalism and work ethic.

"It wasn't unusual to see an e-mail that would come in the late evening or early morning'' from Brobeil, Yakes said.

"He would work sometimes 16 to 18 hours a day," Worthington said. "He was a great city manager … It's going to be tough to find one as good as he was.''

Yakes said that because the city recently began its fiscal year, council members have decided not to hire a new city manager until just before the 2009 budget year.

Meanwhile, Elaine Barclay, the deputy city clerk who is filling the city clerk's position temporarily, and O'Reilly, the interim city manager, are doing a "fantastic job,'' said council member Michele King.

"Although we have lost two of our three charter officers in a short period of time, I think the city is moving in the right direction,'' she said.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283.

Gulfport loses city clerk, then manager 11/11/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 13, 2008 8:38pm]
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