Port Richey's search for a new city manager is not tied to how Ellen Posivach did her job, but from where she did it. This week, Posivach and the City Council agreed to part ways, two weeks after she left a council meeting during a discussion of the too-generous terms of the contract she signed in 2009. Posivach needed to go because she no longer had the faith of her employers and she was unwilling to reconcile their work demands with her own interests.
The biggest obstacle for a council majority was the provision allowing Posivach to set her own schedule and preferred work station — her Tarpon Springs home. Coupled with the $135,000 in salary and benefits, ability to bank compensatory time, travel at city expense and run a side consulting business with undisclosed clients, the contract was simply too rich and too opaque for this city to afford or to continue.
Posivach declined to budge during a renegotiation attempt from Mayor Richard Rober and will now be leaving the city's employ with a nearly $90,000 separation package because she did not resign and a council majority did not vote to fire her. A past attempt to dismiss Posivach failed on a 3-2 vote.
The departure deal brought a rebuke from state Rep. John Legg, whose 46th District includes the city of Port Richey. He called the payout irresponsible. His angst is understandable, but misplaced.
More accurately, Rober and a council majority that included Steven O'Neill and Bill Colombo were remiss in doing their duties in 2009. They allowed a seasoned administrator, who left her tenure in Tarpon Springs amid similar questions about travel and compensatory time expenses, to play them for fools.
Posivach's contract called for her to work 2,080 hours annually on the city's behalf, but that work could include time traveling to and from conferences at public expense or other odd hours as determined by Posivach. It is that kind of arrangement that results in a pending compensatory time payout of $14,000. Meanwhile, there was little visual verification of Posivach's work ethic since she came to City Hall so infrequently.
As we've stated previously, the city has moved forward under Posivach's administration, most notably with a realistic rate schedule for utilities, attempts to modernize the water line infrastructure, and a realistic discussion that a long-planned dredge of residential canals would need a voter-approved special taxing district to work.
Rober said the city received its money's worth from Posivach, and spoke of her in complimentary terms Tuesday. Similarly, when he passed the gavel and made the motion to dismiss her predecessor in December 2008, he told Richard Reade, "I think we've done you wrong.''
Rober has done the public wrong. He and O'Neill voted to hire Reade, then voted not to renew his contract after only one year, costing the city a $44,000 payout. A week later, they tapped Posivach, an assistant city manger, as interim without discussing a salary. Then, six months later, they, along with Colombo, approved the ridiculous contract now being severed.
The city manager is one of only two workers answering directly to the council and the continued clumsy personnel management by the elected officeholders is a drain on limited city resources.
In searching for a new city manager, Rober should bite his tongue on his public evaluations. Port Richey can't afford any more glowing commentary on people being shown the door.