Departing City Manager Ben Bolan says it's "best for the city" that he be able to provide his advice even after his 20-year tenure ends.
An opportunity now exists for him to do that.
City commissioners voted 3-2 Monday night to accept in part Bolan's proposal, which would allow him to continue employment with the city for six months after a new city manager is hired.
The resolution also would allow Bolan's replacement to use Bolan as a consultant as much as 16 hours a week during the severance period. However, the new city manager would not have to ask for Bolan's opinion if he or she did not want it.
Commissioner Fred Johnson made the motion and was joined by Mayor Charles McIntosh and Commissioner Gregg Lynch in the vote. Commissioners Scott Black and Nancy McClain voted in opposition.
That motion came about a minute after Johnson, Lynch and McIntosh voted down a proposal endorsed by Black and McClain that would have ended Bolan's relationship with the city outright upon the hiring of his replacement. Bolan would have received six months' pay and previously earned vacation, sick and compensatory pay under that arrangement.
"What you're saying to Ben is, "Please stay along and help us and then get the hell out of here,' " Johnson said.
The resolution passed Monday was the crux, but not the entirety, of a proposal Bolan made to the commission May 24. Bolan was responding to a request made by city commissioners in April that he resign within two weeks and accept six months' severance pay. He had been under fire for the handling of problems in the public safety and public works departments.
The other provisions of Bolan's original counterproposal were that:
He be reimbursed for about $500 he paid a Tampa lawyer to write a letter threatening the city with a lawsuit.
He be considered for annual part-time budgeted employment on an "as-needed" basis, to allow him to accrue more retirement benefits.
And that he be granted a two-year leave of absence if he so requested.
Those conditions weren't part of the arrangement passed Monday.
Under the approved arrangement, Bolan will be paid his regular salary during the six-month period beginning with the replacement's hiring, which commissioners hope to accomplish by Sept. 1. He will continue to be covered for health and life insurance, and the city will continue to pay into the retirement system for him during that time.
Bolan, meanwhile, would hang around to offer advice _ if the city manager wants it.
Black didn't like that idea.
"I don't feel comfortable telling (the incoming manager) at that time to decide whether he wants a consultant or not," Black said. "When I made my original motion (for Bolan's resignation), I thought there was a need for a change."
McClain said that because Bolan refused the commission's original offer of six months' pay, he should just accept the two months' severance pay plus vacation, sick and compensatory time he agreed to when he was hired in 1973.
"You can wait until age 62 to retire like everybody else," McClain said to Bolan. "You can work."
McIntosh criticized Black and McClain's refutation of Bolan's proposal, and earlier suggested the commission pass it in its entirety.
"Mr. Bolan has given us a proposal that is acceptable," he argued. "I'd be surprised if a new city manger wouldn't want the benefit of his experience. I think we'd be shooting ourselves in the foot not to accept it."
McIntosh said the new city manager would need Bolan to explain how the city functions.
"You've got no faith in our department heads?" responded McClain.
Lynch stared silently at his papers throughout the discussion, giving no indication of his opinion until after he helped deny Black's motion.
"The kicker to me is that with anyone we hire, it is up to his discretion," Lynch said. "If we hire somebody who wants his help, fine. If we hire somebody who doesn't ever want to see his face again, then that's done."
Lynch had voted with Black and McClain on April 26 when the commission asked for Bolan's resignation after the problems in the public safety and public works departments.
Considering that Bolan's departure stems from those problems, allowing him to advise his replacement would be wrong, Black argued.
"I don't think this is common practice among other cities," Black said, and asked Bolan: "Do you know of any other cities that do this?"
"It'd be a lot easier for me to walk away," Bolan retorted. "You can do as you wish and I'll do as I wish. I'm a big boy. I can take it."