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City clerk nominee rejects offer

(ran Beach edition)

Commissioners learned Tuesday night that their first choice for city clerk doesn't want the job. The city plans to offer the position to Redington Beach's Vicki McDonald.

McDonald was the commission's second choice. After eight hours of interviews Saturday, the city selected Sandra Rozar Sims, city clerk and deputy city manager of Cape Canaveral.

But acting City Manager Charlie Boice told commissioners Tuesday night he received a letter from Sims that she wanted her name withdrawn from consideration because of recurring health problems.

As a result, commissioners directed their consultant, Robert Chambers, to negotiate with McDonald.

"It would be safe to say that Victoria was a very close second," said Commissioner Saranan Lauck. "I think the residents can feel comfortable even thoguh it's a second choice."

McDonald, who was assisting with election returns Tuesday night in Clearwater, was unavailable for comment.

The city clerk is responsible for keeping all city records and the city seal used on official documents, preparing the commission agenda and taking minutes of city meetings.

McDonald also was a municipal clerk in Hillsborough Township, N.J., for eight years. She had experience negotiating with unions, promoting economic development, and serving on an ethics committee for the city. She was certified as a city clerk through programs at Rutgers and Syracuse universities.

A salary range of $38,000 to $42,000 a year, plus $2,000 to cover moving expenses, has been approved for the position.

The salary is about $5,000 more than the average pay for city clerks in cities of 10,000 and under like St. Pete Beach, according to a survey by the Florida League of Cities.

It is also about $11,000 less than former City Clerk Jane Ellsworth made.

Ellsworth was fired and rehired, then she eventually resigned this year after accusing former City Manager Danny Walker of sexual harassment. She later settled a federal claim against the city for $110,000.

The commission subsequently decided to reorganize the city clerk's office under the city manager, although the commission still will hire and fire the clerk. Previously, both city clerk and manager reported independently to the commission.

The commission is expected to finalize the change this month, although residents are working on a petition to place the issue on a March referendum.

Critics of the reorganization say it eliminates checks and balances in city government. They fear if the city manager controls the city clerk, he can order her to be less forthcoming with public information.

The Times has two lawsuits pending against St. Pete Beach, alleging the city has failed to follow Florida public records law.

Information from Times files was used in this report.