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Vacation policy less generous for top staffers in other cities

The vacation time given this year to the city of Clearwater's top managers far exceeds the time off given to government officials in comparable jobs elsewhere, some of whom have more than 20 years of service.

Clearwater Deputy City Manager Rick Hedrick, who has been with the city for two years, originally was allotted 40 vacation days. Assistant City Manager Bob Keller, who has been in his position for about three years, receives 40 days. Assistant City Manager Bill Horne receives 37 days.

City Manager Mike Roberto defends the vacation packages, saying they enhance salaries, making it easier to attract job candidates.

But in several Florida cities larger than Clearwater, which has a population of 104,000, government officials are not offered such generous vacations.

In Lakeland, a city of 125,000, the assistant city manager is given vacation on the same scale as all other city employees, a scale that depends on years of service. The current assistant city manager, Roger Haar, has been there for more than 15 years and receives 20 vacation days, the maximum allowable. Under the Lakeland scale, an employee with fewer than five years with the city would get 12 days off.

"A lot of people will call and ask, "What kind of special benefits do you give the city manager and the assistant?' "Well, none,' " said Gene Parnell, a city of Lakeland employee relations specialist. "We think our setup is good. With us, nobody gets anything extra. It keeps the flak down."

In the city of Tampa, which has a population of 290,000, all city employees except the mayor fall under the same benefits package, personnel officials said. The mayor's assistant and the city's chief administrative officer, who have both been there less than five years, receive 12 vacation days. After 20 years, they would receive 18 vacation days.

In St. Petersburg, a city of 240,000, City Administrator Darrel Stephens is next in charge after the mayor. Under his contract with the city, Stephens, who has been with the city for almost seven years, receives 22 days vacation.

The city of Tallahassee, with 140,000 people, has three assistant city managers who receive 15 days vacation in their first year, then 21 days off for up to five years and a maximum of 27 days after 10 years.

Pinellas County government has five assistant county administrator positions comparable to Hedrick's. Two have been with the county more than 20 years and receive 32 days of vacation, the maximum allowable. Rick Dodge, who oversees economic development, has been with the county for less than two years and receives 18 vacation days.

When Hedrick negotiated his contract with Clearwater in December, he received four times as many vacation days as a regular city employee would get. Forty days, in fact, is twice as many vacation days as any city employee can receive _ after they work for the city for 16 years.

"Rick Hedrick has not been in the city long enough to earn that kind of vacation," said Stephen Sarnoff, vice president of the Clearwater city employees union. "There are 900 and some employees who if they are only here two years would only get 10 vacation days."