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GULFPORT TO DISCUSS FATE OF CLERK ABSENT SINCE SEPT. 25

Donna Spano has not requested a medical leave or responded to a settlement offer.

City Clerk Donna Spano, who has been absent from work for nearly a month, may be fired Wednesday.

"It is a tough, sensitive situation," Mayor Michael Yakes said Friday, confirming that Spano has not responded to the city's offer that she resign in exchange for a $15,000 settlement payment.

The City Council has placed Spano on official administrative leave pending the outcome of a special City Council meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Yakes said he does not know if Spano will attend.

"The council will discuss terminating Donna's employment or possibly amend the separation agreement," Yakes said.

The mayor said he has no issue with Spano's performance other than her "history of absences."

Spano has not been to work at City Hall since Sept. 25, when she left for a doctor's appointment.

Although she subsequently called the city to report that she was ill, she has not formally requested a medical leave.

"The clerk is a charter employee and serves in a very high position at the will of the commission, and she has not been at her post," said Yakes.

Two weeks after Spano stopped coming to work, Yakes mailed her a proposed "employment separation agreement," giving her 21 days to review and either accept or reject it. That time is up Wednesday.

The agreement, which would have to be approved by the City Council, provides for a $15,000 settlement payment in exchange for releasing the city from any legal claim.

Spano replied to Yakes several days later in an eight-page letter that expressed her "great sadness" and apparent surprise.

"I do not understand why this is happening," she wrote.

She said it took several days to get an appointment to see her doctor and that she was eventually diagnosed with a sinus infection, upper respiratory infection and high blood pressure.

She said she had been in repeated contact with Yakes and other city officials about her condition.

"I thought the city would be more caring and helpful when people have legitimate health problems," she wrote in her letter to Yakes. "I don't understand why I am held to a different, higher standard than everyone else."

She denied that she has an attendance problem, and what she described as completely false rumors relating to a divorce and allegations of alcohol use.

"Throughout ALL these personal vendettas, rumors, personal attacks and, most importantly to me, utter wastes of taxpayers' time and money, I conducted myself with the utmost professionalism, poise, class and dignity," she wrote.

Spano has served as city clerk for about two years and as acting city clerk and deputy city clerk for eight years before that.

She could not be reached for comment Friday.

Up next:CRIME REPORT

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