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Job applicant's cold feet leave city officials hot

The man who helped bring baseball to St. Petersburg quits before he starts a new job as city manager of Belleview.

Compiled from staff and wire reports
Published December 30, 2005

He helped lure baseball to St. Petersburg and served as a top Pinellas County economic official, but Rick Dodge's latest career ended before it even began.

Dodge, 61, was to start this week as the city manager of Belleview, a town of 3,643 people about 11 miles south of Ocala. But he abruptly resigned via letter just three days before he was expected to begin.

The move left city officials angry and puzzled.

"I thought it was crass," said Commissioner Ken Nadeau. "I'm terribly disappointed that he made his decision so late in the game."

Dodge would have been Belleview's first city manager. His annual salary was $67,500.

Dodge visited Belleview City Hall on Friday to meet with the police chief and public works director but never mentioned his plans to resign. Instead, he sent a letter and an e-mail to the city clerk.

In his letter, Dodge said his wife was having difficulty relocating her construction business to Marion County. He wrote, "after studying a variety of business management options, it became clear that she would need to remain here in Pinellas County to manage this growth for most of the next calendar year."

He continued by saying, "living in two different places for almost a year was not a decision that we felt our family should take."

Dodge did not return a telephone call seeking comment by the St. Petersburg Times. He told the Ocala Star-Banner: "I feel very badly about this and I have never done this before." He said he had sold his home for less than market value and lost $6,000 in moving costs.

Nadeau said he thought Dodge's excuse was flimsy.

"That's all well and good, but I'm not happy with his decision," he said. "It makes you wonder if there's something more to this story."

As a St. Petersburg city administrator, Dodge served as the point man for the city's quest for baseball. He later served as assistant county administrator for economic development and director of economic development for Pinellas County but was fired in 2002 after a series of legal disputes erupted over the county's welfare-to-work program once operated by Lockheed-Martin.

Dodge filed a lawsuit against Lockheed-Martin, which he dropped last year after reaching a settlement with the company. He also sued Pinellas under a whistle-blower statute challenging his termination. The suit is still pending.

[Last modified December 30, 2005, 00:56:10]

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