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City clerk agrees to quit after long-standing rift

GULFPORT Louise Spence will receive a $45, 000 severance package.

By NICK JOHNSON
Published July 1, 2007


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After years of concern about her performance and repeated attempts by city officials to remove her, City Clerk Louise Spence finally worked her last day in Gulfport on Friday.

The separation came as a relief to the council and to Spence when she agreed to a second proposal from Vice Mayor Ted Phillips that included a $45, 000 severance package.

Phillips had first proposed she be removed from the position last month and council members agreed to accept her resignation effective Jan. 1, 2008.

Unsatisfied with the outcome of the meeting, however, Phillips proposed another separation agreement on June 19 to remove her by the end of the month.

Spence, who was in her 10th year in the position, said she was anxious to get on with her life and leave the stress behind her.

"I had planned to retire in about six months anyhow, so with the package that worked out well, " she said.

"I thought it was the best for everybody, " Phillips said. "Nothing is worse in my mind than a lame-duck situation, because decisions have to be made that won't affect that person."

The city clerk's job is to provide support to council members, prepare council meeting agendas, and maintain public records in accordance to Florida law. The city clerk also supervises elections among other duties.

Spence, whose salary this year was $60, 892, accepted the package of $30, 000 for the remaining six months she had planned to work, plus her accrued vacation and sick pay. The total came out to just more than $45, 000.

The plan will leave Deputy City Clerk Donna Boyd as the acting city clerk and save the city about $33, 000 annually because of the difference in their salaries.

Phillips said the savings would continue for the next six years and helped motivate his proposal.

Spence said she had never been given specific issues to address about her performance, suggesting that Phillips' complaints were based more on personality conflict than anything else.

During last month's meeting on the subject, Phillips accused Spence of being incompetent and blamed her for several clerical mishaps.

Spence's performance had been the subject of a number of council meetings over the past several years. The city even paid $20, 000 for the Florida Institute of Government at the University of South Florida to conduct a study to determine and assess the city clerk's responsibilities.

Mayor Michael Yakes said that the council had on numerous occasion expressed concerns about Spence's ability to manage the City Clerk's Office.

He is now considering combining the positions of the city clerk and city attorney to save money.

Yakes said the council had made the right decision in asking her to leave, but that Spence still commanded a tremendous amount of respect in the community.

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8361.

[Last modified June 30, 2007, 23:10:07]


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