Interim manager says no to permanent job
By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Published July 18, 2007
Citing "personal and professional reasons," interim City Manager Steve Cottrell withdrew last week from consideration for the position of permanent city manager.
Cottrell declined Tuesday to explain further, saying he felt it was "inappropriate to elaborate."
At least one commissioner - Bert Valery - hopes to change Cottrell's mind.
"Our city desperately needs a qualified, educated, experienced, strong city manager," Valery wrote in an open letter to the entire commission.
"I think Steve Cottrell is a perfect fit we cannot afford to lose," he said.
Valery called on his colleagues to reassure Cottrell that they would not "tell him how to run his job" or "constantly make requests" for special reports.
"The city manager does not live and breathe to serve the City Commission. He is hired to run this city," Valery said. "The city manager should be able to make his own decisions, which may be contrary to some of ours, without fear of losing his job."
Cottrell said Tuesday he was "not particularly" interested in changing his mind.
He is willing, however, to remain in the interim position until either the city can find a permanent city manager or he accepts another position elsewhere.
Cottrell declined to reveal the cities where he has applied for a city manager position.
He previously served for nine years as city manager in Belleair and as assistant city manager of Plant City for seven years.
Cottrell was fired from his Belleair job last August following growing criticism of his operation of the city, particularly in relation to his handling of a Police Department controversy that saw the resignation of its chief and several officers.
But his performance as interim city manager in Indian Rocks Beach drew repeated praise. Last month the commission directed its city attorney to begin contract negotiations with Cottrell.
Disagreements over nonsalary provisions in the proposed contract were among the issues Cottrell said Tuesday led to his decision to withdraw his candidacy.
Disputed contract provisions included a proposed automatic increase in retirement contributions and the amount of vacation and sick pay Cottrell would receive at the end of his employment. Cottrell's proposed $95,000 salary apparently was not an issue.
The city has a history of controversy surrounding its managers.
An outside attorney is currently pursuing a lawsuit filed by the city against former city manager Al Grieshaber Jr. The city is seeking payment of more than $15,000 it says he owes for allegedly unearned compensatory pay and improper moving expenses.
Grieshaber had replaced former City Manager John Coffey who resigned in 2005 following growing commission dissatisfaction with his job performance and a public commission investigation of Coffey's firing of popular building official Steve Andrews.
Cottrell was named interim city manager in April after the commission failed to pick two finalists from some 20 applications.
The commission readvertised the position after it was discovered that one finalist, Patricia Quigley, a former city manager of Woodstock, Ga., had given an invalid Social Security number and an invalid Georgia driver's license number.
Then last month, the commission decided not to interview any new candidates and instead offer the job to Cottrell.
Now with Cottrell's withdrawal, the commission is expected to decide at its July 24 meeting whether to try to persuade Cottrell to remain, to interview some of a dozen new candidates on file, or again readvertise the position.
[Last modified July 17, 2007, 20:57:41]
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