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Indian Rocks Beach replaces city attorney

The commission opts to part ways with Andrew Salzman after 15 years.

By M.E. Baker, Times Correspondent
Published February 17, 2008


INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - In a unanimous vote, and with little discussion, city commissioners fired longtime city attorney Andrew Salzman on Tuesday.

The action took place during a special 30-minute meeting of the commission preceding the regular commission meeting.

St. Petersburg lawyer Maura J. Kiefer was approved 5-0 to take over Salzman's position.

Although Salzman's contract calls for a 90-day "transition period," Mayor-Commissioner William Ockunzzi asked his fellow commissioners to make Kiefer's appointment effective Feb. 26, the date of the next commission meeting.

This would allow time, the mayor said, for the two attorneys to discuss ongoing legal issues.

Commissioner Terry Hamilton-White said the cost of the overlapping city attorneys would be about $3,000, adding that the expense would be "money well spent."

Kiefer, the city attorney-to-be, told the commission that "Andy is very flexible on the 90 days, and I don't know how much of that 90 days you'll actually need or not."

Salzman was not present at the meeting and did not return calls for comment.

Ockunzzi said Salzman had served as city attorney for about 15 years. "Overall, Andy has done a good job," he said.

Later, Ockunzzi said that some members of the commission had recently expressed a lack of trust in Salzman's legal advice because they "were shopping for opinions they weren't getting."

He added that the city attorney "needs to stay above the political fray because some people didn't like his opinions."

The termination was not a surprise. The city began advertising for legal services in October after Salzman took on an additional role as the city attorney for Redington Beach.

Some commissioners expressed concern that he would not be able to give his full attention to the legal needs of Indian Rocks Beach.

Salzman had been the subject of controversy for some months after the departure of two successive city managers on less-than-cordial terms resulted in lawsuits with the city.

Commissioner Jose Coppen began a push to fire Salzman in April 2007.

Writing in a personal blog, Coppen said he wanted a city attorney "less entrenched into our own politics."

After the termination vote, Coppen wrote in an e-mail: "I consider Mr. Salzman a likable person and my evaluation has nothing to do with 'getting along.'

"The critique of his performance was merely based upon the exercise of my fiduciary duty as an elected official of the city of Indian Rocks Beach, is on public record and obviously was shared by a majority of the commission which at the end voted unanimously to terminate his contract with the city."

Kiefer will be paid $3,100 a month and $110 an hour for any court hearings she might attend.

Kiefer has been city attorney for Treasure Island since 2004. She will continue that representation.

[Last modified February 16, 2008, 23:43:38]

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