Board to look at chief's exit date
By JENNIFER FARRELL
© St. Petersburg Times,
SPRING HILL -- Bob Kanner wants retiring Chief Mike Morgan out of the Spring Hill Fire Rescue District as soon as possible.
As chairman of the five-member district commission, Kanner called for a special meeting Wednesday night to see that Morgan's exit comes this week rather than next.
Kanner said he called for the meeting late Monday, after discussing the situation with top executives he knows from "large corporations."
"When a CEO resigns, they should exit the premises immediately," Kanner said. "Just in general, we feel it would be best to do it as soon as we can."
Contacted Monday afternoon, Morgan said he learned of the meeting after calling district headquarters and had not decided whether to attend.
"It's a surprise to me," he said. "I found out a half-hour ago."
Morgan announced Thursday he would retire. His plan was to work through March, then take paid leave through July 1, 2002. But a firestorm erupted in the district over an e-mail message he sent to Commissioner Jeff Hollander seeking advice.
In the e-mail, sent last Tuesday from the chief's private address to Hollander's business account, Morgan asked the commissioner's advice on how to move forward with retirement and suggested the correspondence not be made public. He also asked whether Hollander would "broker" the arrangement.
Kanner has argued the e-mail represents a clear public records violation and shows Morgan tried to circumvent the state Sunshine Law.
Morgan said he did not intend to break the law and simply sought advice from a commissioner he trusted.
Hollander, who was dissatisfied with an operational plan for the district Morgan gave to commissioners this month, suggested last Monday that Morgan retire.
After the controversy erupted last week, Morgan announced Friday he would go on paid leave starting Nov. 15, using severance and vacation time to remain on the payroll with full benefits through the third week of March 2002.
On Monday morning, Kanner said that plan sounded reasonable. By late afternoon, he had changed his mind, citing advice from unidentified private business leaders.
Morgan, whose leadership has been criticized repeatedly this year by some commissioners, said he plans to work through Nov. 14, unless the board rules otherwise.
"All I know is, I submitted my letter," he said. "The board certainly has the right to change that."
Kanner said the board will also likely discuss Morgan's request to be paid for 474 hours of accrued sick time, about $15,000. So far, Kanner and Commissioners Dennis Andrews and Richard Martin have said they oppose the idea.
The meeting, which is open to the public, is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at district headquarters at 3445 Bob Hartung Court, Spring Hill.
-- Staff writer Jennifer Farrell covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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