Vero Beach sends contract offer to City Manager pick

VERO BEACH – The Vero Beach City Council voted on Tuesday night to offer Jim O’Connor a three-year deal at $145,000 per year to serve as city manager.

Other provisions of the employment offer include a maximum relocation allowance of $20,000, with expenses supported by receipts, and a three-stage severance package that would go into effect if O’Connor is terminated “without cause.”

If O’Connor were fired within the first two years of his employment, but was not guilty of any wrong-doing, he would receive 12 months of severance pay. The payout drops to nine months in years two through four, and to six months from four years on.

In each case, he would also receive the value of any accrued sick leave, up to 60 days, and any accrued vacation time up to 30 days. The accrued sick and vacation time he is eligible to be paid for is half the amount other city employees are eligible for.

Councilmember Brian Heady objected to the severance agreement, calling it an offensive “golden parachute” not appropriate in a city with declining revenue and budgetary difficulties. Councilmember Craig Fletcher, who headed the committee that drafted the contract, said that O’Connor was entitled to the diminishing protection because he is making a major life change to quit his current job and relocate to Vero Beach.

Mayor Jay Kramer and Councilmember Pilar Turner supported Fletcher, noting that a city manager is subject to political changes and should have some security when taking a new job.

The council approved most of the provisions of the agreement drafted by the contract committee, which included City Attorney Wayne Coment, Human Resources Director Robert Anderson, City Clerk Tammy Vock and David Johnson, president of HR Dynamics, the firm hired by the council to find a new city manager.

The agreement calls for O’Connor to take up his post no later than 60 days after the offer is accepted and makes employment contingent on passing a drug test and a physical.

Anderson said a criminal background check, credit check and employment verification were already complete.

Coment said he would prepare a clean copy of the contract “first thing in the morning,” which would then be sent to O’Connor in Winchester, Va., where he is that city’s manager.

Johnson said O’Connor would be able to return the contract to the city with any proposed modifications by Friday.

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