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Vero Beach’s choice for city manager wants more money

VERO BEACH — After a vote on Tuesday, the Vero Beach City Council offered James O’Connor $145,000 per year, moving expenses, severance pay, plus health and retirement benefits to be its new City Manager, but O’Connor has asked for a bit more out of Vero taxpayers.

A special call meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday to address O’Connor’s requests.

The $145,000 salary — nearly $10,000 more than former City Manager Jim Gabbard was earning after 24 years service to the city — was intended to match that of O’Connor’s current job as Winchester, Va. City Manager.

To supplement the city’s general fund employee retirement package, O’Connor wants Vero Beach to deposit another 3 percent or $4,350 per year into his existing International City Managers Association retirement account as is paid by the City of Winchester.

In addition to the $20,000 in moving expenses and $1,000 in temporary housing assistance offered by the City Council, O’Connor wants an additional $2,000 for two more months of temporary housing assistance.

A memo issued Thursday from Acting City Attorney Wayne Coment to Mayor Jay Kramer stated that Coment had spoken to O’Connor and that he had some additional benefits he wanted inserted into the employment contract.

“I’m wondering if it’s not his way of turning down the offer. I guess he watched the meeting Tuesday and he doesn’t want to come here,” said Vero Beach Councilman Brian Heady, who was the lone vote against the offer the city made.

“I have nothing to back this up, but I think it’s his way of saying he’s rejected the offer, I see no reason to up the ante,” Heady said.

Should the City Council choose not to agree to O’Connor’s terms, it may turn to one of the other top candidates for the job.

At the suggestion of David Johnson of Vero Beach-based search firm HR Dynamics the council on May 6 held a second vote to choose a backup candidate in case negotiations with O’ Connor fall through.

The No. 2 choice was Kenneth Griffin. Griffin is currently employed as Assistant County Administrator for Utilities for Hillsborough County and earns $141,000.

The Vero Beach City Council will meet at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall. The meeting will be televised on Channel 13.

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