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Zephyrhills official’s severance package approved

— Zephyrhills City Manager Jim Drumm’s last day on the job could be Friday if he agrees to a severance package approved by the Zephyrhills City Council on Wednesday night.

The package would cost the city about $54,473, including payroll-related expenses and insurance payments.

The amount is a little more than half of the nearly $90,000 severance package Drumm asked the council to approve.

After taxes, he will leave with about $41,500, Finance Director Stacie Poppell said.

The council approved the package by a 4-1 vote at a special meeting. Councilman Kent Compton cast the lone vote against it.

Drumm has yet to sign a release agreeing not to sue the city. If he declines to sign the release, then the severance package could be re-negotiated. Drumm’s contract expires next month.

Drumm had asked for 20 weeks of severance pay and about 368 hours of comp time.

Instead, the council agreed to give him 13 weeks of severance, which was guaranteed by his contract, and 40 hours of comp time.

Drumm also asked for five months of continued health insurance payments, including coverage for family members. He was granted three months of insurance payments coinciding with his severance time.

Some parts of the package were guaranteed by law or contract, specifically his vacation pay for about 243 hours and 20 percent of his sick pay — amounting to about 55 hours.

Councilmen Lance Smith and Alan Knight did not want to pay Drumm for any comp time, which was also the recommendation of Mayor Gene Whitfield.

They argued that Drumm had used his comp time for time off rather than using any vacation days.

Councilman Ken Burgess suggested a compromise of 40 hours, which is the maximum amount a non-exempt employee would receive when leaving a position with the city.

Drumm’s troubles began on March 10, when Smith and Burgess said they would not vote to renew his contract.

City Attorney Joe Poblick said Drumm’s contract could not be renewed without the approval of four of the five council members.

Two additional legal opinions were sought and Poblick’s opinion was confirmed.

Referring to the issue as the “charter conundrum,” Drumm has said he does not agree with Poblick’s opinion.

He has said the city charter supercedes the contract and provides that he would be the city manager until terminated by four council votes.

The council’s newest member, Alan Knight, challenged Drumm’s view, asking Drumm if he had signed the contract in good faith.

Drumm said he had, but that he did so understanding that he could only be terminated by a minimum of four council votes.

Compton said he voted against the smaller severance package because Drumm should receive a package “reflective of his financial accomplishments.”

“I thought he deserved more compensation because of what he accomplished for the city,” Compton said in an interview on Thursday.

At the special meeting, Compton said that when Drumm arrived, there was an expected $1 million shortfall in the city budget.

Drumm produced a budget with a contingency fund of more than $1.5 million.

“That was a swing of $2.5 million; that’s 25 years worth of salary right there,” Compton said.

Compton added that Drumm kept the contingency fund at that level for his tenure.

He also mentioned other initiatives, such as the Interconnect project — joining the water systems of Dade City and Zephyrhills, which was accomplished during Drumm’s tenure.

Compton also said he favored holding a workshop to discuss Drumm’s job performance.

“I would prefer that we attempted to have a workshop and listen to both sides of the issues,” Compton said.

“I was never able to make a conclusion as to the merits of the issues that were stated. I couldn’t make a final decision whether it was a good thing (for him) to go or not a good thing (for him) to go.”

Drumm said in an interview Thursday that he was a little disappointed in the counter offer.

“Obviously, I’m going to consider it.”

He said he is still concerned that wording of the release will prohibit him from applying for unemployment payments.

“I hope I don’t need that,” he said “but there are very few positions in city government in Florida.”

The council agreed on Wednesday that they would not prohibit him from applying for unemployment benefits.

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