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Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Zephyrhills seeks 3rd opinion on firing city manager

ZEPHYRHILLS — The Zephyrhills City Council decided Monday to seek a third opinion on the status of City Manager Jim Drumm’s contract.

Though three council members appear likely to reject renewing Drumm’s contract, the council did agree to seek another opinion on whether four votes are needed to extend the current contract beyond May 18.

The council defeated a proposal 3-2 to hold a workshop to resolve issues between some council members and Drumm.

Drumm’s job has been in jeopardy since a council meeting March 10 when President Lance Smith and Councilman Ken Burgess said they would not approve a new contract for Drumm.

Smith, Burgess and Councilman Charlie Proctor, formerly a Drumm supporter, rejected an effort to hold the workshop.

Proctor said he has enjoyed working with Drumm but added that he had found that the community did not support retaining him.

“I don’t go into this very lightly; this is one of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with because I have built a relationship with him over the last few years,” Proctor said.

Sometimes choking on his words, Proctor said: “I have poured my heart and my soul into … doing the right thing in this city that I live in (and) I’m proud to call my home. I’ve talked to many citizens, and I’ve talked to many employees, … and I don’t want to postpone the inevitable. … I don’t let my friendships get in the way of my decisions that I make up here.”

Council members Jodi Wilkeson and Kent Compton voted in favor of holding a workshop.

“I think we should consider this opportunity … to make sure that we have done the due diligence necessary to protect the citizens and their best interests here,” Wilkeson said.

Wilkeson made the request that a third lawyer be consulted as to whether Drumm’s continued employment would require four of the five council votes.

City Attorney Joe Poblick and Brian Koji, a lawyer with Allen Norton & Blue, agreed that the city charter requires four votes for Drumm to remain city manager. Koji had provided a second legal opinion on the issue, which Wilkeson also had requested.

Wilkeson said that she is concerned that taxpayers will lose a wrongful termination lawsuit if Drumm’s contract is allowed to expire.

Drumm’s opinion is that the city charter calls for the appointment of a city manager and that only four council votes can remove him. He said at the council meeting March 10 that if Poblick’s opinion prevailed, he might have to “get counsel.”

Compton argued the city needs to be sure that acting on the contract will not be in violation of the charter.

Drumm read a letter to the council that states he was disappointed with the opinions of some council members. He said he was never told that he could be terminated at the end of the contract.

“I was told that all of you wanted a long-term city manager and I could not be removed unless there was a fourth-fifths vote or a supermajority,” he said.

Drumm said a recording of council meetings would support him. He said it is not his desire “to have any type of legal confrontation with my city.”

Drumm said he does not fully understand all the reasons his job is at risk. He said he has heard that it is because he is not a “good old boy” and not in touch with the old families in Zephyrhills and that he needs to be more approachable. He also said he heard that he is “too professional.”

He said he had heard that employees were afraid to approach him because they might lose their jobs, but he added that he had heard similar complaints about council members.

Drumm also said he had heard a rumor that the city council wants to bring former City Manager Steve Spina back to the job. He said he would offer to resign if that is true as long as he is offered an appropriate separation agreement.

Spina denied there is an effort to bring him back “That’s not on the table,” he said, adding that he does not want to get involved in the issue.

The council directed Poblick to contact a law firm for a third opinion, including sending all recorded negotiations, a copy of the city charter and a copy of Drumm’s contract to the firm. Poblick was told to get an opinion by the next city council meeting, on April 14.

He was directed to approach Fowler White Boggs first and, if not available, then approach Bryant Miller Olive.

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