The Flagler Beach City Commission on a 4-0 vote reached agreement on a contract with Larry Newsome, its new city manager, paying the long-time Escambia County government administrator $88,000 a year. With some minor changes, the commission agreed to terms negotiated with Newsome by City Attorney Drew Smith.
Newsome was not in the room when the commission, meeting at the city’s fire department Thursday because of repairs at City Hall, went over the contract for 40 minutes before voting, but commissioners placed a call to him when they were done working over the contract.
The contract is open-ended: there is no set term. Commissioner Jane Mealy was curious as to why there was no three-year term, for example. “The time limit is almost a hindrance on you, it puts you in the situation where you’re stuck in the middle where somebody may be outgoing, somebody may be coming in,” Drew Smith said. (Palm Coast has a similar open-ended contract with City Manager Jim Landon.) “It’s going to continue automatically unless you vote to terminate.”
Mealy and Shupe objected to a $200 a month car allowance. “We’re a six-mile long city,” Mealy said. Instead, the commission will reimburse Newsome at 47 cents a mile (the IRS rate), “for any official business use of his personal vehicle for travel over 50 miles from City Hall.”
If Newsome is fired, he will have a severance package equivalent to 60 days of pay, or $14,670. His performance review will take place starting in August rather than in December (as was the original draft plan).
“It says that if we change our evaluation process we have to give him a whole year’s notice,” Mealy said. (The draft proposed discussing the format with the manager with 12 months’ notice.) She did not agree with that clause. “He should be open to any form of evaluation that there is.” She compared the approach to “teaching to the test,” and that he should be good at what he does regardless of the way he’s evaluated. As employers, the commission should have the authority to change the criteria as it deems fit. “And if he can’t measure up, he can’t measure up,” Mealy said.
Smith said the clause wasn’t a deal-killer. Newsome is in favor of a performance review, of course, but the 12 months was “to make sure everybody is on the same page as to the expectations,” Smith said, so that if the commission changes after an election, the potential changes in the evaluation process give the manager enough advance notice to keep up with the new commission’s expectations. Commissioner Steve Settle proposed getting rid of the 12-month notice requirement, replacing it with a less rigid clause that would require some consultation with the manager during a public meeting, before the change is implemented.
Commissioners were also concerned about the “minimum 40 hours a week” requirement in the contract, if that were to suggest that the manager should not be available beyond 40 hours. Settle said it’s the sort of job that can require many more hours than that on the job.
“We had some back and forth on some issues but we had no major breakdowns,” Smith said, responding to a question from Settle about whether there’d been any substantial disagreements during the negotiations.
Commissioners had a few minor other clarifications. They then placed a call to Newsome. He’d not been able to hear the audio stream, so the city clerk read over the changes for him. He had no issues with any of the changes. “Wonderful,” is how Newsome summed up the process at the end of his brief call with commissioners.
The effective date of the contract is Monday, Jan. 4. That will bring to an end the five-year tenure of manager Bruce Campbell, who announced his intention to resign 14 months ago, and had to prod the commission into action again in early summer to find his replacement.