INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- If push comes to shove and two votes emerge on the City Commission to fire John Coffey, the city manager, Mayor Bob DiNicola will join that move and make the dismissal official.
No one brought up the subject at Tuesday night's commission meeting which was devoted largely to a review of commission priorities, goals and objectives.
When the crunch comes, and it will come DiNicola's vote to fire will not be on the merits. It will be for the sake of unity in the city government.
"If at least two commissioners think Coffey ought to go, then to keep him would be unworkable," DiNicola said.
The firestorm in this city over the whole subject has reached the red hot stage.
Coffey fired the city's building official, Steve Andrews, who turned around and mustered support among the citizenry to defy and criticize Coffey's action.
The commission held a nine-hour session February 21 in a thoroughgoing investigation in which commissioners interviewed everyone who was involved or had anything remotely to do with the problem.
Coffey came up with a plan the next day, at a commission meeting, to re-hire Andrews.
But this turned into a vituperative exchange between Coffey and Andrews at the meeting.
On top of that, Commissioner Jeremiah Carmody, who was away, threw more gasoline on the fire with a letter dated February 16 that he addressed to the commission.
In the letter, he pointed out that "we have some obvious procedural and policy issues within our management structure. Problems that need to be fixed expeditiously."
Carmody's letter went on to say that he believed Coffey "is lacking in many areas necessary to perform the duties of City Manager, and immediate reeducation is warrented."
Carmody suggested in the letter that Coffey be retrained in the public records law either by the city attorney or city clerk and further suggested that the clerk "educate and test" him on public records law the "first thing in the morning, every morning, as her schedule allows." This would continue, the letter suggests, for two weeks with a final test and evaluation to be administered by the city attorney.
More suggestions were listed in the letter including that Coffey take courses, at his own expense and on his own time, in managing employees, ethics in the workplace, customer service and dealing with the public.
In addition to this biting sarcasm, Carmody assailed Coffey for his demeanor during meetings.
If Coffey should go, and it seems questionable as to how he could stay given the division in the city and some lack of confidence among members of the commission, the fallout of the whole incident might give the city some problems in finding a new city manager given the turmoil surrounding the current problem.
A new city manager may insist on autonomy in running the administration of the city without encountering a problem from a defiant employee and interference from the commission.
Nearby Largo could offer an example where, if anything, the city manager is thought by some observers to have too much power. In Largo, everyone in the city without exception works for the manager and the mayor and commission is powerless to interfere.
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