INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The lovefest between 80 percent of the City Commission and the former city manager, Al Grieshaber, which came to a shuddering end at a commission meeting January 23 when that 80 percent did a 180 turnaround, received its latest flourish last week with a "request" letter to Grieshaber.
Sent by certified mail with a return receipt requested, the letter, dated February 7 and signed by Andy Salzman, IRB's lawyer, was sent to New Smyrna Beach address where Grieshaber owns property.
He works now at Sun 'n Lake, a residential community near Sebring. Apparently it is unclear as to exactly where he lives.
The letter "requests" that Grieshaber "repay in full" $13,124.28 for moving expenses "based on the fact that you did not meet the criteria as contained in your contract."
These discrepancies were noted and brought to attention by this newspaper which persisted with the story while Indian Rocks Beach officials denied anything at all was wrong.
Only Commissioner Jose Coppen raised questions about Grieshaber's activities, but he was ignored by his colleagues. Mayor Bill Ockunzzi, usually regarded as a hands-on type on top of everything, has said he knew nothing of the Grieshaber doings.
Commissioner Jim Palamara called Grieshaber the "best city manager we've ever had" and wanted to give him a substantial bonus.
The authorization of the $13,000-plus paid to Grieshaber last August (a check made out to him and also signed by him) still has not been determined, although there was an e-mail from Grieshaber to the city's finance director that said, in part, "I have checked with the City Attorney and he has authorized the check to be made payable to me . . ."
Salzman was copied in on the e-mail and never made any protest or known contradiction of Grieshaber's statement at the time. Another curiosity is why the city attorney would give authority for a payment. Such a duty is not listed in his official job description.
Such authorizations usually come from elected officials in most jurisdictions.
The letter also seeks another $2,525.76 because "it has been determined that you have overused your compensation time in the amount of 60.73 hours of compensation time which you were not entitled to . . ."
Salzman warns in the letter that the city will "pursue all avenues available to recover the funds" if the $15,650.04 is not received by February 14 (yesterday).
The contract Grieshaber had with the city, which was presumably prepared by Salzman on the city's behalf, granted the manager compensatory time, and other advantages.
These were said to be provisions in previous contracts with managers, but Grieshaber's predecessors did not run up huge amounts of compensatory time or compile mileages anywhere from 2,500 to almost 5,000 miles a month, month after month, on a city vehicle.
Usually contracts by cities are written with an eye to protecting the interests of taxpayers by avoiding loopholes that might be avoided. This didn't happen apparently with Grieshaber's contract with the city.
In the meantime, the election season is cranking up in the city with two challengers seeking to oust two members of the City Commission in the March 13 election.
Given the turmoil in the city, voters may make a change by giving Bert Valery and Terry Hamilton-Wollin, the challengers, a chance.
Seeking to keep their seats are Jim Palamara a long-time member of the commission and Ed Piniero, who has been on the political scene for many years.
Palamara and Piniero, along with Mayor Bill Ockunzzi, usually constitute a solid voting bloc on the commission and it is this alliance that is blamed in some quarters for the unrest and turmoil in the city.
Valery is a prominent businessman and Hamilton is currently the chairperson of the Planning and Zoning Board.
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