Hard Candy: City Manager Fun

Apparently love has a price. I’m not sure what it is, but according to Gulfport city council love isn’t worth $216,000.
Despite a months-long love-a-thon for Interim City Manager Jim O’Reilly, city council chose Tuesday night not to appoint him as Gulfport’s full time city manager. When I interviewed council a while back about why they were willing to forego a job search, I got the impression they believed that O’Reilly not only walked on water, he turned it into wine at the end of his stroll. They even changed the charter so that he could keep his home mid-county while he worked as city manager. Please note that they did this before they even asked O’Reilly if he would move, so eager were they to have him and only him as a city manager.
So why the no-go on actually making him a city manager?
O’Reilly wants two years pay if council fires him, and that works out to $216,000. Council can’t guarantee they won’t fire him, so they won’t accept that in the contract.
Why does O’Reilly want so much money?
Seems that O’Reilly wants to protect his family and his career. Go ahead, call him crazy. I mean, come on, just because council can show up one night and fire him because they don’t like his tie (and they are kind of boring, so I can see where that would happen), how dare he ask for a severance package of this magnitude.
To be fair, I do kind of choke on how much money he wants. $216,000 is a lot of the city’s money. I mean, it’s not like Gulfport’s spent that much on other things, like the trolley, or dealing with charter issues, the Pasadena Properties lawsuit, or Scout Hall. And it’s not like the city manager has to stick his neck out time and time again to protect the city and its council and, oh, yes, its citizens. The issue at Tuesday night’s meeting was that no city manager gets that kind of severance package.
No city manager gets to live outside the city, either, but council allowed that.
O’Reilly isn’t asking for more than the city budgeted for his position; he isn’t even asking for monies equal to what other city managers at comparable cities earn. Since he could be fired at any council meeting for any reason (as long as a majority agrees that they want to fire him), he wants the money to protect his family. He says that two years pay would be enough to make sure his daughter would be able to go to college.
Well, at least, that’s what he says. It smacks of some sort of bargaining chip, some sort of ammunition. After all, I’ve met his daughter; she’s reasonably bright. I’m sure she’ll get some sort of scholarship. I mean, it’s not like the state is in any sort of economic trouble; he can certainly count on Bright Futures for her. Also, why on earth would O’Reilly believe that the city would fire him? I mean, they certainly treated the last city manager with respect.
Actually, now that I mention it, city councils can be capricious. And as much as the five on the dais now think that Christ himself couldn’t run the city better, there’s no guarantee that future councils will have the same level of adoration for this good ol’ boy.
I do recall, too, that city managers have a way of getting stuck making the hard choices to help their council, which doesn’t exactly put them up there with the cheerleaders and football stars when it comes to popularity. I read somewhere that the average length of time a city manager serves a city is about a year and a half.
O’Reilly’s no dummy; everybody loves him now because they’re still honeymooning. Technically, it’s not even a honeymoon, it’s more of a “living in sin” situation since they haven’t even formalized the arrangement. Once they sign the papers things will change in city hall and O’Reilly won’t have the protection of a Leisure Services Director-ship waiting in the wings.
I have to wonder, too, why the city’s so worried about what’s going to happen when they fire O’Reilly. Seems like that severance package would be a mighty powerful incentive for them to make sure they’ve got the right guy. I’m not sure, either, why they can’t work out some sort of tiered severance package where O’Reilly gets the two years if they fire him in the first two years, but less in each subsequent year. This, of course, works on the assumption that any city manager who can hand in a balanced budget could, over the course of the next few years, find a way to save a little money here and there to help defray the cost of his daughter’s college tuition.
Or maybe if they don’t have the confidence that they’re not going to fire him they should consider launching a job search for a city manager. Someone who doesn’t walk on water and can’t raise the dead or balance a budget but won’t ask for such a large severance package.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.

One thought on “Hard Candy: City Manager Fun”

  1. So, y’know, your cynicism kinda flaps back and forth on this piece; I can generally tell what opinion you hold, but not this time…

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