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Facing firing, Key West city manager Vitas accepts buyout of contract

By Florida Keys Keynoter, (Marathon, Fla.)
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 28--Facing his likely firing on Monday, Key West City Manager Bob Vitas will accept a buyout of his contract a year before its expiration.

The City Commission was scheduled to meet in special session at 9 a.m. Monday at Old City Hall on Greene Street to take a vote of confidence or no confidence in Vitas, who replaced the retired Jim Scholl in June 2012. Now, it will vote on -- and likely pass -- a separation deal that Vitas has already signed.

It says that no later than July 15, Vitas will get $64,176.84 in severance pay; $4,464,80 for medical, dental and vision insurance; and $1,250 in car allowance. Those figures would have been earned by Vitas if still employed by the city on Monday.

He also will get $13,191.94 in accrued and unused annual leave time, and $14,742.87 in accrued and unused sick time.

Vitas was heavily criticized by several city commissioners June 17 stemming from his choice to appoint Assistant City Manager David Fernandez as city utilities director effective July 3, the same day Fernandez retires from the city administration.

Fernandez, a 28-year city employee, would get an annual salary nearly double that of former utilities head Jay Gewin, who's moving to Seattle to be closer to family. Gewin earned roughly $62,000 per year, while Vitas approved a five-year contract paying Fernandez $113,000 annually for the same position.

That contract will likely be invalidated at the Monday meeting.

At the June 17 commission meeting where the contract came up, City Attorney Shawn Smith said he hadn't reviewed the contract as is required of all city contracts. Vitas claims he doesn't have to have the legal department review contracts.

Smith said Vitas knows that's not true and essentially called him a liar in front of the City Commission. That led Smith to further say the city has been in a "spiral downward."

He said that night that he might not seek to have his contract renewed when it expires in December. He's been city attorney for eight years. Now his departure doesn't appear likely, since his nemesis Vitas is gone.

Mayor Craig Cates had said he hoped Smith and Vitas could "work something out to spare the citizens," but that obviously didn't happen.

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Cates said he would recommend Scholl, who retired in July 2012, step in as interim manager. He said a manager search is "not easy" and that he values Scholl's experience.

"That's why I am so happy Jim Scholl agreed to come back temporarily with all of the projects we've got going on," Cates said, referring to construction of a new city hall on White Street, a new firehouse on Angela Street and ongoing planning for the Truman Waterfront.

Vitas was hired on June 19, 2012, and earned $185,400 per year; his contract ran until June 2015.


(c)2014 the Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, Fla.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



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