Jim Drumm is working hard to get support on his side. But if he wants to keep his city manager job in Zephyrhills, it’s going to come down to collecting as many city council members on his side as possible, or that a judge agrees he can’t be let go.
At least part of that battle, however, is being lost as a third council member joined Lance Smith and Ken Burgess in opposing renewing Drumm’s contract. Yet, the fear of a lawsuit has bought the city manager some more time as the council opted to get a third opinion on how they can legally cut ties with Drumm.
Charles Proctor, who admits that if the decision were completely up to him he would keep Drumm, turned against the city manager during Monday’s council meeting. He said talking to various people inside the city government, as well as many of his constituents, Proctor came to a conclusion he didn’t like: Drumm had to go.
“Do I think Mr. Drumm was perfect? No,” Proctor said. “But I thought he did a good job as far as city managing. When I went out and talked to some people, the majority, unfortunately … the majority of the people who talked to me did not want me to move forward with the renewal of (Drumm’s) contract.”
Much of the problem has been poor communication, and trouble with some people inside the city government able to work with him, council members said.
That has left council members Jodi Wilkeson and Kenneth Compton alone in their support for Drumm, who was hired by the city in 2011 to replace longtime city manager Steve Spina. Compton had tried to get a workshop scheduled where the council could talk more freely about the pros and cons of Drumm’s work. However, such a move didn’t get the support of Smith, Burgess or Proctor.
Compton, however, was not ready to give up. City Attorney Joe Poblick has said that it would take a supermajority of the council — four of the five members — to renew Drumm’s contract, which is set to expire in May. Yet, having a contract with a set end date is not addressed in the city’s charter, essentially Zephyrhills’ constitution, Compton said. That would give Drumm ammunition to fight the city legally on whether he was lawfully terminated.
“To me, in reference to the opinion provided by the labor attorney, the charter is the controlling document,” Compton said. “Anything inconsistent with the charter is wrong.”
Drumm, speaking in his own defense, said from the legal opinions he’s received, he can continue working as city manager whether he has a contract in place or not, until he quits or is removed by four council members. He noted that his predecessor, Spina, worked both with and without a contract, and that he has that ability, too, thanks to the way the Zephyrhills city charter is written.
Danny Burgess, an attorney himself serving his last full meeting as mayor, said that everything he’s seen from the two legal opinions the city’s already received on Drumm’s status checks out. Doing more would waste taxpayer money, especially if the council looks at high-profile firms like Tampa’s Fowler White to offer a third opinion.
“How much weight are we going to give this third opinion?” asked Burgess, who did not seek re-election to the city after announcing his bid for the state legislature. “We had two attorneys that we paid for opinions who are very qualified and very good at what they do. And here we’re just going with a firm (for a third opinion) based on name recognition.”
Why some members of council want to oust Drumm is something the city manager says he doesn’t understand. He told the council that he heard rumors that, among other things, he was not close to the powerful families in town, and it’s possibly them pulling the strings. Drumm also said that some in the city know Spina is out and about looking to manage a city again, and may be eyeing his old job in Zephyrhills.
Spina, however, denied that rumor when asked Tuesday by The Laker/Lutz News.
Drumm said if the council did indeed want to bring Spina back, he would gladly step aside and allow the city to negotiate, and when they came to a deal, he would negotiate a severance and move on. However, Drumm said he came to Zephyrhills planning on making this a long-term home. If he had any inkling that he would only be here three years like his contract suggests, he may have not even considered the position in the first place.
The council decided not to take any action on Drumm, and instead, wait to hear a third opinion before moving forward.
The Zephyrhills City Council is set to meet again after the April 8 elections where one council member (and Drumm supporter) Jodi Wilkeson will try to defend her seat against former high school football coach Alan Knight.
Story was updated 3/25/14 to include comment from former Zephyrhills city manager Steve Spina.
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