One of the last actions Jodi Wilkeson championed before being voted of the Zephyrhills City Council was convincing her fellow city leaders to get a third legal opinion on whether or not the city can end the tenure of City Manager Jim Drumm.
Heather Brock, an attorney with Fowler White Boggs in Tampa, agreed with two other legal opinions the city already received in recent weeks. In a letter to the city dated April 10, Brock confirmed Drumm’s employment ends May 18 when his contract expires. The only way he can continue past that is if four out of five council members renew his contract or offer him a new one.
The May 2011 contract, Brock said, is for a specific term, and there are no “evergreen” provisions that would allow the contract to automatically renew at the end of its term.
“If the city wishes for the manager to remain its employee, it will need to undertake action to renew the agreement, negotiate a new agreement, or to agree to some form of ‘at-will’ employment,” and to have four out of five council members agree, Brock said.
In forming her legal opinion, Brock said she reviewed the Zephyrhills city charter, Drumm’s contract, the employment agreement of former city manager Steve Spina, and audio recordings of two May 2011 council meetings where Drumm’s contract was discussed.
If the council had tried to terminate Drumm before his contract expired, that also would’ve required a supermajority, or four out of five council members, to make it happen.
The charter, Brock said, requires the city manager to be appointed with a four-fifths majority, and to be terminated with a four-fifths majority. However, “the charter is silent as to the expiration of an agreement with a manager for a specific term,” Brock wrote.
This almost certainly means that the council will cut ties with Drumm, and may make it official as early as Monday’s meeting. Even without the majority decision by the council, Brock pointed out Drumm was required to to notify the council 180 days before the expiration of his contract — or just before Thanksgiving last year. She had no evidence that was done.
In recent meetings, three council members — Lance Smith, Ken Burgess and Charles Proctor — said they would not support retaining Drumm. Kenneth Compton and Wilkeson wanted to explore options further before making a final decision, and pushed for the third opinion.