Developing Stories
Monday, June 30, 2014
Commission ousts city manager 7-0, gives him $120,000 payout

City Manager Bob Vitas did not show up for today's 9 a.m. special meeting at Old City Hall, where the agenda leads with a proposal to end his contract one year early.

By 9:20 a.m., the commission had voted 7-0 to cancel his current contract in exchange for the $120,000 compensation package Vitas asked for.

Vitas, who arrived two years ago this month from Illinois, on Friday signed the settlement agreement to leave the city's top job in exchange for 18 weeks severance plus about $50,000 in unused leave, sick pay and the $21,000 he put in the city's retirement plan.

No one on the dais spoke in favor of keeping Vitas on staff.

"It sticks in my craw that we're giving this guy $70,000, when I feel in my heart we have grounds to terminate him," said City Commissioner Tony Yaniz, a constant critic of Vitas. "We need to put this sad chapter behind us and move forward. We're cutting our losses."

Vitas' only true supporter on the commission, Teri Johnston, said Key West must move on and begin the search for a new city manager.

"He made some mistakes and unfortunately these mistakes caught up with him and he's going to be moving on," Mayor Craig Cates said.

In the audience were former commissioners Harry Bethel and Barry Gibson and former mayor Dennis Wardlow.

Assistant City Manager David Fernandez was also at the meeting, awaiting a vote on whether his new $114,000 contract that makes him utilities director is valid. Vitas signed off on the deal June 11 without running it by City Attorney Shawn Smith or the commission.

The resulting backlash prompted the commission to find a way to push out Vitas, whose original contract was to end in July 2015.

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