PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Port St. Lucie city council members unanimously voted in favor of a separation agreement with city manager Greg Oravec on Thursday. That is, all of the council members that attended the meeting.
Council member Michelle Berger is out of town all this week on business. She said she begged Mayor Joann Faiella to reschedule so Berger could attend the special meeting, in which the other four council members voted in favor of a separation agreement with Oravec.
"I don't think it's a fair thing to do," said Berger. "I really want to make sure that we don't encounter again another restructuring by the will of maybe one or two council members, or a city manager that gets put into place that maybe wouldn't be operating in the best interests of the city. I don't know that that's the case, but I didn't know that there were four city council members that were ready to take this city manager out, either."
Bob Minsky, a former Port St. Lucie mayor, said he believes the city council allowed their personal feelings to overcome their obligations to the citizens.
"Getting rid of all the assets that you need to function, for what?" Minsky asked. "There was no legal reason for them doing it, so it had to be a personality thing, they didn't like him."
He says it's unprofessional to allow council members' "ego tantrums" to hurt the city's reputation, and it will be even harder to find people who will be willing to take the city manager's job, not to mention the cost to taxpayers.
Oravec's severance package is more than $90,000. Only eleven months earlier, when former city manager Jerry Bentrott was fired, Bentrott received $110,000 in severance.
"You're getting rid of a lot of experience, then you have to go through the expense of replacing them," said Minsky. "Then, if they have to go outside, it's about $200,000 to complete the search."
Berger said parting ways with two city managers in less than a year sends a message to the constituents, that citizen's input doesn't matter.
"To make a decision months after you see a mandate from the city that says, ‘We like the way it's going,' that was a decision opposite of what these citizens in Port St. Lucie have indicated that they want and that they like," said Berger.
On Monday, the City Council will officially appoint an interim manager, and they will discuss what comes next in searching for a new city manager.