By Jane Smith
    
    Delray Beach’s city manager received a 10 percent raise even though most of his bosses rated his performance during the past year as average.
    Don Cooper, a longtime Port St. Lucie city manager who most recently served as chief financial officer for a biotech firm there, took the helm of Delray Beach in January 2015.
    Cooper, 67, will make $196,700 for bringing stability to City Hall, creating a transparent government style, holding staff accountable for their decisions and basically being a dignified presence that city workers will want as their leader.
    Mayor Cary Glickstein praised Cooper for his hard-working style and then began to list his shortcomings. The city manager has not surrounded himself “with exceptional people who have real skill sets,” Glickstein said. Public safety, finance and purchasing are doing well, while planning and information technology are coming along, he said.
    But the other departments need help, the mayor said.
    A recent disagreement between the parks and human resources directors festered for months. At the May 17 commission meeting, five of seven people who spoke said they supported the parks director, causing Cooper to comment that she was not fired but put on paid leave during the investigation. The city’s human resources director was docked a day’s pay for misusing city property and the whole matter was sent April 29 to the county’s Commission on Ethics.
    “You allowed a workable setback to metastasize into something that created the need for public comment tonight, which reflects poorly on all of us,” Glickstein said. “In terms of how you handle senior staff, that was a fail.”
    He wants to see Cooper as the take-charge CEO he was when he wowed commissioners at their February 2015 goal-setting session. Then Cooper talked about the need to create Disney-like levels of service for the downtown and explained how the city could get there.
    “I believe you have it in you to be the manager we need, but I want to see the change very soon,” said Glickstein, who is unwilling to wait another year.
    Commissioner Jordana Jarjura faulted Cooper for allowing the dog beach issue to linger nearly two years and said he should get out in front of issues more quickly. In addition, she said the commission should stop setting up the city manager for failure. She talked in general terms about commissioners reaching a consensus then each approaching Cooper after the meeting to give a different opinion.
    She praised him for parts of his management style and said his salary should reflect those of surrounding communities. She proposed the 10 percent increase.
    Commissioner Shelly Petrolia wasn’t sure that an average year should translate into a raise.
     Vice Mayor Al Jacquet told Cooper, “You have taken the ship from the bottom of the ocean and pieced it back together.” Jacquet did not fill out the human resources department’s form, preferring to speak to Cooper in person.
    Jacquet went on to say that Delray Beach is a tough place to work and serve. “You get beaten up from us up here and from others who hide behind computer screens,” he said. “Some would see the process as a wake-up call, but I see it as a thank you for bringing the ship to the surface.”
    Commissioner Mitch Katz was absent from the meeting, but he did rate Cooper’s performance as average.
    Cooper gave a measured response, saying his job was to listen to the commissioners, and said he saw the comments as constructive criticism. He added that he is not motivated by money.
    Petrolia agreed with her colleagues about the raise and said, “I’m not getting a raise. Because I’m giving you one, I’d like you to make our jobs up here easier.”
    Also at the May 17 meeting, City Attorney Noel Pfeffer agreed to stay until June 24, to help with a transition. He originally gave 60 days’ notice with his last day as June 6.  With Jarjura’s suggestion, Pfeffer will receive a 5 percent raise, effective as of May 17, until he leaves city employment. He will start later in the summer as a partner at the Conrad & Scherer law firm in Fort Lauderdale.

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