By Jane Smith
The long-awaited public hearing for suspended City Manager George Gretsas was delayed for another month, the Delray Beach City Commission voted unanimously at a 2:30 p.m. special hearing Oct. 21.
Gretsas has hired new attorneys to represent him at his termination hearing, now set for 10 a.m. Nov. 20.
The attorneys — hired on Oct. 20 — are Thomas Ali and Stuart N. Kaplan of the Stuart N. Kaplan law firm in Palm Beach Gardens.
Ali called and sent an email to Lynn Gelin, city attorney, on the morning of Oct. 21. Gretsas’ lawyers requested a two- or three-week postponement to prepare for the hearing.
But the earliest time the city’s outside labor counsel, Bob Norton, had available was Nov. 20.
The attorneys representing Gretsas agreed that his city manager salary of $265,000 and benefits package worth more than $50,000 will end on Oct. 23. Gretsas was receiving that compensation since he was formally suspended June 24.
Commissioners wanted to stop paying Gretsas while also paying an interim city manager to run Delray Beach. Jennifer Alvarez, purchasing director, was elevated to the interim city manager position on June 24. During her tenure, she will make $189,500 and have a $500 monthly car allowance and $100 cellphone allowance.
If the commissioners had not granted the delay, Gretsas’ attorneys would have sought a court injunction to postpone the hearing, Mayor Shelly Petrolia said.
City commissioners will act as the judge and jury at the Nov. 20 hearing in commission chambers.
The basis for the hearing will be a 38-page report compiled by Julia Davidyan, internal auditor. She interviewed 31 current and former city employees.
In the investigation given to the commissioners on Oct. 9, Davidyan found Gretsas had “disregarded the city’s interests and policies in the areas of personnel, purchasing and information technology.”
In 2019, she also investigated Mark Lauzier, Gretsas' predecessor, who was fired on March 1, 2019, after a similar hearing. Lauzier later sued the city on two counts. The first was dismissed and lost on appeal in February to the 4th District Court of Appeal. The second count — for wrongful termination — is headed for a jury trial expected to start in February, Gelin told commissioners on Oct. 20.