By Dan Moffett
South Palm Beach Vice Mayor Joe Flagello is promising residents “an action-packed, fun-filled agenda” for their Feb. 28 town meeting.
After being sidetracked for months with other business, the Town Council is planning to tackle several potentially prickly assignments — the evaluations of the town attorney and town manager, and final approval to an ordinance that would raise council members’ monthly salaries.
Last year, Town Attorney Brad Biggs asked the council for a new contract and a pay raise, from $170 an hour to $180. Some council members objected, saying they had problems communicating with Biggs and getting him to respond to their questions. Several members, including Stella Gaddy Jordan, considered putting the position out to bid.
“Brad didn’t support the council enough,” Jordan said. She also complained about too much cross-talk during meetings that Biggs should have stopped.
After the council had several false starts at negotiating with the attorney, the issue is back on the agenda for February. Biggs has held his position for a decade and is board certified as a municipal specialist. He wants the council to act on his request.
“I haven’t raised your rates for years,” Biggs said at the Jan. 24 meeting. “And I didn’t raise them during any of the time we had poor income coming in. I’ve requested it, it’s in the budget, I’m requesting that something be set that either I’m going to get it or I’m not going to get it.”
Flagello, who calls Biggs’ work on the town’s behalf “terrific,” says the attorney deserves an answer this month.
“I don’t think it’s fair to him. He’s offered us many options. We’ve even talked about a flat rate,” Flagello said. “We’ve had these options and we’ve done nothing. I think it’s sort of disrespectful.”
The town charter requires that the council evaluate the manager annually, so Bob Vitas will get his first formal review at the next meeting.
Vitas inherited a mildly chaotic situation when he took the $103,000-a-year position in November 2015. Five months earlier, the Town Council forced his predecessor, Jim Pascale, to resign after only six months on the job.
Vitas has received glowing reviews from all council members for his efforts to reboot the town’s administration and advance the council’s issues. Mayor Bonnie Fischer has praised Vitas for working tirelessly to collect easements for the town’s beach restoration project and helping officials develop long-term goals.
“Bob has done a wonderful job and really helped us get back on track after going without a town manager,” Fischer has said.
Council members were to have given their final approval in January to an ordinance that raises their monthly pay from $250 to $300 — and the mayor’s from $250 to $500 — but postponed the vote until public notice requirements had been met.
A first reading of the change narrowly passed, 3-2, in December.
By Dan Moffett