City manager resigns with severance pay
Terry Stewart tendered his resignation Monday, ending his eight-year career as city manager of Cape Coral.
Moments before the new city council members were sworn in at the meeting, Stewart instructed the sitting council he was resigning, effective immediately.
Stewart will receive six months of severance pay, including continued health care benefits for himself and his family for that time frame or until he finds employment.
The resignation also dictates that Stewart cannot pursue litigation against the city.
His annual salary was $165,000.
It was rumored that new Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan was going to ask for Stewart’s resignation as one of his first acts.
Stewart originally balked at the request, but said he changed his mind after negotiating the terms of his resignation.
“I’ve done what I needed to do to protect myself and my family,” he said Monday. “There was a wide difference between where we were on Friday and where we ended up today.”
Stewart is currently a finalist for a county administrator position in Horry County in South Carolina.
Often criticized, the embattled city manager said he is “comfortable” with the terms of his departure. Stewart added that he is proud to have served the city and its citizens, and that criticism was simply part of the job.
“You do become a target,” he said. “Sometimes it’s simply the nature of the job.”
The new council members were surprised by Stewart’s decision.
District 4 Councilmember Kenneth “Marty” McClain said he had no idea that Stewart was going to resign, and that he was expecting to have to deal with the situation as one of his first decisions on council.
“It was one of the friendliest and most amicable acts he could have made,” McClain said. “It alleviated any stress on the council and allows us a fresh start.”
Sullivan, who met with Stewart Friday to discuss the possible resignation, said he was not entirely surprised by Stewart’s decision.
Sullivan said a “seed” was planted during their initial discussion.
“I think he could see far enough down the road,” he said.
Stewart received a standing ovation from the sitting council and the audience as he made his exit from the dais Monday.
Instead of letting the decision pass to the incoming council, outgoing Councilmember Dolores Bertolini thought it pertinent and logical that the outgoing council make the decision on whether to accept Stewart’s resignation.
It passed unanimously.
“It was prudent this council carries it out, and we all leave together,” Bertolini said.
Assistant city manager Carl Schwing will stand in as acting city manager.
Sullivan did not speculate on the length of Schwing’s service as interim city manager, instead taking a wait and see approach.
“Let’s see how he does,” he said. “If council has no objections, than neither do I. But let’s just see where it goes.”