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Negotiations get under way with city manager candidate

By Staff | Mar 28, 2012

Now that the city of Cape Coral has tagged Troy, Mich. city manager John Szerlag as its new city manager, all it has to do is iron out a contract.

And so far, so good according to councilman Rana Erbrick, the council liaison in the negotiations.

However, a snag in negotiations could be that Szerlag is currently trying to iron out Troy’s budget and may not be available to do the same for Cape until finishing Troy business.

Nonetheless, less than 24 hours after naming Szerlag, negotiations began in earnest.

“We started discussing terms Tuesday morning and things are progressing,” Erbrick said. “Hopefully we can get something on paper in the next few days. Right now, it’s just a lot of phone calls to Michigan.”

Colin Baenziger, whose company Colin Baenziger & Associates, conducted the job search, wasn’t at liberty to report on the progress of negotiations.

“We’re just trading numbers right now. Hopefully, it will work out,” Baenziger said, whose company is acting as the go-between in negotiations. “We’ll make our way through it, but I can’t say if things are going good or bad.”

City spokesperson Connie Barron, though not involved in negotiations, knows it will take a pretty good package to get Szerlag here.

“He’s been around a while so he’s got certain criteria we need to meet,” Barron said. “He’ll want his starting salary and parameters, a stipend for a car, retirement, etc”

If Erbrick’s assertions are correct and a contract can be ironed out, she said a special meeting can be called as early as next week to vote on it.

“There’s not much to say until we get something on paper that the council, Cape Coral and Szerlag can all live with,” Erbrick said.

A fly in the ointment could be that Szerlag is currently working on Troy’s budget for next year.

Barron said Troy’s city officials don’t seem willing to see him leave until that’s completed.

Erbrick, however, said she’s not worried.

“We knew up front he wanted to finish the budget cycle up there. He made no pretenses he would be here Tuesday,” Erbrick said.

Another potential issue could be if Szerlag and council can’t come together on an agreement.

“If they can’t come to an agreement, they’ll ask the next guy, Mark Needham,” Barron said.

If that happens, and April turns into May with no agreement, that could mean the new city manager may be late in regards to Cape Coral’s city budget preparation.

Barron said such a situation is not unprecedented.

“We had this situation when Gary King started in July. The city departments had put together its budgets already,” Barron said. “We’re getting ready now to put the budgets together. We’ll have a proper budget and the city manager will have input.

Szerlag was not immediately available for comment.