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City manager contract appears near

By Staff | Apr 2, 2012

Cape Coral City Council had nothing but good things to say about member Rana Erbrick and her work over the past week in regards to ironing out a contract for prospective city manager John Szerlag at the workshop meeting Monday at City Hall.

Council is now expected to put the contract up for a vote during next week’s regular meeting.

Save for a few sticking points still to be hammered out, the elected board appeared ready to ratify the contract nearly as drafted.

Among the details of the pact include a starting salary of $160,000 per year, with a $6,000 medical allowance, $5,000 in moving expenses, four weeks annual leave, a housing and car allowance, a pension, 401(k) and other benefits.

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz and Mayor John Sullivan were among those who praised the deal.

“I was expecting the ballpark to be $170,000 to $180,000. I’m in awe of that figure,” Leetz said. “That’s great work.”

Leetz also got the indication that Szerlag won’t be asking for a raise until the city is ready to provide them.

“My indication is until we’re in a position to give raises, he won’t be comfortable in taking one,” Leetz said.

Most councilmembers thought the numbers were spot on, or at least within the realm of reason.

“I thought $150,000-$155,000 but the numbers wash back and forth,” Marty McClain said.

“I think it’s fair and equitable. If Szerlag is comfortable with it, I am,” John Carioscia said.

Sullivan thought some of the figures were too low, while some numbers should not have been there at all.

“The $500 per month in auto expenses is too low. The $500 housing allowance is unacceptable,” Sullivan said. “That shouldn’t be in there at all.”

Erbrick explained that Troy, Mich., where Szerlag currently works and was able to watch the council debate, has a worse housing market than Cape Coral and would need the money until the house was sold, or up to 18 months, to which council tentatively agreed.

As for the transportation issue, ideas were tossed around to give Szerlag a gas card or more money with $4 a gallon gas imminent.

There was also talk of giving him a city car, which city attorney Dolores Menendez recalled former city manager Terry Stewart having.

Leetz suggested a rolling scale for the first year to assess gas prices and what the city manager really needs.

Erbrick moved the car allowance number up to $650 per month, which council was agreeable to.

“Let’s get the numbers right the first time because right now we don’t know the right numbers,” Menendez said.

Erbrick excused herself briefly to speak with Szerlag later in the meeting, where he said he liked what he saw, meaning the contract would be brought to a formal vote next week.

“I double-checked to make sure things were acceptable and he said OK,” Erbrick said. “I’ll get with the city attorney tomorrow to get the verbiage.

The negotiations went well, she said.

“Everything was very smooth, professional. We negotiated it in three to four days,” Erbrick said. “Friday was about getting the contract tweaked and written. He was very easy to work with. I think we have a good city manager.”