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Council approves city manager contract

By Staff | Apr 10, 2012

Though the approval of the city manager’s contract seemed like a foregone conclusion at the Cape Coral City Council meeting Monday night at city hall, there was still some debate.

There was discussion on the final wording, whether incoming city manager John Szerlag was a member of the International City Managers Association and a call from Szerlag in the middle of the exchange.

In the end, the contract, which Szerlag has already signed, was approved by a 7-1 vote shortly after 11 p.m.

The three-year contract will pay Szerlag $160,000 per year and allow him the opportunity to teach part time with council permission. He also will get $650 per month in travel allowance, $500 per month in housing for up to 18 months or when his house in Michigan is sold, whichever comes first, a city-owned cell phone, and a full complement of health benefits, among other things.

After nearly four hours of debate over the failed fishing ordinance, a weary council got to work over the city manager’s contract, hopeful it would be ratified quickly.

But there was a small snag. It wasn’t known at first whether Szerlag was a member of the ICMA because the question did not arise during the interview process.

The council and City Attorney Dolores Menendez discussed language that would address any sanctions brought forth by the ICMA against Szerlag, in the event that occurred.

“The last contract (with former city manager Gary King) had a lack of clarity,” Menendez said. “We could still make changes. We want to facilitate action and not dictate it.”

Moments later, Szerlag called Councilmember Rana Erbrick to confirm he was a member of the ICMA.

It was therefore added to the contract that Szerlag would be subject to termination if he did not comply with the ICMA code of conduct.

But after all the compliments to Erbrick over the contract she negotiated, Councilmembre Chris Chulakes-Leetz ended up voting against the contract, saying it was akin to hiring King all over again.

“I’m a fiscal conservative, and choosing Szerlag is like hiring Gary King with a different body and name,” Leetz said. “We fired King without cause and spent $50,000 to replace him.

“He’ll have my support, just not my financial support,” Leetz said.