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City assumes control of CRA; Jacobsen placed on leave

By Staff | Nov 8, 2012

The head of the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency will be placed on leave starting Monday as the city assumes control of the organization.

Operating for the first time Wednesday as the CRA’s board of directors, the Cape Coral City Council voted 6-0 to put Executive Director John Jacobsen on leave until Feb. 1. The council voted last week to absorb the downtown group.

In February, Jacobsen will be terminated without cause. He will receive all severance payments and benefits under the terms of his contract.

According to the contact, Jacobsen’s severance pay should be equal to 90 days – three months – worth of salary. He was hired in November 2011 with a starting yearly salary of $107,500 paid bi-weekly in 26 installments.

While on leave, Jacobsen will remain available for consultation. He can be terminated with cause during that time if the board finds reason to do so.

On Wednesday, Jacobsen asked for clarification on his availability.

“I certainly want to help,” he said, adding that he had planned on it.

Jacobsen explained that while on leave, however, he does not expect to be involved in the day-to-day operations or sitting in the office every day.

He said he wanted the terms to be “comfortable” for both sides.

The board and Jacobsen agreed that he would make himself available for reasonable consultations during mutually agreeable times during his leave.

City Manager John Szerlag will serve as head of the CRA in the interim.

Councilmember Kevin McGrail said he would support the motion, as it was always the intention when they started the process, but with a caveat.

“We need to understand this is an issue that we may need to visit six months, a year, down the road,” he said.

Szerlag told the board that he and his staff would examine the agency, looking for what could be consolidated. Two staffers at the Chester Street Resource Center will undergo training on CRA, along with police issues.

Other city departments noted that they would assist with the transition.

Also Wednesday, the board voted 6-0 to repeal the existing CRA bylaws. City Council must approve the repeal, so it was put on the Nov. 26 agenda.

Councilmember Rana Erbrick was voted in as the board chairperson, and Councilmember Marty McClain was voted in as the board vice chairperson. Both appointments are tentative until a voting meeting at a future date.

The board also canceled the Nov. 13 meeting for the CRA.

It will next meet at 5 p.m. Dec. 11 in council chambers.

“We’re going to need access to a lot of our staff,” McClain said of holding the meeting at City Hall rather than in the downtown CRA office.

The board supported holding the meetings downtown after December.

“I agree a presence in the CRA district is going to be important,” McClain said.

Mayor John Sullivan and Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz were absent from the meeting due to prior commitments.