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Near $100,000 settlement:Stilwell, Fort Myers Beach reach separation agreement

By Staff | Jul 8, 2016

The town of Fort Myers Beach has ended a potentially litigious situation by reaching a separation agreement with former town manager Don Stilwell, an agreement that will pay him nearly $100,000.

“Stilwell has separated from employment with the town,” was the language to which both sides agreed.

The agreement, which was drafted June 28, paid Stilwell $46,575 in severance pay, $48,953.99 in accrued vacation, sick and personal leave time, and up to $3,000 in reimbursed attorney fees. He was also insured by the town until the end of June and would receive accrued retirement benefits.

Stilwell received the lump sum payment two days after the agreement was reached.

Stilwell and the town have agreed not to sue or make disparaging remarks about each other.

There was also no admission of wrongdoing by either side.

“I’m glad all parties have left on good terms,” Councilmember Tracey Gore said. “We’re going to move on and things will work out.”

Don Stilwell was terminated by a 3-2 vote on June 3 as town manager for what Mayor Dennis Boback called “nonfeasance,” a failure to perform a duty required by law.

Stilwell was criticized for the town’s failure to pay bills related to its ongoing water rehabilitation project for six months, totaling $3.2 million.

The bills were lost in the shuffle between the public works and finance departments, Stilwell’s employees told Boback.

Some council members also questioned Stilwell for allowing for the town to enter into the project last fall, in conjunction with Lee County’s Estero Boulevard work, without a way to pay for it.

Jim Steele replaced Stilwell on an interim basis and is expected to stay on the job at least through the spring. He is the ninth town manager Fort Myers Beach has had since 2005.

As is provided for under town policy, Stilwell appealed the council decision, saying he was not given due process, an explanation from the mayor as to why he was fired or evidence of nonfeasance.

In response, the town amended its cause of termination to “without cause” on June 22 in a 4-1 vote.