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Karen Seel picked to lead county commission
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Pinellas County Commission Vice-Chair Karen Seel talks about the job done by Ken Welch as Commission Chair for 2013. Commissioners unanimously agreed Nov. 19 that Seel should serve as next year’s chair.
CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commission Chair Ken Welch will relinquish his gavel Dec. 31. By unanimous vote Nov. 19, Vice-chair Karen Seel got the nod to lead the commission during the next calendar year.

Commissioner Susan Latvala won the vice-chair’s position, 5-1. Commission Norm Roche voted no. Commissioner John Morroni was absent. Roche said he was voting no on principle not because he thought Latvala was incapable of carrying out the duties of vice-chair.

Seel last served as chair in 2010. Latvala served as chair in 2011. Morroni was chair in 2012. Roche was elected to the commission in 2010.

Seel thanked her fellow commissioners and said she was “very much looking forward to working with you next year.” Welch thanked Seel her support during his year as chair. In turn, Seel thanked Welch, especially for the job he did communicating with the public on behalf of the commission.

“Your emails were always on point,” she said. “Very nicely done.”

County administrator’s contract

The commission also voted unanimously to amend the County Administrator Bob LaSala’s contract.

The amendment, effective Nov. 19, adds 120 hours of annual leave to LaSala’s “leave bank.” It changes the way the administrator earns leave to match the method in place for exempt employees with 20 years of service. The change ups his annual leave from 29 days to 32 days – an increase of three days.

LaSala began work as the county’s administrator Oct. 12, 2008.

The amended contract reduces LaSala’s severance pay from six months to 20 weeks of salary and benefits.

According to a memo from Welch, the amended contract with the additional three days of leave will “facilitate greater work/life balance” and would “allow for cushions for any catastrophic circumstances that might result in the county administrator needing to draw on accumulated leave.”

In return for the extra leave, the administrator would receive one month less in salary and benefits in his severance package.

When LaSala was hired in 2008, his salary was $225,000 plus a $750 a month car allowance. His predecessor Steve Spratt, who resigned after a grand jury investigation of a land deal between the county and former property appraise Jim Smith, made $223,476. Former county administrator Fred Marquis, who served as interim administrator while the county searched for Spratt’s replacement, made $200,000 a year.

LaSala has prior experience with Pinellas County government, having served as chief assistant county administrator and assistant county administrator from 1979 to 1989.
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