DUNEDIN – City Manager Rob DiSpirito’s job is on the line after Dunedin Commissioner Heather Gracy received support Jan. 7 from two other commissioners to fire him.
“I can’t seem to get my ideas through,” Gracy said. “I can’t seem to get a vision and allow myself and you, Rob, to think bigger and be bolder and not be so reactive.
Commissioners John Tornga and Bruce Livingston voted for Gracy’s motion to terminate DiSpirito’s contract immediately, but a fourth vote was needed under the city charter to take such action.
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski and Commissioner Deborah Kynes said they were “thrown for a loop.”
Both said they couldn’t support the motion, preferring to have a formal evaluation process of the manager, which is slated for a meeting in February.
Instead, commissioners agreed to Kyne’s motion to conduct the evaluation at the Jan. 21 meeting.
“I think if you would like to look at an ordered way then I would support asking for the evaluation in the end of January. But I think an evaluation process is an orderly way to show your comments,” Kynes said.
Livingston said he thinks that DiSpirito has done an effective job of getting the commission to where it is today, but added, “We need a new vision for the future.”
Tornga said if he were on a board of a company and somebody said they lost confidence in the leader of the organization, “he would be concerned and have difficulty going forward. It’s a big problem.”
Ward Bujalski said discussions such as the city manager’s performance are held traditionally during a review process.
“I don’t want to make a decision like that at this time of night, (11:30 p.m.) not having put any thought into it,” Ward Bujalski said.
Gracy said she would be willing to have the discussion on DiSpirito’s performance at a regular meeting again, “but it will show a very severe lack of confidence, and I thought the most respectful way to go was to do what I just did.”
As part of her motion, Gracy had asked that Deputy Manager Doug Hutchens work with City Attorney Tom Trask to make sure DiSpirito’s contract is met in full and to work with human resources to start a national search for a new city manager.
DiSpirito, who has been with the city for about nine years, did not comment on his performance during the discussion. At his last evaluation March 19, he received a 3 percent raise and praise at the meeting.