REDINGTON SHORES — The Town Commission on Friday accepted Building Official Steve Andrews’ letter of resignation and has agreed to pay him two months’ severance pay and two months’ medical coverage. In exchange, Andrews provided a written promise not to hold the town accountable for any future claims.
Commissioners voted unanimously during a special meeting Wednesday to give the 14-year employee of the town until end of business Friday, March 1, to agree to the offer. In the event the town did not hear from him, commissioners had scheduled a special meeting for Monday, March 4, at 9 a.m. to decide his fate. Town Clerk Mary Palmer told the Beach Beacon Friday morning that the meeting has been canceled.
“Steve has resigned as of today,” Palmer wrote in an email to the newspaper.
The town called a special meeting to follow Wednesday’s scheduled work session after the embattled building official hired St. Petersburg attorney Andrew J. Salzman to help him negotiate an end to his employment contract.
Town Attorney James Denhardt outlined the commission’s options to Andrews’ situation in a memo to the commission Wednesday. The two-month severance agreement was the commission’s counter offer to Andrews’ request for a larger separation check.
Salzman … indicated that Andrews “might wish to resign effective immediately if he received three months’ severance pay and health insurance for three months,” Denhardt wrote the commission.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is looking into allegations that Andrews knowingly let an improperly licensed employee inspect buildings for Redington Shores. That employee, Joseph Walker, is also under investigation by the DBPR, Denhardt told the commission.
Questions about Walker’s status as a building inspector surfaced last month when Andrews began extended medical leave. A company the town hired to help with inspections alerted Mayor Marybeth Henderson that Walker lacked proper certification to inspect electricity and plumbing systems, Henderson told the Beach Beacon at Wednesday’s meeting. After the subcontractor alerted her, Henderson called the DBPR.
Andrews didn’t see a problem with his employee’s lack of certification because the supervisor believed Walker fell under his licenses, Henderson told commissioners when the issue first arose.
Though a DBPR official told the Beach Beacon in a Wednesday email that the licensing agency does not confirm ongoing investigations, Denham wrote in his memo to commissioners that the state agency is reviewing Redington Shores inspection records from the past year “as a spot check.”
He also wrote in the memo that steno books containing the inspection records had been at Andrews’ home. Andrews, who has been on medical leave, had given copies of the records for Walker to take to the town clerk, but had kept the books at his home. There was some momentary confusion as to why the books were at Andrews’ home, but they were returned to Palmer’s, and the town’s possession, Denhardt wrote.
District 4 Commissioner Pat Drumm estimated the three-month package at $32,344; the two-month package at $20,057; and a single month’s severance/benefit package at around $10,000.
Commissioners spoke respectfully of Andrews and his work ethic; however, some commissioners argued that his alleged failure to spot problems with employee licenses in the Building Department was a firing offense.
“We don’t have to give him anything,” Drumm told his fellow commissioners
District 1 Commissioner Tom Kapper at first agreed to a three-month package for Andrews.
“If we give Steve three months, he resigns,” Kapper said. “He’s been a loyal employee, he’s been here 14 years, and he did not know this was happening.”
Denhardt outlined several actions in his memo that the commission could take, including firing Andrews without cause. In that event, Andrews would be “entitled” to six months’ salary and six months of group health and dental insurance, Denhardt wrote.
Andrews would not be entitled to any severance pay if he was fired for willfully breaking federal, state, local or town laws, ordinances, and other rules, Denhardt’s memo stated.
Denhardt even suggested one point the town might “have Steve back to do inspections part-time or put him on administrative leave for six months” but in the end, the town commissioners sought the middle ground offering him the two months’ severance and health benefits for two months.
“We need to get this thing done and over,” Kennard said as he voted to approve the two-month severance package offer.
Henderson said it was never a suggestion from commissioners that Andrews leave his job. She said his request for severance was unexpected but would be accepted.
“We never asked him to resign,” Henderson said, telling the Beach Beacon, “This was not us coming to him, this was him coming to us, saying ‘I want this if you want me to resign, I’m gonna resign, but I want this.”
She also said Walker would continue his structural inspection work for Redington Shores.
“He’s allowed to do structural things, fences, buildings, roofs, windows, doors, but electrical no, plumbing no, mechanical no,” Henderson said. “Joseph is still doing all of our building inspections, and our interim building official is doing all the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (inspections).”