After some last-minute give-and-take Aug. 2, the Sarasota City commissioners offered a contract to Tom Barwin, their pick to be the next city manager. All of the terms were as previously reported: $175,000 annual salary, $600 per-month car allowance and $15,000 for moving expenses.
However, the commissioners took two days to digest a clause Barwin desired in the contract to protect him in case the city had a sudden change of government.
Three times since 1996, proponents have gathered signatures to put a strong-mayor referendum before city voters. In each case, the measure failed. In 2002, it pulled only 30% of the vote. During the commission’s Aug. 20 meeting, a fourth proposal will be introduced by City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo.
A so-called “strong mayor” form of government eliminates the need for a professional city manager, so Barwin wanted some job security in case a referendum eliminated his position. He proposed a contract clause stopping the commission from discharging him immediately if such a referendum passed.
That clause, however, runs afoul of the city charter, which allows the commission to fire a city manager by a simple 3-2 majority at any time for any reason.
City Attorney Bob Fournier said of the clause in Barwin’s contract, “It’s just intended as a guard against a premature termination if the form of government changes.”
The original contract offered an extra two years to Barwin if a strong-mayor form of government went into effect, but Barwin asked that the period be extended to three years. By 3-2 vote, commissioners approved the provision, with Commissioner Shannon Snyder and Caragiulo in the minority.
With that vote, Fournier indicated Mayor Suzanne Atwell could offer Barwin the total contract.