Moye’s contract as next county attorney wins commission approval on unanimous vote

Drafting of terms brings focus to issue with county administrator’s contract

 With a unanimous vote on May 9, the Sarasota County commissioners approved a contract that Chair Ron Cutsinger negotiated with Deputy County Attorney Joshua Moye, who will succeed County Attorney Frederick “Rick” Elbrecht.

The document says Moye’s term will begin at midnight on June 12. His base salary will be $238,500, the contract adds.

In response to a Sarasota News Leader request for the information, county Media Relations Officer Brianne Lorenz reported that Moye’s salary is $180,024.

During their regular meeting on April 25, the commissioners voted unanimously to name Moye the next county attorney. The other two deputy county attorneys — Karl Senkow, the chief deputy, and Aleksandr Boksner — had applied for the position, as well.

On Feb. 26, 2019, when the commissioners voted unanimously to approve the contract with Elbrecht, they agreed to pay him $223,000 as his base salary.

At that time, then-Chair Charles Hines explained in an email to his colleagues that Elbrecht “had provided good information in regards to comparing his salary request to those of other comparable counties.” Hines added. “Please review this information … as I did not feel it was within my authority to commit to him a number for his salary without the full Board’s approval. With that said, I’m comfortable with his requested salary, but believe that should be open for Board discussion should that be necessary.”

“The number’s not out of the blue,” Hines told his colleagues during their regular meeting on Feb. 26, 2019. It is comparable to the salaries of other county attorneys with backgrounds and experience similar to Elbrecht’s, Hines said.

During the May 9 County Commission meeting, none of the board members questioned the base salary that Cutsinger had negotiated with Moye.

When Cutsinger asked for any comments or questions from his colleagues, Commissioner Joe Neunder of Nokomis thanked Cutsinger, with a big smile, for “taking up the arduous task in having to negotiate with an attorney.”

Neunder added, “This is a fair and equitable agreement between the taxpayers of Sarasota County and Mr. Moye. I hope that this leads to a very long and fruitful relationship with his employment here …”

Cutsinger added that he is “just looking forward to bringing [Moye] on. I think he’s going to be a great choice.”

Neunder then made the motion to approve the contract, and Commissioner Michael Moran seconded it. Moran also expressed his appreciation to Cutsinger for taking the lead on the negotiations.

Among other details of the contract, the county is to pay “reasonable travel and per diem expenses” to Moye while he is on county business or attending functions as a representative of the county, or attending “short courses, institutes and seminars that are necessary for [his] professional development and for the benefit of the County.”

Those payments are to be provided in accord “with the schedule appearing in subsection 112.061” of the Florida Statutes, the contract points out.

Additionally, along with health care insurance, long-term disability insurance and short-term disability benefits, Moye will be entitled to term life insurance through the county’s group plan in an amount that is three times his base salary.

The agreement also calls for the county attorney to give the commissioners written notice at least 30 days in advance “of any voluntary resignation, unless the parties agree otherwise.” The contract also “may be terminated by mutual agreement” of Moye and the board members, in writing.

To terminate the county attorney, with or without cause, the document also notes, four commissioners would have to agree to the action in one meeting, or three of them would have to vote for the termination during two official meetings conducted three weeks apart. If the County Commission were to terminate the contract “for any reason other than cause,” the county would have to pay Moye “a lump sum equivalent to his salary, deferred compensation, and health care insurance” for 20 weeks “at the rate in effect” at the time of the termination. That payment would have to be made within 15 days of the effective date of the termination, the agreement points out.

If he were to be fired for misconduct as defined in Section 443.036(29) of the Florida Statutes, no severance pay would be provided.

The contract does call for an annual evaluation of the county attorney, the practice to which the board members have been adhering with Elbrecht.

Addressing an ‘unnecessary clause’ in county administrator’s contract

Following the approval of Moye’s contract, Commissioner Moran raised a related issue.

It was his understanding, Moran said, that one clause that had been in the standard employment agreement with the county attorney had been removed as a result of Cutsinger’s discussions with Moye. “I think that also should be applicable to the county administrator,” Moran added.

“I agree,” Cutsinger responded. “It was clear to me that it was something that needed to be addressed.” In fact, Cutsinger continued, he considered the possibility that the clause “could possibly be harmful.”

That clause in the contract that the commissioners seated in January 2018 approved with County Administrator Jonathan Lewis said, “Unless extended by agreement of [the County Commission], the severance provision set forth in subsection b.(3) shall not apply to, and no severance shall be paid, in connection with a termination for any reason other than cause occurring more than ten (10) years from the date of commencement of this contract.”

The referenced subsection, b.(3), read, “If the Board elects to terminate the Administrator’s contract for any reason other than cause, the County shall pay to the Administrator as severance pay and in full satisfaction of the County’s obligations hereunder, a lump sum equivalent to his salary, deferred compensation, and health care insurance for twenty (20) weeks at the rate in effect on the effective date of termination; provided, however, that no severance pay shall be paid to Administrator if Administrator is terminated for misconduct defined in Section 443.036(30), Florida Statutes. The County shall make the lump sum payment within fifteen (15) days from the effective date of termination. This provision shall not apply to terminations for cause.”

Moran made a motion to authorize Cutsinger to negotiate with County Administrator Lewis to remove the clause in Section 2.B.1.b.(5).

Lewis did not offer any remark before the commissioners voted unanimously in favor of that motion, as well.