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Date of Issue: June 28, 2007

Anna Maria ousts Donohue

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Former Anna Maria building official Kevin Donohue.

In what Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford termed strictly a cost-cutting move, building official Kevin Donohue was dismissed from his $90,000-plus per year position June 18.

At a hastily called special city commission meeting June 20, Barford said that it had become apparent to her that the duties of the building official had declined the past year as the Island's real estate and new construction market has stalled.  With the city facing state-mandated budget cuts, she said, the time has come to look at "outsourcing" the building department duties.

"The city will save about $40,000 annually by outsourcing," she told the commission as she presented a proposal from M.T. Causley Inc. of Miami for part-time building official duties. The company is currently providing building official services in Bradenton Beach for the same rates.

The proposal would pay Causley $52,000 per year, or $1,000 per week. In return, the company would provide a part-time building official at city hall, who would be present for half the day. The official would be one of two certified officials currently working for Causley in Bradenton Beach.

Under the proposed terms, Causley would provide its own vehicles and cellular telephones.

Barford noted that, by outsourcing, the city will save a considerable amount of money and still provide a proper "level of service" because of the decreased demands for building official services. Should the situation change and the real estate and construction industry enter into another boom period, Barford said the city can renegotiate a new contract with Causley.

No other bids were submitted to the commission for consideration. The bid process was not competitive and is not required to be, said city attorney Jim Dye. In his opinion, there's nothing in the city code that requires competitive bids for services.

Barford said she asked Causley to submit a proposal because they were already in Bradenton Beach and there would be no interruption of building official services in Anna Maria.

While she could have asked Holmes Beach to provide interim building official services under an existing inter-local agreement with that city, that's only a short-term solution, Barford said. That would not place a building official at Anna Maria City Hall for at least four hours every day as the Causley proposal provides.

Commissioners agreed and voted unanimously to direct Dye to draw up a contract for services with Causley.

But not everyone cheered Barford's decision.

Former Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn, who hired Donohue in 2003, said she was "appalled" to learn that he was called in Monday, June 18, without any prior warning and summarily dismissed.

Donohue brought "professionalism" to the building department and streamlined its operation, SueLynn said. Additionally, he got the city's flood insurance premiums lowered significantly through his expertise, clarified a number of ambiguous city codes, got a Web site for the building department up and running, and placed all city building codes and procedures on computer discs to make it easier for contractors to obtain information.

His two weeks severance pay was a "slap in the face," she said. If Donohue could be fired so easily, the remainder of the city staff "must be worried" that their jobs are in jeopardy.

"I take exception to what you've done," she told Barford and the commission.

Barford, however, took full responsibility for Donohue's dismissal.

"There's never an easy way to do this," she said, noting that Donohue had made it clear that he planned on leaving the city at some point. He had recently applied for the Bradenton Beach building official's position and has formed his own consulting firm.

Barford said she was also concerned that one day, Donohue would come in and tell her he was leaving, putting the city in a bind for building official services.

"I did what I had to do. Let's leave it at that," Barford said.

Donohue said he had no comment on his dismissal at this time, but indicated he understood how difficult the decision was for the mayor.