The High Springs City Commission chose not to renew City Attorney Thomas Depeter’s contract at Thursday’s meeting.
The city has no plans to remove the attorney. Instead, the commission will continue the relationship on a month-to-month basis.
Mayor Larry Travis said, “I think he’s done a great job. We’re getting a pretty good bang for our buck.”
Commissioner Dean Davis feels that continuing Depeter’s employment on a non-contract basis is the best path to take given High Spring’s current economic situation.
Retaining Depeter on a non-contractual basis relieves the city of buying out his contract should the city decide at some point to let him go. “I think the buy-out is one of the problems we’ve had with our budget this year,” Davis said. “We’ve had to spend so much money in the past two years on buy-outs.”
The City paid severance to former city manager Jim Drumm when he was terminated last year prior to his contract expiration date. Just weeks ago, former police chief Jim Troiano was let go prior to his contract expiration, and he will be receiving severance pay as well.
Depeter said that severance pay allows the commission to not have to explain why it is releasing an employee, thus preventing legal action.
“It provides a certain level of security, but it doesn’t guarantee anything,” he said.
Charter officers like the city attorney exist at the discretion of the city commission. They can be terminated at any time if the commission deems it appropriate.
“A contract doesn’t make the appointment of someone as your city attorney; the city commission voted to appoint me as the city attorney,” Depeter said. “Just because the contract expires doesn’t mean the appointment expires.”
He explained that the only ways of terminating a city attorney’s employment are the attorney resigning or the commission following the appropriate procedure.
Depeter agreed to continue on without a contract, stating that his rates would remain the same as they had been.
“I enjoy working for the city, and I hope to continue to be your city attorney,” he said.
High Springs hired the city attorney in 2007 with a two-year contract. The contract was renewed in 2009 for another two years.
The changes proposed in a new contract were a reduction of early termination pay from three months to two and the removal of budgeting for training conferences.
Depeter’s contract expired on Saturday.
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