published: Friday, March 08, 2013
Council OKs Oppelaar as city manager
roxanne brown | Staff Writer
After city council members voted to officially accept Sam Oppelaar's contract for the interim city manager post in Groveland on Monday, he got up from his seat in the audience and took his his place alongside city officials and immediately got to work.
Officially, his first full day at City Hall is today.
"I'm thankful this opportunity has come for me and my family," Oppelaar said. "I'll do my best to carry the city on. I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done and I'm ready."
Coming into Monday's meeting, his contract was up in the air. That's because when Oppelaar was offered the interim position, he accepted the offer, then declined it when he caught wind that a background check would include records for his entire 22-year career in the Air Force.
"When I retired, they (U.S. Government) gave me a "DD214 Form," which is basically a snapshot of my entire record for whatever purposes it might be needed. The military provides that to you as a documentation of service," Oppelaar said before the meeting. "If push would've come to shove, I would have understood, but the city council was happy getting that."
According to city officials, this is the first time in the history of hiring a top administrator that city council members have pulled the plug on a background check of military service.
Groveland City Attorney Anita Geraci, who was in charge of the entire hiring process, would not comment on whether or not she thought the move was wise or correctly handled on the council's part.
She also declined to comment when asked whether she advised the council to go ahead with accepting Oppelaar's contract without completing a background check.
Councilmen James Smith and Jared Mincey both said it wasn't a matter of whether or not Oppelaar had a high rank, is trustworthy or qualified, but instead, whether he was hired using the same criteria that other candidates would have had to accept
"I kind of understand where he is coming from, but I still felt that he should of gone through the same process, regardless of whether he was in the military or not," Mincey said. "It's unfair that he's gotten to bypass that step and anyway, if there is a part of his file that is secure, there's no way you're going to get that anyway."
Smith said a background check is part of the normal hiring process for everyone.
"I wouldn't have made any special concessions," he said.
Oppelaar's contract was approved unanimously after Geraci recommended they approve the terms of the contract as presented. Oppelaar was seated for 90 days with a temporary contract that includes no benefits, but five personal days, mileage, fees to the International City Manager's Associaton paid in full, and a monthly salary based on an $85,000 annual base salary.
Oppelaar is also in the running for the permanent city manager position at the end of his temporary posting.
Geraci said that she was instructed by the council to put the search on hold for now.
Oppelaar was the city manager in Minneola from Feb. 2008 to Oct. 2009, but stepped down after a split vote of no confidence.
Oppelaar's predecessor, Dolly Miller, held two positions during her tenure -- city manager and finance director for a salary of just over $117,000.
Oppelaar holds only the city manager position.
The council may consult a hiring firm to help it find a new finance director.