County Commissioners Hit Block in Negotiations for County Manager

By Caitlyn Finnegan

After spending the last few weeks haggling over contract details, the Alachua County Commission has finally settled on the basic terms of their offer to prospective new county manager James Bourey; but will he accept?

Bourey, who has served as the city manager for Greenville, S.C., and currently serves as a consultant for the Elliott Davis accounting and tax firm, will be offered $165,000, an increase of $5,000 over the commission’s original offering. During its special meeting Tuesday morning, the commission approved the increase with a 3-2 vote, with Commissioner Charles “Chuck” Chestnut and Commissioner Lee Pinkoson in dissent.

After receiving the initial contract offering a base salary of $160,000 and benefits including paid sick days, vacations and a monthly $450 car allowance, Bourey countered with a request for a higher base salary, compensation for the Florida Retirement System and up to eight round-trip plane tickets, among other benefits. In a letter to the commission, Bourey stated that he felt $160,000 was well below the market rate for similar counties in Florida.

During the discussion, commissioners examined comparable counties including Leon County, which pays its county manager $193,819, and Clay County, which pays its county manager $177,000.

Pinkoson said he was taken aback by Bourey’s counteroffer. In an environment where employee moral is in need of a boost, Pinkoson said he does not want to create further disconnect between employees and senior managers.

“I’m looking for somebody that is the head of the ship and considers themselves part of the team,” Pinkoson said. “What I got from this contract is, ‘I want to be treated differently.’”

Commissioner Susan Baird said she takes Bourey’s negotiating as a sign that he will be a good negotiator for the county.

“I look at this like any other negotiation…you start at the lowest point,” Baird said. “Then you see what the response or issues are and go from there.”

Commissioner Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson recommended once again that the next time the commission is faced with hiring a new senior manager, it should work out most of the contract caps and details before the interviewing process even begins. “We don’t want to end up with candidates who aren’t willing to work for what we are willing to pay,” Hutchinson said.

In response to Bourey’s counteroffer, Chestnut motioned to terminate all negotiations with Bourey and move on to the next candidate. His motion failed with a vote of 2-3, with Commissioner Mike Byerly, Baird and Hutchinson in dissent.

While the base salary has been decided, the commission will still need to meet with Bourey to negotiate the rest of his contract and suggestions.

If Bourey does not accept the offer, the commission will begin negotiations with the next candidate.

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