By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE -- In an emotional morning, the Port St. Lucie City Council voted 4-0 at a special meeting on Feb. 7 to accept a separation agreement between the city and City Manager Greg Oravec. His last day was Feb. 8.
"When this first started, unfortunately things began to unravel very quickly," said Mayor JoAnn Faiella. "and I really wanted a fair process to this. The majority of the council wanted this to be done very quickly."
Mr. Oravec and the city agreed to a separation package giving him five months of severance pay, approximately $90,000. The meeting was recessed within minutes of first starting because the final agreement had not yet been reached, and the legal department wanted additional time to finalize the details.
Mr. Oravec became city manager when Jerry Bentrott was fired by the council last year. In November, Mr. Oravec received a raise and praise from the council on his performance.
According to documentation compiled by Mr. Oravec, there seemed to be a conflict between him and Councilman Ron Bowen, who was elected to the position in November. The documentation also indicated Mr. Oravec's attempts to correct the strained relationship, including asking for direction from the members of the city council and the legal department.
Assistant City Manager Jeff Bremer will step into the role until a replacement has been selected. There was no discussion on how or when a replacement search will take place.
Councilwoman Michelle Berger was out of town and not present at the meeting.
"She asked me to make the statement to the council that she had posted her calendar in advance advising she was unavailable for meetings this week," said Roger Orr, the city attorney. "She expressed her concern that the council would have a meeting in her absence on a matter of this importance."
"I'm extremely sad and disappointed about what has occurred," said Councilwoman Shannon Martin. "However, under the circumstances, the amicable separation agreement is the best course of action."
Councilman Ron Bowen made the motion to accept the agreement, and made no further comment during the meeting.
"This has been extremely difficult," she said. "There was no question on my part when Mr. Oravec became the city manager. Although I felt there were things that should have been done differently, I felt it important at the time to vote to confirm his contract for unification of the council and for the city."
Councilwoman Linda Bartz went on to state that during Mr. Oravec's evaluation, she expressed what she felt were his strengths and weaknesses.
"I would liken this to a divorce," she said. "Where you can look and say no one is to blame, but all is to blame."
Looking at Mr. Oravec, she wished him well in his future endeavors, saying, "Overall, I have developed a respect for you, and I wanted you to know that."
The final words were by Mayor Faiella.
"Greg, I respect you and love you for getting us into the next level of the city," she said. "I'm sorry it came to this, I truly am."