HIGH SPRINGS – In spite of criticism from residents and even two of its own members, on Dec. 1, the High Springs City Commission approved an employment contract for newly hired interim city manager Jeri Langman.

Langman was appointed to the position at the Nov. 29 commission meeting after newly elected Vice Mayor Bob Barnas initially made the suggestion at a goal-setting workshop.  Langman will replace former interim city manager Jenny Parham who will return to her duties as city clerk.  The City of High Springs has been undergoing a search process for a permanent manager to replace former city manager Jim Drumm who resigned under pressure on Oct. 21, 2010.

Referring to Langman’s hiring, Mayor Dean Davis explained at the Dec. 1 meeting that the commission had no intention of firing anyone and that Langman will serve on a temporary basis to keep City Hall on track during the remainder of the hiring process.

“She will work until we don’t need her,” Davis said. “She loves the city and is interested in helping us.”

Langman’s contract passed in a 3-2 vote with Davis, Barnas and Commissioner Linda Clark Gestrin in favor of the contract with commissioners Eric May and Sue Weller opposed.

Terms of the contract call for Langman to fill the position of interim city manager as a temporary employee with no insurance benefits. If she, for some reason, ends up serving for more than four months, her compensation and benefits package will be reviewed.

Gestrin said that although there is no intention for Langman to serve for four months, if she does, the city will certainly need to be in a place where it needs to re-evaluate.

“Isn’t that a point where we review where we’re at?” she said. “I don’t think any of us dreamed we’d be this far along without a city manager.”

Under Langman’s contract she will be expected to work a minimum of 40 hours per week and be present during “normal city hall office hours.”

Barnas made it a point to obtain City Attorney Thomas DePeter’s interpretation of “normal” hours on the record. DePeter explained that Langman must be working onsite during normal office hours, taking care of official duties, answering citizens’ questions and supervising employees.

DePeter said that according to the city charter, charter employees, like the city manager, are in office until they resign or are terminated by resolution. DePeter said, in his opinion, this makes Langman a permanent employee until she is removed.

DePeter admitted in this case, the expectation is that Langman will resign when the commission finds a replacement. However, he explained that since the charter says the manager serves “at the pleasure of the commission,” she could be terminated at any time without any stated reason.

In that case, she would be permitted a review hearing. The city would have to wait 20 to 30 days to meet the review requirement before appointing a new manager.

Langman will be paid $4,000 a month for her services. The city has received 31 applications for the permanent city manager position and plans to start reviewing applications immediately.