MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island City Manager James Riviere surprised City Council Thursday by announcing his decision to retire in September.
Riviere said in a press release he had accomplished his goals for the position and wanted to take time to fix up a new condo he and his wife purchased.
But council members noted he left amid a split vote of confidence in his leadership and critical performance reviews.
Riviere declined comment when reached Thursday evening on the phone, but City Clerk Laura Litzan said those factors did not affect Riviere’s decision to resign when he did.
“That was some time ago,” Litzan said. “The short answer is no.”
In November, Riviere asked City Council members for a vote of confidence at the board’s first meeting with its four newly-elected members.
The vote was split; new council members Larry Sacher, Amadeo Petricca and Kenneth Honecker voted no confidence. Four members voted that they did have confidence in his leadership, including new member Larry Honig.
New council members asked that they be given time to review his leadership style formally.
A month later, Riviere received four critical reviews from the new council members.
Some say that may have factored into his decision to resign.
“Human psychology being what it is, wouldn’t it be plausible that he’s thinking to himself ‘Three of the seven want me out
so one more and I’m gone?’” Honig said.
Honig was the only new member to vote in confidence of Riviere. He also gave him a favorable performance review last month, citing his fiscal responsibility.
“We haven’t had a chance to work with him,” Honig said, referring to the four new council memebers. “So it’s kind of unfair to us and to him.”
Sacher voted no confidence in Riviere and said he gave him a poor performance review. Sacher said Riviere did not have control over his directors and did not conduct regular performance reviews of his employees, awarding bonuses subjectively. Sacher said Riviere was not responsive to his needs as a council member, but that his negative review was not a personal one.
“I didn’t feel he was a very effective leader,” Sacher said.
Still, Sacher said Riviere’s decision to retire seemed sudden.
“I am somewhat surprised since it seemed as though he had a four to three advantage,” Sacher said,
Riviere was appointed interim city manager in April 2010 and hired full time in August of the same year, following the firing of then-City Manager Steve Thompson.
Thompson served for two years before he was fired and paid severance. Litzan said the average tenure for a city manager is short and both Thompson and Riviere served a typical amount of time.
“You serve at the pleasure of council,” Litzan said. “Every day you might as well consider yourself hired for the day.”
Riviere earns an annual salary of $145,000 along with a $500 monthly car stipend. Litzan said he has not received any raises in his three years. His last day, Sept. 30, marks the end of the fiscal year.
“When I agreed to take the position I did so because I believed I could make a difference,” Riviere said in a press release. “I am pleased to report that I have accomplished the goals that I set in the area of fiscal responsibility.”
City Council Chairman Joe Batte said Riviere’s leadership will be missed.
“The citizens of Marco Island have benefited from Dr. Riviere’s extensive management experience,” Batte stated in the press release. “We will certainly miss his sensible solutions to complex issues which were the hallmark of his tenure with us.”
City Council meets for the first time since Riviere’s announcement May 6 when they will likely discuss a timeline and process for hiring his replacement.
Staff writer Jessica Lipscomb contributed to this report.