NORTH PORT — North Port City Manager Pete Lear will present a proposed separation agreement to city commissioners at their next meeting Tuesday evening.
Lear told The Sun on Wednesday he came to the conclusion to resign recently, and will spend the next few weeks figuring out what his future holds.
“It allows me to leave voluntarily, both parties will agree to it,” he said. “And it doesn’t have to be an overly negative experience for anybody.”
Though the proposed agreement has not been released for review yet, Lear said the financial package will be similar to what he would have been offered had city commissioners terminated him without cause.
“I am glad he saw the proverbial writing on the wall, and I wish him well,” said Mayor Debbie McDowell, who has been vocal about her dissatisfaction with Lear remaining as city manager.
Both the mayor and Commissioner Jill Luke voted against keeping Lear in his job during a contentious Sept. 8 meeting when commissioners discussed the 59-page report about Lear’s affair with a subordinate.
Lear had been on paid leave from July 14 to Sept. 8, while Sproat Workplace Investigations researched and prepared the report.
Commissioners Vanessa Carusone, Pete Emrich and Chris Hanks voted to reinstate Lear to his position that night, following a five-day suspension.
McDowell and Luke both said they wish the agreement would have come sooner, but are glad to see it.
“I’m grateful, because I feel that is the right thing to do,” Luke said. “I look forward to a future of healing.”
She said Lear’s resignation is the “first step” in the city’s process of moving forward and the city will now focus on searching for a leader to rebuild the public’s trust.
Commissioner Pete Emrich said he saw the possible separation agreement on the agenda, but has few details as to what Lear is proposing.
“All I can say is maybe he thought about things and pursuing different avenues,” Emrich said. “I’m truly not sure what it’s all about yet.” Emrich said his vote will depend on what Lear is proposing in the agreement, and will come down to whether it is beneficial for the city.
Lear said he hopes the agreement will be the right thing for the city.
“I got into a situation that turned into something much bigger than I thought it would,” Lear said of his relationship with city planning manager Nicole Galehouse.
“What I thought was just a relationship between two people became a whole community event,” he added.
Commissioner Vanessa Carusone expressed extreme concern and disappointment over the decision.
“It’s bad. I think we’re going to have a huge upheaval and it’s going to be very difficult to move forward with as much progress as we’ve made in an expedient manner with him — if it is deemed he leaves,” she said.
Carusone said she believes the city and commission will fall behind without Lear.
“I think it will take at least a year to find someone who will even come close to being a fit as city manager in this city,” she said. “In the same token, I understand it — how much can you take?”
Carusone said she believes the commission won’t have to regain the public’s trust over what unfolded with Lear.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of people out there very upset over what was done in his personal life,” she said. “I think you have a chosen few who are very boisterous and they have chosen to make that known.”
Commissioner Chris Hanks, too, acknowledged Lear’s experience as an asset to the city.
“Mr. Lear has been with this city for close to 15 years or so, and I think with anyone that has that kind of history and institutional knowledge, with any organization, for them to leave will create a hole that won’t be easily replaced,” he said in an email.
“I know there has been recent news surrounding Mr. Lear, but it is important to look over the entire course of his employment, and he has shown exemplary service to this city and its residents over those many many years,” he added.
The North Port City Commission meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.