LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Lee County government entered a new stage of emotion and drama Tuesday, as commissioners struggled with how to deal with county attorney Michael Hunt. Some want him to leave, but are worried about a severance package.
"I cannot accept what Mr. Hunt is asking for. He wants 20 weeks of pay, I cannot accept that," said Commissioner John Manning during the board meeting on Tuesday.
Hunt has been on the job for about two and a half years, and some commissioners say his performance is not adequate, and they want him to leave. Hunt offered to go as soon as next Monday, but only if he receives a separation agreement that is worth about $107,000, plus six months of health insurance.
Hunt says he is entitled to the 20 weeks of pay, plus unused sick and vacation time, according to his contract, if he is forced to resign.
About a month ago, Hunt asked to stay until next August, and then leave for family reasons. But commissioners have pushed him to leave much sooner -- well before the end of the year if possible.
Hunt showed some emotion when he told commissioners: "I am trying to give the board an opportunity to do something, and it sounds like I am the bad guy. I am not the bad guy!"
He added: "You have had severance agreements with others who have left, Why is my agreement any different? Why treat me differently? That is the question I am going to ask."
Commissioner Larry Kiker asked that Hunt be allowed to work until next August, and then leave with no severace. His colleagues did not support that, saying they cannot wait nine months to get Hunt out of his office.
"The performance of the office is mediocre at best. We need to move and change this situation," said Commissioner Tammy Hall. She added that there probably is not enough "cause" to fire Hunt.
Commissioner John Manning agreed to meet with Hunt in coming days, and try to work out a new agreement that would cost less than what Hunt is asking. Hunt says he will not budge on the demand for 20 weeks of pay. Manning and Hunt are supposed to give an update on their talks at the next board meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 4.