Assistant city manager is asked to quit
Bob Keller says he is stepping down because of his health, but city officials mention a police investigation.
By CHRISTINA HEADRICK
St. Petersburg Times
January 3, 2001
CLEARWATER -- Assistant City Manager Bob Keller, whose achievements included bringing the headquarters of IMRglobal Corp. to downtown, has been asked to resign by interim City Manager Bill Horne.
Horne said Tuesday that he suggested to Keller in the past few days that he resign because of health problems and other "personal" reasons. Keller said Tuesday night that he will step down as early as today.
Although Horne refused to offer specifics, he said a police investigation into a recent burglary at Keller's Countryside home played a role in the impending departure.
"I've been advised that I can't discuss the details of an ongoing investigation," Horne said. "It's pretty clear that the incident contributed to a change of plans. . . . (Keller) is under some form of investigation, and that's all you can say, until it's completed."
Glancing at typewritten notes, Assistant City Manager Garry Brumback on Tuesday said Keller resigned for health and personal reasons but also mentioned the burglary investigation.
"When the investigation is complete, which we anticipate will be a couple of weeks from now, we'll be able to make a comment," Brumback said.
Brumback said there had been "no consideration" of Keller's departure before the burglary. And just last month, Keller, who makes $93,000 a year, told the Times he was happy in his role as the city's economic development director.
Keller had recently been given the task of overseeing the city's negotiations with developers who want to create multimillion-dollar projects on Clearwater Beach.
Keller, 58, would not elaborate on what changed in the past two weeks, except to say his health has taken a turn for the worse.
"I am resigning because of my health," said Keller, who did not specify the health problem. Keller also declined to discuss the burglary investigation or whether it played a role in his decision to leave the city.
"I'm not going to talk about that investigation because I don't want to do anything to jeopardize what the police are doing," he said.
According to police, a pool service employee arrived at Keller's home about 1:30 p.m. last Wednesday to clean the pool. It was then that he discovered what appeared to be a burglary, said Wayne Shelor, Clearwater police spokesman.
Rick Gabbert, 33, said that he noticed broken glass by French doors near the Kellers' bedroom on the rear of the house. Then he heard a crashing noise inside the Kellers' home and noticed the home's interior appeared ransacked. Keller and his wife, Sue Ann, were vacationing at the time.
Gabbert told the Times that he quickly walked to his vehicle and called 911 on his cellular phone. Police arrived, circled the home and entered it, Gabbert said. No suspects were apprehended.
A few hours after the burglary was reported, the Kellers arrived home to find officers at their home, said Linda Treuhaft, Keller's administrative assistant at City Hall. Police said said the break-in could have occurred between Dec. 23 and Dec. 27.
Police continue to investigate all "circumstances and parameters" related to the burglary, Shelor said.
Police Chief Sid Klein declined to release further details. Horne said he expects Klein to update him at the investigation's conclusion.
Keller's attorney and City Attorney Pam Akin discussed the details of the resignation Tuesday morning. Akin did not return messages for comment.
Under Keller's current contract with the city, he is entitled to receive a severance package of up to five months in pay if he had been fired for no cause or specifically because of an illness. But under the deal that has been worked out, Keller will receive no severance. Clearwater officials have agreed to continue Keller's health insurance for 18 months and pay him for accrued sick leave, which combined are worth a little more than $10,000, Brumback said.
Members of the city's economic development department, which Keller headed, were shocked and confused to find out about Keller's impending resignation Tuesday from Brumback.
Keller came to Clearwater in 1996 after working in economic development efforts in Detroit and in Baltimore and also working as a city editor for the Baltimore Evening Sun.
Keller said Tuesday that he considered his achievements to be assembling the city's current economic development team, serving as a bridge to some groups that wanted to see economic redevelopment efforts extended to their neighborhoods and helping land the IMRglobal Corp. headquarters downtown.
IMR global decided to build its headquarters on a former City Hall annex in Clearwater in 1998 after being wooed by several cities worldwide, including cities in Texas, Michigan and Ireland. But the company set its sights on the property at Cleveland Street and Missouri Avenue after a visit from Keller and City Commissioner Bob Clark.
The company said it has spent about $28-million so far on the campus, which employs about 400 people.