HIGH SPRINGS – Both City Attorney Tom DePeter and engineering firm Jones Edmunds severed relationships with the City of High Springs last week.
In a letter dated Friday, Jan. 13, DePeter submitted his resignation, which was effective Tuesday at 5 p.m. DePeter said little to shed light on why he stepped aside, but the resignation comes after pressure from Commissioner Linda Gestrin who was pushing for his ouster.
In a meeting earlier this month, Gestrin asked fellow commissioners to immediately pass a “preliminary” resolution to remove DePeter from his charter officer position as the City Attorney. She cited budgetary concerns as her reason for the request.
Commissioner Sue Weller raised concerns that the move would leave the city without an attorney, but Gestrin said she was following the procedures according to the city charter.
Commissioner Eric May, meanwhile, said he was in favor of replacing DePeter, but believed that Gestrin was rushing the matter.
“I want to go another direction with a city attorney, but this is a sloppy way to do it,” he said in the Jan. 12 meeting.
DePeter remained largely silent during that meeting as commissioners discussed his future with the city.
After a bit of maneuvering, commissioners passed in a 4-1 vote a measure to bring back a draft of resolution terminating DePeter’s role as attorney. Weller cast the dissenting vote. That resolution was to be considered during a special meeting on Jan. 17, but was removed from the agenda after DePeter’s resignation.
His decision to terminate the relationship is likely due to the lack of a majority support from the commission.
In his letter, DePeter wrote, “It has been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of High Springs as City Attorney for the past four years.”
Prior to being hired as the City Attorney, DePeter was also elected as a commissioner and also served as Mayor. He replaced longtime City Attorney Jim Pendland.
His departure leaves the City of High Springs without an attorney. The city has been seeking bids for the city attorney position, reportedly to reduce costs. DePeter was paid a flat fee of $4,000 monthly. As of Wednesday afternoon, two attorneys had submitted bids for the position. The bidding process closes Friday, Jan. 20 at 3 p.m.
DePeter’s resignation wasn’t the only to hit High Springs last week. Engineering firm Jones Edmunds also notified city officials that it would terminate its longtime relationship with the city.
In a Jan. 12 letter, Jones Edmunds Chief Executive Officer Stanley F. Ferreira, Jr. wrote several letters to city officials notifying them of the firm’s intent to terminate its contract.
The letter does not state why the company is choosing to break off the relationship, but simply states that the letter serves as a seven day notice with a final termination date of Jan. 19.
Jones Edmunds has been intimately involved in the planning and engineering of the High Springs wastewater system, including its treatment facility.
City officials have not indicated how plans for the wastewater system, including uncompleted phases, would be affected by the Jones Edmunds’ decision to end the relationship.
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