Last Wednesday, the Sebastian City Council voted 4-1 in favor of a new contract for City Manager Brian Benton, though some disagreement over vehicle allowance persisted.
According to the new terms, Benton will receive an annual salary of $156,824 and a monthly car allowance of $350. To address personal liability concerns, Benton is allowed to use a city-provided car when transporting city staff. Otherwise, he will be utilizing his own vehicle.
Councilman Ed Dodd did not vote in favor. He expressed reservations about the combination of a car allowance and the use of a city vehicle, stating that such an arrangement is not typical. Dodd also indicated that he believed certain details were missing from the contract.
Dodd told Sebastian Daily, “My issue with the contract was that it gave the City Manager both a car to use as he/she wants and an allowance. It is not common practice to have both; for example, the County Commissioners get $350.00 per month for travel within Indian River County and are paid per mile they drive their personnel vehicle outside the County for official business trips.”
Dodd said Benton did not want the liability of taking city employees on trips using his vehicle. However, Dodd feels the issue could have been solved by giving him a dedicated car with no car allowance, which Dodd proposed. He was not in favor of offering both to the city manager.
Benton travels to work from his home in Palm City. Previous contracts stipulated that the city manager must reside in Sebastian. However, the Council consented to Benton’s wish to remain in his Palm City residence. Furthermore, other council members were reluctant to force Benton to purchase a home in the existing real estate climate.
Dodd suggested that Benton be given a city-owned vehicle for work-related tasks while using his personal car for commuting and foregoing the car allowance.
“The car would have been his to use anytime to go anywhere within 75 miles of the city. Since his home in Palm City is more than 75 miles, he could not use the city car to travel there,” Dodd said.
However, Dodd was keen to stress that Benton is performing exceptionally well and is happy with the new choice for city manager.
“I support him fully as the new city manager and look forward to working with him in the future,” he stated.