HOLLYWOOD

Hollywood mayor asks for city manager’s resignation

 

After just 13 weeks on the job, Hollywood’s city manager is being asked to resign following a DUI arrest.

cteproff@MiamiHerald.com

Hollywood City Manager Douglas Hewett has been asked by the mayor to resign or face being fired Friday.

Hewett’s employment is in jeopardy following a DUI arrest after leaving a gay strip club on Easter morning. Although the city manager informed city officials of the charge immediately, on Wednesday they said Hewett had left out several important details, including the time of the arrest, where he had been drinking and his blood-alcohol level.

“Personally, I have gotten along very well with the city manager, but I do think he should resign in light of the recent events,’’ Mayor Peter Bober said Wednesday.

If Hewett chooses not to resign and ends up being fired, his contract calls for him to receive 20 weeks of pay as a severance package — amounting to more than $60,000.

Hewett been employed by the city 13 weeks.

“To have it turn out this way is tragic,” said Commissioner Heidi O’Sheehan. “But things happen and all we can do is keep moving forward.”

Hewett is the second Hollywood city manager to face such a choice in less than a year.

Last June, Cameron Benson chose to resign as the commission debated firing him after being surprised by a $35 million budget gap. Benson was also was under investigation (and later cleared) for ordering a police officer to buy a generator for his parent’s Lauderhill home on a city credit card. Benson left with a nearly $300,000 severance package.

Hewett, 41, was hired following a nationwide search to replace Benson. He came to South Florida from Fayetteville, N.C. where he was the assistant city manager. Although lacking any experience in the No. 1 job, he was lauded by the Hollywood Commission for his energy and fresh ideas about redevelopment and spending. He was offered a $172,000 annual salary and started Feb. 27.

But on Wednesday, Bober called for a special meeting to discuss the city manager’s future employment.

“I think the commission needs to take action with respect to the city manager and the difficulties in which he finds himself,’’ Bober said.

According to the Miami-Dade police report, just after 3 a.m. April 8, an officer saw Hewett enter a left-turn lane and then swerve back into his original lane. He was pulled over at 156th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.

“I immediately noticed the defendant had red bloodshot watery eyes, slurred speech and the strong smell of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath,” the officer wrote in the report.

According to the police report, Hewett had just left Swinging Richards, an all-male, all-nude strip club in North Miami Beach.

Hewett told the officer he had drunk two Coors Light beers. Breath samples showed his blood-alcohol level was .145 and .139, significantly higher than the .08 legal limit.

The arrest became public last week, although commissioners were told of Hewett’s arrest immediately.

But Bober said he was calling for Friday’s meeting because he was concerned Hewett had left out several details when he told commissioners about the arrest.

Bober also was concerned about Hewett’s personal Twitter account that has since been removed. A Google search for his account — NC_Pimpernel — includes Hewett’s description of himself as an “uncivil civil servant.”

“It shows a lack of judgment,” said Bober.

Other commissioners, including Dick Blattner and Patricia Asseff, who last week said they stood behind their city manager, on Wednesday expressed concern Hewett had withheld information from them.

“All I knew was that he had gotten a DUI,” said Blattner.

“It puts us all in all in a very precarious position,” added Asseff.

O’Sheehan said when Hewett called her, he simply told her he had been charged with DUI. It wasn’t until last week that she learned where he had been before he was pulled over, the time of the arrest and the results of the blood-alcohol tests, O’Sheehan said.

Hewett should have been let go immediately, O’Sheehan said, but City Attorney Jeff Sheffel advised the commission to hold off on the matter because anything they did could impact Hewett’s defense.

Hewett has hired his own attorney and declined comment.

As an “at-will’’ employee, Hewett can be fired by the commission without any cause, Sheffel said.

However, the contract called for Hewett to devote a minimum of two years to the city “unless there occur special circumstances when it may be in the best interests of the commission and the city manager to separate in a shorter time.’’

The contract also says if Hewett were convicted of a felony or any crime involving “moral turpitude,’’ he would not be entitled to the severance package.

Hewett has not been convicted of any crime.

If Hewett chooses to resign, he would not be eligible for the 20-week severance package; however he could negotiate a deal with the city.

The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at City Hall, 2600 Hollywood Blvd.

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