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Done Deal - Port Manatee Has New Executive Director


PALMETTO, FL. -- From more than 80 applicants, narrowed down to one, Port of Manatee now has a new director for its new cranes, its new docks and its new ways of booming business. 

After 22 years, Buqueras left his position as Director of Business at Port Everglades, in Ft. Lauderdale, to guide Florida's most promising port into the future. On January 2, 2012, he becomes Port Manatee's fifth executive director. 

Buqueras' three-year employment agreement was approved during a public meeting Nov. 17. During the hearing, board members became a little contentious over the deferred compensation package that Chairman Bustle had said was designed to adjust the $170,000 offered salary upward. Fears of exceeding the Manatee County Administrator's salary was a concern to many on the board, and the deferred status presented questions to the legal and procedural guidelines.

When board member Joe McClash, who said he objected to the "deferred treatment," said he had contacted Buqueras to let him know why he would not be voting for the appointment if it included the deferred treatment, Bustle nearly went through the roof. He said, "You are out of line. I can't believe you called." Then Bustle and McClash briefly argued over who had the floor. Bustle said, "I'm taking it back." He then added, "I am the only one who is assigned to negotiate with Mr. Buqueras."

McClash responded, "I did no negotiating. I merely shared my reason to why I was not voting for the package with Mr. Buqueras as a common courtesy. I wanted to let him know." Soon the steam settled down after all members weighed in on their interpretation of what really happened. It was quite exciting for a port meeting and soon the issue went to a vote.

After a vote on an amendment to restrict the compensation package to five percent of the director's salary failed, instead of the 13 percent in the agreement, the vote was called to question and Approved 6 to 1, McClash dissenting.

McClash said afterward that he had a problem with the way the plan seemed to deliberately skirt state regulations, which limit severance to a maximum of 20 weeks. Buqueras' contract added a clause that he would have to be given six months notice if he were fired without cause. "The state statute limits severance to 20 weeks," he explained. "That essentially gives him almost a year's worth of severance, because were that to happen, we'd still have to pay him the 20 weeks of severance after that six months. Meanwhile, he can use his vacation time and sick days and all that other fun stuff," said the 20-year commissioner.

McClash also noted that the director's authority would not be reduced during that time and said it creates less than an ideal situation if you're terminating someone for a lack of confidence, only to have them in charge for another half of a year after informing them of that. "The intention of the statute was to get rid of these golden parachute type deals and I don't think we're doing the best thing for the taxpayer when we come up with ways to get around it," said McClash. "I simply wanted Mr. Buqueras to know that it was nothing personal, but I wouldn't be supporting his contract as is. It was my understanding that we had agreed to a compensation package that was in line with the county administrator's and that's what Chairman Bustle would be offering. With the difference in deferred compensation, that's not the case." 



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