Moline city council members unanimously approved an employment contract with incoming City Administrator Bogdan "Bob" Vitas on Tuesday night. Vitas will begin work June 14.
But Vitas comes with a troubled work history, having been fired or forced out from his past three city management jobs.
Vitas most recently served as town manager for South Palm Beach, Fla., from 2015 to 2017. According to the Coastal Star newspaper, Palm Beach council members ousted Vitas with a vote of no confidence in October 2017 after he told the council he believed he was entitled to a raise and cost-of-living increase on top of his $103,000 annual salary. Other, smaller issues also contributed to a soured relationship with council members.
"The council gave Vitas 15 minutes to clean out his desk, and he left the building without comment, escorted by Police Chief Carl Webb," the Coastal Star wrote. The contract Vitas had with the city allowed for no severance pay, and he left with nothing.
In June 2014, Vitas was terminated as city manager of Key West, Fla., when commissioners voted unanimously to terminate him without cause after two years on the job and buy out the remainder of his contract, according to the Florida Keys Keynoter.
Vitas came under fire for appointing the retiring assistant city manager as utilities director at double the pay of the former utilities director and without approval from the city's legal department. As part of his separation agreement, Vitas was paid $97,826 in severance, plus accrued sick and annual leave.
Key West Commissioner Tony Yaniz said it was "important to cut out the disease so the patient can recover," the Keynoter reported.
In December 2011, Vitas resigned suddenly as village administrator of Lake Zurich, Ill., a northern Chicago suburb, where he had served since 2007.
According to the Daily Herald, Vitas was paid $85,000 in severance and health insurance benefits for six months as part of a separation agreement approved by the village board. It was negotiated by attorneys representing Vitas. In exchange for the severance package, Vitas agreed not to make any negative or disparaging statements about the circumstances leading to his departure, and village officials were likewise restricted from speaking poorly about Vitas.
According to a copy of Vitas' resume he sent to Cooper City, Fla., when he applied there as interim city manager, he's been marketing himself as an independent consultant since leaving Palm Beach in 2017.
Moline paid candidate search firm Baker Tilly $26,000 as part of a four-month contract in December to find a permanent city administrator to replace Interim Administrator Marty Vanags.
By the time Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati and four new aldermen were sworn in April 27, the list of administrator candidates had been narrowed to five finalists by former Mayor Stephanie Acri and the previous administration.
Rayapati said she had full confidence in Baker Tilly's vetting process and the selection of Vitas as city administrator.
"As I learn about the profession of city administrators, there's an awful lot of shuffling around and people moving after several years," Rayapati said Thursday. "That's simply because councils change, leadership changes and you never know how the fit will be.
"We had the information we needed from Baker Tilly."
Rayapati said she and council members were aware Vitas had been fired or forced out of other city management positions.
"(Vitas) would not have gotten a unanimous confirmation if we were not confident in his skills," she said. "He comes highly qualified for the jobs we need him to do, and we are excited to get to work on a lot of projects that Moline needs to get underway."
Vitas is the city's fifth administrator in less than five years.
Lew Steinbrecher resigned in November 2016; Doug Maxeiner resigned suddenly in January 2019 after less than two years with the city; Lisa Kotter was forced to resign in September 2019 after less than five months on the job; and Vanags was hired in May 2020.