The Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority Board gave Executive Director Jim Cooper a 9 percent bonus but not before giving him a scolding, too, for not communicating with them well enough.
Then, former GIBA Chairman Jerry Lusk, in his last meeting after an eight-year GIBA board run, took the first-term GIBA Board complainants to task.
"I don't think it's the Board's position to micromanage the executive director," Lusk said. "I think we need to thank him rather than criticize him for minutia. He's saved us millions of dollars over the years."
GIBA Executive Director Jim Cooper
Lusk pointed to accomplishments such as Cooper securing a $1.5 million state loan at 0 percent interest for seven years as well as the pending State Infrastructure Bank loan application. The SIB loan could eliminate the need to raise tolls again and render the property tax referendum vote moot.
"If he gets the SIB loan he will have saved this community millions of dollars more," Lusk said.
The 4-0 vote on Cooper's bonus came at the end of a 3.5-hour quarterly meeting Friday at the Woman's Club Room in the Boca Grande Community Center. Cooper attended the meeting while recovering from a recent hip replacement.
Jim Cooper's GIBA achievements
Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority charter and current executive director, 1997-2012.
Directing replacement of three Gasparilla Island bridges.
Drafted GIBA-Charlotte County interlocal agreement.
Managed $1.5 million renovation of Boca Grande Swing Bridge in 1998.
Helped expand Placida Boat Park, 1998-99.
Repaved, re-striped and re-signed Gasparilla Island Causeway, 1999.
Managed construction of $1.9 million three-lane toll plaza and generator building.
Earned state Best Roads and Bridges Project award for new toll plaza, 2002.
Revised bridge opening rules and gained federal approval 2004. First year produced 1,997 bridge openings.
Managed $1 million hurricane-ready GIBA Administration building, 2003-05. Close infobox
The bonus, added to Cooper's $104,000 annual salary, brings his total compensation package to $113,360.
Last year, the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority Board extended Cooper's contract through 2017. The 67-year-old Cooper will be 72 at the end of this contract.
Cooper's performance bonus, which by contract ranges between 6 percent and 15 percent, would have been reduced by GIBA Board members David Hayes, Ginger Watkins and Lee Major. All had criticisms for the only executive director GIBA has ever had since taking over bridge management in 1998.
Hayes complimented Cooper for bridge operations management but outlined some "communication concerns." He recommended a 7 percent bonus.
Watkins recommended a 6 percent bonus, the lowest level possible, after saying Cooper had broken with the board's trust.
"I believe we have a problem," Watkins said. "I expect next year for there to be more care in him implementing what the Board wanted to do."
Major advanced an 8 percent bonus saying Cooper did a great job, "in general."
"I think where you got crosswise with the board, and me, is a communications thing," Major said. "Maybe this board requires more communication than previous boards."
Lusk advocated the maximum bonus. Non-voting GIBA Advisory Board members Thor Johnson, Pete Saeger and Julius Frager, all of whom were asked to prepare reviews for Cooper, also all recommended the maximum bonus.