Florida city manager resigns after DUI-strip bar arrest

Hollywood City Manager Douglas Hewett resigned Friday, exactly 13 weeks and three days into his tenure.

He will leave with a $66,000 severance package — the equivalent of 20 weeks pay — plus 12 months of health coverage.

The Hollywood City Commission also agreed to a “no disparagement clause’’ in exchange for Hewett agreeing to not sue the city. The deal Hewett worked out with the city in exchange for resigning is financially better for him than what the city would have been required to pay him if he had been fired.

The resignation was announced at a special meeting Friday called by Mayor Peter Bober after details surrounding Hewett’s DUI arrest on Easter Sunday became public.

Hewett did not appear at the meeting.

Hewett, 41, was pulled over by Miami-Dade police after leaving Swinging Richards, a gay strip club in North Miami Beach about 3 a.m. April 8.

“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.

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.

Bober and the commissioners said Hewett informed them of the arrest, but left out pertinent details, such as the results of his blood-alcohol tests, where he had been before he was pulled over, and the time of the arrest.

Hewett has pleaded not guilty to charges of driving under the influence, failure to obey a traffic sign and failure to use a designated lane. He was carrying a North Carolina driver’s license, and driving a car with North Carolina tags, according to the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts’ online case summary.

Hewett’s defense attorney, George Charnota of Miami, said his client is looking forward to being vindicated in court.

Charnota said Hewett has regained his driving privileges after an administrative hearing before the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, which automatically suspends driving privileges of motorists charged with DUI.

“There was insufficient evidence to support that suspension,” Charnota said.

If Hewett is found guilty of DUI, though, his driving privilege will be suspended.

Although the arrest happened in early April, the commissioners said they were advised by the city attorney to not get involved. Anything they said or did could impact Hewett’s DUI case, they were told.

But that changed when media reported the incident last week.

Bober also said he 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.”

“Maybe there was a possible trend with respect to his judgment,” Mayor Peter Bober said.

Hewett had been hired to replace Cameron Benson, who resigned last June while the commissioners debated firing him after learning of a $35 million budget gap. Benson left with a severance package of almost $300,000.

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 hired at a $172,000 annual salary, plus perks.

Up until this week, commissioners had expressed pleasure in Hewett’s job performance, specifically giving him credit for hiring department heads and addressing police staffing levels.

“I like the way he was handling the police, not collective bargaining, but the fact that we’re undermanned,” Commisioner Dick Blattner said. “He’s addressed the issue of sanitation services, which we will get a presentation on shortly. He has addressed the issues that the commission has pointed out to him as being very important to them.”

But that changed when details came out about Hewett’s April 8 DUI arrest and the Twitter account.

Commissioner Heidi O’Sheehan said Thursday that Hewett’s “credibility was compromised.”

“That’s what undermines your ability to lead,” she said.

While Hewett immediately informed commissioners about the DUI arrest, he left out several details, they said.

“We did not know where his drinking had taken place,” said Blattner. “We didn’t know what it was. I saw the name [Swinging Richards] in the police report, but that name meant nothing to me.”

Blattner said the withholding of details about the arrest made him question Hewett’s fitness as the city’s top administrator.

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