Port Orange sees another resignation | News-JournalOnline.com

By Lacey McLaughlin
lacey.mclaughlin@news-jrnl.com
Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 5:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 11:12 p.m.
PORT ORANGE — Assistant City Manager Shannon Lewis became the sixth Port Orange official to resign in six weeks Wednesday after a heated debate at this week’s council meeting that put citizens at odds over their role in government.
Lewis said her decision was for personal and professional reasons, but several citizens and council members claim hostile politics and personal attacks played a role. Lewis’ departure follows the fire chief, purchasing manager, finance director, city manager and public utilities director, all of whom resigned amid heavy scrutiny in the wake of $411,500 in unauthorized water meter purchases that were discovered in June.
Earlier this month, City Council members asked Lewis to serve as interim manager until a permanent city manager could be hired to replace Greg Kisela, who is leaving Friday to manage the Panhandle city of Destin. Lewis said she was interested in serving only for three weeks to a month until the city was able to fill a long-term interim position.
Port Orange Mayor Allen Green said Lewis indicated that serving as interim manager was not worth the criticism and demands from some citizens who are heavily involved with the city’s daily operations.
The most active of those critics, Audit and Budget Committee Chairman Ted Noftall, sent her an email on July 18 voicing disapproval of her decision to not stay on as interim city manager. The email, a public record, was republished on a blog maintained by Port Orange resident Hank Springer. Noftall said Lewis had a responsibility to step up and fill Kisela’s role until a permanent candidate was found.
“What you want apparently is for council to waste $200,000 in taxpayer dollars to interview, hire, train and then dismiss an interim manager in a six to nine month period –– half of which that person will spend learning where the washrooms are,” Noftall wrote, adding that he hoped Lewis would reconsider her decision before “dissatisfaction mounts with the irresponsibility of your reluctance on this instance.”
Kisela said that despite her efforts to avoid the spotlight, Lewis was unable to escape being a target for critics.
“You don’t want to be in an environment that’s toxic and they continue to spew their venom,” Kisela said. “She was honest and straightforward and she still got attacked for that.”
Noftall said he has a right to express his disapproval in city leaders. He compared Lewis to a vice president who is responsible for stepping up when the city manager is unable to do so. He said it’s not criticism causing the resignations but the surfacing of several mismanagement issues that have been swept under the rug for decades.
“I can’t believe that people are resigning because Ted Noftall is mean,” Noftall said. “Everyone needs to put on their big boy pants and step up to the plate and do the job that they were hired to do.”
Such criticism was the source of much debate at Tuesday’s council meeting, though Lewis said Noftall’s remarks had no bearing on her decision to resign.
Some residents, though, believe the constant barrage of criticism has created an untenable work environment.
“The reason this city has lost so many department heads in recent weeks has nothing to with Ms. Lewis and much to do with the harassment from a small group of bullies and a couple of council members who are micromanaging city operations,” Port Orange resident John Connors said during the council meeting. “They claim they are trying to save the city money, but they are costing the city thousands in legal fees, audits and production of 10-year-old documents.”
Lewis has agreed to serve as an acting city manager following Kisela’s departure and will remain with the city until an interim manager can be hired, perhaps by the end of August. Today at 5 p.m. the council will hold a special meeting to create a short list of candidates for interim city manager. More than 60 had applied for the position through Wednesday, including former Holly Hill Manager Jim McCroskey, who resigned in April. Many of the candidates are from out of state.
Vice Mayor Don Burnette expressed concerns over how the resignations would impact the city.
“We are losing a lot of institutional knowledge,” Burnette said. “It means that we are going to have to work harder to make sure the transition is going as smooth as possible.”
via Port Orange sees another resignation | News-JournalOnline.com.

16 thoughts on “Port Orange sees another resignation | News-JournalOnline.com

  • July 31, 2014 at 8:57 am
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    This entire scenario brings up a host of questions that I will lost below. We have lost the entire leadership team within the city. Mayor Green feels compelled to hang on due to his longevity in the city and at this point that is not a good thing. The City Council needs to think long and hard on how to proceed going foreword.
    1. Do we really need an assistant City Manager ? Can this salary be saved and utilized for other necessary positions ?
    2. With pending elections in districts 1 and 4 should Dennis Kennedy and possibly Bob Ford be the ones to help shape the future ? Kennedy is out for sure as he is not running. The proper thing to do on his part would be to turn over his seat after the election – not wait until January 2015. He and Ford (if not re elected) should NOT have a say in selection of new permanent City Manager.
    3. Finance Director – is this interim selection more or less a “shoo in” for the permanent slot now ? Her appearance and delivery of the current state of finance affairs did not impress. She was very happy, happy and purporting that all is great in finance land.
    4. City Manager – most agree that we do not need Mr Kelton’s involvement or any more FCCM retreads. Who ever is considered needs to know full well what they are stepping into presently. If a halfway decent interim is chosen, there should not be a rush to fill this until after the council elections are complete and new folks sworn in. They should have the say in selection of our new CM not the outgoing folks.
    5. The Audit Budget Advisory Board – does this board need to be “rethought” ? Was it ill conceived ? Are they performing a necessary duty or overstepping their bounds ? They have found a lot of dirt within the city finance area (pun intended) but some of the problems may stem from them too.
    6. We did not get into this position in the last year or two. It stems far back to Ken Parker and previous elected officials. Everything was status quo and there was no accountability. Folks kept their jobs for years without being challenged. Parker was around for 25 years which is unheard of in CM land. Mayor Green and to an extent Dennis Kennedy are the two remaining common denominators who have hung on.
    I certainly have more questions than answers and throw these point out for debate. Also any similar point to ponder going foreword that I may have missed. The voter turnout needs to be huge – you can’t gripe if you don’t vote. Drew, keep up the good work and stand your ground, we appreciate it. Don Burnette, get off the fence and quit being such a politician.
    Thoughts ??

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    • July 31, 2014 at 12:15 pm
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      To Mr. Concerned Citizen.
      1. Do you think we lost “the entire LEADERSHIP team” in city government, or have lost people with the title of administrators?
      2. I agree with you that perhaps it is time for Mayor Green to retire from politics, but I am not sure it is simply due to “longevity” of the Mayor. I had thought that Mayor Green had said that he would not run again for his last reelection to the city council, but he did? Why? My suspicion is that he changed his mind and ran for reelection to the city council because he wanted to protect the financial interests of the long time business and friend of his, the Master Developer. (I sense that the mayor does not us to name the Master Developer but to only refer to him as the Master Developer). I think the mayor would tell us that I have it all wrong, that he stayed as Mayor of the city because he wanted to protect the financial investments of the “investors” (taxpayers). If this is so, then let me say that during his “longevity” on the city council, he had done a poor job of protecting the citizens’ money. Need I enumerate? As you probably know I would like the mayor to explain why he had at a certain period in time recused himself from voting on Riverwalk issues, but then lifted his self-imposed recusing requirement and returned to voting on Riverwalk issues, many of them revolving around financial interests of the Master Developer.
      3. I hope the city council looks for the next city manager to be a “trouble shooter” who will put in financial departmental reforms, work culture reforms, internal inspection and control systems, and true transparency to offset all this negative criticisms. Ted Noftall may tire and weaken for us, and we need a good back up system like an efficient city government working to serve the citizens.
      4. You bring up a good point indicating that city council people serving in positions that they will have to vacate in 4 months or so, is detrimental to what needs to be done in city hall. In regards to the observation that the city council might change with whomever is voted in in the upcoming city election, I might now have my answer as to why the Master Developer was so in insistent that the city council give him a policy commitment NOW to give him future millions of dollars in tax money.
      Perhaps now I understand why it was so important for the Master Developer to insist that the city council, there an then at that CRA meeting meet his demands, or he was abandoning working with the city on building a River walk Park.
      5. In my opinion it is too soon to judge the new Interim Finance Director but rest assured that some of us citizens will be closely watching how she holds the fort for the finance department.
      6. I agree. The value of the ABAB should be reconsidered. In my opinion, if the majority of the city council does not support the ABAB or think it has little need for such a citizens’ committee then I think the ABAB should cease to exist. If it continues, what needs to be hashed out is if a member on the board can speak out as a citizen, or is it necessary to look upon every statement from a member of the ABAB as one representing a city function. From what I heard at city council meetings, information requested by the ABAB was often slow in being delivered, and some information as one ABAB member stated before the city council was “disingenuous”. I really should not put that word in quotes. I do not remember was Mark’s exact word was, but I think it is close to my quote.

      Reply
      • July 31, 2014 at 2:28 pm
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        You used the term culture. Yes, the entire culture within City Hall and all departments needs to change.

        Reply
  • July 31, 2014 at 10:07 am
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    Two other point while I’m on a roll:
    1. Councilman Kennedy asked constituents to stop calling him in reference to Dunlawton traffic and specifically the NO U TURN in front of Target. Well, he had no problem approving all the rapid big box retail growth along the Dunlawton corridor. They never did have the proper infrastructure in mind prior to proceeding with all this. He places all blame on Florida DOT as it is a state road.
    2. Can the city please get back to contracting out all of the mowing ? They have spent a ton on new equipment and salaries already when this can be performed much cheaper if outsourced. They realize this but their contract requirements and bid structure doesn’t bring in competitive suitors.

    Reply
  • July 31, 2014 at 10:27 am
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    Dennis Kennedy, at Tuesdays meeting, said he was going with the city attorneys advice on the early release issue…Then 10 mins later votes on ammmended lanuage for the early release, against advice of the city attorney… WHAT???? So the Dunlawton U Turn comment should come as no surprise

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    • July 31, 2014 at 3:24 pm
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      You must have missed the signal Mayor Green sent his way.

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  • July 31, 2014 at 10:39 am
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    While Im on a roll Id like to get into that early release issue. The City manager was correct, it was Margaret Roberts who brought up the “severance pay” addendum at teh July 17th meeting, Not the council. And when she says council agreed and one councilman even said “Absoloutly!!” That was Councilman Burnett.
    Here is what is interesting about that exchange.. The CM already has a contract that all partys agreed on. It address’ the situation being discussed so its a non issue…But the city attorney wanted to basically rengotiate the contract and add new language. Thats crazy!!!!! She clearly has no idea how to read contracts. Which might be why the city spends so much time and money at impasse over labor agreements….
    Now about Councilman Burnetts “absolutely” comment. The city attorney requsts the language change and Burnett clearly agrees. Then at Tuesdays meeting Burnett is the most vocal about why is it so hard for everyone to just move on. Really Burnett??? You ABSOLOUTLY wanted that language added then you wonder how things became adversarial… Ill tell you why….Your attorney does not understand contracts….And you adamantly want NEW LANGUAGE added to the agreement. Then you back peddle your way to just wanting to move on and sign off on what is basically in the original agreement. Im amazed at what I see each week. Its as if council members think we have no memory of what they just said 5 mins before they contradicted themselves.

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    • July 31, 2014 at 12:17 pm
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      You are quite correct and observant Gabe.
      They just didn’t want to buck their City Attorney and her “knowledge”

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    • August 1, 2014 at 5:30 am
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      A pompous jackass who is not that smart.

      Reply
  • August 1, 2014 at 9:21 am
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    This should have gone under the 65 Interms Hiring blog. Under Burnett’s asking twice for McCroskey.

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    • August 1, 2014 at 9:59 am
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      Burnett is imploding rapidly.
      Why on earth did he attempt a push for McClosky ? Not once but yes, twice. He had zero support and Ford in fact was an adamant NO.

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  • August 1, 2014 at 12:26 pm
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    Burnette has become a joke in his opportunistic grovelling and if he gets his finger any higher in the political wind he will be declared a hazard to aviation by the FAA.

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    • August 1, 2014 at 5:15 pm
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      Maybe the wind will blow him away.

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      • August 2, 2014 at 10:57 am
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        I think Burnette has administrative skills and is qualified to be a mayor and chairman of the city council. I think Burnette for the sake of his next bid to be elected as mayor does not want to alienate the special interests which are now supporting Green. That perhaps is a good political strategy. I would hope that if Burnette gets elected some time in the future, he will diminish his concerns about special interests and administrate on behalf of the people. If Burnette now were to disenfranchise himself from special interests by significantly disagreeing with the mayor the special interest groups will be leery of supporting Don for mayor. If Burnette does not scare the chamber of commerce the special interests will probably support Burnette in a run for the Mayor’s position. If special interests fear Don, a friend of the chamber of commerce will run against Don. Burnette now is our city council representative to the chamber of commerce. He has a thin political line to walk. The crucial question which is starting to be addressed in some blog opinions is how many silent citizens are there who are disgruntled with present city operations and city hall. I do not know. But if the citizens start hurting in their pocket books, I think we will find a significant portion of previously non voting citizens will start vote . If that is the case, someone has to inform them of all that we have found out through reading articles and opinions on this blog.

        Reply
        • August 2, 2014 at 11:19 am
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          Hank,
          I know this is my opinion but Burnette is lost. I have seen him make a motion and then vote no. I watched him flip flop on the recent decision to let Mr Kisela leave early against the advice of the City attorney. He is simply an echo to the Mayor along with Mr Kennedy. Our significant council votes that hurt us are always 3-2 with the same 2 shadowing the Mayor. In my eyes the only way to turn things around is to re- elect Mr Ford and replace Kennedy with an Independent thinker and we will no longer have a rigged Council. Burnette must be silenced or learn to vote in the interest of the taxpayer and not the Mayor. I don’t think Burnette could even hold his seat at this point let alone be Mayor. He has a couple of years to turn the opinion poll around. I hope he acts accordingly.

          Reply

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