Port Orange’s leading critic comes under fire | News-JournalOnline.com

Port Orange’s leading critic comes under fire

 

Published: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 12:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.

 

 In the wake of six key resignations over a six-week period, a member of a Port Orange citizens board came under fire this week for his role in creating what was described as a hostile work environment.

Ted Noftall

Vice Mayor Don Burnette called for the removal of Audit and Budget Advisory Board Chairman Ted Noftall, and Greg Kisela, speaking as a private citizen following his departure as manager last week, accused Noftall of violating public records laws and harassing city employees.

Burnette’s motion stalled after City Attorney Margaret Roberts informed council members the charges for removing a board member must be outlined in writing and a public hearing must take place before they could vote on a removal.

The heated discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting is the latest twist in Port Orange politics after six department heads have resigned amid scrutiny following $411,500 overspent on a water meter contract. Over the last year Noftall frequently wrote e-mails to Kisela and other employees voicing his disapproval of their performance and speaking out during public meetings. He maintains that he has a right to voice is disapproval over mismanagement issues that are costly to taxpayers.

“The situation here is that council has failed miserably in holding the manager responsible for fixing the repeated problems myself and others have been bringing to light,” Noftall said Wednesday afternoon. “Their solution to being unable or unwitting to address the message is to take it out on the messenger.”

But Kisela said the criticism by Noftall, including personal attacks directed at employees, too often crossed the line into harassment.

The lastest instance, Kisela said, came after he filed a public records request asking for all public records in Noftall’s possession — including items on his personal computer and cellphone — since he was appointed to the budget board in the spring of 2013.

Noftall and Port Orange resident Mike Gardner responded with e-mails criticizing Kisela’s request.

“To be subjected to these harassments and threats from appointed public officials is unacceptable,” Kisela told council members. “I think it’s potentially illegal and wrong.”

Kisela, who stepped down Friday in order to manage the Panhandle city of Destin, said he believed he had grounds to take legal action against Noftall and others for harassment and discrimination but would not be doing so.

Gardner denies that his e-mail to Kisela was threatening, saying he was only sharing concerns about Kisela’s right to request an inspection of a citizen’s personal property.

Because board re-appointments are scheduled for Sept. 30, Burnette said the issue may resolve itself, though he plans to work with the city attorney on moving forward before then.

“There is a difference between policy discourse and disparagement,” Burnette said. “Your lack of civility at times has made it difficult for people to have real policy discussions with you about real issues which we as a city desperately need to have.”

Noftall did not dispute the call for his removal and has said the council has a right to remove him if they disagree with his leadership style.

Fellow budget board member Mark Schaefer defended Noftall, saying that he was being unfairly blamed for problems in the city.

“He may have made one bad comment,” Schaefer said, “but Don Burnette has been on the council when the city has lost millions of taxpayer dollars and he is asking for the removal of his biggest critic when he should have been asking for help.”

It was unclear if council members will support Burnette’s motion. Councilman Drew Bastian, who appointed Noftall, said he wasn’t ready to make a decision.

“I’m not certain that I’d want him removed,” Bastian said. “I’d have to see how this process goes.”

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2 thoughts on “Port Orange’s leading critic comes under fire | News-JournalOnline.com

  • August 7, 2014 at 5:11 pm
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    Ted I’m in your corner 100%, Burnett’s action just goes to show how much they are threatened by your persistence to uncover the malfeasance that’s been going on within our city.Keep your head up, keep up the good work. You’ve got a lot of citizens behind you.

    Reply
  • August 7, 2014 at 5:30 pm
    Permalink

    Ted, you sure have big shoulders and thick skin, not to mention a lot of courage. If they gave you more than 3 minutes to hear you out in front of the Dias the people would realize that you have more of a balanced perspective than your detractors say, and that in the broader perspective you actually recognize value and have no problem paying for honest value. Because the mayor avoids your questions and stultifies you before the Dais you are forced to make the most of those 3 minutes and that’s why you are portrayed as being abrasive. If the mayor had the courage to have a long interview with people like yourself and Hank Springer in an open and transparent forum your full perspective would be disclosed. Fat chance of that happening because then the mayor’s full agenda would be known.

    Reply

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