Two years ago Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey asked his bosses for a $15,000 raise that would have brought his salary to $161,000. They turned him down, though he still got half the request. Last July, Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landed wanted a $5,000 raise, which would have brought his salary to $174,000. The city council said no, finding his existing pay adequate, particularly when his perks are included, pushing his pay package to $218,000.
On Monday, it was Bunnell City Manager Dan Davis’s turn. After a year on the job, he wanted a $4,500 raise, or 6.6 percent on top of his $68,500 salary. (The cost is actually closer to $6,000 when benefits are included.)
The city commission said no.
City Commissioners John Rogers, Bonita Robinson and Bill Baxley were more willing to give him less than a third of that, or 2 percent, which is the average wage awarded city employees, and only employees who rate “above average” on their evaluations. Robinson wasn’t opposed to a higher raise. “My issue is finding it,” she said of the money, which is not currently in the budget.
“I have two concerns,” Baxley, who was toughest on Davis Monday, said. (Rogers was toughest on his written evaluation of the manager.) “After looking at all the evaluations, there is, I know of one, two, three—at least three, which is a majority, he does not get above average.” Overall, Baxley said, Davis rates “average.”
“That’s one,” Baxley continued. “Second one, I don’t think it’s fair to give him more than you’re giving your employees. You’re setting an example. I agree he’s done a great job, I’ve been very pleased with what he’s done and I told him in my evaluation, but my average of his evaluation was ‘satisfactory,’ not above satisfactory. We should give him a raise, but I don’t think it should be 4 percent, I think it should be 2 percent.”
Commissioner Elbert Tucker had been most complimentary of Davis in his evaluation. He said cities of Bunnell’s size, based on his own research, give their managers a salary of around $85,000 on average. “I don’t have any problem giving a raise to the city manager, I think he’s performed well,” Tucker said. “I’m happy with what he’s done, how he’s done it, so I’m for paying him a little more so he won’t decide to go somewhere else.”
He moved to give Davis a $4,500 raise. He got no second. The motion would have died had Mayor Catherine Robinson not passed the gavel to Rogers so she could second the motion herself. But the vote failed, 3-2, as well.
Bonita Robinson agreed that Davis had been doing a good job, but she was more concerned about having the money to award the raise. There was $2,000 available, money not spent on a Halloween event, but the Stella Gurnee, the city’s finance director, told commissioners she’d have to look for the additional dollars to make the larger raise possible.
Rogers said he wasn’t opposed to a raise, but that more than 2 percent was not deserved just yet. “Dan, this is his first year on the job as city manager,” Rogers said, “and his communications the last several weeks has been a whole lot better than it was the first year, I mean, it was absolutely terrible, but it’s a whole lot better, the report’s great, and I think it’s heading in the right direction, but I’m not in favor of the $4,500, I’ll go on record saying that.”
Davis was at the table as the discussion went on.
“Obviously our heart would be much more inclined if we had more money to play with.”
“I’d like to simply say it’s an honor to work for Dan,” Perry Mitrano, the city’s utilities and waste management director, said. He was the only person to speak during the public comment period. “He makes me want to come to work every day and I back him 100 percent. He’s outstanding in my book. I just thought I’d say that.” Mitrano three years ago had applied and been passed over for city manager. He did not apply in the fall of 2015 when the city commission did its last search. Davis elevated Mitrano to the utility director position after firing Ferdinand Tiblier (who had competed for the city manager’s position).
After the initial vote failed, Tucker immediately proposed a 2 percent raise. That would have raised the base salary to $69,870. Robinson, the mayor, would have preferred the salary to be at least $70,000. That did not carry. The commission voted 4-1, with the mayor in opposition, for the raise to a base of $69,870.
“The reason I voted nay was there was $2,000 in the budget that could have been used for this. We could have done the $2,000. I’m certainly not opposed to him getting a raise.” To Davis, she added: “Obviously our heart would be much more inclined if we had more money to play with. But certainly it’s not because you’re not doing the job that we expect you to do.”
“I appreciate all of the feedback, it was very helpful to me,” Davis said. “I’m glad we’re able to have the process where everyone let me know how I’m doing.” The evaluation forms he’d sent out, he noted, could use some editing. “Something we realized after it went out, we’re going to tweak that forma little bit, I know it was a bit laborious and duplicative, I think we even left one of the other cities’ names in one of the places. So we’ll tweak that and make it a little easier for next year.”