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Divided Palm Coast Council Treads Toward Searching For New Manager Starting in January

| August 3, 2017

Palm Coast City Council member Steven Nobile, right, was mostly the odd-man out at today’s workshop on how soon to start the process to replace City Manager Jim Landon, left. That process won’t start in earnest until January. (c FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast City Manager’s Jim Landon’s tenure is ending, but not just yet: The Palm Coast City Council wants him to stick around as it searches for his replacement. That could take a year to 18 months, if not longer, with that clock starting no sooner than January. That means the search will coincide with next year’s election season, when two council seats are up.

In a meeting with far less unanimity than grudging agreement on a few matters, the one thing the council decided today was starting a search in the next few weeks–not for a manager, but for a search firm that will itself solicit applicants. The council would work on developing that request for proposal now, with the RFP going out at the beginning of January. Assuming a 12-month search, that would not lead to a new manager until the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019.

Landon himself wants to retire in the latter part of 2019. Some council members–Steven Nobile and Heidi Shipley–want to start the search now. Others are willing to wait until next year and even have the hire dovetail Landon’s retirement.

As much as the council wants to replace him, it is just as clearly nervous and unsure about how to proceed: today’s discussion showed that. Almost two hours in, and council members still had no unanimity on when to start, other than agreeing to putting out a call for a search firm by January. Generalities aside about a “forward-looking” professional manager with ideas and “energy,” one who will “take Palm Coast to the next level,” it is not even certain yet what sort of manager it wants, though that generally becomes more defined as the process advances.

That still left unclear what a termination agreement with Landon would look like, or whether there would be one, though council members seemed to agree that there should be one.

“I still don’t know what we’re doing, I don’t know what’s happening to Mr. Landon right now,” Council member Steven Nobile said just past the hour mark, words he echoed nearing the two-hour mark.

By then only Mayor Milissa Holland’s approach of sending the RFP out in January had prevailed. It was still unclear to what extent the public would be involved in the process.

Playing into the decision is Landon’s severance package, which would cost the city close to his current annual pay package of nearly a quarter million dollars, and which Landon says will kick in if he is not allowed to retire on his terms in 2019. “It’s not my interest whatsoever to negotiate out of the contract,” he said, later clarifying, at Nobile’s urging, that he sees his retirement in “the July-August time frame of 2019.”

Nobile described it as “a hostage situation,” and he and the rest of the council members said they did not want to have their decisions driven by whether they must pay severance or not: they are willing to put the cost of the severance into next year‘s budget, along with the costs of the search, which Council member Nick Klufas said could run up to $100,000. At the same time, the matter of the severance again and again became a subject of discussion, with council members obviously willing to consider how to avoid paying it, even if it meant possibly sticking with Landon until the summer of 2019.

Holland tried several times to get clarity from fellow-members about whether they wanted the search timed with the end of Landon’s contract. The answers were mostly vague. Council member Bob Cuff said he was “not opposed” to waiting until 2019, and timing the hiring with that date. Nick Klufas appeared to agree. Nobile did not. “I don’t want to wait,” he said. Heidi Shipley agreed. But both Nobile and Shipley said that approach would not preclude sticking with Landon until his retirement date if the process did not land on a quality candidate.

Holland’s position: putting out the request for proposal for search firms in January, and letting the process take its time, with the possibility that a manager would be found in late 2018 and hired them, even at the cost of kicking in the severance package. That was not acceptable to Nobile. “My preference is we start now,” he said. (It is his seat and Shipley’s that are up in the 2018 election. He has said previously that he favored ending the search process before the next election. That now appears to be impossible.)

Today’s workshop was the first chance for the council openly to discuss what most council members have been saying privately: that Landon must go, and that the council must devise a way to replace him. But that he should go not “for cause,” but rather because the council wants to take a new direction.

Nobile had put Landon on notice several weeks ago that he wanted him gone, and Landon himself, in closed-door meetings with each council member, said he’d be willing to retire in 2019. Once those talks were made public, it forced the council’s hand to start open discussions, today’s meeting being the first step. It was a workshop, where no votes would be taken. It was also clear that since council members had not had a chance to speak to each other about the transition until now, they’d have to see through a lot of procedural clutter.

Landon himself sat at his usual spot at the table, next to Bill Reischmann, the city attorney (sitting in the audience, as some council members had preferred, was not for him), though council members tried to restrict much of the discussion to themselves except when they needed clarifications about his intentions. That worked at the beginning. It did not work in the second half of the meeting, when Landon’s controlling nature could no longer be contained.

He suggested that his staff be involved in framing the RFP, saying the city attorney, a staffer from the procurement department and the city clerk work with the council to that end. Nobile said that “sounds weird,” wanting the council to control the process without interference from the administration. “We want to act as the scoring entity,” Holland said.

Landon then interjected again to say RFP discussions should not go on the next workshop agenda, but the one two weeks later.

In the meantime council members will meet individually with what’s now an administrative committee to help in the process–City Clerk Virginia Smith, Beau Falgout, the administrative services director, and Reischmann.

The meeting was attended by some 100 people, though the council never opened up the floor to public input. Nor will the public be involved in the early stages of the RFP process, when council members instead will meet with staffers behind closed doors, though Cuff said that’s more to figure out technicalities than to talk substance. Cuff himself, he said, favors those discussions to be in the open.

Among the audience members: former Mayor Jon Netts, who has been increasingly visible at city meetings again. “They should put money in the budget for the search firm, they should put money in for the severance package because you can’t put this down to a specific date,” Netts said after the meeting. “You need to be prepared for all eventualities, whether you do them or don’t do them.”

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21 Responses for “Divided Palm Coast Council Treads Toward Searching For New Manager Starting in January”

  1. Flyer1 says:

    We have the city council ineptitude on clear display. The community is overwhelmingly in support of getting rid of Landon. But in the midst of a gale the city councilmen are trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing!

  2. Sw says:

    “We still dont know what we are doing” Oh really, no sh-t Sherlock. The Council is so lame and you all desetve this moron. Lmao smh

  3. Tammy House says:

    Why doesn’t the City Council advertise through the International City Manager’s Association (ICMA) like other municipalities do? The Council could also direct staff to advertise in the Florida ICMA as well. What about the Florida League of Cities? Is the City a member? Or direct staff to survey other cities of the same size and get some ideas on how others have conducted a search. Or go through the FCCMA (Florida City and County Management Association) I’ve worked in municipal government for many years and this is not difficult. Why would you even keep someone in the City Manager’s position after he has admitted that he’s ready to move on? Do you really think that he’s going look out for the best interests of our City? He’s just biding time on his terms. I don’t understand what the Council is even thinking. Spending money on an outside firm is ridiculous when there are plenty of other options that will be much more cost effective.

  4. Just the truth says:

    More bad news for PC taxpaying residents, keeping over paid Landon go ahead waste more of our taxpaying monies.
    The City of PC needs its taxpaying citizens to vote on these things because the city is wasting money each and every day..

  5. Thomas says:

    I’d take Mr. Landon any day. He knows what he is doing.

  6. palmcoaster says:

    Realistically I do not believe he is overpaid as research shows his pay is comparable to other Florida citiex with about the same population numbers as Palm Coast.
    The consensus of Council this am was that Landon done a good job in these 10 years, then if so why cut his contract short? If something/someone is good why change it? Landon has been a supporter and promoter of one of the main attractions of our city “our amenities” that ensures our quality of life and the value of our homes. He was who mastered the deal for which Centex deeded our golf course to our city and if only for that I am very appreciative to Mr. Landon. No other manager would have achieved that for us. The management of that golf course maybe costing us about $6 to $9 a year and is money well spent to keep the beauty of the heart of Palm Coast and preserve the value of hundreds of homes adjacent to the course. I do not play La Crosse, Tennis or Golf or will used much the new civic center but anyway I am happy to contribute my share of taxes to fund those sports and projects for my fellow PalmCoasters, children, young and elderly.
    Landon is not perfect and no one is, but he has done a good job preserving the beauty and amenities of our city and I have seeing him often joining the crowds in sports and community events observing the residents joyful participation and enjoyment. The long list read in today’s meeting by Mayor Holland of Landon’s accomplishments in his 10 year tenure is the truth and attest of his performance. I would say let him finish he 2 year contract and have plenty of time then to find someone to fit his shoes. Cordial transitions achieve better goals.
    Mentions by some council members that we need someone new with new ideas…well well we may as well be very careful what we wish for….

  7. tulip says:

    Bunch of wuuses! Landon gets his way in the long run.

  8. Dave says:

    These council members put the Duh in Flori-Duh

  9. RayD says:

    Yes Thomas, Landon does know what he’s doing. Problem is it has not always been in the best interest of the community but it has been in his best interest. RFP, job search or whatever, it really should not take that long.

  10. Duh says:

    Betcha a dollar to a dime Landon will write the “RFP”. Why do the We the People continue to allow Narcissist Landon to conduct our business? Because we failed to VOTE for responsible Council members that’s why. What if Narcissist Landon died tonight? Would our government implode? Highly unlikely. Fire Narcissist Landon NOW and move forward.

  11. Mary says:

    Can’t wait until election day. We are now at the crossroads of the future and that requires a spine to punch on through to accomplish realistic goals for our city. Number one, if you don’t have the spine to fire Landon because you want him to ride out his time until retirement, then please have the good sense to make him powerless and require 2 signatures to every decision he makes. I just can’t understand why the council doesn’t remove him immediately. We are now sitting targets because he still has access to the city’s money, and could sabotage everything he has access to. Number two, start the search process now! And please don’t just search in Florida. There are many bright and very capable candidates in the Midwest, and up the East coast. We need a very progressive candidate that has a clear plan with goals to move Palm Coast into the future. We could transform this city into a model city with the right leadership. City Council, get your act together!!! Election day is coming and you had best be ready to pack your bags too!

  12. David S says:

    Total B.S get rid of him this year.

  13. woodchuck says:

    Either way Landon makes bank-it’s a win win for him.Singing all the way.

  14. Diana L says:

    I emailed each council member a couple of weeks ago, with my feelings on Mr Landon. One council member acknowledged my email, just one. That member was Mr Klufas. I guess the rest didn’t think it was important to acknowledge a taxpayers email. I suspect others received the same lack of response and I think that is shameful.

  15. Layla says:

    Great suggestions, Tammy. Unfortunately, the state Sunshine Law prevents anybody but Landon from talking talking about this to one another unless they are all together at a public meeting advertised at least 10 days in advance. I used to think the Sunshine Laws were a good idea, now I am seeing the negatives. Seems simple, but it is not. If they looked a bit like Keystone Cops here, it is because of the Sunshine Laws, which our State elected official are not bound by. And now you can see why.

    Imagine having a company where you cannot talk to the other employees without advertising a meeting with 10 days notice and holding it in public. You wouldn’t get much done and in my view, that’s what happening here.

    The State Sunshine laws give Landon all the advantages. And taking advantage of every bit of that.

  16. Pogo says:

    @FL Readers

    The Florida Sunshine Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to the public records of governmental bodies in Florida.

    Speak what you know, and know what you speak.

  17. jimmietwoshoes says:

    I spent two hours at the council meeting today and watched the Mayor and Councilman Cuff muddy the water on what is a very straight forward process. It was a display of government at it’s Worst. The Mayor spent large amounts of time asking Landon what terms he wanted and when could they replace him ! Landon then took us on tour of what he was planning on his lifes’ next step all based on when his grand daughter would graduate from high school !!!! I am serious this really went on and the audience was in disbelief. These members already admit to one on one conversations with Landon and this did not come up, we are not fools !
    Holland and Cuff put on a Dog and Pony Show for sure.

    Mr Landon is GONE !
    The City Charter provides that we elect a Mayor and Council that hires and fires the City Manager, so get on with it.

    Holland then allowed Landon to control the discussion on how he would be replaced. This IS standard operating procedure with Landon, just chose from his ONE option as he always has done.

    My final observation on this meeting is to inform all PC.voters that Landon was Not to take part in this meeting BUT the meeting started and he was center stage bellied up to the table.
    Who is in charge of running these meetings ?? Holland. To add another layer of ineptitude to Landons’ “Leadership” EVERY City of PC. department head sat in the room wasting working hours and taking seats that then forced the public to sit behind a partially open divider wall in another room.

    You don’t think Holland/Cuff planned this for Mr Landon ?

    Wave Good Bye Mr Landon.

  18. Tammy House says:

    Layla I’m perfectly aware of Chapter 119 FS. This has absolutely nothing to do with sunshine law.

  19. Tammy House says:

    This is absolutely unbelievable and unacceptable behavior. Guess I’ll be attending meetings.

  20. Confused and Curious says:

    Confused and Curious?
    Not because I am a fan, but asking,

    What decisions has Mr. Landon made for his own benefit and not the community?

    Where do you see any proof of him in anyone’s pockets?

    What decisions does he make that council didn’t direct and approve him to do?

    Why is making $175,000 a year to manage a new and growing city too much? How much do you think you should get if you have gotten a Master’s Degree and years of experience to ensure the daily operations of a city are upheld? When you compare most of our salaries and responsibilities to his, I don’t think it’s a lot of money. If a typical manager of a business makes $60,000-100,00, why is double that to run a city outrageous? (The rest are benefits all employees receive)

    This is not a response as a fan of Mr. Landon, but to the job he has done and council outlined yesterday to how much has been accomplished during his time here. Most of the gripes we have is because money is spent on things other than what WE think are important. You think street lights are important, I think parks are. You think a golf course is not necessary because you don’t play, well I do. He didn’t support my special interests so he’s a bad guy and terrible manager. We all have opinions based on what usually benefits US the most. (At least that’s most of what I see as a common thread in comments often)

  21. City resident says:

    Dear confused, ahhh you say the city manager should make more then a business manager???? Do you realize he makes more then the governor??? The governor that covers the entire state!!! Seriously smh

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