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On Landonless Palm Coast Council, Members Push Back on Holland Attempt to Delay New Manager Hire

| September 26, 2018

Council members Bob Cuff, left, and Vincent Lyon, both lawyers, resisted a suggestion to further delay the search for a new city manager. (© FlaglerLive)

Council members Bob Cuff, left, and Vincent Lyon, both lawyers, resisted a suggestion to further delay the search for a new city manager–Lyon more so than Cuff. (© FlaglerLive)

There was unanimity when Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland sought her colleagues’ support last week to fire Jim Landon, who’d managed the city for 11 years. There was significant pushback Tuesday when Holland sought to wait until late November, when two new council members will have been seated, before advertising for the next manager.

“The timing of this doesn’t make a lot of sense for me, for us, I don’t think, to begin the process without having the two council members on board to discuss, again, what kind of candidates are we looking for,” Holland said.

She was proposing to have Strategic Governmental Resources, the search firm the city hired months ago, to re-engage with existing and new council members before drafting a job description for the next manager, advertising it and generating applications.

Her colleagues–Vincent Lyon, Bob Cuff and Heidi Shipley; Nick Klufas was absent–didn’t see the need to wait. A discussion followed both lively and telling: for all of Holland’s leadership in firing Landon, three members of the council put her on notice that no single council member will be driving the replacement train. The two lawyers on the council (Lyon, who was appointed last spring, and Cuff), who usually speak much less than lawyers are wont to do, took over the discussion in this case, pressing for an immediate re-start of the process to hire the next manager.

The process started in effect 13 months ago, when Landon first intimated he would “retire” at some point. But it forcibly dragged to the rhythms of Landon’s tactical vagueness. Now that he’s out of the way, there’s appetite for a more earnest resumption of the process.

Bill Reischmann, the city attorney who until now had often seemed more like Landon’s attorney, noted that the search firm considers 15 weeks the “standard” timeframe of a search, to get a manager in place. That would have a new manager seated by mid-winter. Neither Reischmann nor anyone in the administration would have dared mention the 15-week timeline when Landon was at the table and council members themselves were speaking in terms of a year-long process or more.

“I was under the impression when I came on here that goals had already been set,” Lyon said of the council’s outlined job description for the next manager. “What we’re looking for, I thought this is pretty much already worked out and by a sitting, elected council. So putting it off longer and longer, I don’t see the advantage to that.” He said he was approached by one of the candidates–Eddie Branquinho–who told him to “get this over with” and not wait until he was on board (assuming he would be). Lyon said the position could be advertised soon. By the time the new council members are seated, they’d have their say in evaluating the applicants.

To Holland, sitting members have put their stamp on the job description. The same chance should be extended to the new members. “I don’t know what those council members’ priorities are going to be,” the mayor said, “and until we hear that as an elected body, that may change how that search firm puts out the messaging.”

“This sounds like you’re saying we did all this work almost a year ago, and then we just want to throw it out and wait until the next couple of meetings,” Lyon said, “because if you’ve already done all of that, why are we talking about doing it again?”

“We did not get that far as to write the ad,” Holland said.

Shipley cautioned that suggested that three of the four candidates running for the two open council seats would be novices to the process: it would be unfair to expect them to handle it all immediately after they’re seated. (The third is Jon Netts, who has gone through the process once before–hiring Landon.)

“This sounds like you’re saying we did all this work almost a year ago, and then we just want to throw it out and wait until the next couple of meetings.”

“I don’t want to drag our feet as a council but I don’t want to create an unnecessary sense of urgency” in the search, Cuff said, attempting a Solomonic approach. “We can have all the policies we want and have all the wonderful programs we want and we could turn Palm Coast into where the Jetsons live and have flying cars and parks out the wazzu, but ultimately the city manager in my opinion the single most important thing we, I am going to do in my term on the council.” He says he has no problem discussing the issue with new members on Nov. 20, but he agrees with Shipley that “expecting two people that have never served on a city council to show up for their first meeting and have their picture taken and be sworn in by Virginia and then immediately have, you know, thought out input to our search firm on what we’re looking for is a little ambitious.” Virginia Smith is the city clerk. “On the other hand I think we need to get the process started, so if we want to make that an agenda item on the 20th so that they can have their input, I take your position mayor.”

As far as the two new city council members go, Cuff said, “they will be seated in accordance with law and they’ll be here when they’re here. I don’t think we have to stand still until that happens.” But there’s no need to wait, he said. Whoever is seated in November will be “fully vested in the process” from that point on.

Using the argument that had so pleased Holland when he decided, after some hesitation, to join the vote to fire Landon, Lyon applied it to getting the search going: “If it’s going to happen, let’s just get it going. We know we’re doing it. Let’s do it.”

There was also disagreement between Cuff and Holland about how open the process would be. Cuff favors one-on-one meetings with the search firm, a throw-back to Landon’s penchant for secrecy whenever he could have it. Holland did not.

“Not to conceal anything from the public, I take your point on the optics,” Cuff said, “but I don’t think I’ve made any secret on what I’m looking for ain a city manager. I want the trains to run on time, and if the trains fly, swell, but there’s nuances to that.”
“It’s less transparent that way,” Holland said. “I prefer to have this open dialogue amongst all of us, sitting in a workshop setting where we’re openly discussing what we want to see in a city manager.”

In the end the council agreed that Holland would contact the search firm and report back next week on the likely timeline and how long a want-ad would be expected to circulate, with the understanding that there would be no need to wait until late November to start the search clock.

beau falgout

Beau Falgout. (© FlaglerLive)

Beau Falgout, the interim city manager, was at the table–next to Reischmann–for the duration of the discussion, as Landon always was during discussions about his replacement, often chiming in and guiding the discussion–inappropriately so, in the view of several council members. Falgout spoke only briefly and only about the logistical assistance the administration could offer along the way.

He spoke more at length when talk turned to his status, and after Reischmann provided a long verbal brief about how to approach the interim contract, prompting verbal eye-rolling from the mayor: “You are a lawyer. Oh, my God,” Holland said. The substance of Reischmann’s disquisition is that Falgout will have his own contract and would return to his previous duties when a new manager is hired.

But once back in that former role, it’ll be entirely up to the new manager (assuming it’s not Falgout himself: he is likely to be in the running) to decide the fate of the deputy or that of anyone in the administration. More than a few resumes are likely to run off office copiers in the weeks ahead.

“My role has always been to transition this city to the next city manager, whoever that might be,” Falgout told the council, “whether it was retirement, or last week, there was termination, I am committed to this organization, to the employees, to the people and to the city council to help in that transition.” He asked for feedback from the council–which has been forthcoming–and “fair compensation” for his additional duties.

Two council members–Holland and Cuff, the two council members in attendance Tuesday who’ll still be on the council after the November election–spoke particular approval of Falgout, signaling at least the possibility that he has an inside track for the job.

Falgout was handpicked by Landon to be his successor last summer, and has largely been seen as a Landon shadow, but in a matter of days has sought to purposefully and clearly distance himself from the ex-manager–to come out of the shadow rather than be one–with immediate reversals from Landon ways: In accordance with council wishes, Falgout’s first workshop agenda was posted earlier and included complete background materials in ways Landon always prevented. And that agenda included a full presentation on one of the mayor’s priorities, the “Shop Local” initiative.

“I have great confidence in Beau, I have been impressed thus far,” Holland said. “I think you handled the change very appropriately and professionally.”

Cuff spoke of his confidence in the administration and in Falgout particularly, and all but invited him to be a contender for manager, “if he wants to apply for the full-time position.”

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15 Responses for “On Landonless Palm Coast Council, Members Push Back on Holland Attempt to Delay New Manager Hire”

  1. Jack Howell says:

    I find this search for a new city manager very interesting. When I talked with former mayor Jon Netts, two weeks ago, he focused concern on the fact that he was not comfortable with the experience level of the current city council to select the new manager. I don’t concur with his position but, should I be elected this November I feel very competent with my leadership background to select a new city manager. First, most of the city council members, if not all of them, have no clue about what my 25 plus years of leadership stands for. My former Marine Corps assignments at higher level positions within in the Corps included assignments to the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to the staff of the Secretary of Defense. These high level assignments fine tuned both my leadership and managerial abilities which enabled me to select my personal staff. I can read people, spot those possessing leadership traits, and know how to select the right person for the right job. I am confident in my abilities to select the next Palm Coast city manager. If elected, that will mean that the citizens have trust in my leadship and ability to select a great new city manager.

  2. John Brady says:

    Well in a Landonless era, I will offer what I think would be a rule of thumb. Think of what Landon would have suggested and do the direct opposite.

    Now as far as the Mayor’s objective, shopping local. maybe we need to think of the highest paid city employee. That would be the City Attorney. According to his firms web site, he represents 4 other government entities. He lives in the Orlando area. So maybe we need to rethink his retention. We have 2 attorneys on Council and maybe they could suggest a more local, Palm Coast only client and far less money.

    This is from his firms web page: He is the City Attorney for the City of Palm Coast, Since 2008, has represented the City of Orange City since 1999 and the South Seminole North Orange County Wastewater Transmission Authority since 1990. He is the Hearing officer for Code Enforcement for the City of Edgewood. He has served as special counsel and Assistant City Attorney for many other local governmental jurisdictions in the Central Florida area as well, including, but not limited to, Howey-in-the-Hills, Daytona Beach Shores, Oviedo, Sanford, Lake Mary, and the City of DeBary.

    His firm is Garanese,Weiss, D’Agresta, and Salzman. Just a reminder it only takes three to fire but a better course would be to change the Charter by amendment to require the City Attorney to live in the City

  3. palmcoaster says:

    I wholly agree with Mayor Holland to wait for the manager search until the two new councilmen are elected, so they have a say on the selection of the new manager while representing their two districts that in reality have NO elected representation right now at least in one, the district covered by Attorney Lyon as he was appointed no elected.
    This time I am on the Mayors side as she is on the right track. Wait till the two new councilmen will be elected to search for a new manager. We all know what we want from a new manager doesn’t need a rocket scientist.
    What is the rush now? This is not our GOP Senate rushing for a justice confirmation, is just our city council.
    Mr. Falgout probably is wearing Landon’s shoes well as an interim and our council candidates are as versed on our needs or even more that some of the current council members. Being law school graduates in our council didn’t help to resolve our needs as shown till now. We been going to council meetings writing letters to all and posting in social media to be able to get Florida Park Drive leak repaired finally “because as Landon said was a big undertake” . But millions to waste in White View Parkway probably to make more appealing the new housing plan approved for the developer, was not? Our funds just to improve infrastructure around deserted Town Center is not a waste? Other than landscape and erase the blight off of Florida Park Drive and redirect the over 5,000 cars a day? We all know what we need so they know it as well candidates Jack Howell, Tipton, Branquinho and also knows it, but doesn’t care Netts. I am concerned mainly that two lawyers in the council; Cuff one of the county good old boys very involved in growth with developers since I recall and the other appointed, Lyons from Chiumento’s firm the #1 beneficiary in Town Center are staunch on selecting a manager before the two new councils seated. Too much developers special interest represented by these two and that is what has been our fate till now, our hard earned taxes benefiting developers plans first with growth growth while our infrastructure funds are directed not to the needed repairs and replacements but to widening Old Kings Road South (cause Town Center) to buy for millions private properties and infrastructure of Boulder Rock (for Town Center). Enough is enough in few words lets do not allow the Chiumento firm and Co. pick again our manager. eLt the 2 new councilmen have a say as well representing our needs. Good stand Mayor Holland at least this time.

  4. Percys' mother says:

    Is it possible to recall the mayor?

    Can someone please start a petition to have this woman, “the mayor”, recalled?

    Is there a process in the City charter for doing a recall?

  5. just me says:

    I see NO need for a delay in starting this process. Let the sitting members pick what they want in a new manager then when new members are seated they can pick the who from the candidates.

  6. Ramone says:

    I think it’s a comical this Council feels they needs to hire a firm to do a National search for a City Manager. The City of Palm Coast is relatively small, doesn’t have a police department, and shouldn’t be difficult to manage. A citizen committee made up of locally appointed volunteers could whittle the applicant numbers down to a appropriate amount for interviewing. There’s more than enough talent in this State and this National search is a waste of time and money. IMHO

  7. Well... says:

    Considering these people won, more or less, a popularity contest, I’m not sure any of them are qualified to run a city, including the mayor. They had money, they ran, they were voted in by the people…same as with Washington, most of those people had more money than their opponent, won, and now make decisions that impact society. Very few have the knowledge necessary so really, it’s all who is manipulative enough to convince the voters they are the best candidate?

  8. Mike Cocchiola says:

    I attended that meeting and, with the exception of Councilman Lyon, I didn’t get the impression other council members were pushing for speed. I definitely got the impression Councilman Cuff pretty much defended Mayor Holland’s position and Councilwoman Shipley seemed neutral.

  9. tulip says:

    It takes a while to do the search and get all the applications in. A certain amount of time has to be allowed for job applicants to apply for the job. By that time the “newbie” council persons will be in office and they will have the chance, along with the others, to read through all the applications and weed out who doesn’t seem to qualify, whittle it down to few qualified applicants, and then go through the interview process and final voting process. So it’s not a job that is completed in a couple of weeks time.

    I think there is some kind of other underlying reason for the Mayor wanting to wait til after the election to even start the search,

  10. Concerned Citizen says:

    It seems to me that Mayor Holland is vying for the City Managers job. If she puts off hiring until after the election and Netts is elected she has support for it.

    Otherwise there is absolutely no reason to wait 2 more months and start looking for a candidate. One should have already been in the works.

    I also don’t understand why the city the size of Palm Coast should need a non working Mayor and an over paid city manager. Do away with the City manager position and put a competent Mayor in place.

  11. palmcoaster says:

    City Charter reads clearly that council has 90 days to start the manager search after a vacancy is effective.(d) Filling of Vacancy. The City Council shall begin the process to fill a vacancy in the Charter
    Office of the City Manager or City Attorney within 90 days of the vacancy. Also the hired city manager within 6 months has to live in the city limits also.
    I know of at least 2 of our ladies residents graduated Summa Cum Laude with Masters in Public Administration from a Florida University that would love to work for our city and my question is where are they to send their resumes..? After two male managers that we endured with too many approvals for developers first, what about a professional Master in Public Administration lady manager?
    They sure wont need any golden parachutes or hundreds of thousands pay rate and as our current residents sure know our needs. We are paying a fortune to these consultants to find unknown out of state managers for us that at end have to be fired? hello?

  12. Rob Jr says:

    Before anyone gets going put a ceiling on the compensation.

    In the job description the salary should be greater than 130,000 per year and if a candidate does not like it there are others who would accept it.

  13. Rob Jr says:

    The salary should NOT be greater than $130,000 per year.

  14. Air Force Retiree says:

    I have worked as an Administrative Chief in the Air Force for over 20 years. When I retired and came to Florida, I thought every one in all Governments (local and County) were as professional as I was use to dealing with. Then I came to Palm Coast. I have never deal with such idiots that don’t know what they are doing in my 20 plus years in Government. No one actually has any background to serve in public office. The mayor is as close as it gets. All I an say is please hire someone with prior experience that had a good work ethic and can bring people together. Someone with good ideas to get things done that the people want.

  15. Jake says:

    Why delay the search, the city council won’t decide for 2 years. Collectively they couldn’t find their way to the end of the pier. The circus is STILL in the building.

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