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16 Apply for Flagler Interim Administrator As County Hurriedly Hires HR Director

| January 23, 2019

Only three commissioners showed up for today's special meeting: Commissioner Dave Sullivan and Joe Mullins, on either side of the table, and Commission Chairman Don O'Brien, speaking with Deputy County Administrator Sally Sherman. (© FlaglerLive)

Only three commissioners showed up for today’s special meeting: Commissioner Dave Sullivan and Joe Mullins, on either side of the table, and Commission Chairman Don O’Brien, speaking with Deputy County Administrator Sally Sherman. (© FlaglerLive)

Sixteen individuals have applied to be interim Flagler County administrator so far, including five from Palm Coast-Flagler County, two of them members of the current county administration.

The application period is open until the middle of next week (Jan. 29). The interim administrator will be a contract employee, serving until a permanent county administrator is selected. That replacement may or may not be the interim: it is not yet clear whether the interim will be invited to apply for the permanent position, though it’s likely. Many of the applicants for the interim job are applying on the assumption that they’ll be candidates for the permanent job.

Some of them–Doug Bentley, Steve Davis and Glenn Irby–were also applying for the Palm Coast city manager’s job, though all three have been eliminated, Bentley only for reason of residency (he would not move to Palm Coast).

The two internal applicants are Holly Albanese, the long-time library director–a longevity at odds with her status in the administration: she was never an insider–and Michael Esposito, a special projects director of more recent vintage who worked alongside Craig Coffey. Coffey’s 11-year tenure ended earlier this month when, under immense pressure from unions, constitutional officers and two county commissioners, he tendered his resignation.

Other local applicants include Bentley, a coordinator in the 6th Congressional District office of former congressman Ron DeSantis, now the governor, John Bettencourt, a self-employed consultant who’s worked only in the private sector, and Pamela Catalone, an attorney specializing in labor law and employee relations and family law, and says she’s “moving forward in my career in public service.”

Local candidates aside, five applicants from Florida also applied, though one of them, Johnny Mobley II, is not a serious applicant, at least not for that position, and appears to have mistaken the job opening for interim administrator for other jobs in the organization. Several applicants have town or county management experience, but none in a government approaching the size of Flagler County’s.

“I think you will be encouraged,” County Commission Chairman O’Brien told his colleagues today. “The qualification level is pretty darn strong, so we’ll see where that goes. I’m pleasantly surprised, or–I don’t know what the right term is, but we’re getting a good flow of qualified applicants.”

Only three commissioners showed up for a special meeting of the commission this afternoon at the county’s Emergency Operations Center–O’Brien, Dave Sullivan and Joe Mullins.

The meeting was originally billed as an update on the application process, but turned into more than that: Deputy County Administrator Sally Sherman, sitting in essentially as the interim until her resignation becomes effective in a week, placed two significant action items before the three commissioners, both with large import on the organization, and both the sort of decisions two of the commissioners would have rather be left for the next county administrator to decide.

The first was the breaking up of the position formerly held by Joe Mayer into two executive positions, essentially adding a top level administrative position to the county’s ranks. Mayer, who resigned, effective next week, at the same time that Coffey did, was both the human resources director and the community services director. Sherman said the two responsibilities should be split into two jobs, the way they were before the recession of 2007, and a human resources director should be appointed immediately. That position, she said, was advertised internally only, and two candidates applied: Alexander Spiller and Pamela Wu.

Spiller has been a road and bridge manager and engineering project administrator in the county since 2017. Wu, previously a supervisor in Palm Coast’s human resources department and a human resources manager at Granny Nannies, has been a case manager in the county’s HR department since 2016. Sherman recommended Wu.

Both O’Brien and Mullins were reluctant to ratify the hire immediately, preferring to let the next manager build the administrative team. “It’s not the optimal situation and it does feel rushed,” O’Brien said.

“I hate to box someone in,” Mullins said, referring to the incoming administrator.

Sherman said filling the position was “critical” for the organization, and in any case Wu would be on probation for at least six months, so the next administrator could reverse the decision and appoint a choice of his or her own–or even extend the probationary period. With that caveat, the commissioners all approved the hire, at 65,467 a year, the lowest amount on the scale. But the reclassification of the job allows that salary range to climb as high as $102,606. Wu, a Flagler College graduate–one of her references was Joe Saviak, formerly of Flagler College, now a member of Sheriff Rick Staly’s executive team–was at the meeting to accept the appointment.

The community services director’s position is not yet filled. And there’s no probationary status on the re-creation of two executive-level positions, now that it’s done: the next administrator will have to contend with the fact, and the financial implications, which were not part of the current budget. There was no discussion about the source or availability of money for the two positions, even though the commission only a few months ago was agonizing over the addition of lower-level, rank-and-file employees, over budget concerns.

Commissioners are finding themselves cornered by such hurried appointments because Coffey did not have a succession plan in place for “critical” positions, and because those who were in some of those positions resigned at least in part out of loyalty to Coffey.

Many top-level positions, on the other hand, appear not to be so affected. Sherman said many of the directors and coordinators who report to her will be fine carrying on after she leaves, but she said the commission should secure a hearing officer for personnel matters, a role she had filled.

Sherman filled in the commissioners on the search for an interim so far, with decision time approaching in early to mid-February. The process she laid out mirrors in some ways the process Palm Coast just adopted, though she also included a meal between the four or five finalists, the commission and their directors–an arrangement Palm Coast eliminated on advice of its attorney because of possible improprieties, or the appearance of impropriety, regarding the open meetings law, since the candidates would be discussing government business ahead of a decision regarding their appointment.

For now, that meal appears to still be on the schedule in the Flagler process, with no word spoken about it being open to the public or not. Sherman also recommended a blend of one-on-one meetings between commissioners and candidates as well as an open session when all five would question the candidates. Commissioners had little to say about the process at this stage. They will decide at the Feb. 4 meeting what process to adopt for the search and hiring of a permanent administrator.

The special meeting was barely attended by members of the public.

Flagler County Applicants for Interim Administrator

ApplicantsCurrent or last jobLocation
Holly AlbaneseFlagler County Library DirectorPalm Coast
Doug Bentley6th Congressional District CoordinatorPalm Coast
John Bettencourt [withdrew]Self-employed consultantPalm Coast
Todd BodemSand City, Calif., administrator (pop. 350)Monterey, Calif.
Michael BrillhartPlanning consultantVero Beach, Fla.
Jerry CameronManaging partner, Community Consulting and ManagementSt. Augustine, Fla.
Pamela CataloneAttorney, Beacon Center (Domestic Abuse Council)Palm Coast
Mary Anne ConnorsDeputy Volusia County Manager, to Feb. 2016Ormond Beach
Steve DavisCounty Administrator, Effingham County, Ga. (pop. 52,000)Pooler, Ga.
Steve DavisGeneral Manager of a 1,096-unit condo associationCape Coral, Fla.
Michael EspositoSpecial Projects Coordinator, Flagler County governmentPalm Coast
Shawn FletcherAssistant County Administrator, Ford County, Kansas (pop. 34,000)Dodge City, Kansas
Brian HallOperations Director, R.E.B.T ConstructionUnion, Ky.
Ernest HochCOO, Jarrell Properties, Inc. (real estate development)Fredericksburg, Va.
Glenn IrbyApopka City Administrator (to July 2018) (pop. 52,000) Umatilla, Fla.
Julian JacksonCity Manager, Peachtree Corners, Ga. (pop. 43,000), to Nov. 2016Fernandina Beach, Fla.
Jill Benninghoven Keimach City Manager, Alamida, Calif. (pop. 79,000), to May 2018Truckee, Calif.
Steven LachnichtInterim Planning Director, PalatkaGainesville, Fla.
Ted LakeyTaylor County Administrator (pop. 23,000) (to Nov. 2018)Port Saint Joe, Fla.
Johnny Mobley IISocial Media ManagementPembroke Pines, Fla.
Hector RiveraAdjunct faculty member in sociology, at Indian River State CollegePalm City, Fla.
Justin StankiewiczNassau County Budget Officer, to 2018Ponte Vedra, Fla.
Stefen WynnTown Manager, Albion, Ind. (pop. 2,300)Albion, Ind.
Note: Click on each name to see the full application package. The chart will be updated as additional candidates apply.

18 Responses for “16 Apply for Flagler Interim Administrator As County Hurriedly Hires HR Director”

  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    With the way the BOCC handled Coffey gate they need to be very careful how they handle hiring anyone.

    If Palm Coast had the foresight to not have a dinner because of improprieties then it would behoove the BOCC to follow their lead.

    It also seems that double dipping Sherman sure had a lot of power for an Assistant. It’s good that they are breaking up positions.

    My only question now is With Sherman being questionably rehired and on the way out should the BOCC be letting her make employment decisions?

    If you let an interim Deputy start making important decisions it’s generally a sign that they have a lot of power and don’t intend on going anywhere.

  2. KMedley says:

    As with Palm Coast, the publisher’s puppets, the Munchkin from Georgia, Mr. Peanut, and Uncle Scrooge will choose the puppet for County Administrator. J W approved!

  3. Palm Coaster 3 says:

    Laughable group of candidates!

    A librarian? Others with little experience!

    Back to square one

  4. Percy's mother says:

    For God’s sake . . . PLEASE NOT Holly Albanese.

  5. Flagler County Citizen says:

    Reading through the resumes it seems like Holly Albanese would be a great interim County Administrator.

  6. Theinsider says:

    Wait, I thought Joe Mayer was the library director?

  7. Palm Coaster 3 says:

    Wu has no experience in HR as Spiller doesn’t either.
    Continue to make mistakes, Flagler. But, of course nothing more is expected from Commissioners with little to no experience in these matters.

  8. Gary Dennis says:

    The HR Director position just posted late last Thursday, 1/17 with a closing date of 1/25, so how did they make a selection BEFORE it closed?? Is two days really enough time for ALL the internal applicants to apply? How do you fill a senior position such as the Director’s in two days (Monday was a holiday) and before the job even closes? Shame on you Joe Mayer, as the current HR Director you should know better. Certainly you know that you have to allow all employees a fair and equal opportunity to apply for advancement and to accept ALL applications through the closing date! Commissioners, stop allowing these high level decisions to be made by someone who is leaving in less than a week. Hope none of the employees that thought they had until Friday to apply file an EEOC complaint!!

  9. Ramone says:

    I think you’ve got some talented people within the organization that will do a great job if given the opportunity. I think Michael Esposito would be a great hire. He’s got a ton of governmental experience and has the personality to work well with the County Council. Give him a chance.

  10. Insider says:

    Flagler County Citizen – Holly Albanese would make a great interim? Clearly there are more qualified applicants for interim with experience far greater than Ms. Albanese. She lacks the magnitude of knowledge, expertise and couth to be an administrator for Flagler County. Ask her peers.

  11. Concerned Citizen says:

    @ Gary Dennis

    Unfortunately our BOCC and other county officials don’t care about doing what’s right. They want to get someone in there that will say yes sir do what they want and keep the Coffey dirt from getting exposed.

    Most of these Commisioners have a lot to worry about if we get senior officials in these positions and they end up having ethics and morals.

  12. DoubleGator says:

    Forget 1-3 tier applicants … reality is 6-8 tier. Laughable self inflicted gunshot wound. And the ship sails on. Maybe the sheriff needs to apply?

  13. Tommy says:

    Gary very good points. Only confirms the continued corruption in the county. I feel sorry for the employees who really would have applied and are scared to file any action. We don’t even know if there would have been more candidates with just as much, if not more experience than their selection. Where are the whistle blowers at?? I think the commissioners should be talking to the people on the bottom of the totem poles to see what is really going on behind closed doors. Good riddance to Mr. Mayer and Ms. Sherman!! They should have been let go upon their notice to stop the corruption. They are only making the water muddier before they leave!

  14. Flabbergasted says:

    Hansen and Ericson conspicuously absent as they continue their opposition to the Coffey and crew firing.

    Perhaps they can/should also resign if they are unwilling to participate in finding a professional administrator to help recover from the prior regimes damage………………….

    Coffey leaves according to his FY-2018-2019 budget with $134,448,591 Governmental Debt and 18,572,300. Proprietary Funds… these are real dollars. (The Flagler County Flight School Airport reflects a $ 6,027,523. debt.)

    Wake up and represent the citizens that unfortunately voted for both of you. (Hansen needs to go back to Washington and continue his lobbyist career. )

  15. Ben Hogarth says:

    Although I believe my time posting on this forum is drawing to a close, now that both the Palm Coast City Council and Flagler County Commisison have ousted their corrupt managers (a monument to a dying breed of public administrators)… I have some last parting words of wisdom for the Commission as it looks to the future.

    Anonymous posters like “Insider,” “Palm Coaster 3,” and “Percy’s mother” represent the same antiquated, ignorant past that we must move on from. They serve as a vocal extreme minority who poorly represent the general values and desires of average citizens. I have asked (and so have others) that you trust my words and those who speak from knowledge and experience in this field. As you can tell by popular opinion, we have not steered you wrong.

    Both Palm Coast and Flagler County has been traumatized and victimized by their prior administrations. However, This chain of transgressions and usurpations must end conclusively. The people of Flagler County want honest, effective leadership so let words like “integrity” and “transparency” lead your conscience over hijacked verbiage like “leadership” and “control.”

    From a public administration perspective, choosing an interim candidate who is unfamiliar with Florida’s laws, practices, and forms of government would be totally unwise. Even when the time comes to select a permanent manager, you must also be extremely critical about this point. Conversely, choosing a candidate in another part of Florida for an interim position who has a shaky past as a manager or administrator would be equally dangerous. So for the interim position, there are only a handful of candidates on the list that caught my eye and only one internal applicant who is even qualified (both education and experience). At this point, I’m thankful the Commission is not entertaining the notion of asking anyone from administration to play any larger role than they already have less they corrupt the process by leading you down a path to selecting a candidate who would only further their priorities in the future.

    And when it comes to picking a permanent county administrator – I implore you all to take your time. Take as many months as you need to find the right “fit.” Prioritize someone with the correct educational background and with at least a decade of experience as a director or manager in public service. And I highly suggest to sticking to Florida applicants only – this really is far more critical to job effectiveness than you could imagine. But most of all, find someone who speaks to transparency and integrity above “span of control.”

    For the interim, I suggest picking whomever you think could keep the equilibrium and not let projects “fall through the cracks.” Additionally, don’t pick a candidate who is unfamiliar with the major projects that need to be addressed – someone from well outside the area would take months just to get up to speed and Flagler does not have that kind of time to correct course.

    With all this said, I wish you all the best of luck and please do not hesitate to reach out should you have any thoughts or questions and would like professional resources or links to documents or scholarly works that could aid you in this process.

  16. Flagler County Citizen says:

    Insider, her application demonstrates that she is not trying to be the full-time administrator. She doesn’t want that; however, as library director, she’s been involved in quite a lot of projects, funding and otherwise that involve the whole of the community. She’s clearly skilled enough to handle these projects and is familiar with the county government to hold up the fort while the county takes its time searching for the absolute best, experienced, honest administrator.

    It’s better to get someone skilled and able to do the job for the interim–someone who can –and wants– to resume her post then to attempt to fill the interim spot with someone who we “think” would be a good fit permanently, especially since we need one ASAP. We risk filling that position with someone who looks good sort of, then really cornering ourselves into keeping that person.

    We put someone in who has handled funding projects, community issues, and major budgets–someone who has the required education for the interim–giving us the time to really get someone we all need.

    I think it’s a great solution to avoiding rushing in to fill the position with a seemingly qualified outsider that we haven’t had the chance to thoroughly vet.

  17. County Observer says:

    Apparently Insider has it out for Ms. Albanese with all of the unprofessional comments they have made directly about her throughout this whole episode! I read her application and her letter of interest. She is as much qualified, or more, than a lot of the other applicants. Palm Coaster 3’s response” a librarian” was just as imbecilic as Insider’s! She is an individual who’s intent is to help. She doesn’t want the permanent position of County Administrator. I think that is all the more reason to pick someone with those intentions and not somebody who is vying for the permanent position. Her qualifications, knowledge and experience are above what is needed for an Interim Administrator. This will also allow the County Commissioners to use more scrutiny and have more time on their selection of the new County Administrator. The ugly jabs that are obviously coming from within by Insider are so beneath unprofessional. Sally Sherman should not be giving any opinion to the Commissioners either. Her opinion is going to be biased and skewed. If our Commissioners listen to any of her advice we need to reconsider their reappointment at election time as well!

  18. A Dedicated American says:

    Ben, perhaps it would be a good idea for you to sit in and listen to all the qualifications. Along with other involved tax payers from the county. We have to be
    careful of birds flocking together. Like what we had with Coffey, Sherman, Mayer and Attorney Al Hadeed, the next one to go.

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