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Flagler Beach City Manager Announces Resignation

| April 22, 2010

He was ready to go July 23. Commissioners talked him into delaying until October. (© FlaglerLive)

Bernie Murphy was hired on a 60- to 90-day contract to be Flagler Beach’s temporary manager until the city had time to find a permanent replacement. That was almost four years ago–on Sept. 11, 2006.

Thursday evening, Murphy, 69, said he would quit on July 23, by which time he said his work on the next fiscal year’s budget would be done. “I doubt if you’ll disagree with my recommendations–cuts, if I could call them that.” He’s ordered his department heads to make 21 percent cuts before turning in their budgets to him. “This is not going to be a fun budget for anybody.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to ask somebody to step into what’s certain to be an unpleasant situation,” Commission Chairman John Feind said, finding Murphy’s explanation that his job as manager preparing the budget would be done by July. The rest, Murphy said, would be matters of policy for the board, not management for the administrator. None of the commissioners bought the argument.

Commissioners, who looked and sounded unprepared for the finality of Murphy’s announcement, pleaded with him to extend his stay until October 1, the day when the new fiscal year actually begins. Murphy agreed.

“With a saddened heart, I guess we will accept your resignation for October 1,” Commission Chairman John Feind said at 9:49 p.m., more than four hours into the commission’s meeting.

“It’s going to take us some time to find a city manager,” Mayor Alice Baker said. “We’re going to have to advertise, to interview, turn it over to the rangers, investigate, and everybody here is overloaded with work.”

But it’s not as if the commission didn’t have its chance. Murphy was hired in his eighth job as city manager on an interim basis in Flagler Beach. Commissioners interviewed candidates. They didn’t like what they saw and stuck with Murphy, hoping that tonight’s announcement would somehow never materialize.

The “interim” part of Murphy’s title, however, turned into an end-run around the city charter, which requires that the city manager live in the city. Murphy lives in Ormond Beach. The charter allows a short contract with an interim manager, but also a month-to-month arrangement with one who doesn’t live in the city. The commissioners essentially had themselves a manager and used the “interim” tag, with his evident and lingering agreement, to patch over conflicts with the charter.

But Murphy was also, in commissioners’ eyes, an effective, authoritative steward of the city’s affairs. “Many of the things we accomplished came about because of your perseverance and your hard work,” Feind told him. “I was never looking forward to this day. I’m sorry that it came. I’d have liked to see you stay for as long as you could.”

Murphy, a native of Massachusetts, has been a city manager in seven places (and a deputy manager in an eighth), including four in Florida, all of them, he notes, coastal communities–Ormond Beach, Ponce Inlet, Sanibel and Flagler Beach. At 69, he has plans to do some part-time work in his fields of expertise, but he wasn’t ready to reveal them. First, he’s planning an October trip to Central and South America.

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5 Responses for “Flagler Beach City Manager Announces Resignation”

  1. concerned citizen says:

    Good riddance. Flagler Beach will be better off with this jerk gone. John Feind, how could you support this jerk when you know all the illegal and immoral things that he has done since he has been “interim” city manager? You are an ex cop and of all the commissioners, you above all should know of the illegal activities that he has ordered his staff to carry out. And shame on all of you commissioners for allowing him to be “interim” for over four years in violation of the city charter. Shame, Shame on all of you commissioners for not following your own rules. Shame, shame on you for allowing him to carry out illegal activities. Shame, shame on you for allowing him to hire personnel that do not even meet the minimum qualifactions for their jobs. You have been terrible stewards of the city.
    The voters of Flagler Beach need to vote all five of you out and kick Alice Baker in the petuttie!

  2. erp says:

    Agree with the previous comment 100%. Be easy to cut the budget. Dismantle the CRA and give the city hall hangers-on the heave-ho. Do away with consultants. If city employees don’t know how to manage the systems, get rid of them and hire people who do.

    Let the “business community” pay for their own signage and if they want to use city streets and parks for their worthless and silly promotions, they should pay for it, not the tax payers. A city of 5,000 doesn’t need an assistant to the manager, a three member city clerk department, now thankfully down to two, a five member finance department, especially when we hire an outside firm to handle payroll, a four member building department although building inspections are handled by the county, a recreation director, a planning director… In ten years the population hasn’t grown, but city employees have grown by a third.

    Should any of the commissioners want to check it out, the city is fully built out. We got stuck with Murphy’s WIN WIN deal supplying water to Ginn (now utterly bankrupt) and the city will be too if somebody who knows what he’s doing doesn’t step in and soon.

    We can be thankful for one thing. Murphy didn’t get his signature new city hall. Thank God for small favors.

    … and Commissioner Feind, the best thing for you to do is resign and let somebody who can handle cutting the budget and isn’t afraid to make policy for the benefit of city taxpayers, step in.

  3. arthur says:

    sent mail

  4. Arthur Woosley says:

    Accountability is what is most needed in our city.

    We do not need any more city managers, as they just bounce around the state on the (circuit of cities), one leaves, one moves in behind, and from city to city they go, here today, gone tomorrow at one hundred thousand plus a pop.

    We have seen five or six come and go in Flagler Beach in just the past ten years or so, and for what ?

    They continue in and out with little to show when they leave, changing managers equates to something like “changing deck chairs on the Titanic, it does not make much of a difference as the outcome is always the same”.

    It is apparent that system does not work,as when they move in it might take them six months to get familiar with just the departments,personnel etc. does a small city such as ours need this ?

    Some in their first few months in the position have even started to search for other higher paying, better benefit positions in the circuit while on city time.

    I was recently told by a previous commissioner, that one department head just completely ignored a previous manager, when that manager attempted to council him, and that the mgr. went to the individual commissioner, and asked how best to handle the situation ?

    Clearly accountability is not there, to have that accountability we will need a strong mayor form of government, five people, one mayor and four commissioners ALL of whom vote.

    These people would be compensated with the money saved from the removal of the city mgr.position and the fifth commisioner, approximately one hundred six thousand plus dollars.

    Well worth it in the long run, as ALL five could then be accountable for their votes on our budget, new city hall etc.etc.come election day, as it stands now with a the city manager has no real accountability to the people.

    With a fair compensation supplied from the savings mentioned above being paid to those five officials, it would also greatly increase the candidate pool for future elections, something we know which is badly needed.

    We need to review this city manager concept in order to get off this merry go round.

    We most certainly have quality people residing in our city that have the right expertise, background ,knowledge and ability to lead our city, and to look out for it’s welfare, without having to rely on people simply passing through.

    Who better to do this job than our own residents, residents who truly have a vested interest in our future, and hopefully what happens to our great little city ,now is the time to consider a new direction ?

  5. JoAnne Ricardi says:

    Here is a letter I submitted to the commission with the request that it be read into the record when this item is discussed tomorrow. May or may not be allowed. Had I been able to appear in person I would have made the same suggestions.We need someone in this position who has the citizen/taxpayer’s interests at heart.

    Re: Agenda Item 13

    I will be unable to attend the commission meeting today due to a medical appointment at the same time.

    As you may remember I have appeared before you several times regarding the hiring of a city manager and would like to offer these suggestions.

    Start the process by seeking qualified people within our city to fill this position.

    My reasons for this suggestion–
    1. They already live in the city and will not require moving expenses thus decreasing the cost to the city. It would be nice to hire within. They may not need the elaborate benefit package of an outsider.

    2. They live in the city and may already understand its needs and challenges, thus cutting down the learning process.

    3. They live in the city, love it here, and do not plan to use the job as a stepping stone to something bigger and better paying, hence LONGIVITY.

    4. And last, they live in our city and may consider service to their community to be rewarding along with payment of salary and other benefits. In today’s economy it should not be necessary to offer inflated salaries that we have become accustom to.

    In closing, I would hope that we do not need the expense of a headhunter . There are many qualified people looking for jobs. The last city manager job advertised in the newspaper drew over 100 candidates and they hired within three months.

    Thank you for considering the merit of my suggestions.

    JoAnne Ricardi
    1423 N Central Ave
    Flagler Beach

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