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Bunnell’s Finance Director Resigns, Taking a Swipe at New Commission Majority

| July 16, 2013

The new majority: from left, John Rogers, Bill Baxley and Elbert Tucker. (© FlaglerLive)

The new majority: from left, John Rogers, Bill Baxley and Elbert Tucker. (© FlaglerLive)

Three months ago the open secret that had been Bunnell Finance Director Cynthia Bertha’s affair with Bunnell Police Chief Jeff Hoffman was publicly outed as then-City Clerk Dan Davis revealed it at the end of a city commission meeting, citing it as one reason he was resigning. Davis was upset that City Manager Armando Martinez had allowed the relationship to carry on.

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Martinez has since been fired by the commission, which is allowing the manager to stay on until October. On Friday, Bertha, best known as Cissy to friends and colleagues, tendered her resignation, citing a new job but also, in a swipe unusual for its political candor, at least in a resignation letter, blaming the new majority of the commission for her decision.

“My resignation is in no way to be perceived as my being unhappy or dissatisfied with my job, its responsibilities, or your leadership,” she wrote Martinez, who has generally elicited strong loyalty from his top administrative staff. “However, based on decisions that have been made in recent months, the vision of the current board majority has changed and many years of hard work and progress that your team has accomplished will essentially come undone.” (See the full letter below.)

The new majority Bertha was referring to is the three-man bloc represented by Elbert Tucker, John Rogers and Bill Baxley, elected to the commission in that order over the years, with Baxley the latest addition in March. Baxley replaced Daisy Henry, whose presence had provided a previous three-bloc majority to Mayor Catherine Robinson and reliable ally Jenny Crain-Brady. That majority staunchly supported Martinez and city staff. Tucker and Rogers frequently criticized that majority for supporting its own administration at the expense of city residents and taxpayers. Baxley’s arrival shifted power away from Robinson, and the new majority made that power known almost immediately.

Bertha was making $52,500, and will officially be on the job until early August. She took a job as the finance manager of the City of Lake Helen, between DeLand and Deltona. That job’s salary topped off at $50,000. She did not cite specifics in her resignation letter. But three changes have so far illustrated the new majority’s direction.

Police Chief Jeff Hoffman and Cynthia Bertha at the meeting when then-City Clerk Dan Davis publicized their relationship. (© FlaglerLive)

Police Chief Jeff Hoffman and Cynthia Bertha at the meeting when then-City Clerk Dan Davis publicized their relationship. (© FlaglerLive)

The first was a change in policy, ending Martinez’s habit of naming one of his top administrators as acting manager when he was away. The commission had approved that approach by a vote, but Tucker and Rogers had criticized it for going against the city charter which—read with strict adherence to its letter—sets out a specific line of succession when the manager is away, starting with the city clerk. One of the reasons Davis was displeased with Martinez is that Martinez did not follow that approach. Bertha was among the staffers put in charge when he was away. Soon after his election, Baxley joined Tucker and Rogers in overturning the previous vote, and requiring the manager to follow the charter, strictly, in matters of succession.

The second change was not the doing of the new majority. But it would not likely have happened without it: Sid Nowell, the long-time city attorney, resigned, and was replaced by Lonnie Groot. Tucker and Rogers had made clear more than a year ago that they opposed Nowell’s reappointment. With Baxley’s arrival, Nowell, who is again the sheriff’s attorney as well as in private practice at Nowell, Bayer and Maguire, the Flagler Beach firm, is not lacking for work. Resigning was a preemptive move.

The third change was Martinez’s firing, which shook his staff and prominent members of the community. Martinez does have a following and there is movement in Bunnell to craft next year’s election campaign around the issue of the new majority’s firing of the manager—and to replace Rogers with a candidate more amenable to the old majority. By then Martinez will be gone. But he will leave the city with five months’ severance, beginning in October, and running out in March, around the time of the election. Asked if he would consider returning as manager then, if the election switched the majority again, Martinez, in an interview last month, said he’d consider it—if he wasn’t employed elsewhere.

Rogers, Baxley and Tucker, however, rejected Bertha’s claim that they were intent on undoing the city’s progress, though they more or less strained not to speak to her letter directly.

“She’s been a valuable member of the city staff, and this board member appreciates all the hard work she’s done for the city. I wish her nothing but the best of luck in the future, “ Rogers said. “As far as her comment in the letter, I have no comment.”

Rogers was asked if, aside from Bertha’s comment, the new majority was undoing works under Martinez.

“With the recent decision to not renew Mr. Martinez’s contract, I can see why you ask that question,” Rogers said. “However, Mr. Martinez was clearly looking for another job. My position all along has been if he’s looking for a job, why shouldn’t we be looking for another city manager?”

Martinez has applied to at least two jobs in the last two years in South Florida. His family lives in Brevard County, where he commutes every day.

Baxley more directly characterized Bertha as “probably just a disgruntled employee is the only thing I can say.” He added: “She’s done a good job, she’s been an excellent finance director and I wish her well, but I don’t have a comment on her comment. I don’t believe she’s correct. I believe we’re headed in pretty much the same direction.”

Baxley is asking the commission at its next meeting to consider appointing an interim manager. Baxley doesn’t want to see Martinez go before his actual employment term runs out. But he wants an interim to be trained on his watch. “We need to go ahead and appoint an interim city manager at this point so that person can be brought up to speed of everything going on in Bunnell before Mr. Martinez leaves,” Baxley said. He said several department heads in the current administration—most of them Martinez hires—could be that interim manager.

Tucker said Bertha’s characterization of the new majority may have been the result of “some aggravation on her part.” Bertha’s relationship with the police chief had raised questions among commissioners—questions raised with Nowell, who dismissed grounds for action. “That was common knowledge,” Tucker said. “It wasn’t a secret, and once again the board has no control over that. That’s the manager’s responsibility.”

Tucker said that the direction of the board under the new majority “remains to be seen.”

Cynthia Bertha Resignation Letter

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15 Responses for “Bunnell’s Finance Director Resigns, Taking a Swipe at New Commission Majority”

  1. Charles Gardner says:

    I think I shall remove Bunnell from my approved clients list. That’ll show em!

  2. Geezer says:

    I say we fire John Rogers’ tailor immediately and without severance pay.

  3. Sunbeam says:

    Hmmmm Being in charge when the city manager is out…Continuing a relationship with Martinez….in a relationship with the Chief of police….is this how you get a Director position? No loss to Bunnell…sounds like the new company employees better wear jump suits (they don’t fall down so easily).

  4. Realty Check says:

    Nothing more than good old boy politics, Bunnell will never change nor will the 3 old timers who are in charge. The commissioners live in the past, so shall the city of Bunnell, it will be that dingy, dirty little strip of US 1 & SR 100.

  5. Michelle says:

    Well, well, well…. their true colors are starting to show, what they really want is to be somebody! Be it the City Manager or just finally getting some respect (not earned) or just thinking that they are ‘in charge’. These three are going to have a wake up call when they find out that they are sadly mistaken about what the City has accomplished under Martinez. How quickly the past is forgotten and now we are going to repeat it! All those Managers that did not do right by the City and now we have these three ‘Commissioners’ that don’t know how to either. Their due is coming, wait for it – just wait for it. And they need to stop spreading rumors that are lies too! Yes, you know who you are, you have been ratted out and your number will be coming up!

    • Come on back Syd says:

      You had it good when you had Syd Crosby as Bunnell City Manager. It’s too bad that some had blinders on and couldn’t accept the exposure of corruption that was being brought to light when he was questioning policy’s and practices. Now we will have to pay the price for stupidity.

  6. Tired says:

    When an extra-marital affair takes place at work, it’s happening on the clock. How anyone can say this is a private matter is beyond me. Sometimes an issue is uncomfortable but it should have been dealt with appropriately. Ignoring it was totally unprofessional. It’s going on all over our local government. No accountablility, lack of values and morals. Thanks Dan for sharing it with the public!

    • Will says:

      The city manager and the city attorney didn’t ignore the affair, from what I read. They simply decided it did not relate to job performance and wasn’t a public issue. The city clerk felt righteous indignation and “outed” the situation. Who the hell made him judge and jury, particularly with families and the press in attendance.

      I’m just suspicious of that whole thing. I wonder if it wasn’t the plan to expose the affair as a way to fire Martinez and appoint the city clerk city manager all in one fun-filled evening! Grade school politics at its best.

      Bunnell deserves better than that circus, whoever was involved.

    • Realty Check says:

      @ Tired, and you know for a fact it was on the clock? what happens to people off the clock is their own business. So what you are saying is she was on the clock 24/7/365? so then if she gets hurt at home the city should put it in as workmans comp? you are rediculas that it is beond you how it is not on the clock. Remeber people have lives outside of business that do not concern others.

  7. A.S.F. says:

    I guess all the praying going on in in Bunnell isn’t working–especially as it might relate to the morals of the very people pushing the praying on the rest of us. Extra-marital affairs…public backstabbing…can you say, “AMEN!’?

  8. Popo3984 says:

    I think it’s time we get the good ole boys to packing the citizens of bunnell will be heard in march

  9. Will says:

    There’s a new comment above posted by Michelle – looks like it was written earlier but posted later.

    What’s all that about? Not too complimentary of the new majority commissioners – and saying “you have been ratted out”. Is this information about John Rogers’ tailor, or something more serious?

  10. Jennifer Lopez says:

    Besides, who does she think she is, Its the city of Bunnell, not Vegas baby !

  11. Tired says:

    @Reality Check: I understand that people have lives outside of work. Every case of work place marital affairs that I have knowledge of locally has had several instances that took place on the clock. If the relationship ONLY took place outside of work hours that would be one thing. I do not believe that it did. However, you seem to be much closer to the situation. I’m entitled to my opinion and you are entitled to yours.

  12. Kathy Davis says:

    Some of you totally miss the point. It doesn’t matter if they were “involved” on or off the clock. The problem is two-fold. One, the Finance Director was appointed numerous times as the Acting City Manger. That means she was the boss of her boyfriend. Second, as was stated by the Clerk, you can’t have professional integrity and personal integrity. You either have integrity or you don’t. If you lie to your families, husband, wife, children, and your commissioners about your affair, then how can the commissioners, city manager and citizens trust you with the city’s finances and the city’s safety. This is pretty cut and dry. All the commissioners know this and so does the city manager and the city attorney. They knew what the right thing to do was, but they CHOSE to do nothing.

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