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“Podunk,” “Bad Faith” and Bigotry as Bunnell Votes 3-1 to Advertise for a New City Manager

| August 13, 2013

Bunnell City Manager Armando Martinez is again on the firing line. (© FlaglerLive)

Bunnell City Manager Armando Martinez is again on the firing line. (© FlaglerLive)

The matter of embattled Bunnell City Manager Armando Martinez’s contract was again a subject of discussion three and a half hours into the city commission meeting Monday night. So the mood was again rancorous, offensive and recriminating, with one commissioner flatly and discriminatingly stating that he didn’t want candidates from Miami, and the mayor accusing her three colleagues, who are leading the charge to get rid of Martinez, of being “small-time” and  “good old boys” who negotiated in bad faith to produce “laughable” proposals.

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When it was over it looked like Martinez would remain fired, after there’d been a glimmer of hope for him in July when the commission agreed to at least negotiate a new contract with him.

At close to 11 p.m., and taking action on a matter never placed on the agenda, the commission voted 3-1 to advertise for a new manager from Florida, and hire him as quickly as possible. Commissioner Elbert Tucker’s anti-Miami slur—indistinguishable from a demand that a black, Hispanic or Jewish candidate not be hired—did not make it into the qualifications. For now, anyway. Martinez is Cuban-born, and made his career in Miami.

Last month Lonnie Groot, the commission’s new attorney (whose first month’s pay totaled $24,000) was directed to negotiate a contract with Martinez. He spoke with each commissioner. He said he did not poll them or break sunshine rules, though one does not have to poll commissioners outside of a meeting to break sunshine: discussions clearly took place that led to the various sides staking out their positions, and did so outside of public view.

Those discussions came down to this: Martinez would not accept a salary of less than $97,500, or about $12,000 less than he’s making now. Commissioners John Rogers, Tucker and Bill Baxley—the three horsemen unified against Martinez—would not offer him more than $80,000.

“That in my judgment at this time is irreconcilable,” Groot said, with Martinez reaffirming his demand as late as Monday afternoon. He was not at the meeting Monday night. He’s been burning time off due him,  in view of his impending last day on Oct. 13.

There were other differences. Martinez wanted 20 weeks’ severance. The three horsemen agreed to 20 weeks only if Martinez, who lives in Melbourne with his family, relocated to Flagler County. Absent that, they’d give him six weeks’ severance, with an additional week for every year served. The three wanted biannual evaluations rather than annual, and a contractual obligation for the manager to brief all commissioners equally, outside of meetings, about city business. That’s a reflection of the three horsemen’s displeasure at Martinez and Robinson for having constant communication, to their exclusion. The three also do not want him to retain the title of public safety director, and want to withdraw his current car allowances, letting him use a city car only in Flagler County, or for Bunnell-related business if it takes him beyond county borders.

Those matters became moot once the difference over salary could not be bridged, though the differences are also an indication of the sort of strictures the three horsemen will write into the new contract, whoever the manager may be.

Then the recriminations flew.

“Obviously,” Robinson said, her voice crackling with contempt, “there was no good faith negotiations going on here. The comment was made earlier, you get what you pay for. So what are you all wanting? You want to pay somebody $80,000 to do the job? Is that what you want? I certainly do not think that for the man who’s done the job he’s done and for the money he’s saved the city, to cut him $19,000 is fair, equitable, and even, I can’t even believe that’s on the table. That’s ridiculous. That’s a ridiculous cut in salary. If you worked in the corporate world, you wouldn’t have somebody come in that you’ve done a good job and cut his salary $19,000. We just paid the attorney $24,000 for one month’s worth of work.” She added: “You all want to go down in history as taking the city back, that’s your decision.”

Elbert Tucker (© FlaglerLive)

Elbert Tucker (© FlaglerLive)

“Could you possibly be giving Mr. Martinez a little too much credit for all that’s going on, because you had a vote in everything that he did,” Tucker said. “The staff has carried out what the staff has been hired to do. Mr. Martinez didn’t do their work. You give him way too much credit for what somebody else has done.”

“Well, that’s small-time thinking about being progressive,” Robinson said. “Where is the vision? Where are we going? Who’s going to lead us down that path?”

Tucker: “You’re going to do it and the rest of the commission is going to do it.”

Robinson: “Oh, really?”

Tucker: “Mr. Martinez is not the one driving the train here.”

Rogers, Baxley and Jennifer Crain-Brady remained silent.

“Anyway, we can beat this horse dead, it doesn’t matter. This is what you want to do, this is where you want to go, then you take the responsibility for it,” Robinson said.

“Well spoken,” Tucker said. “And I will take responsibility.”

“That’s fine. You can.”

“I will. I have. I haven’t backed up a moment from what I’ve decided to do,” Tucker said.

“I understand that but you work for the city at large. You work in the best interest–”

“I work for the citizens of Bunnell, I don’t work for the city. I work for the citizens of Bunnell,” Tucker said, underscoring a point he’s made before—that Robinson was too wedded to the city’s administration’s interests as opposed to residents’ interests.

“For the citizens. That’s right,” Robinson said, continuing her defense of Martinez.

By then commissioners spoke of the sort of manager they wanted in place of Martinez, prompting Crain-Brady, who would soon leave, to speak: she described her experience with former manager Richard Diamond as “a disaster” and that of Sid Crosby as “a big mistake.” “My experience has been, Diamond, Crosby, Armando Martinez. There’s no comparison,” Crain-Brady said. Bunnell, she said, is no longer a “Podunk” town on the fringe of Flagler County’s economic activities, but an integral part of those activities, as underscored by a presentation by Helga van Eckert, the county’s economic development director, earlier in the meeting. She credited Martinez for that achievement. “So I’m very upset that we’re losing Armando.”

Crain-Brady then walked out of the meeting in disgust.

“Obviously it doesn’t matter what I want to do,” Robinson said. “My 19 years of experience mean nothing here. My credibility about what I’ve been through with the city managers means nothing. The good old boys’ mentality is alive and well. Congratulations. You got it. So what do you all want to do?”

That’s when Tucker said he didn’t want someone from Miami, starting another round with Robinson, the two interrupting each other as they had all along. It was left up to Rogers to make the motion to advertise for a new manager, using most of the qualification wording from Martinez’s contract, and agreeing to a :”target” of $75,000 to $80,000. That again leaves the door open for a candidate to make a salary demand higher than that, and the possibility that in the end, the commission might end up with a manager with a salary closer to Martinez’s final request. But not Martinez.

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40 Responses for ““Podunk,” “Bad Faith” and Bigotry as Bunnell Votes 3-1 to Advertise for a New City Manager”

  1. Wishful thnking says:

    Wow Rogers ! That sure would leave me out even if I lived in Bunnell… I am Jewish and half from Miami-26 years/half from NYC… What other requirements do you have?

    • Charles Gardner says:

      Tucker, not Rogers, is the one who didn’t want an applicant from Miami.

    • cynt417 says:

      John wasnt the one who said it Tucker was the one who made the comment I grew up with John ive been friends with him since high school and I feel hes a good person getting a bad rep I’m African American I no longer live in Flag Le r but I would vote for him again if I had the chance Idont care what color or ethnicity you are just do the right thing for the citizens of Bun ell ..

    • local says:

      Perhaps the story is concentrating more on the words than the spirit of Elbert’s desire not to have another city manager with no stake in the town. Bunnell is not Palm Coast, New York, New Jersey or any other town the majority of you are from.
      I have to agree with him, Family ties going back before Flagler was incorporated means something and I want this area to stay unique and not perverted into someone’s idea of a small town or attempt to become a big city.

  2. thinkforyourself says:

    SHAMEFUL, disgusting and disgraceful!! WTH is wrong with these ass backwards people! Bunnell has done a great job of turning its reputation around and becoming a place where people wanted to live and invest in. The money they have been able to bring into this communityhas been nothing but outstanding. The construction and building within downtown and the revitalization of our county seat has been nothing but miraculous. Anyone who would be willing to come and work for this commission would have to be out of their flippin’ mind! Tucker, Rogers and Baxley are returning this town to the dark ages. The only people I see them representing are themselves and their egos. I can’t understand how or why Martinez doesn’t have a legal case of racial discrimination against this Commission. The only problem it seems they have from him is that he is latino and from Miami. WOW – just WOW!!

    • Charles Gardner says:

      I think Martinez does have a case for discrimination. I also think he won’t peruse it; he is a bigger man than the 3 commissioners combined.

      • Bill says:

        Charles-Nothing was said to or about Martinez. No discrimination here. Tucker is entitled to say h doesn’t want someone as far away as Miami and have the risk of the issues Martinez has had with his long distance relationship.

        Martinez has been milking the city for far tooooo long!

  3. bunnell boy says:

    This reminds me of a wife that keeps throwing her husband out and then changing her mind. Only in the city of bunnell.

  4. Nancy N. says:

    Move over Honey Boo-Boo…this crew is obviously auditioning to be the next big reality show spectacle.

  5. Sherry Epley says:

    Bigoted Elber Tucker needs to be voted out! If he is willing to say that kind of thing in public, you can imagine what discrimination he carries in his mind, heart and soul. We are no longer living in the 50’s and 50’s. If the citizens of Bunnell want to really progress into a better, safer, more successful city in the future, their leaders need to be visionaries of that brighter future. That would include embracing the diversity that made our country great. . . not falling back into the divisive stereotypes of the past.

  6. Good Old Girl says:

    My goodness, Robinson and Brady are so protective over Martinez. Do they, and everyone else in the city of Bunnell know Martinez’s background? Why don’t they look into that? Why hasn’t that been brought up to the public? Martinez was not hired for the Managers position, it just kind of fell in his lap, and he has ran with it. He has taken credit and Robinson and Brady are giving him credit for stuff he HAS NOT done!Robinson and Brady wants to talk about the SUNSHINE LAW, have they ever read the Sunshine Law? I bet my life, that neither one of them have followed the Sunshine Law! Having someone go talk to incoming Commissioners, and trying to persuade them on how to vote, yeah, that’s ok. Was that one of you, or Martinez? This job isn’t about where someone comes from, their race, religion,(Brady), it’s about honesty, integrity and getting the job done and do what is in the best interest of the Citizens.
    Crosby was a mistake? No honey, Brady you were the MISTAKE, a BIG MISTAKE!
    When need a new manager that doesn’t cover up the dishonesty that they do!

  7. A.S.F. says:

    I am sure that they will, once again, pray upon the matter after all this disgusting behavior. What a joke they are!

  8. Citizen says:

    I am glad I do not live in Bunnell. The politics in this city is rivaling Flagler Beach, They need their own reality show.

  9. Shocked, I tell you... says:

    Mr. Martinez is not the only city manager on the hot seat. Mr. Landon with the city of Palm Coast receives a salary larger than that of the governor of our fair state.

    Why is that?

    Is this not the same man accused of taking $8 million from the utility fund and lending it to two major landowners here?

    Mr. Landon, you are the one who needs to go.

  10. Disgusted with Baxley and Tucker. More later.

  11. Popo3984 says:

    This is not what the citizens want this is what Elbert wants.

  12. tulip says:

    Mr. Groot gets $24,000 a month? Is that his actual pay or did he do some extra things for the Commission? Geesh, that’s a lot of money, especially when Bunnell claims they don’t have much money for anything.

    • Charles Gardner says:

      The Groot invoice is not a monthly charge. He has had a lot of work to do in a lawsuit the city is involved in. Work that should have been done before Groot got here.

  13. Justin says:

    How about a salary of 45-50 thousand!? I see way too many over paid positions in this county! One is the school administration!

  14. Florida Native says:

    I just want to know one thing. Why does the city of Bunnell have to go over 100 miles to find a city manager that commutes 100 miles to work? Is there not a talent pool in Ocala,Gainesville or Jacksonville? This whole thing is bizarre.

  15. Fonda says:

    This smells like a law suit if the only hire a white male.What year do these three men live in?Why is no one stopping these three men that live in the old days?

    • Nancy N. says:

      I did note the wording in the article that said “the commission voted 3-1 to advertise for a new manager from Florida, and hire him as quickly as possible” and wondered if the “him” was the commission’s wording or Flagler Live’s. Because it should have read “him or her”.

  16. Thomas McKay says:

    Wow.these guys have changed their mind again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!You have got to be kidding me.Who in the Hell elected this party?I have lived in Connecticut for over 30years and moved here 6 years ago and in my life I have never seen anything like this.How in the world could anyone work for this city?”I’m ashamed of you!You’re A Disgrace To Your Country.This is not how are government should be ran!!!!!You think only a “WHITE MAN CAN RUN YOUR CITY”

  17. Michelle says:

    Groot’s bill for the $24,000 was just for work he had done in the first month, said there was a lot to ‘clean up’. The total budget for the year for the attorney is $60,000….. where are they going to get the rest of the money to pay the man???

    • Will says:

      I’m not saying the $24,000 was too little or too much – but I think that Mr. Groot’s law firm sends the bill, not Mr. Groot personally. It could well be that a variety of the firm’s legal services were used.

      The budget question is a good one though.

  18. Mr.mondex says:

    DISCRIMINATION !!!! WOW !!! Unbelievable !!!! And Rogers kept his trap shut. ,I find that hard to believe. I guess tucker embarrassed him so bad that he was dumbstruck !!!! And couldn’t spit any of his usual trash out when is the next election. ,man it is time to get rid of the good ole boys,now discrimination ??? What next ????? And don’t start bad mouthing Syd Crosby ,he called it like it is no smoothing it over like these bunch of clowns !!! Are doing and I don’t blame that gal for storming out of this meeting. Or should I refer to it as a witch hunt geeez guys give it up already. Man it’s 2013!!!!!! Not 1955 !!!!!!

  19. Big Mike says:

    Happy Centennial, Bunnell! You people really know how to celebrate! Looks like Tucker and Rogers want the city to be like it was 100 years ago! Disgraceful.

  20. JonQPublik says:

    Sheesh, I think instead of replacing the city manager they should be replacing part of the city commission.

  21. rthomp11 says:

    “from Florida”

    “Commissioner Elbert Tucker’s anti-Miami slur—indistinguishable from a demand that a black, Hispanic or Jewish candidate not be hired—did not make it into the qualifications. For now, anyway. ”

    The only thing I got from this is that the board wants a new manager from Florida, that will live or relocate to Bunnell, (which is only how it should be, work for this county/city you should live live in this county/city) preferably not from a big city, but perhaps one that will put the personal home town touch into the position that the commissioners and city major has. I don’t think there was any slur or bigotry intended in Commissioner Tucker’s statement. Tucker along with all the other members of the board are long time residents and all of them love this county and the City of Bunnell. They only want the best for the city and the citizens. Commissioner Tucker didn’t say any slur against “black, Hispanic or Jewish” the reporter thought that in his opinion Tucker’s comment about not wanting a manager from Miami was like saying he was not wanting a “black, Hispanic or Jewish” for the job also. BUT TUCKER DID NOT SAY THAT.

    In my opinion, I don’t feel that anyone from a big city would have the same love for our small town-ness as we do, unless they have lived here for a long period of time. Just as I would not love a big city as much as someone who had lived there all their life. I wouldn’t want someone to come here and try to change it into a big city and completely change everything I have loved about my city and county. Develop it and expand it, yes, but don’t make into something that it shouldn’t be. Maybe that’s what the Commissioners are looking for?

  22. World Watching says:

    I’m surprised the boys want to limit the search to Florida. They might find a candidate to their liking in some parts of rural Alabama or the hills of West Virginia… someone with little education so as not to intimidate the commission with new ideas… someone who doesn’t own a tie so a professional salary would be out of the question… someone who would always call them Sir and not look them in the eyes… someone with good American family pre-1860 values! With the attitudes expressed by some elected leaders, it is not surprising that Mr. Martinez did not want to subject his family to living any closer to them than Brevard County. Perhaps his mistake was not changing his name to Andy Martin (from Gadsden County) on his application. If he’d shown up in a work shirt, jeans and suspenders with a piece of hay between his teeth, he could have drawled some tasteless jokes about women or anyone of another ethnicity or social class and endeared himself to some commissioners right from the start. My apologies to the people of Florida (especially Bunnell), Alabama, and West Virginia who have learned to treat all people with respect and are educated and open-minded enough to support the best idea regardless of its source.

  23. ryan says:

    More fake bigotry claims? You can’t hide behind that forever. Your actions are what counts. Good try though! I am a Liberal and I am sick of seeing corrupt politicians pulling the race card. That is what is killing Democratic credibility. That is why I am a liberal, not a Progressive, which means I will not sacrifice my integrity for political loyalty.

  24. Mike says:

    @ Bunnell City commissioners, its time for you to step down, you are disgracing your positions as elected officials; Bunnell can not stay in the dark ages as you wish it would. I find the comments by commissioners and their lack of a reason to terminate the current City Manager, a true sign of arrogance and ignorance of their part. It is shameful to live some where and be ashamed of your local government, Real Bunnell residents need to come out next election and vote out the current commission.

  25. BILOXI says:

    Tucker your doing a fine job. You hit the nail on the head “I work for the citizens of Bunnell, I don’t work for the city. I work for the citizens of Bunnell,” Tucker. The man is full of integrity and honest as the day is long. He takes a stance, doesn’t backpedal and you know what he takes responsibility. I guess he could put on a show and walk out in disgust like a fellow commissioner! Then he would be called a coward or good ol’ boy turned drama queen. Martinez left Miami for a reason, his heart isn’t in this county and as a business owener who works in the private sector. He would have been fired a long time ago!

    • Jennifer S says:

      integrity, honesty, taking a stance, & not backpedaling are all wonderful attributes, if in fact the individual is perfect. so far my experiences have taught me no human produces that kind of accuracy. it is possible to be all of those things, or think you are, or have others believe you are…but one would hope all this integrity & taking responsibility would lend itself to the knowledge one person doesn’t know everything there is to know in the universe & therefore should be just as capable of letting go of mindsets that are flawed & be open to other ideas.

  26. L.D. Ablo says:

    AAAAH politics…the religion of the feeble minded.

  27. Bunnell native says:

    Its amazing how much negativity is aimed at Bunnell and the west side of Flagler County. Most of the time by people who do not reside nor pay taxes there. Having an opinion is great, voicing it is even better. Nothing can replace an educated opinion. If you were not at the meetings and you do not know the history of these events…..don’t judge. Elbert is a solid citizen, always has been and always will be. To have his comments misconstrued so wildly is simply irresponsible and adds to the divisions we already have. Growth is fine, mindless expansion is speculation and this troubled economy just can’t sustain that.

  28. PC Kid says:

    If this type of simple minded mentality continues Bunnell will rapidly shrink into naught.

  29. Bunnell native says:

    There is such a huge negative feeling toward the west side of Flagler County and Bunnell these days. Its always been there. People move from up north with their views of hicks and rednecks, lump everyone who does not live east of US1 into the same pot, and Judge, and Discriminate, and Criticize, and Stereotype. Lets not not talk political affiliation lets talk the pot calling the kettle black. Or white if its a white kettle. Just so this post can’t be deemed racist. Opinions are great to have. Opinions are even better when voiced in a fair and rational manner. Elbert is a solid guy. I’ve known him my entire life. I agree 100% with the post of rthomp11 above.

  30. Need Honesty and Integrety says:

    It is time for the people of Bunnell to wake up. Mr.Tucker you are living in the dark ages and have been handed down most everything from your long time roots and family. you don’t live near nor see what really goes on daily in Bunnelll . It is time for the goodole boy attitudes to change. This has gotten insane with the bigotry. Wake up people of this town we had a great City manager Martinez who really cared about this town and did so much to improve it. As far as I’m concerned that don’t get any better, Your attitudes are leaving devastating disarry, uncertainty and general fear of what will happen next. This is no longer Mayberry so wake the heck up. I agree with Mayor Robinson, Jenny Crain Brady and others we need positive changes here or this town will turn into a disgrace is this this what you want for this city?

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