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City Manager Jim Landon as Control Freak: Two Council Members Fret Over His Grip

| September 29, 2015

Palm Coast City Manager Jim landon

His way: Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon. (© FlaglerLive)

It took City Manager Jim Landon being three time zones away—at a conference in Seattle—for the two newest members of the Palm Coast City Council to speak about him this morning with a candor they never have in his presence, though what they said explicitly is widely known implicitly: that he’s too controlling, that he doesn’t listen to certain council members’ perspectives, that he too narrowly pre-packages recommendations that come before the council to reduce possible outcomes, and that he sends distinct signals to those who cross him, even if it’s a council member.

“If I go to the city manager and I say I really don’t like the way this has been handled, this is wrong, the way it’s being handled, and I’d like to talk to you about it,” Council member Heidi Shipley said, “I have been told: ‘You need to stay out of it.’ OK. So, then, maybe what I’m supposed to do here is just this, you know?”

Shipley went on to explain that it wasn’t just a personnel—from which council members are supposed to steer clear—nor was it the only time it had happened. “I just want at least be heard and at least be able to say to the city manager, can you look at the way that I’m looking at it, instead of just—you know, now that person might be fired for going to you. I have a problem with that.”

Shipley was speaking in the context of a discussion fellow-council member Steven Nobile had started, at the end of this morning’s workshop, to let the rest of the council know that come next Tuesday, he would be making a motion at the council meeting to establish a charter review process. Nobile has been discussing the matter since spring, to great resistance from the rest of the council, especially Mayor Jon Netts and Council member Jason DeLorenzo, who say the charter isn’t broken and shouldn’t be fixed, and nor are residents clamoring for a review.

Heidi Sjipley. (© FlaglerLive)

Heidi Sjipley. (© FlaglerLive)

But for the second time this month, Shipley leaned closer to Nobile with intimations that she’d support a review as well. She’s been somewhat dissatisfied, if not disillusioned, with the nature of the job lately. What has happened since she’d shown some support for Nobile may explain why. She said today she could see a few items in the charter that could bear reviewing. “How you see your city council job going might be different than me and Steve, as we’re new,” Shipley said, “but I know, since I said OK with Steve on the charter review, I have had a little bit of a cold shoulder, and people acting a little different, because you want to side with him, huh? Ok. That makes me a little nervous.”

Landon is at the annual International City-County Management Association’s conference until Wednesday in Seattle, and on vacation the rest of the week. The meeting this morning had been a swift workshop to discuss cost overruns in one water project and a few other routine issues. Nobile brought up the charter matter at the end, when council members bring up issues not on the agenda.

He had his own rebukes of the city manager’s style, though he couched them time after time in qualifiers that assured his listeners he had no problems with Landon. But he does think there is too much distance between council members and the day-to-day operations of the city administration.

“People feel—and I’m not talking about a dozen, I’m talking about thousands and thousands of people in this town, believe the town is run by the city manager,” Nobile said. “I’m sorry, I phrased that wrong: that the focus of the town and the direction of the town is directed by the city manager. He does what—and I’m not talking about Mr. Landon. Mr. Landon does a great job. I have full confidence in what he does. But they believe he directs the town, not the council. The council is the way I’ve heard it been put, the council approves what the manager brings to them.”

Manager Jim Landon’s control framed as the impetus behind a push for a charter review.

DeLorenzo said the manager enacts policy that the council sets in broad strokes. But Nobile, in a surprising turn, said that council salaries should be higher—he suggested what equates to $40,000, or 80 percent of county commissioners’ salaries—so that members could look at the job as a job and involve themselves over specific areas of responsibility in city government (much like Netts himself described was the case when he served in an elected position in New Jersey, though Netts said the roles could be very politicized: Netts at the time was to supervise finance, police and fire).

That’s what causes Landon to recoil when discussions turn to council members’ roles: he does not abide interference in his administration, though council members are not precluded—as Bill McGuire said—from having conversations with staff members. The Palm Coast charter, like virtually all local government blueprints, makes clear that elected officers are not to direct or interfere with the running of government administrations. Nobile was under the wrong impression that county commissioners are deeply involved in the running of county government.

“You as a city council person, you can get involved in the day to day affairs of the city to whatever degree you choose,” McGuire told him.

“No, that’s not true, the charter says I’m not to interfere,” Nobile said.

“It is true,” McGuire retorted, “I come up here every day and talk to the staff members to find out what’s going on and find out what direction they’re moving in, and if I don’t agree with them I’ll sit down with the city manager.”

“So the charter changes, you’re going to close the store?” DeLorenzo asked Nobile, referring to his gun shop.

“I wouldn’t run,” he said, then elaborated about his concern, again returning to Landon’s control: “I’m speaking personally, not for the people,” he said. “I don’t like, personally, that the manager is in more control than I am, than I can get involved, even if I had the time to come in here. I simply am not going to direct, nor am I going to get involved in, you know, I can ask questions, but I could do that here. City manager comes, I could ask him all the questions and get all the information I need. I don’t need to go. But technically, based on the charter, that’s all I can do.”

Nobile said he “would like to be part of their day to day,” then put it bluntly: that the manager doesn’t present the whole story to council members when making recommendations. “I always feel that we’re not getting everything that we could have, I feel like we’re getting what is directed to the staff,” he said. Nobile is reluctant to tell city staff to go back to re-work an item if six months’ work has already gone into it. “I’d rather be ahead of that and say wait a minute, there’s three choices, there’s four choices, let’s look at this, let’s look at this, and that can’t be done by one person everywhere,” he said.

A meeting with the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic executive committees, who both pressed Nobile to push for a charter review, led to his latest attempt, he said. That, and reading former palm Coast Mayor Jim Canfield’s interview in a January issue of the Observer saying that a charter review was in order. (At one point Netts, to Nobile’s displeasure, inelegantly suggested that the quote may have been false.) Nobile said he had bi-partisan support for the proposal. “At our next business meeting I’ll make a motion to create this review,” he said, “and if somebody wants to second it and vote on it, and at that point we can say—if it passes, it passes, if it doesn’t, then they know what their next step is to be.”

steven nobile palm coast charter review

Palm Coast council member Steven Nobile has his eyes set on a citizen-driven charter review commission for the city. Absent a clearer public outcry for one, his colleagues on the council object. (© FlaglerLive)

Among the ideas floated: changing representation in the city to seven council members instead of five, having those members elected only by the constituents in their own districts as opposed to constituents across the city, raising salaries, and, based on Nobile’s comments, changing the responsibilities of council members.

To Netts and DeLorenzo, there’s still no reason to do a charter review. “The problem that I have with this—way down deep I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m not aware of any significant problems,” Netts said.

“The issue to me is not the cost of a charter review,” Netts said, “but what is it that you want to change? I am very much opposed to single-member districts, for example.”

“OK, but that’s where I have some—yes, you may oppose, and I may oppose on something, but isn’t it up to the citizenry to decide how the government is governed?” Nobile said, then, in another surprising twist, noting that “what scares me now” is that the Republicans and Democrats he spoke with would be making charter proposals that end up on the ballot.

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30 Responses for “City Manager Jim Landon as Control Freak: Two Council Members Fret Over His Grip”

  1. Edman says:

    Sounds like some councilpersons want to micromanage instead of setting policies and budgets for the administration to implement. The last thing we need is a city run by part time advocates of personal agendas instead of day to day implementation of goals and objectives by trained professionals.

  2. Gladfly says:

    Landon needs to go but it would bankrupt the city with his lawsuit and he know’s it. Overpaid,under worked,and dysfunctional. Yes business as usual in Palm Compton.

  3. Will says:

    Unfortunately Mr. Nobile doesn’t know much about the Council Manager Form of Government that the City is operating under. Apparently Ms. Shipley knows even less. The original Charter was put together by the people of this community with the help of University faculty and students. The Form requires a professional manager who handles the day-to-day operations, and a Council to provide the Community vision and over
    see the Manager. The Council acts as a body. If a Council person wants to give specific directions to the Manager, that direction must be approved by a Council majority. The Community founders felt that partisan politics would be a dividing influence and therefore opted for non-partisan elections. Of course , when Mr. Nobile asks R and D political leaders should the Government change, one could guess what their answer would be. All we need is R. R. Republicans running our City.

  4. Lin says:

    We elect Council Members to represent us, yet we have Landon running the city — and how dare Heidi Shipley question his rule. This is exactly why we need a charter review. I know why some on the council are afraid of any change in the status quo — obviously, they are fine with the power structure. As a citizen, I would like to vote for the one in charge.

    Does anyone remember Landon’s presentations about the City Hall? And the vote against a City Hall. Landon wanted it – we got it anyway.

    This story sheds light on what the council members go through. So many here on Flaglerlive have groused about the way things work or don’t work in the city and how their voices aren’t heard. Let’s look at the charter and change what is broken. A review doesn’t mean instant change just look at the charter.

  5. Gia says:

    Nobile better go back play with your toys.

  6. YankeeExPat says:

    I smell the stench of the RRRA all over the so this called “critical need” for a charter review boondoggle.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Why are those who have been in place so long against a REVIEW?

  8. m&m says:

    Landon and Coffey are the same. You council members and county commisioners bitch when they’re out of to the media and hide under your desks when they’re here. Get some guts and speak up to them.

  9. PCer says:

    Why was this addressed when he was away at a conference? Don’t have the fortitude to do it to his face?

  10. Oldseadog says:

    I wonder why SOME Council Members are so terrified of such a Council Charter Review!

    I went on line and found the excellent reasons for such a review on the site below—I think they certainly apply here today in our wonderful town of Palm Coast Florida:

    This is just the thought that such a review could provide us too—the cost of such a review is certainly minimal as compared to the spending of the existing Council Management to maintain the status quo without elected voter participation.

  11. chopshop says:

    Welcome to the palm coast side show, in one corner we have a confused RRR Stevie Nobile, and in the other corner we have a want Abe follower Heidi Shipley, who has not found her place on council, so see follows. Is she a closet RRR. Stevie Nobile has finally been exposed for all of the lies he tells the public. Read his interview in Flagler live 9-21-2015, where he runs palm coast government down and hates Jim Landon. The real motive is they want a 40,000 a year career job on council that can be changed by charter, for a part time public service job, Iook at what we got for 9,500 if you pay them more it will be a real mess. Talk about Gutless, Unprofessional , Hollow people, Shipley and Nobile wait until landon is out of town to bash him, so he cant defend himself. Very dirty politics. It speaks volumes for their cariture . Nobile said at the council meeting he is uncomfortable asking for a rise , and at another meeting he said council should be volunteer .Now he wants to steel 40,000 a year from tax payers for a part time job. Nobile says he has thousands and thousands of supporters , if that is the case why does he not start a referendum. oh that’s right you cant do it with 10 people.

  12. biker says:

    Nobile wants 40,000? If his store is not successful enough then tell him to get a job.

  13. Layla says:

    Of course the Manager, Mr. Netts and Mr. DeLorenzo are going to oppose a review…..they have the perfect situation, an unelected official in charge of running the city, no questions asked, accountable to no one. The manager also takes the blame for any bad decisions, leaving both Mr. Netts and Mr. DeLorenzo separated from any accountability for their actions. That is a LOT of control, with little accountability. I don’t blame them for fighting a review so hard; perfectly understandable why they are doing just that. If Landon goes, they will be responsible for their decisions. As things currently stand, officials opposing positions which the 3 key people I mentioned hold are told they are out of line and bullied. I have heard this from more than one council member. So it should be understandable why these three are so opposed to a review.

    The other issue here is if it were to be decided to take Palm Coast away from a City Manager form of government, Mr. Landon, among the highest salaried Administrators in the country, stands to lose the most, a salary and benefits more than that of Governor Scott and that of the Orlando City Manager….more than most Governors. I’ve always found that to be questionable for such a small area, but hey, the tax money is your’s; spend it as you wish.

    I think the point needs to be made that a review is simply that….only a review. Mr. Netts, Mr. DeLorenzo and Mr. Landon are always arguing against a review, saying we don’t need it. There isn’t a growing city anywhere in the country who ISN’T doing periodic reviews of their charters. That is sound management anyway you look at it.

  14. Rich Mikola says:

    The Republicans that Nobile spoke to that support the charter review were obviously the Flagler County Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly. This is part of their scheme to take control of the city council and give themselves a raise doing it. I urge the ‘good’ people of Palm Coast to resist anything having to do with the RRRA. Their support for this review will only benefit themselves and ‘the usual suspects’.

  15. Rich Mikola says:

    Other than business owners, why is everyone afraid to use their own names. Why are you hiding behind a nom de guerre. Gutless cowards!

  16. Havana Woody says:

    “Council to provide the Community vision and oversee the Manager.”
    That’s exactly what we see as the problem , the tail is wagging the dog. and he has a firm grip on job security because of the ridicules exit package. The council and mayor have become figureheads with Netts more concerned with pomp and ceremony than the long term future of the city and it’s future Density problems that are dead against the vision that people bought here for.

  17. Brad W says:

    This Charter Review business and the actual reasons it is being pursued by Steven Nobile (and now Heidi Shipley) is one of the most offensive issues I’ve seen in the 11 years of living here. It is purely about power, wanting to open the door to actual corruption and personal fraudulent gain, and selfish financial gain.

    It is not very difficult to see the real reasons and the very real damage that can be created by what Mr. Nobile really wants to have happen with a review . . . more council members elected by fewer people, more power and control, and given far more pay. That is the exact same model that has plagued Cities and communities for decades with fraud and corruption that benefits a select few (and mainly just those council members). I find it extremely disheartening that Nobile and Shipley both ran for the positions speaking about the importance of spending wisely creating the perception they wanted to be good stewards with our tax dollars, but apparently that meant as long as it meant finding ways to put more of our tax dollars in their own pockets.

    The Council is a similar to a Board of Directors. They are to engage in policy matters and community direction. And it is like that for a reason which is to help spread out the power, reduce the potential for corruption, and more importantly . . . create the most efficient and effective model to SERVE the people.

    IF the issue is truly with Mr. Landon and his conduct then the Council has the ability to remove him. It doesn’t require a review of the Charter. So why isn’t Mr. Nobile or Ms. Shipley bringing up a request to simply remove Mr. Landon and taking the necessary steps to identify the performance issues to do that? Becasue they are concerned over getting sued and that expense? Yet they are perfectly fine with adding over $100K to the pay of sitting council members including themselves?

    Here’s my recommendation to Heidi Shipley and Steven Nobile . . . sorry it wasn’t what you thought. You are both more than welcome to resign so we can put people in those seats that want to actually do things for the benefit of the residents and not themselves.

  18. Bill says:

    A charter review is a GOOD idea. The charter does say it can not be done in the first ten years well we are past that point. a review would be just that a review! We could change a lot of it , a little of it or nothing of it. We may find a thing or two that are out dated and need to go away or be updated we may find a thing or two that should be added. just because that’s how it was done for the last ten years does not mean it should be done the same for now on. The only reasons I see for people apposing this is that those who look to have it are NOT of the same politics as those against it.

  19. carol says:

    Time for Landon to get fired!!
    Let’s see how much city council is under Landon’s thumb.

  20. CHOPSHOP says:

    Layla, If you want change then get your people and start a referendum and let the citizens decide instead of try to take the right to vote from the citizens and giving it to politicians . That’s the problem with opening up the charter for special interest politicians , They work for themselves and not for you and me the citizens.

  21. layla says:

    MY people? I gave you my view of what is happening here. Why don’t YOU and YOUR people take care of it? I still vote, which is more than most here do.

  22. Swizz says:

    A charter review committee should be comprised of a cross section of citizens that live in the city of palm coast. special interest politicians should not be permitted to be on or influence the committee. Layla says the manager is accountable to no one. If that is true, it’s the city council’s fault. The manager is hired and fired by the council. If they’re unhappy with his actions, they should let him know and if not corrected, he should be fired. I see nothing wrong with reviewing the charter. Periodic review is important and can facilitate necessary adaptations. Being scared to review the charter because you think special interests will get their way is defensive and stands in the way of progress. any proposed changes should be separately listed on the ballot and the citizens can vote to approve or deny each item. If the charter review committee (comprised of citizens) votes to put controversial changes on the ballot, so be it. The vote of the people will be the final word. That’s how government is supposed to work. blocking the way of progress because of fear or simply being happy with the status quo, is cowardly.

  23. Edith Campins says:

    We don’t need a charter review.

    We need to get rid of Landon.

    We need the council to start acting as a council not as individuals with personal agendas.

  24. groot says:

    Where there is smoke there is fire. So, yes this is very concerning to say the least. Objectively speaking, everyone needs to be held accountable.

  25. Algernon says:

    Two things:

    First, if the $9,000 pay rate for council was set in 1999 when the city incorporated, an inflation calculater with US Consumer Price Index data says the average inflation rate since then has been 2.36%. That means that it has gone up about 45%, and that it would take $13,078 to purchase what $9,000 bought in goods and services back in 1999. I wouldn’t be against building some kind of reasonable inflation formula in city council salaries. It might take a charter review to open up that subject.

    Secondly, whether or not a council member has outside employment, I’d venture that the amount of time spent by a conscientious council member has increased over the years, just to keep up with changes and new issues that have evolved. If everyone says council pay should stay low – then all you’ll get will be retirees and those with independent means. To allow a wider cross section of our community to be able to serve (if elected) I think higher pay makes sense. Again, a charter review might have to happen to look at that. I think a study of other cities’ council pay might open some eyes. I’m not suggesting an amount.

    A current council voting on a raise could delay implementation too, to avoid benefiting themselves, say for 2 years. By doing that, then after the next election, new (or reelected) council members would get the higher pay, and sitting members too would get the higher pay for their last 2 years in office, to avoid two members being paid much higher than the other two at the same time. That’s just a thought.

    My question is, may a particular section of the charter be opened up for review without opening the whole thing?

  26. Bill says:

    Open it up to a review of Citizens who are picked in some sort of lottery that way it will keep the slots from being a POLITICAL appointment. If they come up with a 2/3rds majority vote on adding, changing or deleting anything it must then be put to a vote of the people of P.C.

  27. Swizz says:

    Great idea Bill. Council or staff selection could skew the bias of the committee.

  28. chopshop says:

    We are and that’s why the CHARTER will no be opened. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENT .

  29. Layla says:

    Question here: Do when know when the last time was that we had a review of the charter? Can anybody answer that question, please?

    And for the persons worried about POLITICAL appointments, just what do you think various government committees here are? Even the Planning Commission appointments are political, so get over your phobia. We are not a dictatorship here. This is how government runs or is supposed to run.

    Swizz, your comments make the most sense to me. I don’t believe the City has the right to deny some sort of review at some point, by whomever they decide they want to do the reviewing. The community does have the right to request a review and please, a review does NOT mean you are going to change the charter. It is only to make recommendations.

    And last question: When does the City Manager’s contract come up for renewal?

  30. tulip says:

    I believe this is the Charter if anyone wants to read it.

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