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Palm Coast Votes 3-2 Against $5,000 Hike For Jim Landon in Stinging Rebuke

| July 19, 2016

jim landon pay salary

‘To find someone with my background and experience, for what I make, won’t be easy for you,’ Jim Landon told the city council today. (© FlaglerLive)

The Palm Coast City Council today voted 3-2 to reject giving City Manger Jim Landon a $4,912 raise, which would have brought his base pay to $173,791. Landon, however, remains by far the highest-paid chief executive of any local government even at his current salary of $169,000. (Next is County Administrator Craig Coffey at $156,000.)

Council members Bill McGuire and Jason DeLorenzo said the current pay is where it should be despite a commendable—if not stellar—evaluation the manager just received, his first in seven years. Both said Landon had been overpaid in previous years.

“When I came into this office,” McGuire said, “I think the salary for the city manager was higher than it should have been. But be that as it may, we stayed with it, we worked with it. Now I think it’s where it ought to be, and in years to come, if Mr. Landon continues to perform as he does, I think an increase in pay is certainly well due. And again I’ll say the compensation the city manager makes is in keeping with what it should be.”

Council member Heidi Shipley joined McGuire and DeLorenzo in the majority vote.

Mayor Jon Netts was joined, in a surprise, by Steven Nobile in the vote for a raise, though for Nobile, who’s never had affection for Landon and has told others that he’d like the city manager gone, his vote came with as backhanded an endorsement of Landon as could be short of censure: “I’m going to get a lot of flack, I can just see my email, ping ping ping ping,” Nobile said of his vote for a raise. “But I want people out there to forget who the city manager is. I’m focusing on the position. Just because you don’t like Mr. Landon, that’s not the reason for treating somebody in an improper manner as an employee that you have to deal with.” He called himself “torn” over the decision.

Landon will face an entirely new council by November, with three new members joining Nobile and Shipley, suggesting that Landon’s future with the city is more tenuous than it’s been in his nine years in Palm Coast. But he’s weathered similar–if never as acute–uncertainties before, and has not faced a similarly humiliating vote before.

Council members don’t buy the administration’s claim that Landon should be treated like any other employee.

Starting in March, the vote ended a long, in many ways improper and opaque process in which the council deferred much of that process to Wendy Cullen, the human resources director who directly reports to Landon. She did not hesitate to make her own recommendations for a raise and go so far as to give council members direction on how to fill out the evaluation. She had told them, in her words, “to remember that as you are adjusting and rating his service, and recognizing the fact that it’s not the easiest job in the world, but also there shouldn’t be any bombs, for lack of a better term, in the evaluation.”

Landon, of course, is not Cullen’s employee. He is not the city’s employee, either: he is, aside from the city attorney, the only employee the city council itself hires, and that the city council alone—in a normal, ethically clean process—evaluates, as is usually the case in other local governments. Elected officials choose to fill out their evaluations however they deem fit, without restrictions imposed by an administrative hand representing the very person they’re evaluating. (Human resources departments are routinely involved, but only in secretarial, not guiding duties.) Yet council members went along.

Cullen then framed the proposal much as Landon did: that the raise was due Landon as it would be any employee who receives a good evaluation. “The recommendation I’m making,” Cullen said, “is to treat the city manager as with all other employees, he is an employee of the city, after all, treat him the same as all other employees. I recommended a 2 percent increase based on that fact, plus the annual pay plan adjustment, equivalent to that which directors received in January, the $1,535, and it worked out to be a 2.9 percent increase.” She never mentioned the actual raise amount, or his base pay, or his rich, additional compensation package, all of which vastly differentiate him from “other employees.”

Jim Landon's Evaluations:

Note: Council member Bill McGuire did not evaluate Landon in writing.

Landon, for example, gets to participate by contract and at the city’s expense in the Mayo Clinic Executive Health Program in Jacksonville. Other employees do not. The city pays all premiums for his $338,000 life insurance policy. Other employees don’t have that benefit, or have to pay their own. He gets an “auto allowance” of over $7,000 a year. Other employees do not. In addition to his base pay, the city contributes $34,000 a year, fully vested, into his 401(k) plan every year. Other employees get no such contribution. On top of that, he gets an additional $8,443 a year in deferred compensation. Other employees do not. By contract, he gets all his cell phone, computer and software expenses paid by the city. With limited exceptions, other employees do not. If he loses his job, he gets six months’ severance. Other employees do not. And as DeLorenzo pointed out, the average raise for employees this year worked out to $700. “This is $5,000,” he said of Landon’s request.

How the evaluation form came together is problematic from a  Sunshine law perspective: Cullen said today during the council meeting that the evaluation form was developed as she first sent it to the various council members, who provided some suggestions and returned it to her. She then sent the final product back out, having compiled a final form—all out of the sunshine. Those deliberations should have been made by the council, in the open (as the school board recently did in preparing the superintendent’s and the school attorney’s evaluations), as the process itself reflects council deliberations going into one consensus document: any government body’s consensus is to be reached in the open. Again, however, council members went along.

Bill Reischmann, the city attorney, said all the documents that went into the evaluation were public records, “and are attached to the agenda.” That, too, was not the case. Only a summary evaluation, again compiled out of the sunshine by Cullen, was made available with the agenda. Individual evaluations were made available only upon request (and were immediately provided to FlaglerLive). Also not made available was a compilation of city managers’ salaries across select cities in the state, which was distributed to council members (and which showed Landon’s salary still among the upper crust on that list.)

The evaluation itself was less a typical evaluation than a set of prompts calibrated to emphasize the positive. In one section of the evaluation, council members could rate statements along five choices—poor, needs improvement, meets expectations, exceeds expectations, excels.

But in the narrative responses, where evaluations are fleshed out and more telling analysis can be detailed (at least by harder-working evaluators less interested in check marks and one-liners), the questions verged on sounding like the evaluation of a summer camp counselor rather than a chief executive, or a quiz of the council members’ cheerleading routines: “What were the manager’s most notable accomplishments during the past year?” “Which of the manager’s qualities were most instrumental in fulfilling the role of City manager this past year(s)?” “What does the manager do that you would like him to continue?” (As with royalty or the papacy, the M in “manager” was capitalized at every turn.)

jason delorenzo city council

Jason DeLorenzo. (© FlaglerLive)

The responses were brief, with many entries left blank. McGuire, who has often been the manager’s toughest critic, did not even file an evaluation at all, so the final produce—a 3.5 out of 5, half-way between “meets expectations” and “exceeds expectations”—was not a true reflection of the council’s view.

When managers or attorneys have their contracts or salaries discussed, they usually leave the room. Not Landon. Besides having Cullen first frame the discussion and make a recommendation, he stayed, then lobbied the council at length with a final plea for the raise, after hearing the various members’ positions. Council members went along, though Robert McDonald, a member of the public, addressed the council to say that not only Landon should not have been present, but, he said, “I have a hard time with someone from human resources proposing an increase for any employee, especially the city manager, when indirectly, the head of human resources works for the city manager.” In fact, she works for him directly.

The sum total of that flawed process is what the council voted on today.

McGuire didn’t buy into the Cullen line about Landon being like other employees, but it was DeLorenzo who dismissed the comparison entirely. “Yes he is an employee of the city but he’s not the same type of an employee of the city,” council DeLorenzo said, “because he is our contract employee. We don’t have other employees that are contract, and started with a negotiated salary to start with. The rest of our employees have a salary range, they had a job description, and that job description comes with a salary range. This is not the case with Mr. Landon.”

He went on, addressing Landon: “Even though you haven’t received a raise in several years, your current salary range is in line with other cities of our size, and I agree that I don’t support an increase, and I don’t support a CPI increase either. This is our employee, it’s city council’s employee, it’s a contract employee, negotiated salary, and the salary is in the correct place for this time.”

Even Reischmann, usually an echo of all things Landon, concurred with DeLorenzo: “What everyone is saying is correct,” he said, “your city manager is a charter officer, the provisions, the terms are provided for in your charter as opposed to if you will a regular employee, a regular employee being subject to the city’s rules and procedures, and the city manager is not. This is a contractual process, you have a contract with him.”

Toward the end of the 40-minute discussion, Landon spoke again, as he had at the beginning, this time for more than six uninterrupted minutes. “This is the most distasteful part of my job. I will tell you that of all things, put yourself in my position of being evaluated and talking about your pay publicly,” he said. At times he lectured council members for wrongly comparing his pay to a salary range, as they just had (“that’s not how the system is supposed to work,” he said. ““If you have an employee who is meeting your expectations, you feel like they are doing a good job, there should be some additional compensation”). And at times aggrandizing himself as if to suggest that the council did not know what it has in him.

“Am I overpaid, underpaid, all those things. It is a competitive market. It should be based on the market out there. That is one criteria, he said, reminding them that he’s been at it 25 years as a city manager. “Yes, you can look at what other city managers make, but to find someone with my background and experience, for what I make, won’t be easy for you.” He then hinted that he could leave, but has so far chosen not to, and described the city as having become a “premier organization” under his watch. “I get the politics of it. I get that he makes too much money. I get the perception. But your job is to, as a board of directors, for a municipal corporation, to make decisions based on not the public perception or politics, but what does your city manager deserve, and I would ask that you take that in consideration before you vote.”

Landon’s plea proved unpersuasive.


51 Responses for “Palm Coast Votes 3-2 Against $5,000 Hike For Jim Landon in Stinging Rebuke”

  1. Realist says:

    The best thing that could happen to Palm Coast is for Landon to leave and the city council and mayor to do their jobs.

  2. anonymous says:

    He is way overpaid and sits on his rear end passing orders to his secretary all day. What the hell is he doing to make palm coast better? Hes not to pleasant to residents. He should be gone!!!!

  3. jasonb says:

    What a moocher, is his last name Trump?

  4. footballen says:

    Let me get that gig!!!

  5. A little Common Sense please says:

    Fire Landon hire Kim Weeks – she’ll get their priorities straight for the commissioners.

  6. anonymous says:

    I dont understand why the mayor and council dont get rid of him. He is very self centered and only cares about his family and wallet. Living off palm coast residents stuggling.

  7. woodchuck says:

    Clinton needs a whipping boy.

  8. PCer says:

    Nobile only voted yes because he wants a raise for himself. He will lose my vote when and if he runs again.

  9. Geezer says:

    $169,000 should be the upper limit of income to receive food stamps.
    Then Mr. Landon can make ends meet.

    Mr. Fancy Pants… The gall!

  10. Oldseadog says:

    PERHAPS a time for a change of our City Manager………………………..?

  11. Barten says:

    Landon makes $169,000. And Coo-coo Coffey make $156,000. Its no wonder Palm Coast has turned into a cess pool of crime and homeless people. I’m so sick and tired of pond scum politician who care ONLY about how much money they STEAL from the taxpayer……..Its just like this government, WORTHLESS !!!

  12. Lin says:

    Landon’s bennies are exceptional
    Agree that starting salary was too high
    Surprised in a good way that some Council members saw it tha way
    Not surprised at Nobile wanting to set a high bar for salary increase

  13. DaveT says:

    The man is grossly overpaid. This increase would have Landon making as much as the Major or Orlando. Big difference between Orlando and Palm Coast. I agree time for a change in responsibilities and personnel.

  14. Born and Raised Here says:

    It doesn’t take much to do that job. Government work isn’t what I consider work. Politics. a waste.

  15. Peter A Cerreta says:

    Senators,Representatives,County Administrator, Councilmen, and the like should have term limits, and no pension plans on retirement the equivalent of work salaries. Without term limits there is a tendency to create mini empires and feather one’s own nest .

  16. Concerned Citizen says:

    Let me get this right. We pay Mr. Landon $169,000.00 a year?? What does he do to deserve such a hefty salary.? No I mean really. What has he done to deserve such a nice salary?

    I did some research and just to put things into perspective here are some facts based on hiring sites.

    Fire Fighter/Paramedic – City Of Palm Coast

    $40,276.00 – $45,052.00 / year – (Taken from City of Palm Coast website)

    Deputy Sheriff – Flagler County SO

    $35,327.00 annual starting pay for deputies. (Taken from FCSO website)

    Please keep in mind that most pay for their certifications in the State Of Florida.

    I could list more but chose to start with the more riskier professions. Sure our men and women choose these professions. Mr.Landon chose his as well.

    I am just trying to wrap my head around the justification of 169K a year when our men and women work a profession that has it’s dangers and most work a second job to support their families.

    Yet Mr. Landon has the gall to ask for a raise to line his pockets a little more??

    Mr.Landon I ask you directly when was the last time you went to get a raise for your Fire Fighters or Public Works employees? I don’t see you riding a rescue unit or cleaning out a swale.

    I have mentioned it before on other comment threads and will do so here. It is time for a change for Flagler County and The City Of Palm Coast.

    It starts with us making that change at election time. High time we start cleaning house and get folks in these offices that remember their citizens.

    I am glad the city council showed a little back bone for a change and voted no. Maybe in the future we will have a vote to appoint a new City Manager.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The city could get two city managers for the price of this one. It is long past due that this man be sent packing. There is defiantly a problem when the city manager and county administrator are the highest paid and the city council and county commission think it is OK. It sure is a sign that we need new council members and county commissioners elected into office. DeLorenzo probably would have voted for it, but he is trying to change seats to be a county commissioner. We need to vote new blood in and get rid of any that are currently holding office, no musical chairs for you DeLorenzo; maybe you can get a job at the Chamber. McGuire doesn’t have sense enough to come out of the rain, glad to see him leaving too.

  18. DRedder says:

    He may do a wonderful job but that bonus package is ridiculous. Do not give him a raise and in fact put the bricks on the perks, do not renew his or the replacement with such sweet candy. Like the Good Manger, The City Council and Mayor and County Commissioners ARE ALL REPLACABLE!

  19. anonymous says:

    Jim Landon sits on his rearend. Thinking about his next golf game as he only worries about the beautification of the golf courses.
    He doesnt give a damn about 1 citizen in palm Coast. We definately need a change starting with getting rid of him.

  20. downinthelab says:

    I think a 50% pay cut would be fair.

  21. Oldseadog says:

    Now we all know all we want to know about Nobile……….! EH

  22. Yar says:

    How bout we find someone who will do it for a average PC wage 30-50k for anyone who makes over 100k and give a tax rebate so we can afford food.

  23. Kendall says:

    Way to go Jason DeLorenzo! This process was handled awfully- cannot believe the HR director groveled like she did to help get her boss a raise. How pathetic is that?

  24. Denise Calderwood says:

    Reading this article makes me think why, way back when I was in college, why I chose to take the criminal justice/public health track instead of city manager when I was working on my Masters degree in public administration. I wanted to make a difference. I’m not arrogant enough and I would not be able to live with myself if I just lined my pockets with money that came from hard working citizens who find themselves being bullied by Mr Landon

  25. Rich H. says:


  26. anonymous says:

    Get rid of him! Whats it going tio take.

  27. Anonymous says:

    he is as dillusional as obama

  28. David S says:

    I hope he resigns real soon who came up with his salary anyway my wife can run circles around him no wonder this is a good example why we are in debt.

  29. David S says:

    May I add Concerned Citizen you have it 100% correct with your comment Thanks!!!!!!!

  30. Old Lady says:

    Mr. Landon should mount his high horse and ride on out of town

  31. robjr says:

    Let’s not blame Jim Landon for the system that allows him to prosper.
    Look at the town council that hired him and gave him his first raise.

    Jon Netts is his biggest cheerleader. And I don’t quite understand the rationale of the other councilor who voted for his raise. Steve Nobile. It appears that his anti red light stance was his few minutes of fame.

    The point is that this is the wrong style of government for this city. The town manager style of government is not it. There are town councilors who fiercely resisted a charter review. It is possible that they feared the citizens may have realized that the form of government needed changing.
    The argument that government salaries are based on the size of its population is illogical. This region has historically had one of the highest unemployment in the state. This city has a median income of approximately $23,000. There is no way anyone, town manager or department head should be paid at the levels they are paid. There are department heads that are paid well into the six figures.

    This city has similar population numbers as Boca Raton. Boca Raton has a median income of approximately $25,000 more than Palm Coast. The pay based on similar size argument is ridiculous.

    First the form of government should change. Then salaries in the city government should be tied to the median incomes. A formula can and should be created so that salaries reflect the prosperity (or lack of) of the community. For example salaries should not exceed a multiple (3x’s, 4x’s, 5x’s) median income.

  32. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    Reminder: the base salary of the governor of florida is around $125k a year.

  33. DaveT says:

    So what does it take to remove a City Manger from office ?

  34. Just me says:

    How about the MOST any government worker can be paid elected or not is ONE dollar per resident of the entity they work for. Once upon a time government workers did not make as much as the privet sector but they did have job security and decent benefits. Now the average worker for government at least in Flagler does not get that BUT the top dogs they are doing great.

  35. anonymous says:

    Get him out of here. Hes a disgrace to the residents of Palm of Coast.

  36. r&r says:

    And BOO HOO he cried

  37. carol says:

    Way overpaid, city council should vote to lower his pay.

  38. d man says:

    Yes he needs to go but, what is it going to cost us. Golden parachute??????????

  39. David S says:

    After reading all of these comments what can we as citizens of this city do about this can the council vote to reduce his pay or fire him this is highway robbery there is no excuse that anyone can give to me that someone in this small community deserves this salary I think the council feels that we live in a dream land we dont live in Orlando.

  40. Veteran says:

    He makes slightly less than a member of congress but does a lot less.

  41. jadobi says:

    His quote captioned under his picture is 100% arrogance. The word “humble” is clearly is not in his vocabulary. The next discussion for the City Manager’s pay rate should be for his replacement’s pay. It is time he should head back west.

  42. Coyote says:

    (“that’s not how the system is supposed to work,” he said. ““If you have an employee who is meeting your expectations, you feel like they are doing a good job, there should be some additional compensation”)

    Unfortunately, Mr. Landon – that 3.5 out of 5.0 evaluation equates to a 70% out of 100%. When I was in high school and college, a 70% was (just barely) a ‘C’ grade. If I had come home with all ‘C’s on my report cards and/or college grades – my parents would hardly have considered me as “meeting their expectations”.

  43. Shark says:

    Netts is a loser too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank God he has to go !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  44. Layla says:

    Can’t wait to hear Nobile tell us why the highest paid City Manager in America, FACT, needs a raise. Why is it so hard to elect good people to office here?


  45. Deborah Susswein says:

    In reading all of these posts, I see that my opinion is right in line with most of the comments. Councilman deLorenzo’s evaluation resonates with me when he says, ” . . . the City Manager has a poor impression with citizens and is not well respected or even liked.” As a concerned citizen having issues with code enforcement, my one experience with him demonstrated his bullying approach, unwillingness to listen, and lack of concern for fair and equitable treatment by CE officers.

  46. Phillip says:

    The current amount and perks add up to more than 200k. Greed, pure and simple. Landon should be thankful for his current prosperity. Let him go.

    Curious if “good evaluation = pay increase” argument works in the future for other city employees. His rebuttle to the council makes it sound automatic.

  47. Shark says:

    Netts will vote for anything that will cost the taxpayers more money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  48. David S says:

    Its time for everyon in pc to wake up get rid of the good old boy system at least netts will be gone.

  49. Anonymous says:

    It is really sad to read all the comments against Landon and yet we have a city council who doesn’t respect what the people who elect them want—-to get rid of Landon and not pay him so grossly. Landon needs to go and we need someone in here who cares about this city and not just about filling their pockets. It is absurd that council members have allowed Landon’s salary to get so out of control….it is not even within reason. Because it is only the council who can get rid of Landon, they need to listen to the people or we need to vote all incumbents out each election until we get council members who respect how we the tax payers feel. It may be a breath of fresh air with so many seats being open in 2016, if we the voters don’t shoot ourselves in the foot and vote more of the same in. The city and the county are both just as bad. Voting is the only way we can change this–no more DeLorenzo, Holland, Revels, Hanns, or Ericksen.

  50. A little Common Sense please says:

    I have never personally cared for Mr. Landon or his greater than though attitude. But as I travel around our state, I don’t see any other cities that are as well kept as Palm coast. Every where you go in Palm Coast there is work being done to make it better or safer for Palm Coast residents. If you had a Mayer and a City Commission that actually did what they were elected to do, they would take over the duties of day to day management of city business working through the various department heads. However the Mayor and Commission are lazy and are apparently not competent enough to do the task they were elected to do. Mr. Landon is your “hired” Mayor and City Commission and the current “Elected” Mayer and City Commission are a bunch of yes men to the type of City Manager they have chosen. Until these politicians “man up” and do their jobs, you better keep Landon or somebody like him on the job! Palm coast looks pretty good under his management.

  51. CLS says:

    Hmmm Landon makes almost as much as a U.S. Congressman and FAR more than any city manager in Georgia in the Atlanta metro area does (who are responsible for hundreds of thousands of citizens). Plus, interesting that the Mayor makes far less, and the council members make about $9000 a year.

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