Update: Shortly after this article appeared, Martin Murphy was reportedly calling commissioners to let them know he was accepting the $80,000 offer.
Prospective Bunnell City Manager Martin Murphy has until Thursday to let commissioners know whether he will accept their final offer of $80,000 a year and “not a penny more,” in the words of two commissioners. Murphy had asked for $86,000 to $90,000.
But Bunnell commissioners also made several concessions to Murphy’s demands during a 30-minute special meeting Monday evening, agreeing to sweeten his benefits package. Their salary offer was also $5,000 above what they had initially offered. Dan Davis, the fired manager Murphy would be replacing, was earning less than $73,000.
Murphy attended most of Monday’s meeting, leaving it just before the end, and after commissioners had given him the Thursday deadline to decide on their offer. “I’ll certainly consider your offer. I’m not in a position right now to give you a final answer,” Murphy told them. “But I appreciate the opportunity to hear your discussions and I’ll give it serious consideration.”
When Mayor Catherine Robinson asked him when commissioners could expect to hear back, he said: “You’re open to continued negotiations.”
“It depends on what that continued negotiations is,” Robinson said, before giving him the deadline.
It was not the friendliest of negotiations, with Murphy already starting with the disadvantage of a fractured 3-2 vote when commissioners decided to negotiate with him. He then wrote commissioners a letter asking for more time off, immediate health insurance and more salary, which rubbed several commissioners the wrong way, as they made clear in interviews before the meeting and during the meeting.
“It just seems as though if an applicant knows what we’re able to pay and what we may not be able to pay in the future, it seems a little out of balance to me for offering somebody something that is above and beyond what we have advertised,” Commissioner Elbert Tucker said. “He’s read the financials. Is he saying that yeah, we can afford a manager between 86 and $90,000? I don’t know. We seem to need to run a tight budget and here we are at the start giving somebody over and above what we have offered, and it just doesn’t seem to balance out for me with the additional asking for more paid time off.”
“The thing about that is that as the salary goes up all the benefits go up so the cost is a lot more than that,” Robinson said.
Commissioner Bill Baxley would have considered the higher salary until Stella Gurnee, the city’s finance director, told commissioners that the money wasn’t in the budget, which still had a $20,000 imbalance to fix.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat next fiscal year, it’s very tight, but if strategically this is what you wanted to do, we would find a way to do it,” the finance director said. (Baxley had an unusually terse, almost demeaning reaction to Gurnee’s explanations, saying he’d understood where the city stood financially “after finally getting it out of her,” even though Gurnee was merely walking the rope between fiscal realities and commissioners’ prerogatives, which don’t always match up.)
“My absolute minimum that I would like to see this fiscal year is our millage rate set to the rolled-back rate,” Commissioner John Sowell said, “and anything that we can squeeze out under the rolled-back rate to show a commitment that we’re dedicated to getting our millage rate down as the city grows, because I don’t want to take all the growth that we have in the city and just throw it right into spending.” He said Murphy could prove his leadership first. Until then, “I can’t support a penny more” than $80,000. Commissioner John Rogers said, likewise.
Murphy is currently unemployed. He served less than a year as assistant city manager in new Port Richey, a posting that ended last October because of budget constraints, according to a letter from the city manager. It was his only experience in Florida government. He spent his career as a planner, manager and in other government positions in new York municipal and county governments.
He’d asked for $1,200 in moving allowance. Commissioners agreed, with Sowell’s conditions: “A reimbursement for actual moving expenses for up to $1,200 to include receipts and a copy of a lease or a purchase agreement of a property within the specified boundaries.”
Murphy had asked for his health insurance to begin immediately, not after three months, as is the case with all other employees. Commissioners agreed. He’d also asked for 33 vacation days and 50 days of potential personal days he could accumulate, prompting more resistance as that would result in more padding to his 12-week severance package.
“We’re negotiating and he’s pushing the envelope north, he’s got to give something south to us,” Rogers said. “If we’re going north, you know, I think we should just give him a flat 12 weeks, if it doesn’t work out. The attorney said we are in our rights to do that.”
Commissioners agreed to stick with 28 days’ vacation time and his ability to accumulate up to 50 days of personal time off, but that would have to be earned over time. It would not be provided up-front.
Commissioners meet again on July 9 to consider Murphy’s response.
Not a penny more than original offer 77000
Percy's mother says
Cut the guy loose. It’s already starting out badly.
Get a backbone commissioners. Once you ALL get a backbone, you’ll realize your strength. You don’t have to cowtow to an applicant.
There are loads of fish in the sea.
Your constituents are waiting to see some strength for a change. Be the first group in the whole county to unify and show some strength.
Can you fire someone before they are hired? This guy obviously cares nothing for the city or the people of Bunnell
Why isn’t the position minimum wage, with no benefits, or raises in the foreseeable future, like all the other people in this community (Florida) getting. Oh not everybody is equal.
This guy is a gold-digger and will continue to be. This commission had enough grit to fire the last city manager with cause, but they are giving in to this guy’s pressure tactics. You didn’t have him before now so why give him the job; what’s to miss? If he pressures you guy’s even before he gets the job, he will steam roll over you on every issue in the future. This is not good business practice. Also, you current commissioners have experience and enough leadership to gotten where you are in this City Manager dismissal/selection process, but what about the incoming new commissions of the future who are not as experienced? This guy could eat them for breakfast and Bunnell could be in deep trouble or put out of existence. Please, please reconsider hiring this un-proven man who you really know hardly anything about. Sincerely: A Very Concerned Citizen!!!
28 days’ vacation + 50 personal days = 78 vacation days at the end of the year. Entitlement society! LOL
Concerned Citizen says
I have hired people before and I will tell you that had someone come to me after an offer with more demands they would be sent packing.
If someone can’t respect the terms laid out then they won’t respect you as an employer. If he was smart then he would have gotten hired then proven that he was more than talk and bluster.
The City Council needs to get a bit of back bone and say no thank you. Start a new search and keep looking for someone who has the experience needed. And will represent the city instead of self interests..
I am wondering why they haven’t approached Tom Foster. If he is running the city OK you now have a local who everyone knows and has local and Florida experience. You can always find police chiefs.
Rosie O'Donnell says
Mark Holley says
You have got to be kidding me? Is this Landon Jr you are hiring? You deserve what you get!
Wasn’t Mr. Murphy breaking the law since he didn’t have a FL drivers license while he was working in New Port Richey?
How about hiring a displaced worker from Sea Ray…
Sara Crewe says
This gentleman needs to find another job. The City of Bunnell is not the place for him. They need to continue looking. This is going to be a BIG mistake
Just so I understand…the dude has NO job, his experience is weak and background null.
I cannot believe that he thinks that he comes from a strong position to negotiate. Just proves how unqualified he is to do anything.
How will he negotiate and manage contracts on behalf of Bunnell?
If hired …..the town deserves what it gets.
Bunnell boy says
My feelings to Frank. If he would break the law in his position, what else would he do. They need to escort him to the north city limits and wave bye!
Gregory A Peck says
No wonder Bunnell has so many problems. 80k for a competent city manager and they’re balking? You get what you pay for people. That’s a very low salary for a Florida city manager. Most mid level employees make that much or more in your average city.
Just the facts says
Just send them over to Palm Coast, we like to overpay our city managers.
Ramon’s- the city of bunnell consists of only like 3500 people and many are in public housing. That is an absurd amount of money to pay a city manager for a city this size. The man knew what the job paid when he applied…we have enough crooks around here, we don’t need another. You say we get what we paid for, that speaks for itself; those that were oaid huge salaries sucked and those that were paid less were more willing to work and did a better job. Mr. Williams is the perfect example. The problem is the commission and Mayor, they are not qualified and make poor choices and have poor judgment. Time for new leadership!!!!!
I.B. Erudite says
@Anonymous, I know the Mayor and every member of the Commission. Hey are all fine people and have much better judgement than you give them credit for. Do you even know these people? If you did I doubt you would write what you did.