The Flagler County Commission this evening approved Heidi Petito’s open-ended contract as county the permanent manager on a 4-1 vote, with County Commissioner dissenting over the $14,000 raise that the contract awards, and the commission’s lack of deliberation before it was approved.
Petito had been paid $155,000 as chief of staff. When she was appointed interim county administrator in June, she was awarded the same salary that Jerry Cameron, the interim she was replacing, was making at the time: $165,984. The contract making her the permanent administrator awards her a base annual salary of $179,000, an 8 percent increase. Petito also gets a $500 a month auto allowance and will annually get whichever cost-of-living pay increase is awarded county employees, plus a merit pay increase if the commission considers it appropriate. Petito’s health benefits are identical to those of the rank and file. (See the full contract below.)
The contract was initially going to be negotiated with Petito by the county’s human resources director. On objections from Dance, it was negotiated with County Attorney Al Hadeed, who does not answer to Petito.
Dance was complimentary of Petito and stressed that his vote was not for lack of confidence in her: he was part of the unanimous vote two weeks ago appointing her the permanent manager. Rather, the vote was his latest of many signals of displeasure with the commission’s habit of making important decisions with little deliberation.
“I fear people are going to think my no vote on the contract is somehow tied to my confidence in Ms. Petito and it is not,” Dance said. “I just want Heidi to know that it’s as strong as ever.” But he said the commission has become “comfortable in the way we continue to do things” when it could have approached the contract discussions more thoughtfully. “Having a debate about the contract and a workshop I think would have been more prudent, so that we all have time to discuss things, but our processes is what it is.”
He’d begun his objections earlier in the meeting when he said he was “not ready quite yet to bump the starting salary to 179. I think there’s room in here to sit down and do some maybe incentive-based options that can give Ms. Petito some goals.” Dance had prepared an addendum to the contract that would have included a self-appraisal, the commission’s evaluation timeline, set goals and performance objectives once the fiscal year is completed. He was applying the approach to which he’d contributed when he was a school board member, crafting several contracts for successive superintendents and laying out goals in those contracts. Meanwhile, he proposed staying with the $165,000 salary, with the $179,000 figure a goal at the end of a three-year term.
“Under self appraisal evaluation the administrator shall provide an annual self appraisal by June 1 of each year,” Dance read from his amendment, “the self appraisal of the administrator’s accomplishments and attainment of agreed upon goals. By August 1 of each year the commission shall evaluate the performance of the administrator using the county administrator evaluation form, which has been used in the past. Each commissioner shall meet individually with the administrator in the time between the self-appraisal and the evaluation submitted to share their perspectives. There’s a line for an interim review where each Commissioner shall conduct conduct an individual verbal informal review with the administrator and January of each year.”
The commission and the administrator would have been required toward the end of each year to publicly announce workshops or meetings to establish yearly goals and performance objectives–whether it’s meeting reserve targets, completing updates on the county’s comprehensive plan or the land development code–or achieving certain certifications. The contract put no emphasis on reviewing the administrator, Dance said. “I mean we really didn’t discuss an increase in salary, it just appeared as if it was going to be this formality of signing the contract,” Dance said.
“Commissioner Dance, no offense but the school board and what’s going on all over there how it’s run, I’m not a fan of all that,” Commissioner Joe Mullins said, blaming “and I think a lot of it is some of the structure that was put in place for them.”
Commissioner Greg Hansen was also dismissive of the idea, saying he evaluates the administrator every day as it is. ” I think we’ve got a pretty good system here. I like the way it works,” Hansen said.
It was Hansen who, at the end of a commission meeting two weeks ago, made the motion to hire Petito as the permanent manager. The item was not on the agenda. Dance was not pleased, wishing a certain process was respected. But fellow-commissioners told him all they were doing was naming her the permanent administrator, not defining the contract. That was to come later–and come back before commissioners, where they could discuss it. “The motion is a directional one in terms of what we feel, but we have no contract at this point,” Commission Chairman Donald O’Brien said.
Now that commissioners did have a contract, the approach was no different. They were not interested in discussing its details.
“Andy as usual makes some good points about things but in this particular instance we discussed this at the last meeting,” Commissioner Dave Sullivan said, “and I think the salary was within the limits based on what I could see there of what the averages are in counties like ourselves. And so I have no reason not to go forward with this today.”
It appeared Dance’s purpose had been misunderstood, and Dance again tried to clarify: “This is contractual language that I brought forward which I believe is the responsibility of us to do everything we can in the future moving forward. Ms. Petito isn’t going to be the county administrator forever and we’re setting a precedent with each contract as we move forward. I think it’s our duty to establish a more precise format for reviews. Every employee in the county goes through a review process. Ours is is very informal, it’s not spelled out.”
Chet Lagana, the fleet manager at the county, told commissioners he’d worked for Petito for 15 years in general services, the division she used to direct. “I want to assure you all, she has the complete confidence of everybody in general services, and the rest of the county. Nobody works harder than Heidi,” Lagana said. “I hope she has your confidence in this, and a couple dollars here and there, we spend money sometimes stupidly. She’s the most qualified person for this job, and I think she will do a great job.
Heidi Petito’s Contract (2021):
I thought the interim salary was more than sufficient as compensation. Being aware & having knowledge of the local issues are not the same as actual solutions to local budgeting issues. Let’s not confuse efforts with results. This is $ 14K that could be applied towards those issues. It’s not like the $ 165K is a low ball for income. With each successive transition in the position over a year or whatever, the pay scale has ramped up and then Flagler county ends up with the same financial problems it’s had for the last few years & unsolved, only having to go find & replace a resignation. This is a typical government issue that plagues any & every Local (city & county), State & Federal government.
Salaries, benefits, perks are getting out of hand. I see a real problem in the future for Flagler County. This family is taking well over $300,000 from the County, Enough is enough, in the private sector you stat at a lower rate then work your way up based on performance, starting at more than your predecessor is simply wrong.
Roy Longo says
I would seriously like you to explain “this family” comment. Don Petito no longer works for Flagler County. But let us go back a few years when Hiedi was the Director of General Services and Don was the Fire Chief. Should they have been paid less money because they were married? Should any married couple in any job get paid the same as one individual to equal the income of one “family?” The answer is no. What does it matter that Hiedi and Don were married. What does it matter that they were bringing two salaries into the “family?”
Dennis C Rathsam says
No wonder are taxes keep going up…These salaries are outrageous. Palm Coast needs to hold back on these lavish contracts. All of Palm Coast seniors, are struggling now. Gas has doubled, food has doubled, our insurance goes up every year.Its time for greedy commision to hold the line. Its time for the mayor & council to cut, not spend more.
Kitty Sepe says
i agree with you 100%. Where does it end?
Bless y0ur heart, you are confused. This is not a city article it is a Flagler county article. I agree the city should do what you said, but the county needs to do it too.
Flagler county at it’s finest. I respect Mr. Dance’s approach and the need to follow procedural rules. Of course Mullins objected to personal accountability. He certainly doesn’t follow any rules, including the law. The rest of them are rubber stampers, willing to go along with any thing that suits their purposes. Time to clean house.
Andy is the on;y one working on that council. Everyone else is just winging it and take the salary.
My comments are not to denigrate Ms. Petito but on the whole confirmation process by the BOCC. They are elected to represent the taxpayers; to award a position and salary with an ad hoc process is unprofessional and leaves future candidates to the whims of whoever is on the BOCC at that time.
I wish Ms. Petito good luck in her job.
Seems kind of silly that the county council would offer top dollar to an internal person who has no experience as a city or county manager. My question would be, can she get the top job if she applied in another county? I don’t think she has the minimum qualification. I think maybe she should have earned the increase after some time on the job. The only thing this decision is going to do is increase the starting salary for the incoming Palm Coast manager.
Good luck Palm Coast Commission!
The good old boy networking. No Masters in Public Administration no experience as a county manager anywhere else and 14,000 increase for a beginner with bunch of cheering cheer leaders? These four commissioners are misusing our hard earned taxes…and keep increasing them while spending like drunken sailors. Dance was right this time. I love than in other states the put it to the peoples referendum any proposed increases on public employees pay.
Chet Lagana wake up no one in general services can stand Heidi petito they have too or face the consequences!
You know you are in interviews that have nothing to do with you !
You need to stop hanging with the same crowd at lunch ! Yes everyone knows .
Why all the lies to get petito in her position ?
Was that why her husband was ousted he had to leave conflict of interest
If the commission wants the truth ask the lower level employees.
Again corruption at its finest
Chet come out the office and not to go to high jackers
Eileen Araujo says
Top 3 reasons why Heidi should be paid $179,000.00 a year:
1. She already knows the job. No training necessary. She has worked her way up in the ranks and is capable of handling all jobs.
2.She lives here and hopefully, if treated properly, she will stay here. She deserves the same respect that was given to her
predecessors. The severance pay that was in the others contract guaranteed a layover pay while they went up the stepping stone.
3. Want the job done right, hire a woman. She will show you the correct way to do things.
Council This says
I just had Pancakes, Eggs, Bacon, Toast for breakfast. Now I’m going to sit my elderly ass down on my back screened in porch and look at all the nutty neighbors coming out in their bedtime “jammies” to feed the squirrels and let their YAPPING dogs out to poop on my lawn……. I just love this place.
Thank you Mr. Dance for knowing the rules. Unfortunately you can’t educate a bunch of good ole boys and a little despicable man who even disrespects 9/11 survivors.
Please don’t give up you are the honest one.
I wish Ms. Petito the best and hope she will be able to do her job rather than spend time putting out fires started by a bunch of know-nothing.
Concerned Citizen says
Our top county officials make 6 figure incomes. Great.
Meanwhile we can’t afford to keep Fire Flight on 24 hour duty. Because at one time budget cuts had to be introduced. These budget cut measures have meant that several times since Fire Flight has been needed it wasn’t available. And we rely on MOU’s from other counties.
How well did that work out for us last incident? When not one but three helo’s weren’t available for a trauma alert? I guess I’m biased but we need to be making sure we have adequate Emergency Services capabilities. Before overpaying top county officials. Especially when that money can be used towards more important things.
And again I say, what should be cut out of the budget? Even if the six figure salaries are cut, it will not make much difference as there are certain services that are required by the state with no funding so stop complaining and come up with some viable solutions. It is very easy to sit and complain. Give Heidi a chance. I worked for Heidi and she was always kind to me. But then again I came to work and did my job without complaining.
Concerned Citizen says
If essential services are being cut because of budget issues and salaries continue to rise we have every right to complain. It’s not the State’s job to provide Fire Flight Services.
A viable solution would be to cut some of those high salaries and put that money towards pilots and maintenance. But then again what do I know?
I dont know the lady. Can’t make any accurate statements about her work or anything else about her. A huge raise, 500.00 car allowance, and other perks. I dont understand. What is her job? To me that is a lot of money. I would that she doesn’t waste tax payers money like a lot of government officials do. She is getting all this money people are getting ready to loose their place of residence, because the rent moratorium has ended. My racist side, it is good to be white with connections, you get a lot 8f things that people of color only dream of because society make sure we are locked out and stay that way. Just saying. We are locked out of wealth but locked up in jail or prison. Nothing against the lady, but this society is demonic.
Concerned Citizen says
My wife is African American. And A Physician’s Assistant after being a BSN for a long time. She went into the service after Highschool got out and pursued a medical career. And now nearly 60 is getting ready to retire.
It hasn’t been easy. I’ve watched and defended against the constant discrimination. But she worked for every bit of what she accomplished. Nothing was handed to her. And she’s still paying on loans taken out to further her career.
Life isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s what you make of it.