Palm Coast City Manager Matt Morton got a 3.73 out of 5 in his first annual evaluation, 14 months into his job, putting him “midway between meets expectations and exceeds expectations,” as Helena Alves, the city’s financial services director, described it. Alves coordinated the evaluation the five city council members carried out, presenting the results at Tuesday evening’s council meeting.
The results made Morton eligible for a 5 percent raise, or $7,250, raising his base salary to $152,250. City staff got a 2 percent cost-of-living raise and 3 percent merit raises in January. To the council’s surprise, Morton turned down the raise.
Morton spoke of the challenges facing the community currently and in the coming year, with Covid-19 and with budgets affected by lower revenue. He said he’s asked staff to “step up and share in that sacrifice with our community.” Morton has eliminated cost of living adjustments and pay raises for the coming year. With that in mind, he added, “while I accept the evaluation and I’m grateful, I would also ask the council, do not pass the ordinance. I would like to reject the offer of a pay raise. While it is appreciated and I appreciate that being in the documentation, I believe, as we all have, and by watching your example mayor and council, leading by example in this community is what we need.”
Holland said this morning she had not expected Morton to turn down the raise. “He’s just a very humble guy,” the mayor said.
The evaluations were not quite stellar: there were a few 5s but they were rare from any of the council members, in comparison with the many more 4s and 3s. At the same time, each evaluation showed enough differences in ratings to suggest that they were prepared more thoughtfully and critically than cursorily, as such evaluations at times can be on some government panels, though the comments council members delivered Tuesday evening were more revealing than those in the evaluations.
All the council members commended Morton’s tenure in general. But there was more reserve from Council members Bob Cuff and Nick Klufas, though Cuff was halfway to a 5 on Morton’s communications, management style job effectiveness, the highest rating he got in any one category from any of the council members (Klufas was at the lowest end, at 3.27, in that regard).
Characteristically self-analytical, Morton was not beyond echoing the evaluations’ gist. “It’s nice to feel you’re doing a good job,” he said this morning. “It’s taken longer than I expected to find my place and stride within the organization. It’s been quite a transition.”
From Eddie Branquinho, Jack Howell and Mayor Milissa Holland, there was more admiration than gushing. And there was a note of concern from the mayor, his biggest champion since he was hired, and his toughest evaluator, who sees a need for Morton to better balance his approach to the job.
“It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. I think Day 3 Matt walked in and I believe Hurricane Dorian had hit soon thereafter. We activated our EOC,” Holland said of the city’s Emergency Operations Center, “and he was put literally in the storm. So it’s been an interesting year to say that between a hurricane, moving your family here as well as now dealing with a global pandemic in the first time in 106 years would underestimate or undervalue the moment of the first year of Matt Morton in the City of Palm Coast.”
Without mentioning what amounted to house-cleaning turn-over in administrative ranks as Jim Landon-era directors resigned, were pushed out or fired over the year, Holland credited Morton for building an administrative team that reflects the diversity of the city’s economy, and for “a level of energy that I have not seen diminished.” But that was her concern: “We’ve had conversations in regards to finding that balance a bit more, as far as working a tremendous amount, and I think we’re getting there. Between the emergency events, being able to build a team that you feel could effectively manage and run departments, I think having that ability and giving you that ability to do that has been helpful, and I’m looking forward to having you have the ability to find a little bit more balance. I think that would help in a lot of different areas moving forward. But I have been very impressed and continue to be impressed. Your knowledge and your understanding and your work ethic is extraordinarily strong.”
Nevertheless, in her written commends, Holland had summed up Morton’s tenure in three words: “Excellent first year.”
Klufas seemed non-committal: “Basically we are evaluating Mr. Morton every council meeting that we have, and if he continues to make it to these performance reviews,” he said, “it would almost be a symptom of a council that wasn’t working together that we would bring up issues that we had with our city manager once a year at his performance review.”
“It’s been a good first year with some significant challenges,” Council member Bob Cuff said, stressing the importance of one-on-one feedback in the future. “I certainly hope that leadership will continue to improve and the city will improve along with it.” Cuff originally had not voted to hire Morton, but was quickly won over and gave him high marks.
Branquinho and Howell were more effusive. “Matthew, it has been a pleasure, it’s going to be a pleasure, and for as long as I am here, I hope you’re here because you’re doing a very decent job,” Branquinho said. Branquinho had given Morton the highest marks in most categories. “When it comes to me, personally, there’s yet to be one time that I go to you with any little thing that you didn’t give me 100 percent of your attention, correct me when I was out of line, asking questions that shouldn’t be. You didn’t fear, and that’s one thing I always asked when you’re chosen–would you tell me what I want to hear, or you’ll correct me if I have to be corrected, and you did it, that’s probably one of the most important thing.”
Howell described Morton as a friend always ready to provide the answer he needs. “I have no reservations at all working with him, he’s a good man, we did the right thing by selecting him,” he said.
The manager’s evaluation process this time around differs sharply from those in previous years. Under Landon, Morton’s predecessor, there were no evaluations. Landon year after year considered the city’s glossy “progress report” productions, which he oversaw himself, to be his evaluations, until then-Council member Jason DeLorenzo (now the city’s development director) ridiculed the approach. That was near the end of Landon’s tenure. Morton has embraced the more transparent and rigorous approach.
“It’s been a tremendous 14 months,” Morton told the council. “I don’t regret one moment coming back to my home state of Florida and the experience this has been. But I would remiss to sit here and not be grateful for each and every member of the executive who has made this possible. We have extraordinary people, as you know, and our citizens should know how extraordinary these folks are that get up every day and make my job possible, and make this city able to move.”
Mike Cocchiola says
Good on you, Matt. It would have been awful had you accepted that raise while people are suffering.
Ileine Hoffman says
We finally got an honest and hard working town manager and our council people who have not proven their worth don’t give him the credit he is due. Prior to him Landon became a detriment to this city but no one noticed.
James M. Mejuto says
So . . . what’s your point, Ileine?
People our of work and this guy who makes a decent living is going to be rewarded for a job he’s assigned to do.
GIVE ME A BREAK ! ! ! Too many people out of work !
James M. Mejuto
Phyllis Robbins-Scheffler says
I agree with you James. Matthew Morton was given an evaluation grade of 3.67 out of a possible five. That is a mediocre rating at best. Students who receive such a rating are in the three plus category which is nothing to whoop and holler about except that the student didn’t fail. Awards academically are not given out for such a rating and yet our esteemed City Council Consider such a rating to be well deserved. What kind of people do we elect to represent its constituents? It is pathetic. Mr. Morton makes no waves because he shies away from addressing any controversial issues which plague our city. When I have addressed this issue personally and in the three minute time frame during which I can speak at the council meetings, he has said to me privately that all I do when addressing the issue that I will explain below is “to attack”. I am past three months into my 95th year so the only attack weapon that I possess is my speaking voice. The issue that Mr. Morton chooses to ignore is the permitting process which, because of any requirement of authentication from the contractor as to the true value of a job for which he completes the permit application, the contractor fraudulently writes a very much smaller job value to avoid paying the proper fees. Also it is questionable whether the licensed contractor has actually signed the permit or if, in fact, the Notary who illegally validated the questionable signature. So the city has lost revenue and the homeowner is left to suffer the consequences of a $23,500 that was only inspected TWO times for a job that spanned six weeks. So Mr. Morton is aligning himself to the less than honorable members of our governing entity sadly and firing long time revered employees who may not have agreed with the Mayor who holds a job, in conflict as the Mayor, with Coastal Cloud (she got the job while serving as Mayor and is paid in excess of $80,000 a year) . So there is much that Mr. Morton could b e doing instead of following the wishes of the Mayor as a lemming. Forgive an y typos!
Percy's mother says
For the issues you’ve encountered and suffered as described in your post (issues with a licensed contractor, suffering the consequences of a $23,500 job that was only inspected TWO times for a job that spanned six weeks . . . )
You stated your age as 95.
Perhaps you don’t know that the Flagler County Sheriffs Office has a division geared specifically to senior citizens who are having issues such as you described in your post, i.e., shoddy work and being financially “out” of a large sum of money.
For the present and/or the future, please contact the Flagler County Sheriffs Office “Seniors Against Crime” division and someone will help you with your contractor issues and as well a resolution to the money issues encountered between you and any contractor for the same shoddy work.
Perhaps no one has given you this helpful information before. The Seniors Against Crime division is VERY helpful in all aspects of seniors being ripped off in various ways by unscrupulous people.
I hope this information will be helpful to you, and others who might read this post.
It is commendable that the Mr. Morton declined his salary raise. His reasons were notable and applauded. Maybe some of our Reprensentatives, Senators and other individuals might follow his example. For reasons, if nothing else, of the state of the current events and situations that exist in the Country..
Congratulations Mr. Morton and well wishes for the future.
Lead by example imagine that here in PC vs. the money grabbing self indulged personal agendas of the past and well the present still too. Cant say I care for any of the Council membersat this point. WTG Mr. Morton
I have yet to receive a reply from ANY top city official after submitting a concern regarding the clogged swells! Pretty sure all of you are enjoying your top dollar earnings in a luxurious mansion overlooking the less privileged while the rest of us mear mortals drown and watch our children play near backed up swells filled with mosquitoes and whatever else this city has to offer- ridiculous
Give me a break!! The man lives in the E section. I don’t know anyone who would consider the E section “mansions”. Get over yourself!
Jack Howell says
A couple of weeks ago the Palm Coast Observer published an article I wrote regarding my views on the Covid-19 economic impact on our city. Towards the end of this article, I suggested that city staff earning over $100,00.00 consider voluntarily taking a 10 percent pay cut. I said I would give up my city council pay for the rest of the year and challenge my fellow council members to do the same. The week after the article was published, one of the city council members verbally expressed outrage at my position. Of course, that was the council members’ right and I appreciated the candor and criticism. However, that does not change my position. I will donate my council salary to charity during this time of need.
My point about giving up my pay for the rest of the year was to show that I lead by example. This is a leadership trait that was honed in me by both the United States Marine Corps and at Harvard University. Mr. Morton is showing the same trait by leading by example.
Mike Cocchiola says
We’re with you Jack. Lead by example.
Ms Jackson says
So 74.6% rating warrants a 5% pay raise on such a high base salary?? The overall rating just doesn’t support that (my opinion as a director level professional with 30yrs of experience reviewing employees’ performances). I’ve been known to give 14% merit based increases, and 0% increases for those who would not meet job expectations (manage them up or manage them out). Across the board (non-cost-of-living) increases kill morale and productivity. Your superstars will go work for your competition. I’m sorry but he shouldn’t have a 5% increase. Perhaps the Expectations weren’t in line with someone in his first year on the job…or a different rating system should be used? Kudos to him for rejecting it. Classy move for sure. My two cents.
Good gesture of common sense and Thank You Mr. Morton for also supporting our “for the people” councilman Jack Howell’s suggestion to all tight their belts in time of human and financial crisis. Great example so much needed in our local city and county government, “specially our county government” that receives double the revenue in taxes from our ad valorem taxes we pay yearly in our homes and they waste it daily benefiting the few. We sure need administrators like Mr. Morton and Jack in our local government!
Elections are coming and we will have several questions for incumbents and their counterparts:
Are you going to continue to benefit developers on our pockets while taking away our quality of life by purchasing their derelicts real estate or utilities or letting them to encroach our amenities and increasing traffic in our insufficient residential roads?
In spite of the FAA green flag to fly anywhere and without aircraft insurance are city and county going to enforce to all these airport schools for foreign pilot students, the airport inspirational “Fly Friendly” and practice above the agricultural areas west of Rte 1 other that over our homes generating nuisance noise and danger 24-7 ? Are we going to endure what cities in Volusia endure before us? https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2926602/Florida-woman-Susan-Crockett-files-claim-against-Federal-Aviation-Administration-plane-destroyed-Palm-Coast-home-deadly-crash-January.html
Mr. Morton you bring common sense to the City government – as residents struggle to recover from the coronavirus you have told city residents you are in the fight with us – “our struggles are your struggles” – THANKS. Hopefully you’ll be able to convince the City Council Members that controlling excessive and speeding traffic in residential areas is not just the responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office. It is easy to let the blame fall on the Sheriff’s Office so residents will blame them; when the real blame falls on the City Council for failing provide ordinances to protect residential neighborhoods. City of Palm Coast needs Traffic Calming Ordinances to control excessive traffic through residential areas. Other City Councils in Florida have adopted Traffic Calming Methods to protect residents neighborhoods because “THEY CARE ABOUT RESIDENTS” (something lacking in Palm Coast). Please fight with us to protect residential neighborhoods.
@palmcoaster So you live by the airport?
And think people who purchased RURAL property for the quiet and solitude are less worthy of you when it comes to fly overs? Its ok for us to be endangered and suffer the noise?
That would be swails and yes they need maintenance no doubt. Dont worry a good ole fashioned Tropical disturbance will take the water flow where it is supposed to, wherever gravity takes it. lol