Dunedin puts new market manager under gag order
Dunedin city officials were so perturbed by "inappropriate" online comments their former farmers market manager recently hurled their way that they've explicitly spelled out in his successor's contract that such behavior is potential means for dismissal.
The new rules stem from city commissioners' decision this month to approve a city committee recommendation and hire Tampa Bay Markets to manage the city's Green Market instead of Richard Kendler, its founder and longtime manager.
In the weeks leading up to the Oct. 17 vote, Kendler, vendors, customers and city residents lobbied commissioners via email and Facebook to retain Kendler. Tampa Bay Markets complained that Kendler was spreading misinformation about them. And city officials exchanged a flurry of emails expressing their dismay that Kendler was using a Facebook page that gave the impression it was government-related to rally against the city.
Under the contract for the newly-named Dunedin Downtown Market, its manager "shall not disparage or criticize the city, the mayor, vice mayor, city commissioners, charter officials, city staff or the Dunedin market in any way, including but not limited to, verbally, in writing or by Facebook, Twitter or other electronic media."
The city said Tampa Bay Markets' ability to promote the market via social media played the most prominent role in its hiring.
Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski wrote that the new contract language is aimed at protecting the city "when hired vendors have a website advertising 'our' business." City Manager Rob DiSpirito asked whether it would "be enforceable or advisable given free speech protections." City Attorney Tom Trask replied "yes."
The Dunedin Green Market page remained active as of 6 p.m. Tuesday.