MADEIRA BEACH — A sharply divided City Commission on Wednesday hired a new city manager who will face continuing political turmoil and a possible recall election against two of the commissioners who picked him.
Jonathan Evans, 37, who will start running the city on Feb. 26, was fired as city manager in Riviera Beach, Fla., last September amid a controversy that far exceeds the recent strife in Madeira Beach.
A commission majority in that city gave no official reason for its decision. And, according to Evans, the continuing political upheaval there is being investigated by the Palm Beach State Attorney and the FBI’s corruption unit.
His messy firing had followed his investigation of personal and fiscal misconduct by some of his staff and at least two of his sitting commissioners.
The experience in Riviera Beach has "made me a better manager," Evans said Wednesday after learning of his appointment in Madeira Beach.
That decision was the result of a now familiar 3-2 split commission vote.
Mayor Maggi Black and commissioners John Douthirt and Nancy Oakley ignored pleas from commissioners Terry Lister and Nancy Hodges to put off a decision for at least a week. Lister and Hodges argued that Evans’ proposed $145,000 salary and benefits package was excessive and that the commission was rushing into a bad contract.
Douthirt and Oakley are facing a recall petition drive.
The special meeting was called with barely 24 hours notice, and with the revised contract completed just minutes before the meeting began.
As a result, the meeting was sparsely attended and all except one out of five residents who spoke argued against hiring Evans.
"The commission needs to make a decision or we’ll never get anything accomplished," countered Deby Weinstein, a supporter of the commission majority and a candidate in the commission election in March.
Evans, who was not at the meeting but watched it online, said his first task will be to try to bridge the political divide and help to begin healing in the community.
"I want to build genuine relationships with everyone and help stop the divisiveness," he said, while acknowledging that "bringing anyone new into the city can make people anxious."