MADEIRA BEACH — Allen Godfrey won't become the city's next interim city manager and public works director.
Amid growing controversy over his background and qualifications and a bitter 3-2 split on the commission, Godfrey withdrew his candidacy Wednesday during a meeting with Mayor Travis Palladeno.
Godfrey's decision came one day after a heated City Commission meeting at which Vice Mayor Carol Reynolds read negative excerpts from a preliminary background check and Commissioner Terry Lister called him unqualified.
Despite their strong opposition, the other three commission members — Palladeno and Commissioners Nancy Oakley and Robin Vander Velde — approved an eight-month contract with Godfrey to be executed on completion of a full background check.
"By my stepping back, it may make the mayor's job a little easier," Godfrey said Thursday. "If the commission doesn't work together, the future of the city is going to be very bleak."
Godfrey, who did not attend or watch the Tuesday meeting, signed the contract on Wednesday and came to City Hall intending to sign a release form for a full background check, physical and drug screening.
"I met with the mayor and we reviewed part of the commission meeting. Some of the things Mr. Lister said were kind of concerning," Godfrey said.
Both Godfrey and Palladeno confirmed they reached a "mutual" agreement that it would be best for Godfrey to withdraw.
"We need a city manager, not another interim city manager," Palladeno said Friday, calling the controversy over Godfrey "a shame."
Palladeno, Oakley and Vander Velde first proposed that Godfrey take over as interim city manager more than a month ago.
Godfrey, one of 20 applicants for the permanent position, met Palladeno's priority requirements — strong public works experience in Seminole and Belleair Beach — and hands-on knowledge of local issues.
Lister and Reynolds, however, want city management experience, which Godfrey does not have.
"There is one gentleman in the audience that I would hire on the spot right now," Reynolds said Tuesday.
That man, Ray Irvin, a retired Indiana manager who is one of 20 applicants for the permanent job, told the commission he objected to the city conducting a search after "a decision that seems to have been already made."
Lister said Godfrey ranked "second to last" among the candidates for the job.
He also questioned why Godfrey refused for weeks to take a drug test. Godfrey explained Thursday he wanted an agreement on a contract first.
During Tuesday's debate, Reynolds read a statement from a former Seminole employee alleging that Godfrey had exhibited "racism against persons of African-American origin and females."
Reynolds maintained that charge and other negative reviews about Godfrey could be a "real problem" for the city if he were hired.
"If I read those documents, I would have thought I was an ax murderer, too," Godfrey said when asked Thursday about the negative comments.
He said he did not supervise the employee, Patty Kordis.
Seminole City Manager Frank Edmunds could not be reached for comment.
Godfrey's current boss, Belleair Beach City Manager Nancy Gonzalez, says Godfrey is an "excellent" public works director.
Before hiring him, Gonzalez received positive personal recommendations from Edmunds and Seminole Mayor Jimmy Johnson.
The commission is expected to decide what to do next in its city manager search during a regular workshop meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Palladeno, who is eager to begin preparing next year's city budget and improving the city's infrastructure, will push to hire an outside consultant to provide an "unbiased" recommendation on future candidates.
"I want to make sure there is no controversy out there," Palladeno said.
Lister agreed, but wants instead to review the remaining 19 candidates, and interview the top three. "I want us to be unified and move forward."