It is unfortunate a Port Richey Council majority holds accountability and responsible governing in such ill regard.
Monday evening, Mayor Richard Rober and council members Steven O'Neill and Phil Abts ousted City Manager Richard Reade after hearing complaints about his perceived hard-nosed management style. The three kowtowed to an uninformed gang of malcontents, and voted to give their manager the boot after just one year of service.
It reflects poorly on a city government that is best known for its poor public image. Looking most inept are Rober and O'Neill who joined a unanimous council 12 months ago in offering the job to Reade after three other finalists rejected the job. What does their reversal say about their own ability to supervise? And, more troubling, what does it say to the potential pool of applicants to replace Reade?
We've become accustomed to O'Neill's follow-the-pack mentality. However, Rober, as mayor, allowed Monday's special meeting to deteriorate into a vitriolic public airing of grievances on Reade. The mayor's idea of leadership was passing the gavel and making the motion to terminate Reade even though he maintained the city manager was going a good job. Some reference that will make.
If Reade made a mistake over the past 12 months, it was underestimating the cowardice of his bosses. Certainly, he was not perfect. Firing, then rehiring, Sgt. Bill Sager over a practical joke that could not be tied to the longtime law officer sticks out as an error in judgement.
But his performance was largely unappreciated. He attempted to end the handshake deals, governing by acquaintance and the fiscal follies that led the city to a financial emergency. He prodded the council to join the electorate to define a vision for Port Richey and then to work toward achieving it. He steered the council to expand its community redevelopment project list to include small grants for property owners.
But apparently stepping on some toes while raising the performance standards expected of city employees was too much to overcome. Monday evening, he was let go without a written evaluation. Only Vice Mayor Mark Hashim and council member Perry Bean correctly stood behind Reade.
Abts, just elected in April, protested the lack of progress on permitting residential canal dredging as his rationalization for ousting the city manager. The dredging project has been kicked around for a decade. That Reade couldn't accomplish it in the eight months since Abts' election demonstrates the unrealistic expectations of a neophyte council member. More to the point, it shows a rookie, swayed easily by a vocal minority, who doesn't comprehend the responsibilities entrusted in him.
City Council members are elected to lead, but a three-person majority dissolved into followers and sacrificed professional governing at Port Richey City Hall in the process.