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New Madeira Beach city manager fires new finance director

MADEIRA BEACH — One week after taking over management of the city, Shane Crawford dismissed the finance director appointed by his predecessor just weeks earlier.

In a memo to the City Commission, Crawford said Wednesday that he "deemed it necessary to remove Mr. Wayne Shirley" the previous day.

The new city manager's action appears to solidify his control of the city administration and was applauded by Mayor Travis Palladeno.

"I support him 100 percent," Palladeno said Thursday.

Shirley was hired in October by then-Interim City Manager Jim Madden.

Crawford said he knew of the appointment before he accepted the post of city manager, but was assured by the commission that he had the "flexibility" to remove him if he felt it necessary.

When Crawford took over on Jan. 17, he discovered the city's current finances were a "mess" because of the months the city was without a finance director.

Former finance director Monica Mitchell resigned in April, shortly after Palladeno and two commissioners were elected.

She is now assistant finance director for Clearwater. During her seven years in Madeira Beach she consistently won awards for the budgets that she prepared for the city.

During the summer, the city hired a consultant to help put the 2012-2013 budget together, but day-to-day financial reporting was neglected.

"We are substantially behind," Crawford said Thursday. "When I asked for information, Mr. Shirley and I had a difference of opinion on what was expected from the finance department."

Crawford then discussed the disagreement with the city's attorney to make sure he had the authority to dismiss Shirley.

"He was still a probationary employee. There was no disciplinary action or motivation. We had opposing viewpoints," Crawford explained.

The city manager said he plans to meet with the city's auditors next week to see what assistance they can give in getting the city's financial reporting caught up.

Meanwhile, Crawford will begin a recruiting process for a new finance director, but says he may delay that appointment and hire temporary accountants to resolve more than six months of financial backlogs.

"I am trying to sift through what has been done over the past year," Crawford said. "I plan to bring a complete restructuring of the city administration to the commission."

Over the past year, the city lost a number of its top city administrators either just before or just after the March election.

Crawford now has the responsibility to fill those positions.