More turmoil in Madeira Beach

Calling city leadership ‘an awful group of people,’ the public works director has resigned. That comes shortly after the city manager ordered an audit of marina operations.
After the city manager ordered an audit of the Madeira Beach Marina, the public works director resigned [Times files]
After the city manager ordered an audit of the Madeira Beach Marina, the public works director resigned [Times files]
Published January 10

MADEIRA BEACH — After 17 years with the city, a top administrator resigned last week, saying the new city manager’s demands and apparent allegations of mismanagement had made him ill.

Marina and Public Works Director Dave Marsicano worked his last day and left his post “with a heavy heart and great frustration.”

When asked why he decided to suddenly resign, Marsicano said the city’s leadership “is such an awful group of people. It’s really bad working for the city now.”

As a result of his job stress, Marsicano said he fell sick and has had several surgeries.

“They painted me into a position where I couldn’t do my job any more,’’ he said. “This is not a happy day for me. I am crushed.”

City Manager Jonathan Evans could not be reached for comment but a public records request by the Times shows evidence that Evans had expressed dissatisfaction with Marsicano and other staff on several occasions.

<URL destination="https://www.tampabay.com/pinellas/madeira-beach-officials-former-and-current-guilty-of-ethics-violations-20181213/"> Previous coverage: Madeira Beach officials, former and current, guilty of ethics violations</CHARACTER>

<CHARACTER style="$ID/Hyperlink"></URL>Marsicano became the city’s marina director in 2002 and public works director in 2009, and he even served as acting city manager at one point.

His personnel file shows consistently high performance ratings under multiple city managers.

In August 2017, Evans sent an email to all city department heads urging them to show a positive attitude.

“Gossip, rumor-mongering and disrespect is not acceptable in any position within the organization,” Evans wrote, warning that leaks would receive “swift action.”

In October 2017, Evans emailed Marsicano to complain that without first discussing the move with Evans or the fire chief Marsicano had told his staff to provide a sandbag station for the public seeking to protect their homes from a hurricane.

In December, Evans asked Marsicano to explain behavior that had prompted complaints from the city’s finance director, Walter Pierce.

“He micromanages the city staff. It’s just awful,” Marsicano said. “Now they are picking on Megan (Wepfer), my assistant.”

Wepfer was disciplined in December with a two-day suspension for not adequately informing Evans of a boat parade awards event. She declined to comment.

In September, Evans revealed he had commissioned a forensic audit of Marsicano’s marina department and needed more money to complete it.

He said the city’s regular auditor and Pierce, raised questions about the marina department’s management.

The commission approved the $50,000 price tag.

At the time, only commissioner Nancy Hodges questioned the need for the audit.

“What exactly are we looking for? The marina has always run smoothly and I don’t remember a conversation during any of the budget meetings that would indicate anything else,” Hodges said to Evans.

Hodges said she and the city clerk searched commission meeting minutes and found no mention of the proposed audit or any commission approval of the original $15,000 cost.

Evans now has asked to meet privately and individually with each of the city commissioners to discuss the audit on Jan. 21, a holiday when city hall will be closed.

The following day, Jan. 22, the audit will be discussed at the commission’s 2 p.m. workshop.

Evans has refused requests from the Times to reveal what specific issues are being investigated or whether the audit has uncovered problems, citing a state law that exempts audit procedures from the Sunshine Law.

The only records dealing with the audit are a series of emails that indicate the auditor and Evans think cash revenues are being mishandled at the marina.

Both Marsicano and Wepfer sharply deny this.

Marsicano also questioned whether his testimony in an ethics hearing against Commissioner Nancy Oakley (who was subsequently found by the hearing judge to have violated state ethics laws) may have contributed to the decision to conduct the audit.

“When the forensic auditors came in with only one day’s notice it was clear from their questions they were accusing us of theft,” Marsicano said.

The contract with the auditing firm, Carr, Riggs 7 Ingram, LLC, calls for the investigative audit to cover: marina “operations, books and records and accounting procedures,”, as well as invoices, receipts and historical data for wet slip and dry storage rentals, fuel invoices and delivery receipts, boat launch ramps receipts, and shipstore receipts and inventory—all to “identify and quantify any discrepancies”.

The firm is then to “determine the effectiveness of the city’s internal controls” over the marina and make recommendations for improvements.

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