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  1. Pinellas

Unhappy Madeira Beach commission starts city manager search

MADEIRA BEACH — For more than an hour Tuesday the City Commission squabbled, sometimes angrily, over whether they should immediately accept City Manager Jonathan Evans' resignation or if he should be allowed to continue working for the next two months.

In the end, commissioners accepted Evans' recommendation to begin a search for a new city manager who could be on board by July 9.

That is the day Evans will officially cease to be the city's manager.

He announced last week that he had accepted an offer to return to his former post as city manager of Riviera Beach, a city that fired him two years ago.

In March, voters there tossed out the council members who had fired Evans and instead elected candidates who pledged to rehire him.

"He was in the process of working to get back to Riviera Beach from the very beginning. That is wrong. It is despicable," said Robert Preston, one of a handful of Madeira Beach residents who attended Tuesday's commission meeting.

Commissioner Doug Andrews accused Evans of lying to the commission about his commitment to Madeira Beach and demanded that the commission immediately terminate him.

"In corporate America if he resigns you show him the door," Andrews said, stressing he wanted to hire Evans' replacement sooner rather than later.

Evans responded with a rare glimpse of temper and accused Andrews of ''manipulating'' the truth.

He also stressed he hoped to complete a number of projects, including plans for $15 million in roadway improvements, revising the city's personnel manual, and completing a new employee compensation plan.

"It doesn't make sense to terminate him immediately," said Mayor Maggi Black, joining fellow Commissioner Deby Weinstein in trying to halt Andrews' attack on Evans.

Rather than postponing a discussion of the process for hiring for a new city manager, the commission approved Evans' search schedule.

That search will begin Friday when the city clerk was directed to post the city manager job opening in various professional websites and organizations.

However, that announcement will not include a salary range or a complete job description, which the commission indicated it will decide at a later unspecified date.

"I truly find that odd. Your candidates need to know the whole picture when they submit their resumes," said Preston.

Evans said the commission could refine the initial job description at a later meeting.

His suggested recruitment schedule calls for the commission to review and pick the top five applications submitted through June 11.

These applicants would be interviewed on June 25 and ranked on June 26. Contract negotiations with the top candidate would follow and an appointment made at the commission's July 9 meeting.

Weinstein told Evans to be sure to include the city's recently changed charter requirement that the city's manager must be a member in good standing of the International City/County Managers Association and the Florida City/County Managers Association.

This charter requirement was instituted last November and has the effect of barring former City Manager Shane Crawford from being reinstated.

Following the 2017 election that put a new majority into office, Crawford was forced to resign and his wife, then city clerk, was fired.

Previously, Crawford was censured and ousted from the international association for his relationship with his wife before their marriage and when she was his assistant.

Then the Florida Commission on Ethics ruled in Crawford's favor last year over an accusation that a commissioner, Nancy Oakley, had sexually harassed him while he was city manager.

Crawford's lawyer, Patrice Pucci, sent a letter to the city's attorney Tuesday demanding that Crawford be reinstated as city manager since Oakley cast the deciding vote in his firing.

Pucci said that, as a result of the ethics ruling against Oakley, Crawford would abandon his right to sue the city if it rehired him as city manager and grant him two years in back pay, an amount that could exceed several hundred thousand dollars.

However, it appears that scenario is not possible, given the charter's requirement that the city's manager must be a member of the international association.

The commission did not publicly acknowledge Crawford's demand Tuesday night.