Council Nixes Thomas $140k Salary Request, Agrees With Others – Negotiations Continue

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LC City Manager Search,
Thomas Thomas Pt – V: Council Nixes Thomas $140k
Salary Request, Agrees With Others –
Negotiations Continue




Photo by 愚木混株 via Unsplash | Columbia County
Observer graphic

LAKE CITY, FL –  Saturday morning, at
the unheard of time of 8 am, the City Council
met again to discuss the hiring of veteran city
manager Thomas Thomas of Chicago. The Council
managed to get a counter proposal worked out.
When it will be memorialized in writing and
available is unknown. The Council wants the
Thomas response by Wednesday.

Background

City Manager Thomas Thomas  27 years of
experience


Thomas Thomas in Lincoln Park, IL - Youtube

On January 15, 2020, Thomas Thomas was
interviewed in Lincoln Park, IL. Unlike in Lake
City, the microphones were spot on and Mr.
Thomas and the City Council were crystal clear.
This is a chance to learn more about the man who
may be the next Lake City City Manager.

Watch & Listen

 

Thomas Thomas has approximately 27 years of
progressive experience in municipal government
and managing cities, with a particular expertise
in municipal finance.

You can see Thomas Thomas explain his
experience in an interview he had in Lincoln
Park, ILL, in 2020.



Watch and listen to the Thomas
interview

The Saturday Special Meeting: Public Comment

Community Activist Sylvester Warren said he
thought Mr. Thomas was a quality candidate. Mr.
Warren said that his private investigator did
“some additional background work on him,” adding
that he thought the $140,000 Mr. Thomas was
asking was “cheap.”

Former City Councilman Glenel Bowden was not
happy about the 8 am Saturday start time. He
said he’d been attending Council meetings since
the eighties and he could not remember a City
Council meeting ever having been held at 8
o’clock on Saturday morning unless there was an
emergency. Mr. Bowden asked for an explanation.

Mayor Witt explained, “Somebody said, ‘you
mind startin’ at eight, people had some
obligations later today… and I said, ‘I could do
that.’ I didn’t want to get up this mornin’ at 8
o’clock.”

District 14 resident and retired engineer
Jerry Leszkiewicz addressed the Council, “I am
just one person out of a group of about 3,000
men, women and children of this City who have
been without a council representative for the
last four-and-a-half months. We’ve had no say on
how a new council representative is going to be
chosen and now we have no say in how a new city
manager is going to be chosen.”

Mr. Leszkiewicz questioned information on a
Thomas resume which mentioned Mr. Thomas’ time
in Rockville, MD. This information was not in
any resume provided by headhunter Narloch and
received by the Observer. Mr. Leszkiewicz said
that Mr. Thomas needed to be vetted.

Councilman Hill responded, “Hopefully we can
get this man with a whole boatload of
experience, but there always seem to be some
type of conflict that come up.”

The City Council Speaks

Councilman Sampson:  “We offered 120 as
the base salary; we had budgeted last year – 130
[$130,000]. 140 is above that budget.”

Fact: The first City budget in the 2021-22
budget cycle was blown up by the City Council.
That budget had raises. The last budget number
the City approved for City Manager was $124k.

Councilman Sampson volunteered that he had a
conversation with headhunter Narloch and
mentioned he was concerned about Mr. Thomas’
start date.

Mr. Sampson opined that “March 31 is way too
far out,” adding, “bidding on the move makes
sense to me.”

Mr. Sampson said Mr. Thomas should get more
vacation than the everyday employee.

Mr. Sampson concluded, “I think we should
make it a three year contract… I think we should
show a commitment for stability. If he could
give a little bit on salary, we could give a
little bit on time.”

City Attorney Koberlein was silent.

Councilman Hill added, “When I heard the 140
– that’s kinda high… I would make a counter
offer of 130… and go from there.”

Mr. Sampson mentioned March 1 as a starting
date. “We want to show that we want to be
aggressive in gettin’ him started.”

Mayor Witt said, “Probably he could get 135
with the salary if he could get started
earlier.”

Veteran Councilman Eugene Jefferson said, “I
have no opposition to the 130.” He said he
wanted the starting time to be March 1, adding,
“Beyond that it gets to be a little sticky and
cumbersome”

Mr. Jefferson did not believe in giving Mr.
Thomas the extra life insurance.

Mr. Sampson wanted “to have a previous
background check certified to save time and
money.” He did not say where that background was
from.

Mr. Sampson wanted to have Mr. Thomas’ moving
expenses reimbursed to the City if he left City
employment.

City Attorney Koberlein Weighed In: What was
he thinking?

City Attorney Koberlein addressed severance.
He said, the definition of severance “is rather
vague.” He continued, “Severance is generally
not reimbursable. If it’s due to misconduct
under the unemployment compensation chapter…then
the severance can be disputed. The question is,
‘What do you define as severance?’”

In 2016 the Florida Attorney General wrote an
all encompassing opinion on municipal severance
pay. It did not appear that the City Attorney
was familiar with that opinion.

City Attorney Koberlein addressed a three
year contractual commitment. He said, “A three
year commitment: The general rule in Florida is
that you cannot commit past an appropriation
fiscal year, without – unintelligible –
approval.”

The City Charter is crystal clear: “The city
council shall appoint a city manager for an
indefinite term.” There is no approval.

This is another instance of the City Attorney
not being prepared.

Mr. Leszkiewicz came to the microphone and
was recognized. He told the Council that if the
City Manager had a strong personality and didn’t
get along with the board, ”There ought to be a
way to trigger that and not have to pay him a
severance package.”

Sylvester Warren came to the microphone. He
said he was disappointed in the Mayor and the
Council because they let people come to the
microphone who haven’t attended as many meetings
as he has. Mr. Warren also had a problem with
people “makin’ certain comments about [Mr.
Thomas] not bein’ properly vetted.”

After almost forty-five minutes Mr. Sampson
made a motion:


The Mr. Thomas start date would be March 1,
base salary 130k, three bids with lowest bid
for moving expenses, with bids provided by
the time he started working for the City;
benefits would begin the first day of
employment; two weeks annual leave added;
annual evaluation based on goals that would
be set “during the public meeting;” life
insurance equal to annual salary would be
provided; a one-way ticket to start work.

The Clerk inquired about residency.

Mr. Sampson directed the Clerk to add to the
motion: “We’d like for him to live in the City
if at all possible.”

Police Chief Butler announced he would have
two investigators start Monday morning to get
the police background check done as fast as
possible.

The City Clerk asked, “You would like his
[Thomas] response by next Wednesday?

Mayor Witt replied, “If we could.”

Epilogue

The continuing saga of the Lake City – Thomas
Thomas affair will appear on the next City
Council agenda, February 7.

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