The first public meeting with the newly elected Madeira Beach commissioners on Tuesday was combative after a vice mayor protocol was broken and a motion to fire the City Clerk met heated resistance from the City Manager.
- Mayor, two new commissioners caused immediate upheaval
- Moves to vote new vice-mayor, fire City Clerk meet resistence
- Some residents embarassed by apparent dysfunction
“As a citizen, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed by what is going-on, on this dais,” said resident John Lipa. “People are making proposals without doing their homework.”
Shortly after Mayor Maggi Black, Commissioner John Douthirt and Commissioner Nancy Oakley were sworn into office, they offended the two incumbent commissioners, Terry Lister and Nancy Hodges, by voting to make Douthirt the new vice mayor. Lister was upset the trio broke a City tradition.
“Madam Mayor, we do change vice-mayors on every election cycle and we go in order,” Lister said. “It is my turn to be vice-mayor.”
Black and Oakley said they felt Douthirt should be vice-mayor because he represents district 4, and the last commissioner to represent that district did not finish his term. Just days before the election, a judge found the process to appoint Housh Ghovaee as district 4 commissioner violated the Sunshine Law.
“My recommendation is that Commissioner Douthirt should be the next vice mayor because the last vice mayor, Housh Ghovaee, was not able to complete his term,” Black said. “We should leave it in district 4 until the next rotation.”
“I agree with Maggi -- it was basically half way through and then it didn’t ever get completed,” Oakley said. “I think that district 4 should have that chance again with a full year going for it.”
Lister shot back at Oakley and reminded her of the protocol that has been in place for several years.
“Nancy, you know as well as I do, we do rotations,” he said. “I just want all three of you to know that what you’re doing is wrong. That’s a heck of a way to start out.”
Lack of experience?
During the campaign, Black said her lack of experience in city government set her apart from her opponent. During the first public meeting that Black had to chair, her lack of experience was glaring.
“Madam Mayor, you missed approval of the minutes,” said City Manager Shane Crawford.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Black said. “I jumped ahead.”
The meeting got heated again when Oakley made a motion to fire City Clerk Cheryl Crawford, the City Manager’s wife.
“Based on the fact in the letter she sent me that she said that she’s going to go to school to be certified as a city clerk,” said Oakley. “I really don’t want to go through training the City Clerk and having somebody on staff with on the job training.”
Shane Crawford then asked Oakley what her back up plan was for filling the job.
“What’s the contingency plan? You guys want to have all these meetings, you want to have all this paperwork, who the hell is going to push it?” asked Crawford. “This is a witch hunt.”
Oakley said she wanted the deputy clerk to take over. Crawford pointed out that the deputy clerk is young, not certified and does not want the job.
“He’s not going to do it. You’re talking about a 22-year-old kid,” said Crawford. “We as a City can’t afford it and I’m not defending my wife, I’m defending the city clerk. She’s a good clerk, a damn good clerk.”
Black said she wasn’t comfortable having the City Manager and City Clerk be a married couple.
“I don’t know if it’s a legal issue but to me it seems like an ethical issue,” she said. “The fact that the City Clerk and the City Manager are married and reporting to the commission.”
Personal, not professional
The City Attorney said it was, in fact, both legal and ethical, but the commission could pass a nepotism law similar to other cities. The City Clerk told the commission she felt the motion to fire her was done for personal reasons.
“Don’t do this to me at every meeting. Don’t make me wait and wait and wait to see if I have a job or not,” Cheryl said. “I work at the pleasure of the board. If you do not want me working for you then do that now.”
Lister agreed it was personal and not professional.
“We have a good city clerk. We have a problem with personal and professional lives up here,” he said. “That’s what we have a problem with. They need to keep the personal off the table.”
Oakley withdrew her motion to fire the City Clerk, and asked to discuss opening up the position for applications at their next workshop meeting.
Resident reaction mixed
Some residents in attendance at the meeting were clearly unnerved by what they saw from their city's leadership.
“Six years ago, Commissioner Oakley pretty much devastated this city by running employees off,” said resident John Hendricks “First night, she’s starting it again and I hate to say it, but it looks like this city is in for a rough road.”
“I didn’t like the way things went tonight,” said resident Ginger Toliver. “It’s obviously a stacked deck.”
Other residents, however, did voice support for the new commissioners. One woman even brought roses.
“We were dissatisfied with the way things were before,” said Debbie Weinstein.
“First time the little guy can be heard in Madeira Beach,” said Renee Krupp.