Council Selects New City Manager, Contract Negotiations Underway

Council Selects New City Manager, Contract Negotiations Underway
Council Selects

OCEAN CITY — The choice of the next city manager has been made in Ocean City, leaving a government in Florida in a confused state and awaiting word on whether its chief executive is heading north or not.

After a 90-minute closed session meeting on Tuesday, Council President Jim Hall reported the council voted 4-3 —  Brent Ashley, Jim Hall, Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas in support and Doug Cymek, Mary Knight and Lloyd Martin in opposition — to instruct Springsted Inc., its hired consulting firm, to begin negotiations with the selected candidate.

Ft. Pierce, Fla. City Manager David Recor has been chosen by the council, although no official announcement has been made in Ocean City or Florida, and Springsted reportedly contacted him this week to begin contract talks.

Springsted client representative John Anzivino did not return phone calls inquiring whether Recor was contacted Tuesday as expected and whether he plans to accept the job. However, sources in Florida have confirmed Recor’s intention is to accept the post and contract negotiations have begun.

While the Ocean City vote on Recor was all but a certainty prior to yesterday’s meeting, tensions appear to be running high in Ft. Pierce, Fla. as word spread that Recor was in the running for the Ocean City job, despite his stated intentions as recent as March to remain in Ft. Pierce.

Complicating the matter was a March 6 email to Anzivino where Recor withdrew his name from consideration from the Ocean City process as well as a similar process in Boynton Beach, Fla. However, at some point Recor must have reconsidered because he was in Ocean City on April 13 for a second interview and had breakfast with the Mayor and Council at the Captain’s Table Restaurant.

Additionally, on April 11, Councilman Joe Hall called Recor on his cell phone to discuss the city manager vacancy in Ocean City. Public records obtained from The Dispatch confirm a 13-minute conversation was had between Recor and Joe Hall, who said he called to have a one-on-one talk with the candidate he considered the “front runner” about the council-manager form of government, fishing and other topics.

Joe Hall said yesterday he was unaware of Recor’s email to Anzivino in March until this paper reported it Wednesday. He did not know what transpired for Recor to reconsider dropping out of contention.

On Friday, April 27, after the TCPalm newspaper reported Recor was being considered for the Ocean City post, Recor forwarded in an email, obtained by TCPalm, to Commissioner Tom Perona the message he sent to Anzivino, announcing his withdrawal from the Ocean City process.

“… I originally withdrew from OC at the same time I withdrew from Boynton. We can discuss in more detail at your convenience.  Nothing to hide,” he wrote to Perona.

In that March 6 email to Anzivino, Recor wrote, “After a lot of thought and consideration, I have decided to withdraw from the Ocean City, Maryland, City Manager recruitment.  I want you to know that this was a very difficult decision however out of respect for you, the Town of Ocean City and fairness to the other candidates in the recruitment I believe it is important to share my decision now in advance of your presentation of candidates to the City Council.  I sincerely appreciate your consideration of me as a candidate and particularly the opportunity to clarify the facts regarding several newspaper articles that appeared about me on the Internet.

“This is an exciting time in the Fort Pierce community.  With unanimous support from the Fort Pierce City Commission, I was recently accepted in the 2012 class of the Senior Executive Institute at the University of Virginia.  In addition, the City is making measured progress on our adopted strategic planning initiatives.  The long anticipated $28 million marina reconstruction project begins this week and next week I am presenting the City Commission with a two-year balanced budget proposal.  I also have tremendous respect and confidence in the dedicated City staff that continuously provide dependable quality services to our residents and make this such a wonderful community to live.

While the November 2012 general election has a majority of my City Commissioners up for re-election, including the Mayor’s seat, I have decided to remain committed to my role and responsibilities as City Manager in Fort Pierce as we aspire to transform ourselves into a high performance local government organization.

Thank you again, John.  Perhaps our paths will cross again when the time is right.”

At some point, Recor had a change of heart, as he traveled to Ocean City on April 13 for his second interview. However, Recor told Perona, according to TCPalm, he came to Ocean City for the second job interview just as a courtesy and had no intention of relocating.

"I had no idea," Perona said in an interview with TCPalm. "How do you resign from something, withdraw your name, and then show up for an interview? I don’t know."

What all that means for Ocean City is unclear at the moment, but the job belongs to Recor, who seemingly had no other choice to take the Ocean City offer as Ft. Pierce commissioners have expressed disappointment and shock over hearing of Recor again job hunting.

Recor told the commission in March Ft. Pierce was where he wanted to be and where he saw his future after being in the running for at least two other Florida jobs.

In a March 5 interview with TCPalm, Recor said, "Every day, my job as city manager here in Fort Pierce presents me with a new and exciting challenge, and that’s what keeps me coming to work. Until my job gets boring (or) until there’s not another challenge for me, I’m going to want to be the city manager in Fort Pierce."

At least one member of the community in Florida was seeking to close Recor’s storied chapter in Ft. Pierce even if he did not accept the resort’s city manager job. Recor was hired by Ft. Pierce, Fla. in 2005 and became city manager in 2008.

Linda Hudson, a candidate for mayor of Ft. Pierce in this fall’s election, has requested an agenda item for the Monday, May 7 meeting in Ft. Pierce to include a discussion of the termination of Recor’s contract. It’s unclear whether the support of the commission is there for that, but Recor did barely escape a contract termination in a 3-2 vote last October.

In a Monday email to the Ft. Pierce Commission obtained by The Dispatch from Hudson, she wrote, “It now appears that Mr. Recor is seeking employment elsewhere, and contrary to what he has assured the commissioners, the press and the public, the confidence that three commissioners placed in him last October seems wishful thinking. To clarify what the Commission is facing, the agenda item on Monday, May 7, 2012, should include a frank discussion with Mr. Recor about positions that he is seeking elsewhere. If he has sought, or is seeking, a job elsewhere, it would be prudent to, at the very least, rescind the vote approving the expenditure of $6,000 for the course in July. Further, the Commission should vote to terminate its contract with Mr. Recor, and deduct the amount paid for the July course from his final compensation. We count on our elected commissioners to hold the staff accountable, primarily through their choice of city manager. Once trust is lost, so is the ability to have a well-run city. How many times can Mr. Recor say one thing, and do the opposite, before the Commission has had enough?  Let me assure you, the voting public in Fort Pierce has had enough. Do the right thing for the taxpayers of Fort Pierce.”

Recor responded in an email to Hudson a few hours later on Monday, addressing the issue and the request for the meeting agenda item.

“If you are in fact elected mayor of the City of Fort Pierce, I hope that you serve the people of this community better by understanding that there is always more to the story than what is printed in the newspaper,” Recor wrote to Hudson. “However, since you have called for a nonsense agenda item seeking termination of my contract on the May 7 Commission agenda, I would be happy to meet with you and discuss my March 6 written withdrawal from the Ocean City City Manager recruitment, the same time I withdrew as a finalist in Boynton Beach City Manager recruitment.”

Recor’s annual salary with Ft. Pierce is approximately $133,640. He works on an annual contract, which renews itself each year. Recor must give 90 days’ notice, according to his contract, but the current tension would most likely lead to an earlier departure.

Since Dare’s removal last summer in Ocean City, Mayor Rick Meehan has been serving as city manager.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.