New City Manager Could Start In June; Contract Talks In Final Phase

OCEAN CITY — Forty-eight hours after stating his intentions to stay in Ft. Pierce, Fla., David Recor resigned as city manager of the coastal town Wednesday and is currently finalizing an agreement to become Ocean City’s next city manager.

As of yesterday afternoon, an accord was not official, but all sides are indicating they are close to reaching terms, which includes a reported annual salary of $147,000, three weeks paid vacation, a city vehicle and $10,000 in moving expenses. Recor, who could start in Ocean City as soon as June 11, was making about $135,000 annually in Ft. Pierce. For comparison’s sake, former City Manager Dennis Dare, dismissed last September after 29 years with the city, was making an annual salary of $173,000.

 “There’s no real update as of right now. The final details went to [City Solicitor] Guy [Ayres} yesterday at 4 p.m. and Guy was going through putting all the legalese in the contract,” Council President Jim Hall said yesterday. “The contract was sent back yesterday [Wednesday] to the headhunter, who then corresponds with Mr. Recor. I just told them to call me later as soon as you hear something.”

Recor has withheld comment until the agreement is finalized.

On Monday, it seemed that Ocean City and Recor had reached an impasse over certain terms that have not been specifically verified. The city had set a deadline for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. for Recor to accept the latest offer. Recor has reportedly accepted the job in principle, but details are still being ironed out.

Last Tuesday, the council voted in 4-3 fashion — Brent Ashley, Jim Hall, Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas in support and Doug Cymek, Mary Knight and Lloyd Martin opposed — to offer the job to Recor and for Springsted Inc., the city’s city manager search process consultant, to begin negotiations.

Early contract talks did not go as smoothly as expected and at several points in the process it appeared Recor, who considers coming to Ocean City as “coming home’ since he has roots on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and the city were not going to be able to come to terms. On Tuesday, Council President Jim Hall said the city was giving Recor till Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. to decide on the offer.

“We have negotiated in good faith. We went back and forth a couple times. We are not changing our offer. If we don’t hear something by Wednesday at 5:30, we will go back and re-advertise and get a new pool of candidates. There’s no charge from the consultant to do that,” Jim Hall said.

At no point did contract talks look bleaker than at Monday’s Ft. Pierce, Fla. Commission meeting where Recor made it clear he was staying put, but then later at that same meeting realized his days in Ft. Pierce were numbered.

At that meeting, Recor broke his public silence and discussed the Ocean City job, saying it was tempting to consider returning to the Eastern Shore.

“My future is in Fort Pierce," Recor said. "So, I think that should put a period on the issue that we have been discussing, at least from my perspective. … Because the call of home was so strong, I felt that I owed it to myself and to my family to take one last hard look at professional opportunity, which I have now done. In doing so, what I discovered was that home has two meanings for me. One is that place that I will forever hold in my memories and the other is the future. As I have said before, mayor and commissioners, my future is in Ft. Pierce.”

The reality was that all changed quickly when Commissioner Tom Perona publicly blasted Recor and made it clear he wanted to make a personnel change.

In March, Recor withdrew from an employment process in Boynton Beach, Fla. as well as Ocean City. In an email to Springstead’s Jon Anzvino, Recor withdrew from the local city manager process. However, after learning within hours of sending the email he was the front runner in the process, Recor remained in the search process.

On April 13, Recor was in Ocean City for his second interview as a finalist. Two days prior, he was called by Councilman Joe Hall and had a 13-minute conversation, which ultimately led to his identity in the process being uncovered in what was supposed to be a confidential process.

About a week later, in Ft. Pierce, it was discovered Recor was involved in the Ocean City hunt for the next city manager. In an email last month, Recor told Perona he had withdrawn from the process and had “nothing to hide”, but when he actually was still involved.

All of that came to a head at Monday night’s meeting in Ft. Pierce, a coastal town with a population of 44,000. With Recor deeming he was staying in Ft. Pierce, although not officially saying he was out of the Ocean City process either, Perona saying, “When David Recor sat for that interview in Maryland, he lit the match that ignited his return bridge to his job in Fort Pierce. Today in my mind, that bridge is a pile of charred wood and twisted metal. … Since we were not successful in past attempts to achieve a consensus for no confidence, I plead with you that we consider not renewing his contract …"

Originally, the Ft. Pierce Commission was to vote on Recor’s future later this month, but instead a brief special meeting was held Wednesday night when the commission unanimously voted to accept Recor’s resignation.

In an article in the TCPalm yesterday, prior to the special meeting to discuss his resignation, Recor admitted Perona’s comments had led him to the conclusion the bridge had been burned as well and that it was time to move on.

According to his resignation letter, Recor requested his resignation be effective May 11 and that he receive nine months’ salary plus payment of life and medical insurance and cash out on accrued vacation/sick time. In his letter, he pledged to work to make the transition smooth and urged the Ft. Pierce, Fla. Mayor and Commission to “please accept my offer of resignation. I believe that it will be in everyone’s best interests.”

He added, “As City Manager, I have reinvented Fort Pierce City Hall by reorganizing departments, restructuring staff, streamlining administrative processes and developing systems for better accountability. My administration has reduced the City’s ad valorem tax rate by more than 30% since 2005 and has also reduced the City’s General Fund by more than $22 million since 2008.”

According to the TCPalm last night, the severance package agreed to will result in Recor receiving more than $153,000, a figure calculated by the city’s finance department yesterday.

While his resignation was accepted unanimously, Mayor Bob Benton, who has been an elected official in Ft. Pierce for 19 years and was mayor when Recor became city manager in 2008, is sad to see Recor no longer with the city, saying, “I hated to see him go …”

Recor became city manager, Benton said, during a rough time for Ft. Pierce when tax revenue was declining and tough decisions had to be made.

“He came in and took care of business. He was the bad guy when our revenue dropped almost 50 percent in four years and we had layoffs, early retirement buyout but at the same time we didn’t raise taxes,” said Benton. “He showed people around here we can make government efficient. He got rid of the dead wood.”


Recor’s Job Search Timeline
Information Courtesy of TCPalm (Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers) and The Dispatch

May 2005: Recor was hired as deputy city manager of Ft. Pierce, Fla.

October 2008: Recor became city manager of Ft. Pierce.

February 2011: Recor was approached by Fort Lauderdale to apply for its city manager position and selected as one of 12 finalists, he later said.

Dec. 4, 2011: The Palm Beach Post reported Recor was one of the 16 semifinalists for the Boynton Beach city manager job.

March 5: Recor told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers he withdrew his name from the list of six finalists for the Boynton Beach job and planned to stay in Fort Pierce.

March 6: Recor wrote an email to Ocean City’s search firm stating he wanted to withdraw his name from its city manager recruitment and to stay in Fort Pierce. Later that same day, he learned he was a front runner for the post so he rescinded his withdrawal

April 11: Ocean City Councilman Joe Hall had a 13-minute conversation with his “front-runner” in the hiring process for a new city manager. According to cellphone records, obtained by The Dispatch, the number Hall called belonged to Recor.

April 20: The Dispatch reported on its website about the phone conversation.

April 27: Recor emailed Perona that he withdrew his name from the running for the Ocean City job in March, at the same time he withdrew his name from the running for the Boynton Beach job.

April 30: Perona said he talked to Recor 30 to 45 minutes about Recor withdrawing his name from the running for the Ocean City job, but Perona said Recor never mentioned he still met with Ocean City officials about the job on April 13.

May 1: Ocean City Council voted 4-3 to move forward with negotiations for the next city manager. The majority vote favored Recor. Recor told commissioners he still met with Ocean City officials when he took personal days in April to take his grandmother back up north.

May 7: Perona said at the City Commission meeting he planned to schedule a discussion at the next meeting about Recor’s future

May 8: Perona scheduled a discussion about whether to renew Recor’s contract at the May 21 meeting.

May 9: Benton scheduled a special City Commission meeting to discuss Recor’s resignation, which was accepted unanimously.

May 11: Recor’s last day at City Hall in Ft. Pierce

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.