Between The Lines

Between The Lines

All things are cyclical and a great example of that is now playing out in Ocean City. The municipality finds itself today in a similar scenario — albeit under a different context — as it did in the fall of 2011.

The City Council was unhappy with City Manager David Recor, got rid of him and is about to start a nationwide search for his replacement. That’s essentially what happened in 2011 when a former council axed long-time City Manager Dennis Dare. The council at that time tried to spin it that he retired, but it was clear he was told to resign or he would be fired. This week it was publicly said that Recor’s resignation was accepted and that it was a “mutual” thing, but the reality is it was the city who wanted him out. Evidence of that can be found in the fact he was given six months’ severance pay, which came about from his contract in the event he was terminated.

In an exit interview with TC Palm in 2012, Recor, who was completing his last week as city manager at Fort Pierce, Fla., said of Ocean City, “I’m going to knock their socks off, and they’re going to love me. I’m going to make things happen there.”

After three years on the job as just Ocean City’s fourth city manager, that never happened.

The context behind that quote is important. It was in May of 2012 after this newspaper learned that Ocean City Councilman Joe Hall had used his city cell phone to call Recor during the search process to replace Dennis Dare. Recor was one of two finalists at the time and that phone call — confirmed through a cell phone records analysis by this paper — outed Recor, putting him in hot water again in Fort Pierce, Fla. and setting off a bizarre sequence of events, including Recor saying he was publicly staying in Fort Pierce while actually still in the mix for the job here. It was eventually decided the council there had enough of Recor and lost faith in him after several high-profile mistakes and seemingly constant attempts by Recor to seek city manager posts elsewhere. A similar situation played out here, but there’s no evidence to show he was looking for other work at this time.

For the majority of the council, it was time to move on. Although nobody was speaking publicly this week, word is they did not feel Recor was able to lead the city effectively any longer. While the public comments are it was “mutual,” the reality is the council wanted Recor out. It was not a matter of if. It was when, as in do it now or later. It was decided now was the time, and Recor was given a severance pay consistent with if he was fired.

That, of course, contradicts the city’s position all week that it was a “mutual” decision, but the fact it was done in the middle of a busy summer season confirms the council was resolute on moving on immediately.

On Monday, the new street performer regulations go into effect and privately I understand many in Ocean City were just hoping the July 27 inaction date would come without a repeat visit from the pole dancer, who enjoyed several weeks of fame last summer. Fortunately, she never came back.

Months and months of work as well as a significant amount of money were spent to get these street performers regulations right. The city contracted with a First Amendment law firm to review the proposed ordinance, and the final product appears to reach a middle ground that has long been sought when it comes to the buskers. Previously, the Mayor and Council reached too far in restricting the street performers and landed in court consequently. A tremendous amount of city resources were spent on defending the city and in the end the court ruled against the town, resulting in a “free-for-all” for many years on the Boardwalk.

The most significant part of the ordinance I believe is the allocation of spaces at City Hall each week. That has been needed for some time. The ordinance reads, “The Town Clerk shall designate spaces on the Boardwalk between and including South 1st Street and 9th Street … will be available on a first-come, first-serve allocation and selection system for two periods of use; the first period shall be Monday through Thursday and the second period shall be Friday through Sunday … the Designated Spaces will be available for selection twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays one week in advance …”

Since it was enacted, there has not been much to report about the new City Watch camera system, which cost about $100,000 initially. However, this week the benefits of such a system paid off.

The surveillance system allows police to monitor activity in a pro-active fashion rather than simply be reactive as was the case in the past.

Last Saturday, a Boardwalk business owner, who should be commended for alerting police, noticed a man with a semi-automatic handgun on him. It was clearly visible to people on the Boardwalk and creating a stir apparently.

After being alerted, police were able to use the City Watch camera system to locate and track the suspect, who was quickly apprehended without incident. There are surely other examples of the benefits of this program, but here’s one that clearly confirms this was a wise addition to the town’s crime fighting arsenal.