OCEAN CITY – City Manager David Recor’s accident in a city vehicle this month may have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back as it was announced on Monday the Mayor and City Council accepted Recor’s resignation.
“Prior to this open session, the Mayor and City Council had a closed session to discuss personnel matters. Actions taken were the Mayor and City Council mutually agreed and accepted City Manager David Recor’s resignation,” Council President Lloyd Martin said.
On July 10, Recor, 48, was driving west on Route 50 in his city vehicle — a 2014 Chevy Tahoe — when he struck a road sign pole near Golf Course Road around 7:30 a.m. Recor, who said he was on his way to Wawa for his morning coffee, did not immediately stop at the scene of the collision and instead turned around at the intersection of Routes 50 and 611 before returning to remove the downed sign from the highway. He dismissed eyewitness accounts that he fled the scene, but admitted he did not stop initially at the site of the collision.
The accident was witnessed by an off-duty Ocean City police officer. Significant damage to the front of the vehicle, including a broken headlight and a cracked windshield, occurred.
In an email last week, Recor took exception to what was reported by The Dispatch online about the incident on Wednesday, July 15.
“Contrary to what has been ‘reported’ and now published, I did not flee the scene. After hitting the road sign, in order to return to the location safely, I made a U-turn at the very next intersection at Route 50 and Route 611. I immediately returned directly to the location and removed the broken sign from the roadway. I received a phone call from the Town’s Communications Center asking if my vehicle had been involved in an accident. I responded that I had inadvertently hit a road sign. Communications then indicated that a Maryland State Trooper was in route to the location and I subsequently met with Maryland State Trooper Dick to explain what had occurred,” Recor wrote.
The State of Maryland Motor Vehicle Crash Report, obtained for a fee from the Maryland State Police Berlin Barracks today, concludes Recor did in fact return to the scene to pick up the sign but then left the scene and only returned after being called by Ocean City Communications. The report indicates the trooper was talking with a witness — an off-duty Ocean City Police officer — at the scene when Recor returned.
“Upon arrival at the scene, the suspect vehicle was not on location. While talking with the witness, I observed the suspect vehicle return to the scene, remove the sign from the roadway and then leave. … I then contacted Ocean City Communications who was able to make contact with Recor and advised him to come back to the scene … 19 minutes after being dispatched I made contact with Recor at the Wine Rack adjacent to the collision scene,” the report’s narrative read.
At City Hall, City Risk Manager Eric Lagstrom told Recor he would have to take a drug and alcohol test as is consistent with city policy in these situations when city-owned property is involved. Recor did not immediately comply, according to sources and went about his daily business. Martin and Police Commission Chairman Councilman Doug Cymek were immediately informed of the situation.
Recor said he followed city protocol and earlier reports that he refused to take the test when requested. It’s typical city policy for employees to take the test when initially asked to ensure an accurate reading.
Recor explained he waited until the end of business to take the alcohol and drug test because he was busy interviewing candidates for the vacant Planning and Zoning Department director post on Friday. Last Wednesday, the test results came back negative.
Recor was charged by Maryland State Police with negligent driving vehicle in careless and imprudent manner endangering property, life and person. The charge carries a fine of $140.
This is not the first time Recor has damaged his city vehicle. Most recently, in mid-June, approximately $1,500 in repairs was necessary after a gasoline can toppled over inside his vehicle. While in the city shop for those repairs, he asked for his windows to be tinted as well. That work was completed.
It’s been confirmed this incident alone did not lead to this week’s resignation, but it played a significant part. The decision was made to accept Recor’s resignation during Monday’s closed session. However, a closed session was held on Thursday regarding Recor’s accident and possible termination but the council waited to review anticipated police reports prior to making a final decision. That closed session meeting on Thursday reportedly involved high-ranking city officials and the council sought their views on Recor. It’s no secret relations have been strained between Recor and select staff members at times with at least a few employees actually keeping an informal running tab of money Recor cost the city through damage to his vehicles as well as computers and electronic devices.
Following Monday’s meeting, Mayor Rick Meehan stated Recor worked until close of business on Monday and took his leave at that time.
“It was a mutual decision. That is the only detail I can give you because it is a personnel matter,” Meehan said. “The City Charter states that in the absence of the city manager the mayor assumes the role until another city manager is hired to fill the position. As of right now, I am the acting city manager.”
This will be Meehan’s second stint standing in as city manager. In October 2011, the mayor assumed the position for nine months following the forced resignation of former city manager Dennis Dare, who now serves on council.
“We could hire an interim city manager but the desire of the council is to go ahead and have me assume that position, and to immediately work with the human resources director to return to the council with a plan to begin to advertise for the position,” Meehan said.
Last November three new councilmembers — Wayne Hartman, Matthew James and Tony DeLuca — were elected to council, and having not dealt with the previous city manager search Meehan briefed them on how the process will begin.
“We will be coming back recommending a national search, which would include anybody internally who would want to apply. That is the right thing to do for a city of our size and for a position of that importance to find somebody we think fits what we are looking for in a city manager,” the mayor said.
The process will most likely mirror the previous city manager search, according to Meehan.
“We will interview national search firms, choose the appropriate firm, and move forward in hiring them to begin the search for city manager. The national firms have the data base and all the information that helps get through the initial process that would take up more time than our human resources director and the department has,” the mayor said. “Last time it was nine months. Hopefully this time it won’t take that long. It’s a different council in a different time but I know the council is going to want to follow the right path to hire the right person. There is a cost associated with it but it is one of those things that you have to do it and you have to do it right.”
The mayor acknowledged the positive attributes Recor brought to Ocean City in his three years serving as city manager.
“When David interviewed for the position, he stood out as the best candidate, and he was hired. David brought a lot of good things to Ocean City. He helped us get on track with the strategic planning, which was his forte; planning and setting forth agendas for the Mayor and City Council was something that he excelled at. During his tenure here it was something that he started, will be left and will continue onward,” Meehan said. “David is a good man and I wish him all the best.”
Recor, an International City/County Management Association credentialed manager since 2007, was hired by the city in May 2012, by a 4-3 vote of the council, after Dare was terminated by the City Council at that time. Recor came to the city from Fort Pierce, Fla. after a nationwide search.
In September 2011, the previous council majority — comprised of former council members Jim Hall, Joe Hall, Brent Ashley and Margaret Pillas — voted in closed session to ask for former city manager Dennis Dare, who had been the chief administrative officer since 1990, to resign, and if Dare did not resign he would be terminated. The reason given was “a change in management direction.” Those in opposition were councilmembers Doug Cymek, Lloyd Martin and Mary Knight. Subsequently, Dare submitted his resignation. A year later, Dare was voted to serve on the council.
In October 2011, the council majority voted to conduct a national search to hire a city manager. The Town of Ocean City hired Springsted Inc. to conduct the national search for city manager leading to Recor being hired in May 2012 and filling the position in June 2012.
Initially the city offered the position to Public Works Director Hal Adkins, who declined. As of Tuesday, Adkins stated he has not been offered the position, either interim or full-time, this time around.
After the city and Recor initially reached an impasse regarding terms of employment, Recor eventually agreed to an annual salary of $147,000 and three weeks paid vacation the first year increasing to five every year after as well as $10,000 to assist with moving expenses.
The signing of the contract came after a culmination of a stormy month for Recor and Ocean City. Recor’s identity was revealed three weeks prior to being hired after The Dispatch obtained former Councilman Joe Hall’s cell phone records, which confirmed that he called his “front runner” in the process on April 11, 2012 and had a 13-minute conversation to discuss the nature of the council-manager form of government.
The cell phone number was tracked to Recor, who was at the time the city manager of Fort Pierce, Fla., a diverse coastal town with a population of 44,000.
Once it was proven Recor was in the mix of the next city manager search process in Ocean City, the Fort Pierce Commission began to ask questions. Recor initially told commission members he withdrew from the Ocean City process in March, but it was later discovered on the day he sent his emailed withdrawal he was convinced by the city’s search firm to stay in the running since he was the favorite.
On April 13, 2012 two days after Joe Hall called him, Recor and another finalist had their last interviews with council members in Ocean City. On May 1, 2012, the council voted 4-3 to authorize Springsted, Inc. to begin contract negotiations with Recor.
On May 7, 2012, Recor told his Fort Pierce commissioners he was staying with the city, but he never officially said he was out of the Ocean City process. At that same meeting, Recor was blasted by Commissioner Tom Perona, who sought a special meeting to discuss his termination.
After Perona let him have it, Recor reportedly knew his days in Fort Pierce as city manager were about to come to a close. That’s reportedly when contract negotiations between Recor and the city heated up, and a few days later Ocean City received a completed employment agreement from Recor.
In an interview in May 2012, one month before he officially started in Ocean City, Recor outlined his vision for Ocean City.
“I think the department heads and employees in Ocean City will find that I’m actually a very collaborative manager. I involve the department heads in the decision-making process. I believe it’s important to have as many eyes on a problem as you can. In the end, I accept responsibility for the decision, but I do believe in ‘group think’ and identifying options and alternatives and presenting the council with those,” Recor said. “I am a math guy. I love working with spreadsheets and doing quantitative analysis. One thing I emphasis to my department heads and elected officials is as a conservative steward of the public’s funds that I keep the financial solvency of the organization at the forefront of every decision that we make.”
When Recor came on board in 2012, he became Ocean City’s fourth city manager, following Tony Barrett, Joe Braun and Dennis Dare.