Saturday, September 29, 2007

Be Prepared!

I am digging through the Beach Steering Committee Report and a box of other Beach related items this afternoon. The first item I will be posting here is a copy of the historic designation report from 1998. Although never acted upon, it is a great overview of the City's history. It weaves the overall history of the area and the development of the beach property together, showing how the beach served as an attraction for tourist and how it became the social center for the City.

There is a lot of material and I am still undecided as to exactly what to include and how best to format it. It's a lot of "stuff".

Update on Gulfstream Appeal

One of the other items heard by the City Commission at their special meeting last Wednesday was the appeal of the variances issued by the Planning and Zoning Board related to the Gulfstream Hotel expansion. Mr. Charles Celi, who lives in the Gulfstream Towers, immediately to the south of the property, filed an appeal within 30 days after the decision. That brought him before the City Commission a couple of months ago. There were a total of four decision he was appealing.

At the initial City Commission meeting, Attorney Karns gave little direction to the Commission as to what to look for in deciding in favor or against the appeal. The burden of prof was on Mr. Celi to prove that the Planning and Zoning Board did not have enough competent or substantial evidence by which to make a decision. In order to do this effectively, he needed a complete transcript of the meeting - which was not available when it was first heard by the Commission. The discussion then focused on the merits of the series of variances themselves - which was not the charge of the Commission. If you attended this meeting, you probably left in an equally or more confused state than the Mayor and Commission did. However, it was very clear the direction that Mr. Celi was given at that meeting - we cannot determine the validity of the appeal if you don't provide us with a complete transcript of the meeting. The Commission did end up denying one of the appeals related to a Certificate of Appropriateness for the historic hotel at the first meeting.

So, fast forward to last Wednesday night. In the back-up material provided to the Commission, there was about a 30 page "transcript" of the proceedings which took place at the May 30th City Commission meeting. There was some initial discussion about how long Mr. Celi would have to present his case, with the Commission settling on ten minutes for all three items. Attorney Karns reminded the Commission that there were only to determine through review of the transcript if they thought that the Planning and Zoning Board had enough information to render a decision.

Mr. Celi gave some rambling testimony - talking a lot about unity of title issues and how the parking had a long standing parking problem and referred little to the transcript he provided. When the attorney representing the Gulfstream responded, he presented an affadavit from the court reporter that prepared the "transcript" of the Planning and Zoning meeting. The court reporter indicated that she was told only to supply a transcript based upon sections of the tape that Mr. Celi told her to provide. The attorney rightly referred to this as a "cherry picked" version of the transcript that was not reflective of the meeting and that the Commission couldn't rightly decide whether an appeal was merited based on this partial record. It turns out that there were almost 300 pages of transcript - so what was given to the Commission represented 10% of the meeting!

Two of the Commissioners (care to guess which ones?) grasped at straws trying to find a way to overturn the Planning and Zoning Board decision. Commissioner Jennings was willing to give Mr. Celi another chance to come back with a full transcript. Commissioner Golden thought (get this!) that the Planning and Zoning Board had too much information, the meeting went on too long and therefore couldn't make a worthy decision. She also asked for a definition of "verbatim". When it finally dawned on them that they didn't have the required information to determine the validity of the appeal, all the appeals were turned down unanimously! In fact, an initial motion made by Commissioner Jennings and seconded by Commissioner Golden to approve the appeal failed on a 5-0 vote.

This is another hurdle jumped for the Gulfstream. I understand that they are in front of the Building Board of Appeals now on a permitting/code matter related to work on the historic hotel. I'll do a little research and see if I can find out what is going on there. But, besides these distractions and delays, the project is inching forward.

For your information, the following are properties in Palm Beach County are owned by Charles Celi - the highlighted ones being in the City of Lake Worth:

Friday, September 28, 2007

Last Day for the Opinion Poll on the Mayor's Performance - Sunday - 9/30

On Monday, I will announce the results of the poll. Don't be afraid to indicate your opinion. As of 11:30 tonight there were 17 individual hits on the blog today. Apparently, everyone is not selecting a choice that reflects their opinion. If you have more to say, you can use the comment area below the post, or simply click on the choice that best represents your impression of how our Mayor is doing 6 months into the job.

Upcoming Truth Matters Schedule

Just a reminder of the new Truth Matters Show schedule. From now on we will air the show on the the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, from 8 to 9 p.m. These will be on Lake Worth You can reach the live shows by clicking here. You can also listen to archived shows any time by clicking here.

During months when there is a fifth Tuesday, we'll use that opportunity for an extra show. Thank you all for your enthusiastic responses!

Here are a quick list of dates through the end of 2007. Feel free to cut and paste:
  • October 9th
  • October 23rd
  • October 30th
  • November 13th
  • November 27th
  • December 11th
  • and Special Holiday version to be announced!
Remember, you can post your questions and comments on the discussion board - see link on right side of page.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Update: City Manager's Contract

The City Commission met in a special meeting last night. One of the items reviewed was the proposed City Manager's contract. (The other major item was the appeal of the Planning and Zoning Board decisions on the Gulfstream Hotel. I am happy to report that all three appeal requests failed on a vote of 5-0 - more later on this topic).

The Commission will be considering a revised contract based upon the discussion among the Commissioners and Mayor, and in response to public comment. Some key areas that will undergo revision are the following:
  • Term of Contract: Commissioners expressed a strong preference for a straight three-year contract. No initial eight month period and no discussion regarding the eight month only contract.
  • Severance: Reducing the amount of the severance pay from 1 year to 6 months.
  • Residency: Eliminating the residency requirement (one of the reasons given for reducing the amount of severance.
  • Termination: Establishing guidelines for dismissal for "cause".
  • Benefits: Quantifying the amount of the benefit package for further evaluation.
There was also discussion regarding limiting outside employment and be subject to Commission approval. It also needs to be noted that the contract beginning date of the middle of November allows for a six month break (non-paid).

The Commission will address the revised contract in a meeting scheduled 30 minutes before the start time of their regular meeting of October 3 (5:00 p.m.).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More on the City Manager's Proposed Contract...

As I continue to review these documents, the following questions and issues arise:

Renewal Option Contract:
  • Under Section 1: Term, the anniversary date of the contract would be November 17, 2007. The contract would be "automatically" renewed "annually" ninety days before the anniversary date - which would be August 16, 2008 - but the eight month initial term expires July 16, 2008. What is magic about July and what about the missing month?
  • By my calculations, the salary stated here on a bi-weekly basis totals $169,999.96. In the Palm Beach Post article today there was a much lower figure, which I think assumed a bi-monthly payment plan. We need to clarify whether this is bi-weekly or bi-monthly.
  • We need to know the dollar impact related to the items listed in Section 8: Retirement - especially "catch-up provisions" and "maximum allowable contributions".
  • Section 9: Terminations - Nothing is mentioned about termination for "cause" and how provisions for severance would be eliminated if that were the case.
  • Section 10: Separation - Only if convicted of a felony would he not be able to collect severance. There are a lot of despicable deeds that could be committed short of a felony where he shouldn't be able to collect severance - we need a separation for "cause" provision.
  • Same section: Why do we need to cut him a check for the full amount of severance 7 days after termination? Isn't the regular bi-monthly payment adequate for 12 months?
  • Same section: What is "executive leave"?
  • Same section: If termination occurs during the first eight months, he is eligible for severance equal to one year's salary - not so in the short term version.
  • Section 13: Hours of Work - Can we eliminate this section? This makes it sound like he can drive by the building and conduct business on his cell phone. We need someone that is PRESENT and is IN TOUCH with what is going on at City Hall. Maybe we need a section that talks about minimum number of hours a week to be present?
  • Section 14: Outside Activities - No problem with this but can we have a limit on the number and length of these consulting activities? And what constitutes Lake Worth as being his primary employer - I would hope it is more than just we are the one that pays him the most. That term should be defined.
  • Section 15: Moving and Relocation Expenses Recommended - First of all, eliminate the "recommended" and eliminate "if required by the City Commission". We should have a City Manager that lives here in the City.
Short Term Option
  • Compensation here equals $165,000 per year, based on a bi-weekly payment plan - more than the Post article (see link above).
  • Section 5: Vacation and Sick Leave - This is one month's worth of vacation which amounts to one eighth of his time here. Didn't he have a vacation during his interim period? Was that paid or un-paid? This seems excessive for a short term contract.
Bottom line: This contract needs a lot more work and the City's interest must be better protected.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Proposed City Manager's Contract(s) - Excerpts and Analysis

The following are excerpts from the two proposed City Manager employment agreements with Interim City Manager Robert Baldwin. These contracts will be discussed in the entirety, one hopes, at the City Commission meeting on 9/26 at 5:30 p.m. It is the last item on the agenda. The two versions represent one that carries a renewal option and one that is only for an initial eight month term, with monthly extensions. The bulk of the agreements are identical, except for some differences related to separation.

Let's look at the sections below and point out some details. Remember, you can click on the images to make them more legible.

The above is the start of the contract with the renewal option showing that the initial period will be eight months and then "automatically renewed" for three years until terminated by either party. Why does this contract have an initial term of eight months to begin with? It sounds to me like the City Manager is hesitant to take the job or has other possibilities that will reveal themselves in eight months or so.

The total compensation totals four cents short of $170,000. It includes a 5% cost of living increase each year and leaves open the possibility for merit increases (more on that later). The contract includes all benefits with no employee contribution, including life insurance at twice the employees salary (!).

For some reason, the contract grants a month worth of vacation and sick time (for both versions, by the way). So, it's foreseeable that the employee could take a month vacation - one-eighth of his time here? And any un-used portion of that time would be compensated at time of termination of the contract(s). He was on vacation about a month ago. Was that paid or un-paid ad part the interim contract? This contract also includes a $600 per month transportation allowance.

This section deals with the severance package - which is equal to a year's salary with all attendant benefits intact. Plus, as indicated, all unused vacation and sick time. Question: How does "executive leave" fit into this equation? What is it?

Now, on to the performance evaluation provisions.

So, as far as the evaluation of the City Manager goes, it would be after a procedure is established for the evaluation that is acceptable to the Commission and the Manager. Then, it would be conducted in individual meetings with the Commissioners and then a report given to the employee - nothing about this being done in a public meeting. This should be a matter of course. He can come and go as he pleases during the day or night. He can also consult at will, while still having Lake Worth be his primary employment. Between the vacation and these provisions, will we be seeing him?? He only needs to establish residency within a year of the first three year extension - "if required by the City Commission".

The above is the introduction to the eight month contract.
This "Final Draft" took four months of negotiation. Commissioner Golden was lead negotiator. I wonder what the first draft looked like!! I don't know where the City is protected here and if we really will have a full time chief executive officer leading the administrative functions of the City. Or, if we will have someone whose loyalties may lie elsewhere.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New Poll Posted

You will notice at the top of the page, on the right side below the banner, there is a poll that asks the question, "How is Mayor Jeff Clemens doing?" This is the first poll that I have done on this blog - it was just recently made possible in a Blogger upgrade. The topic I thought was appropriate as it has been six months since the newest members of the Commission took the oath of office.

I encourage you to select the choice that best reflects your opinion. The poll will run until October 1, 2007. From time to time, I will post other polls on the blog. Your ideas are welcome by e-mailing at me

As always, thanks for visiting!

Special City Commission meeting - 9/26 3 p.m. and 5 :30 p.m.

Just a note that the City Commission will be holding two meetings on Wednesday. The one that begins at 3:00 p.m. will discuss electric and water utility issues. The one starting at 5:30 p.m. will deal with:
  • Appointments to the Mayor's Climate Control Task Force
  • City Manager's Contract
  • Gulfstream Appeal
  • Other items.
This is an unusual meeting - outside the regular 1st and 3rd Tuesday schedule. I will post a copy of the agenda when it's available.

Check your schedule and see if you can attend. I happen to be chairing a meeting at the County at 2 p.m., but will make it back to Lake Worth to attend whatever is still left of the meeting(s).

Here's the agenda for the workshop meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. It will include discussion of both the City's contract with FMPA (Florida Municipal Power Authority) All Requirements Project and the City's Reverse Osmosis Plant discharge. Both of these are important topics - too bad the meeting is being held at 3 in the afternoon: