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Lake City News

Interim LC City Manager Ami Fields Resigns, Un-Resigns, Resigns Again: Today 9 am – Next Steps


Columbia County Observer photo & graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – The saga of Ami Fields' interesting relationship with the City of Lake City came to an end late yesterday afternoon, revealing structural weaknesses in Lake City itself.

The City Clerk’s Time Line

At 04:55 pm yesterday, City Clerk Audrey Sikes announced a special meeting for 09:00 am this morning, September 15, 2021. Ms. Sikes prepared a time line for the City Council outlining the resignations of Ms. Fields.

Your reporter verified the timeline, and it appears accurate.

1:07 PM:  Ms. Fields emailed Clerk Sikes a message to hold on.

2:15 PM:  Attorney Koberlein advised Clerk Sikes to notify IT of Ms. Fields [Sic] resignation.  IT Help Desk Technician Matt Saylor reported Ms. Fields verbally rescinded her resignation at 1:00 PM.

2:30 PM:  Ms. Fields verbally rescinded her resignation to City Clerk Audrey Sikes in the City Clerks [sic] Office (witnessed by IT Help Desk Technician Matt Saylor and Information Technology Director Matt Benedetti).

3:30 PM:  Ms. Fields withdrew her rescinded resignation on a phone call with Clerk Sikes. Ms. Fields is to provide this in writing via email later from home.

3:42 PM:  Clerk Sikes notified IT (Matt Saylor) of Ms. Fields withdraw [sic] of her rescinded resignation.

3:43 PM:  Clerk Sikes called [City] Attorney Koberlein and notified of Ms. Fields withdraw of her rescinded resignation.

This morning, the City Council will decide whether to accept Ms. Fields' resignation and what to do next.

A Rocky Road

Initially hired as HR Director, Ms. Fields was terminated in June after a couple of false starts by former City Manager Joe Helfenberger, who gave as a career-killing reason that Ms. Fields wasn’t a “good fit.”

At that time, not fitting in was mainly Ms. Fields' bucking up against City Clerk Audrey Sikes and her unwritten policies and recognizing what appeared to be an "unholy" alliance between the Clerks' Office, City Attorney Fred Koberlein, and others.

Ms. Fields was not alone in this recognition, as former City Manager Joe Helfenberger also had a similar recognition.

However, during her time as HR Director, Ms. Fields was beginning to demonstrate a tragic flaw, eventually leading to her downfall.

On June 21, Ms. Fields was rehired by the City Council (3-2) to fill the spot of suspended City Manager Joe Helfenberger.

Before and after Ms. Fields was hired as Interim City Manager, Columbia County's 'white' good ole' boys were predicting that City Utility Director Paul Dyal would eventually fill the interim spot. One told your reporter, "It's not over."

Ms. Fields was not bashful in bucking up against what she saw as issues in Lake City's government, primarily: unfettered access of the City Clerk to the City's email servers, public record redaction issues, a lack of written policies, in particular a written IT policy, a City that generally seemed to run on unwritten agreements, and a police chief who spent what she wanted with virtually no accountability.

Ms. Fields was also under a high level of scrutiny from some community members, particularly her background, which should have been thoroughly vetted before she was hired, but wasn't.

Ms. Fields garnered loyalty among the City’s employees while Interim City Manager.

On September 7, during the unsuccessful coup attempt to oust Ms. Fields, the City’s Directors came to the microphone to defend her performance.

Utility Director Paul Dyal said if the Interim City Manager was gone, he would be, too.
Director of Utilities Paul Dyal let it be known if Ms. Fields was gone, so was he.

Utility Director Paul Dyal told the Council, “That's my leader right there…She is tryin' to do more in the last three months than Helfenberger did in the last three years…If this is the direction this Council wants to go, then I don't have no reason to work for the City no more."

Now that it appears that Ms. Fields will be gone, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Dyal has a “reason to work for the City.”

Arguably, Ms. Fields' most notable accomplishment was taking care of City salary inequities for some and recognizing that a $15hr minimum wage was something the cash-strapped City needed to do.

It is not clear if the City Council knew for what it was voting when it passed the budget at its first public hearing, but the $15hr minimum was approved unanimously.

What’s Next?

The City Council will decide this morning on its next steps.

City Attorney Fred Koberlein, the man who wants to be a judge, who on Monday evening accused your reporter of "stalking" him for attending Fort White Town Council meetings where he is Town Attorney, will give the City Council legal advice.

City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr. and Winnie the PoohMr. Koberlein has had interesting legal theories in the past, such as the "Winnie-the-Pooh 'Factor'", and recently claiming that the Interim City Manager was a charter officer when the City Charter is silent on anything about an "Interim City Manager."

Ultimately, it is expected that the City Council will choose someone to run the City until it chooses a permanent City Manager.

At this time, even though the word on the street is that it will be Utility Director Paul Dyal, it remains anybody’s guess.

Epilogue (analysis)

Now, circling back to that "tragic flaw" which was the centerpiece of all Greek tragic characters and was picked up by Shakespeare – yes, there is nothing new since the time of the Greeks.

In Ms. Fields' case, it was her skin. Not her skin tone, which in these parts and throughout America is political if one is not white, but its thickness.

Ms. Fields had 'thin skin' and couldn't take the heat, and in politics, if one can't take the heat, all is lost.

That’s too bad, because that gal had promise, but for that “tragic flaw.”

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