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Mike Williams Gets Nod for Interim City Manager: MIA at the meeting & no resume. Councilman Hill, “That’s How They Do Business in Lake City.”

Lake City Council Chambers

LAKE CITY, FL – The City Council met in special session yesterday morning to act on Interim City Manager Ami Fields' resignation and discuss and “possibly” appoint an Interim City Manager. Out of the blue, Mike Williams, Ex Chamber of Commerce President, without setting a foot in the building, got the nod on a 3-1 vote.

But First
A Couple of Folks Recognized the Achievements of Ami Fields

Former City Councilman and Community Activist Glenel Bowden came to the microphone: “I personally think that Ms. Fields deserve [sic] a debt of gratitude. She came into a situation that she didn't ask for… I think she did a decent job during that period of time, all things considered.”

Sylvester Warren followed Mr. Bowden: I agree with Mr. Bowden. We should be givin' a debt of gratitude…I  would hope, Mr. Mayor, that you and some of the other Council members, as well as you all, did when Chris Greene resigned, give Ms. Fields some of the same praises that you all made a newspaper article about sayin' how swell of a guy that Mr. Greene was."

There weren’t any praises or any gratitude from the Council.

New Business

Mayor Witt announced the agenda item: “discussion and possible action -- resignation of Interim City Manager Amy Fields.”

Mayor Witt said the letter was attached and asked if there were comments from the Council.

The letter was a one-line email, dated September 14, 2021, 12:59 PM, addressed to the City Clerk: "Effective close of business today, I resign as Interim City Manager."

Mayor Witt began to speak, “Mr. Koberlein, do we need a motion to accept it, or just” (Koberlein jumped in).

City Attorney Fred Koberlein
City Attorney Fred Koberlein

City Attorney Koberlein, "Yes, your honor, although it's a ministerial act, a motion would be proper for the minutes.

City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr., gets it wrong again.

A ministerial act is approving the minutes, and that is something the Council chooses to do, but is not required by law.

While nothing in any law requires the City Council to accept Ms. Fields' resignation, her contract – written by Attorney Koberlein and approved by the City Council- requires it. Section 7 (Resignation) requires Ms. Fields to give a minimum thirty days notice “unless the City and Fields agree otherwise.”

The only way the City Council and Ms. Fields could lawfully agree on the resignation of Ms. Fields was to approve her resignation by voting.

City Council votes must be recorded in the minutes, and this has nothing to do with propriety.

Mayor Witt asked for a motion, and Councilman Sampson moved to accept Ms. Fields’ resignation, which Mr. Jefferson seconded. There was no discussion, and the motion passed 3-1 with Councilman Hill opposed.

City Attorney Koberlein led the discussion regarding the appointment of the Interim City Manager.

Once again, City Attorney Koberlein did not mention that there is no provision in the City Charter for the appointment of an interim city manager. He did say it could be a “permanent city manager” or “interim or temporary city manager.”

Mr. Koberlein made that up.

Mayor Witt said, “Regardless of who we select, we need to get an up-to-date resume, application, background check, and make sure we do our due diligence no matter who it is.”

Mayor Witt’s Big Surprise
Not a Surprise to Everyone

Mayor Steve WittMayor Witt had a card up his sleeve. He said, “I have spoken with Mike Williams, who was head of Nutrien and has just retired and has been president of the Chamber of Commerce, and he said he would be interested in serving just as the interim, but definitely not in a permanent basis.”

The Mayor continued, “That would be my recommendation. He’s certainly got the experience. He can guide us.”

Mr. Sampson said he didn't "know Mr. Williams too well. We've got a lot of things going on internally. Is there someone internally that we could lean on to help us out for a short period?”

Mayor Witt mentioned former City Manager Wendell Johnson, “I think he's expressed that he would do it, but right now my primary recommendation would be Mr. Williams.”

Councilman Hill followed up, “You’re talking internally. I don't think of a better person than Mr. Dyal. He was hand-in-hand with Ms. Fields throughout her tenure. If he would meet the qualifications, he would get my support on being the interim until we can get a permanent city manager.”

Councilman Jefferson said, "My take on it is whoever we choose… we go outside for a choice.”

Mr. Sampson followed up, “Going back to a comment you said earlier. You want an up-to-date resume and background check before they would be in that position?”

Mayor Witt responded, “I don't know that we couldn't, because of the (unintelligible) we need, but we could place em’ in there, but I would expect them to give us an up-to-date resume… and do a background check immediately.”

Jake Hill on Wendell Johnson

Councilman Hill said, “You mentioned Wendell Johnson. For the record, Jake Hill, Jr., would not support another period of Wendell Johnson. I would like the public to know that Wendell Johnson is part of the reason why the City is in the shape it's in now, because of that crap across the street. (Mr. Hill gestured towards the location of the Blanche Hotel).

Mayor Witt reiterated his support for Mike Williams.

Mr. Sampson asked Mayor Witt if Mike Williams had experience in government, and the Mayor said he thought he did but that he had not seen his resume. Mayor Witt suggested getting resumes and meeting back on Friday “to see what we've got.”

Mr. Sampson opined, “In the meantime should we have someone in charge. Mr. Sampson mentioned there are city meetings scheduled. "Someone needs to be attending on behalf of the City."

Councilman Hill recommended Mr. Dyal.

Paul Dyal addresses the City CouncilMr. Sampson asked, “Would he be willing to do that until we decide?”

Paul Dyal: City Utility Director and Ami Fields' Right Hand Man for the past two months

Mr. Dyal came to the microphone: "This is a sad situation."

If it’s something that you all wish for me to do, I'll be happy to serve in any capacity that I can… I was working very close with Ms. Fields. I think this is a sad situation that we’re in, that she turned in her resignation. I had a brief conversation with her yesterday. She didn't allude to everything that was going on, but she did say it was her decision to turn in her resignation. I accepted that. I support her. I don't know what all the reasoning was that brought the Council to this decision… I think she did a good job while she was here. She really cared about the employees… if there is anything that I can do to continue our work and the business that she had, if that's the will of the Council, that's what I will do.”

Glenel Bowden came back to the microphone, showing it is possible to butter one’s bread on all sides.

Mayor Witt recognized Mr. Bowden. Mr. Bowden said he’s OK with Mike Williams; the public should have a chance to see Mr. Williams’ resume; he thought that Mr. Dyal would be a good choice.

The Mayor recognized Sylvester Warren, "I think what’s rolling around the 67 counties [in Florida] is that we’re the laughing stock because we do lack leadership… Everybody knows that we’ve got somebody internally that can run this operation.”

Your reporter was recognized by the Mayor and asked if Mr. Dyal should continue with the economic development discussions scheduled for later in the day.

Mr. Sampson said Mr. Dyal should be assigned to continue the scheduled discussions.

The Council did not act on the Dyal assignment.

Councilman Sampson, Out of the Blue, after he said he didn't know Mike Williams "too well"

Mr. Sampson said, “I would be okay to go ahead and appoint Mike Williams today, so we don't have to come back Friday.”

Mayor Witt agreed.

Mr. Sampson: “OK. I make a motion that we appoint Mike Williams as the Interim City Manager, pending his background check and resume.”

The Clerk read back the motion.

Mayor Witt said, “He [Mike Williams] was to take office, but we're making it contingent on that being included.”

Mr. Sampson said that was correct.

Mr. Bowden asked about the salary.

Mayor Witt said Mike Williams said it would be very reasonable.

Vanessa George:
"Somebody's interested, but they are not even here?”

Vanessa George
Vanessa George (file photo)

Vanessa George came to the microphone and was recognized. “Question. Is Mr. Williams not here?”

Mayor Witt answered, "No, Ma’am.”

Ms. George followed up, “So, you all appointing someone -- he's interested, but he's not even here at the meeting where he could be appointed as the Interim [City Manager]?”

Mayor Witt: “That’s correct."

Ms. George followed up, “Y’all don’t see a problem with that? Somebody's interested, but they are not even here?”

Councilman Hill:  “That’s how they do it in Lake City.”

Ms. George, “You got it.”

The Council voted on the hiring of Mike Williams as Interim City Manager, and Mr. Hill was the lone vote in opposition.

Mayor Witt said, “That concludes the business for this meeting.”

The City Attorney brought up some information about the headhunters.

Mayor Witt adjourned the meeting.

The Council appointed no one to run the City until Mike Williams came on board.

Epilogue

During the meeting, the City Council failed to approve anyone to be at the helm while background checks, etc., were being run on Mike Williams.

After the meeting, your reporter asked the Mayor if Mr. Dyal would be in charge until Mike Williams took his post.

Mayor Witt said he would and that Mike Williams would be coming to work at the City “tomorrow.”

It is not clear if anyone ever contacted Mr. Dyal about this responsibility. Mike Williams is on the job today.

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