Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online news service

Lake City News

It’s Official – Again – Mike Williams Is Interim Lake City, City Manager, But Not Without a Couple of Bumps in the Road

Photo of Mike Williams in City Hall audience, with caption: It's official – again – Mikee Williams is interim Lake City, City Manager, but not withouut a couple of bumps in the road
Mike Williams before taking his seat with the City Council. City Attorney Fred Koberlien, Jr., wasn't aware that Mr. Williams had begun working for the City last Thursday.

LAKE CITY, FL – Monday night, the City Council unanimously approved an employment agreement between former LC Chamber of Commerce president Mike Williams and the City. Mike Williams became the second Interim City Manager since the resignation of Joe Helfenberger on July 12.

Interim LC City Managers, How Much Do They Earn?

In 2008, while the search for the City Manager was ongoing, Utility Director Dave Clanton became Interim City Manager. On Monday evening, neither the Mayor nor any City Councilmen inquired of Mr. Clanton's pay rate.

In 2018, City Manager Wendell Johnson, minus his benefits and perks, earned approximately $115k when he retired.

Assistant City Manager Grayson Cason, knowledgeable in all aspects of Lake City Government, was bumped up from $86k to Interim City Manager at a rate of $105k while the City searched for a replacement for Mr. Johnson.

That $10k difference equates to Mr. Cason earning 8.7% less than City Manager Johnson earned or 22.1% above his pay rate as Assistant City Manager.

In 2021, HR director Ami Fields was earning approximately $62k and was bumped up to $120k. At that time, City Manager Helfenberger was earning approximately $122k.

Ms. Fields' pay jumped 93.5%.

Councilman Todd Sampson made the motion to pay Ms. Fields $120k, and Councilmen Jefferson and Hill voted in favor, while Mayor Witt and then-Councilman Greene voted against.

Monday Night in City Hall

Mayor Witt announced resolution number 2021-144 and asked City Attorney Koberlein to read it by title.

The resolution enabled the City Council to hire Mike Williams as Interim City Manager and included Mike Williams’ employment agreement.

Mayor Witt said, “I believe the only item that is not settled in there is the salary part of it. I think a motion should be made with that recommendation.”

There were two items not settled. The first was the effective date, and the second was the rate of pay.

Also noteworthy, the inconsistency of Fred Koberlein's work product: Wendell Johnson, Joe Helfenberger, and Ami Fields agreements with the City are called employment agreements in the title of the respective resolutions, while suddenly without explanation, the Mike Williams agreement is called "an agreement for Management Services."

Attorney Koberlein produced the Helfenberger, Fields and Williams resolutions.

Councilman Todd Sampson asked if there had been a discussion with Mr. Williams about the salary.

Mayor Witt answered, “I've talked briefly; he said he was going to leave that up to us and let us make a recommendation. We been payin' 120[k]. Whatever it is, it's only going to be for a couple of months. I'd say no less than 100, and 120 is what we've been doin'.”

That was not the Mayors’ story during the City Council Special meeting where he characterized Mike Williams as saying his salary “would be very reasonable.”

Councilman Sampson asked if that was in the "normal rate range of we've been doin'?"

Mayor Witt answered: “Yes.”

Mayor Witt was first elected Mayor of Lake City in 2005 and ran for a 5th term in 2020. He would have voted or been involved in the pay and choosing of both Interim City Manager Dave Clanton and Grayson Cason.

Without any additional information or inquiry, Mr. Sampson made a motion to approve the employment agreement with a salary of $120k.

Mayor Witt said, “I think we're really lucky to have a man of his quality, and we appreciate him helpin' out.”

Mayor Witt asked Mike Williams, who was in the audience, “Do you accept the 120?”

Mr. Williams answered, “Yes, Mr. Mayor. It would be my pleasure to serve the Council at that.”

City Clerk Audrey Sikes asked, “Do we need to put an effective date on that of last week, Fred? [City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr.] Or does that matter?”

Mr. Williams volunteered, “You could just do it effective today.”

The Council couldn’t just “do it effective today” because Mr. Williams began working for the City last Thursday. The law requires that he be paid.

City Attorney Koberlein
Was he ill-prepared again?

City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr.
Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr.  (file)

It would have been simple for the City Attorney Koberlein, who prepared the resolution and contract, to determine when Mike Williams began working for the City. All he had to do was pick up the phone.

City Attorney Koberlein followed up, “I don't know the date that he actually started his employment. This employment agreement at that rate would be effective the date that his pay is to start.”

Mayor Witt said, “He said he's willin' to start it right now or today.”

Attorney Koberlein asked, “As of today or tomorrow?”

Mike Williams responded from the audience, “Either one.”

Mr. Sampson joked, “He’s flexible.”

Clerk Sikes opined, “We need it to be clear if he started last week.”

Mr. Sampson said, “I would say that we would run it from the date he first came into work. He came in last Thursday.”

It would have been a be a simple task to make the effective date of Mr. Williams' contract last Thursday. City Attorney Koberlein left it blank.

Mr. Koberlein said, “I will need to go back and look to see whether or not he can retroactively be paid -- generally, you cannot pay an employee for work that's already been performed… You did not agree on payment. And so I – we can either put it, for example, today or last Thursday. I would have to look at the law as it may apply. Again, it would be at the latest -- it would be effective today.”

The Council approved the Mike Williams contract unanimously without a resolution of the effective date.

Mike Williams took his seat with the Council members.

City Attorney Koberlein
Did He Suddenly Read “On the LC Docket Tonight, Mike Williams for Interim City Manager: Where Is His Application?”

Mike Williams, Interim City Manager, Lake City, Florida
Mike Williams shortly after taking his seat with the City Council.

As the meeting was drawing to a close, City Attorney Koberlein spoke up: “We need to readdress number 19, Mr. Williams’ agreement. There needs to be an instruction for the police department to handle a background review. The HR policy requires everyone, including the city manager, to fill out an employment application. That employment application, under the HR policy, would be reviewed by department directors and HR.”

Attorney Koberlein read the HR policy wrong. Department Directors do not review employment applications of the Interim City Manager. The HR Director would if there was one. The City does not have an HR Director.

Attorney Koberlein continued, “If you're asking for a more intensive background screening, they need to instruct the police department to handle that, rather than HR. HR and the department directors will only review, according to the personnel policy, what is actually on the employment application.”

Councilman Sampson made the motion for the police department to do the background check.


After the meeting, your reporter spent a couple of minutes with the new Interim City Manager.

Mr. Williams said, “I’m looking forward to helping the City Council and doing the best job that I can for the people of Lake City.”

Comments (to add a comment go here)

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.