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Lake City, City Manager Search, Thomas Thomas Pt - III: Council Offers No. 1 Candidate $120k in 2010 Money – What is Thomas Thomas to do?

photo of question mark with copy: Lake City, City Manager Search. How much is a LC City Manager Worth
Photo of question mark:Towfiqu barbhuiya via Unsplash | Columbia County Observer graphic

widget-city-manager-storiesLAKE CITY, FL – The saga of the Lake City, City Manager search continued Monday night with the cancellation of the special meeting to discuss tentative contract terms for the City’s number one candidate Thomas Thomas of Chicago.

The nuts and bolts of government are taking a hit in Lake City

On January 19, 2022, as the City Council Special Meeting came to an end, Chief Butler said a background release (for the City Manager candidates) was prepared: "I got notified by Mr. Koberlein's Office the release has been prepared. If you are going to go with Mr. Thomas, I could have him sign it while he's here. That way, as soon as you're ready, I've got the signed form, and we can hit the ground running."

Mayor Witt said, “I think we got things goin’ – anything else?”

The City Clerk inquired about what was going on, “Mayor, we just have a consensus to?”

Mayor Witt interrupted, “I guess we need a motion.”

Clerk Sikes added, “Yeah, I would like a motion so I can formalize it.”

Councilman Sampson said, “I make a motion that we would peruse a contract agreement with Mr. Thomas Thomas as our next City Manager.”

Councilman Hill seconded the motion.

Clerk Sikes asked for clarification on the Council’s wishes. The motion was amended. There was a laundry list of items to include, after which Ms. Sikes said, “Give me just a minute, Mayor. That’s part of your motion as well? Part of your motion also to authorize the Chief to move forward with the background on Thomas Thomas?”

Mr. Sampson answered, “That’s correct.”

Clerk Sikes said, “So we have a lot in this motion. I’ll write it all up – and – ok.”

Neither the Councilmen nor the Mayor asked Ms. Sikes to read back the motion. While reading back a motion used to be in the City's rules, it was removed after City Attorney Koberlein and the City Clerk revised the rules ordinance in 2021. The ordinance was approved unanimously by the City Council. During the public hearing, it did not appear any of them had read it.

Mayor Witt did not ask the Clerk to call the vote; she did it on her own.

After the meeting, your reporter asked for a copy of the minutes or the motion outlining the contents of the motion. Nothing has been received, other than the Clerk has received the request.

The formalized City Council laundry list remains un-formalized and unavailable to the public or the press.

Canceled: Monday’s Special Thomas Thomas Meeting

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

Four hours before the special meeting on Monday, the meeting to review and update the Thomas Thomas contract requirements, the meeting was canceled. Mayor Witt rescheduled the Thomas Thomas special meeting for Saturday at 8 am, a time most of the public will be waking up and surely not be attending either in person or online.

In the past, weekend special City Council meetings have been scheduled for later in the morning, when everyone is awake. Not this time.

Regarding the cancelation of Monday’s meeting, it was reported in Tuesday’s mainstream media that Mayor Witt said, “My understanding is that two of the four members could not be there.”

Note: during the January 19 special meeting, all Councilmember's schedules were cleared, a.k.a., they could all make it on Monday at 6 pm.

Since then, one Councilman came down with COVID. It is unknown what happened to the other one. It is hard to believe the Mayor did not know why either of the unnamed Council members could not make it.

City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr.: Is he dragging his feet?

During the January 19 special meeting, Mayor Witt asked if Monday's meeting should be held up.

Headhunter Renee Narloch replied, "We can accomplish a lot in a few days. I think the meeting on Monday would be fine to address where we are in the process. I'll get as much information as I can, not only about the different components to an agreement but also about the availability of him and his family to call him for an on-site visit for a few days to hang out. They need to look at everything."

That was Wednesday the 19th at around noon.

Ms. Narloch’s actions after the meeting are unknown.

City Attorney Koberlein has had issues providing timely documents to the City and the public in the past.

On Sunday evening, January 23 after 7 pm, City Attorney Fred Koberlein emailed Mr. Thomas a letter outlining some of the requirements under consideration by Mr. Thomas and the City Council.

link to Fred Koberlein, Jr., letter to Thomas ThomasThe major points:

• Employment start date: On or about March 1, 2022.

• Base Salary: $120,000 with a review in 180 days [six months] and a possible increase

This past Monday evening, January 24, at 6 pm, the City was to meet to be updated on the Thomas Thomas contract progress.

The last sentence of City Attorney Koberlein’s letter asks Mr. Thomas to “Please provide us with the courtesy of your response to the foregoing terms by the 5:00 P.M. (EST) on the 26th day of January, 2022” two days after the canceled special meeting to discuss the issues.

Mr. Koberlein’s apparent foot-dragging would not have had Mr. Thomas’ response in time for Monday’s January 24 special meeting.

The Salary

Lake City offered Thomas Thomas $120K a year for six months – and then we will reevaluate and see what you are worth.

Is $120,000 a reasonable salary for Mr. Thomas to consider in 2022?

Number two City Manager candidate Glen Adams was clear during his Lake City meet and greet that $120k was unacceptable and that $150k would be reasonable. He left Santa Fe, Texas, at $132k. Mr. Adams was evaluated yearly; Santa Fe had a budget of $7.3 mil. Lake City has a budget of over $50 mil.

Three years ago, City Manager candidate Joe Helfenberger was offered $120k to start. It stayed that way. In today’s dollars, Mr. Helfenberger’s $120k is now $135,712.

In 2009, City Manager Wendell Johnson signed on at $105k, but that was not the whole story. He was not reevaluated after 180 days to evaluate his worth.

While Mr. Johnson's salary was approved at $105k, with his perks, 10% of his salary in cash in lieu of retirement benefits, unlimited use of a city car, and a possible health benefit, Mr. Johnson's actual salary was hovering around $120k, which in today's dollars is the equivalent of $159k.


Mr. Thomas has been on the ICMA circuit looking for a job.

His track record shows he is worth much more than Mr. Sampson’s and the Council’s $120k offer; another example of the City Council not doing its homework.

In the end, Mr. Thomas will decide how much his 27 years of progressive experience in city management is worth.

Lake City, the saga continues.

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