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LC City Manager Search, Thomas Thomas Pt – V: Council Nixes Thomas $140k Salary Request, Agrees With Others – Negotiations Continue

Image of arrows with copy: LC City Manager Search, Finding Direction, Still a Problem
Photo by 愚木混株 via Unsplash | Columbia County Observer graphic

widget-city-manager-storiesLAKE CITY, FL –  Saturday morning, at the unheard of time of 8 am, the City Council met again to discuss the hiring of veteran city manager Thomas Thomas of Chicago. The Council managed to get a counter proposal worked out. When it will be memorialized in writing and available is unknown. The Council wants the Thomas response by Wednesday.

City Manager Thomas Thomas  27 years of experience

Thomas Thomas in Lincoln Park, IL - Youtube
On January 15, 2020, Thomas Thomas was interviewed in Lincoln Park, IL. Unlike in Lake City, the microphones were spot on and Mr. Thomas and the City Council were crystal clear. This is a chance to learn more about the man who may be the next Lake City City Manager. Watch & Listen


Thomas Thomas has approximately 27 years of progressive experience in municipal government and managing cities, with a particular expertise in municipal finance.

You can see Thomas Thomas explain his experience in an interview he had in Lincoln Park, ILL, in 2020.

Watch and listen to the Thomas interview

The Saturday Special Meeting: Public Comment

Community Activist Sylvester Warren said he thought Mr. Thomas was a quality candidate. Mr. Warren said that his private investigator did “some additional background work on him,” adding that he thought the $140,000 Mr. Thomas was asking was “cheap.”

Former City Councilman Glenel Bowden was not happy about the 8 am Saturday start time. He said he’d been attending Council meetings since the eighties and he could not remember a City Council meeting ever having been held at 8 o’clock on Saturday morning unless there was an emergency. Mr. Bowden asked for an explanation.

Mayor Witt explained, “Somebody said, ‘you mind startin’ at eight, people had some obligations later today… and I said, ‘I could do that.’ I didn’t want to get up this mornin’ at 8 o’clock.”

District 14 resident and retired engineer Jerry Leszkiewicz addressed the Council, “I am just one person out of a group of about 3,000 men, women and children of this City who have been without a council representative for the last four-and-a-half months. We’ve had no say on how a new council representative is going to be chosen and now we have no say in how a new city manager is going to be chosen.”

Mr. Leszkiewicz questioned information on a Thomas resume which mentioned Mr. Thomas’ time in Rockville, MD. This information was not in any resume provided by headhunter Narloch and received by the Observer. Mr. Leszkiewicz said that Mr. Thomas needed to be vetted.

Councilman Hill responded, “Hopefully we can get this man with a whole boatload of experience, but there always seem to be some type of conflict that come up.”

The City Council Speaks

Councilman Sampson:  “We offered 120 as the base salary; we had budgeted last year – 130 [$130,000]. 140 is above that budget.”

Fact: The first City budget in the 2021-22 budget cycle was blown up by the City Council. That budget had raises. The last budget number the City approved for City Manager was $124k.

Councilman Sampson volunteered that he had a conversation with headhunter Narloch and mentioned he was concerned about Mr. Thomas’ start date.

Mr. Sampson opined that “March 31 is way too far out,” adding, “bidding on the move makes sense to me.”

Mr. Sampson said Mr. Thomas should get more vacation than the everyday employee.

Mr. Sampson concluded, “I think we should make it a three year contract… I think we should show a commitment for stability. If he could give a little bit on salary, we could give a little bit on time.”

City Attorney Koberlein was silent.

Councilman Hill added, “When I heard the 140 – that’s kinda high… I would make a counter offer of 130… and go from there.”

Mr. Sampson mentioned March 1 as a starting date. “We want to show that we want to be aggressive in gettin’ him started.”

Mayor Witt said, “Probably he could get 135 with the salary if he could get started earlier.”

Veteran Councilman Eugene Jefferson said, “I have no opposition to the 130.” He said he wanted the starting time to be March 1, adding, “Beyond that it gets to be a little sticky and cumbersome”

Mr. Jefferson did not believe in giving Mr. Thomas the extra life insurance.

Mr. Sampson wanted “to have a previous background check certified to save time and money.” He did not say where that background was from.

Mr. Sampson wanted to have Mr. Thomas’ moving expenses reimbursed to the City if he left City employment.

City Attorney Koberlein Weighed In: What was he thinking?

City Attorney Koberlein addressed severance. He said, the definition of severance “is rather vague.” He continued, “Severance is generally not reimbursable. If it’s due to misconduct under the unemployment compensation chapter…then the severance can be disputed. The question is, ‘What do you define as severance?’”

In 2016 the Florida Attorney General wrote an all encompassing opinion on municipal severance pay. It did not appear that the City Attorney was familiar with that opinion.

City Attorney Koberlein addressed a three year contractual commitment. He said, “A three year commitment: The general rule in Florida is that you cannot commit past an appropriation fiscal year, without voter approval.” *

The City Charter is crystal clear: “The city council shall appoint a city manager for an indefinite term.” There is no approval.

This is another instance of the City Attorney not being prepared.

Mr. Leszkiewicz came to the microphone and was recognized. He told the Council that if the City Manager had a strong personality and didn’t get along with the board, ”There ought to be a way to trigger that and not have to pay him a severance package.”

Sylvester Warren came to the microphone. He said he was disappointed in the Mayor and the Council because they let people come to the microphone who haven’t attended as many meetings as he has. Mr. Warren also had a problem with people “makin’ certain comments about [Mr. Thomas] not bein’ properly vetted.”

After almost forty-five minutes Mr. Sampson made a motion:

The Mr. Thomas start date would be March 1, base salary 130k, three bids with lowest bid for moving expenses, with bids provided by the time he started working for the City; benefits would begin the first day of employment; two weeks annual leave added; annual evaluation based on goals that would be set “during the public meeting;” life insurance equal to annual salary would be provided; a one-way ticket to start work.

The Clerk inquired about residency.

Mr. Sampson directed the Clerk to add to the motion: “We’d like for him to live in the City if at all possible.”

Police Chief Butler announced he would have two investigators start Monday morning to get the police background check done as fast as possible.

The City Clerk asked, “You would like his [Thomas] response by next Wednesday?

Mayor Witt replied, “If we could.”


The continuing saga of the Lake City – Thomas Thomas affair will appear on the next City Council agenda, February 7.

*update Feb. 4, 2022: Koberlein's remark, "The general rule in Florida is that you cannot commit past an appropriation fiscal year, without -unintelligible - approval.” Updated to add the word voter. (Derek Snead provided soundification to make the word discernable).

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