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Lake City News


LC City Manager Search: Interim City Manager Paul Dyal Gets Nod for City Manager Position – No Vetting Allowed

Mayor Witt Withholds Appointed City Manager's Federal Bankruptcy Information, and possibly more. 

Lake City City Manager Search: city manager not vetted
Photo via Unsplash | Columbia County Observer graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – Monday evening, Interim City Manager Paul Dyal got the nod to be Lake City’s next City Manager. According to Councilman Jake Hill and other supporters of Mr. Dyal, “He don’t back down from the County.”

Kelton Ficklin
Kelton Ficklin addresses the City Council. (file)

As the meeting opened, City resident Kelton Ficklin, a supporter of Interim City Manager Ami Fields, told the Council, "I remember when Mr. Dyal was a big-time supporter of Ami Fields."

Mr. Ficklin failed to mention that on the evening of September 7, 2021, during a coup attempt to remove Ms. Fields, Mr. Dyal hung his hat on the future of then Interim City Manager Ami Fields, telling the Council that if Ms. Fields left, “then I don’t have no reason to work for the City no more.”

A few months later, Ms. Fields was forced out of the City. Mr. Dyal did not leave.

The subject of treating Mr. Dyal like other City Manager candidates came up when your reporter addressed the Council.

Mr. Dyal hasn’t filled out an application for this position. I didn’t see that you made a credit check on him, either as Interim City Manager or City Manager. That's pretty much a practice… Mr. Dyal -- he hasn't been fully vetted.

Lake City resident Vanessa George came to the microphone and asked Mr. Dyal how long he had worked for the City.

Mr. Dyal responded, “ten-and-a-half-years.”

Ms. George, who is also the Town Manager of White Springs, told the Council, “I think he is vetted… He’s doin’ an excellent job.”

City Councilman Sampson

Councilman Sampson said, “I think it's important we follow a process. We've been looking at a process which we've changed multiple times. I know there was a lot of delay getting the contract out to Baenziger.”

Vetting Paul Dyal:

U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida

In the past year, both as Assistant City Manager and Interim City Manager, Paul Dyal has had ample opportunity to come clean about his bankruptcy. He didn’t. It is unknown if Mayor Witt told anyone. He knew. He was Mr. Dyal's attorney.

In 2020, while making almost $100k a year in his City job, Mr. Dyal had the bill collectors coming after him in small claims court for $2,245.

Mr. Sampson said people have been trying to apply for the City Manager position since June. “There's not been a place to apply. These four that have stayed in contact and are interested -- I think we should interview them. I think we should have an interview process… Then we can make the best decision from those four.”

As he has been doing for years, Sylvester Warren interrupted Councilman Sampson from out in the audience.

Mr. Warren, without being permitted to speak, speaks out, “Mr. Mayor. This is what I wanted to speak to. I was on item 5. I wanted to go last.”

When it comes to Mr. Warren, Mayor Witt has no rules. He doesn’t have to come to the microphone and wait to be recognized, and unlike ordinary citizens, he speaks whenever he wants.

Mayor Witt, ignoring Councilman Sampson, addressed Mr. Warren, "Do you want to speak now?"

Mr. Warren replied, "Yes, sir."

Mayor Witt, still ignoring Councilman Sampson, “OK.”

Community Activist Warren:
Dyal is “good enough to give us what we need”

Mr. Warren’s theme is always playing the race card, claiming at almost every meeting that he represents his “people” [Black].

Sylvester Warren comparing Paul Dyal to Jesus
Sylvester Warren comparing Interim City Manager Paul Dyal to Jesus.

Last night, he took another track, telling the Council, “We have one of the best ideal candidates that we at one point didn't know we had among us. That’s almost like readin’ in the bible and then realize you had the Messiah Jesus among you." … You got somebody that's good enough to give us what we need."

Mr. Warren went on to say that Mr. Dyal “don’t mind tellin’ the truth. At least you know what you got with this guy…he knows everything… Do not blow this opportunity to let Mr. Dyal lead us into the future."

Mayor Witt Continues to Ignore Councilman Sampson

Still ignoring Councilman Sampson, Mayor Witt said, "All right, Mr. Sampson spoke. What's the rest of the Council's thoughts?"

Your reporter asked, “Was Mr. Sampson done?”

Mayor Witt recognized Councilman Sampson.

Councilman Todd Sampson
Councilman Todd Sampson   (file photo)

Mr. Sampson continued from where Mr. Warren interrupted: “The best course of action would be to go through Colin Baenziger and get the best manager possible. And that is what we should be doing. The last meeting, you pivoted and decided not to do that… The next best option is to interview the people interested. The worst option is to be arm twisted into doing something because a community activist says he'll calm it down. That's the worst option. I'm not interested in that at all. I think we need to hire the best person for the job. If it's Mr. Dyal -- it's Mr. Dyal… Let's have the full vetting we'd have for any other candidate…."

Mr. Sampson concluded, "We've got at least four people that are interested; let's talk to the four unless you want to go back and do what we should do, which is go through Colin Baenziger and let them find us the best possible option."

Mr. Warren: Another Interruption

Councilman Jake Hill
Councilman Jake Hill                    (file photo)

Community activist Warren interrupted from the audience again. This time as Councilman Hill began to speak.

“Make a motion for Dyal,” he told Mr. Hill.

Mr. Hill said: “Why change now?" If Mr. Dyal wants that job, I support him. He don't back down from the County, and I definitely appreciate that. If he is willing to stay in that position, he has my support."

Councilman Jefferson said, "If the headhunter is going to do it, let them do it."

There was some more talk, mostly reiteration of what was said, and much of Mayor Witt's remarks were unintelligible in the audience.

There was confusion about the tabled motion.

Mr. Dyal was approved for the job as Lake City City Manager on a 4-0 vote, with Mr. Sampson saying he was voting for Mr. Dyal to make it unanimous.

Epilogue: Lake City's City Council
No Vetting for the most important job in Lake City

Mr. Dyal threatened to leave the City. He resigned.

He had grievances by two female employees minimized (grievances which were disappeared from his file). He belittled one of the employee’s education.

He was responsible for wasting over a million dollars of grant money for water reuse.

His financial difficulties were knowingly covered up by Mayor Witt, and possibly others.

This is why elected leaders vet City Managers.

This is Lake City where they don’t.

Updated August 17, 2022: Provided link to federal bankruptcy paper.
Updated August 19, 2022: Redacted last 4 digits of Mr. Dyal's SS no.

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