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Lake City News

LC City Manager: Dyal, Back in the Interim Spot. Councilman Sampson Claims Lack of Vetting,  Policy Ignorance & Treatment of Women at Issue

Part I: the complaints

Modern City Image with headline: Just when you thought it couldn't get worse, it does. Councilman Sampson lays it out.
Image: Callum Parker via Unsplash | Columbia County Obserever graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – A vote of confidence was not coming Interim City Manager Paul Dyal’s way last night. Future permanent City Manager position put on hold. Councilman Sampson asks for an investigation.

Background: Lake City Vets Candidates

It was common practice in Lake City to vet city manager applicants. City Manager Wendell Johnson was vetted, as was his predecessor David Kraus.

In 2018, past City Manager Joe Helfenberger was vetted. The second finalist, Green Cove Springs City Manager Danielle Judd, threw the police out.

The Gestapo-like investigations by the Lake City Police Department were legendary. However, very few citizens or candidates were aware of their depth.

Danielle Judd and Joe Helfenberger appear in Lake City City hall
See:  LCPD City Manager Investigation: Background Check or Stassi Like Police Overreach?

The Gestapo like LCPD investigations were not stopped by the City Council.

Last year, before City Manager Candidate Thomas Thomas pulled out of the City Manager race, the LCPD was ready to fly to ‘the end of the earth’ to do one of its infamous background checks.

Modern technology allows the police and HR departments to search nationwide databases for personal and credit information.

Before applying for almost any job in government, not only the top positions, applicants must sign background check releases.

In Part II of this article, Lake City Mayor Stephen Witt said he does not believe any background check is necessary for his hand-picked city manager, Paul Dyal.

The Meeting: Agenda Shuffle

At the end of the evening’s agenda, item 18 was added by Mayor Witt: discussion and possible action, terms and conditions city manager contract.

As usual, Mayor Witt provided no backup material or any explanation of exactly what he had in mind.

In 2021, the City’s meeting rules were changed to give the City Clerk total control of the arrangement of items on the agenda. The rule change also removed any deadlines for the agenda's preparation and distribution and had no requirement for anyone to provide backup material. The City Council unanimously approved the rule change.

As the meeting got underway, Councilman Sampson made a motion to remove item 18 from the agenda. There was no second; the motion died.

Mr. Sampson then motioned to move item 18, the city manager contract, to the beginning of the agenda. The motion passed unanimously.

Mr. Sampson asked for permission to address the Council; permission was granted.

Councilman Todd Sampson reads from a prepared statement
Todd Sampson  (file)

Mr. Sampson read from a prepared statement. He told the Mayor and Councilmen:

Violations of good government and public policy

• Mayor Witt, Lake City is in trouble. Your last-minute motion to hire Interim City Manager Paul Dyal without any warning to the rest of the City Council or the public was unfair to the Council and the public. This was not a good look for Lake City, even though some residents at the time thought this was a great idea.

• Mr. Mayor, you purposely slowed the hiring process and the execution of the agreement with headhunter Colin Baenziger.

• You are both an attorney and certified public accountant. Your complete disregard of asking for any background check or credit check, a standard process in this type of hiring, could be nothing but intentional.

• You knew of Mr. Dyal’s mismanagement of his personal finances while you were ignoring any mention of vetting Mr. Dyal.
Interim City Manager Paul Dyal listens to Mr. Sampson's complaints
Paul Dyal listens to Mr. Sampson read  his statement
• Mr. Dyal’s recent unilateral gifting of a half-a-day off to every employee in the City without Council approval was not legal… It is unknown if you spoke with Mr. Dyal about the four-hour gift to City employees. Maybe you did; if so, you also do not have the authority.

• Mr. Dyal has been a director for some time; it is evident that he is clueless about the City’s personnel policy. Mr. Dyal promoted Demetrious Johnson to Assistant City Manager. Mr. Dyal never opened the application process, nor did he post the position for internal review.

• The City has qualified directors, and others, who could have applied for the Assistant City Manager position if they had known about it.

The current administration’s treatment of women

• The City Manager and HR Director are not treating female employees equally and fairly.

• It also appears that the Interim City Manager and others may be attempting to cover up the inappropriate treatment of subordinate women by their male supervisors.

• At the end of last week, Interim City Manager Dyal requested that I meet with him. I believe he wanted to discuss an incident between a former female City worker and a Department Head. I was unwilling to be persuaded or strong-armed to accept a one-sided, uninvestigated narrative.

• I’m not interested in being part of a cover-up.

• I am aware that you, Mr. Mayor, and the other Councilman, may have met with Interim City Manager Dyal and received or exchanged information regarding this former female City employee.

Todd Sampson takes his oath of office surrounded by his family
Almost two year ago, Todd Sampson took his Oath of Office surrounded by his family.

Surrounded by women and girls

• I am truly blessed. Every day I wake up in the morning and am surrounded by the women in my life – the most important people in my life – five daughters and their mother… We ensure they understand they are to be treated equally – without prejudice toward their gender.

• I can't be true to my five girls by turning my back on what I have been hearing and reading lately about the goings-on in Lake City.

• I cannot be faithful to the example my wife, and I try to set by turning my back on what seems to be the sorry state of affairs in Lake City regarding certain personnel practices and the unfair treatment of women.

Councilman Sampson concluded by asking for three resolutions
to be addressed at the next City Council meeting.

• 1) the recent unilateral closing of the City for four hours by Interim Manager Paul Dyal;

• 2) the failure of both the City Manager and HR Director to determine if they violated the City personnel policy by not advertising and requesting applications for the vacant Assistant City Manager position and not having the newly hired assistant city manager fill out an application or have his background checked;

• 3) the treatment of certain female City employees by the Interim City Manager and the HR Director.

A Final Motion

Mr. Sampson made a motion for reconsideration of the motion made at the last meeting to hire Paul Dyal as City Manager, pending complete vetting, including a comprehensive background check and credit check.

Mr. Sampson said, “Mr. Mayor, I am asking you to second that motion, or lacking your second, that the motion be seconded by and passed by the City Council.”

Councilman Sampson concluded, “The citizens of Lake City, Columbia County, and the state of Florida, the folks that fund Lake City, deserve nothing less.”

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