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Lake City News

LC City Manager Spectacle Continues: Mayor Stephen Witt, Councilmen, and the Public Weigh In – Not a Good Look for LC

Part II: Lake City, Out of Control, a Youtube Star

City Clerk Audrey Sikes - Dissapointed With Lake City
Columbia County Obserever graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – After Councilman Todd Sampson laid out his case against City Manager Paul Dyal and Mayor Witt, everybody weighed in. It was not pretty. Lake City continues to enhance its negative reputation throughout Florida.

In Part I, Councilman Sampson claimed that the lack of vetting, policy ignorance, and the City's treatment of women were reasons to rescind Paul Dyal as the Interim City Manager.

Mr. Sampson asked Mayor Witt to second his motion to rescind the appointment of Mr. Dyal pending complete vetting, including a comprehensive background check and credit check.

Mayor Witt and the public weighed in on what has become a must-see on Youtube.

Lake City Mayor Stephen Witt Responds

Mayor Witt said, "I'm offended that you've taken this approach because Mr. Dyal has been here for many years. Mr. Dyal's personal affairs are his personal affairs. But you are discussing something that's over ten years old. Since that time, he's been the utility manager – handled millions of dollars in budgets and purchases and expenditures and managed many, many people. From my understanding, I have heard no complaints about him as the utility director. He's done a great job and has been very popular in the City…."

Lake City Mayor Steve WittMayor Witt continued, "Me and Paul Dyal haven't agreed on a lot things over the last few years. But that hasn't stopped me from evaluating him as an employee. Back in January, you all placed him as interim manager. At that time, when he became interim manager, why didn't anybody ask for a background check, or anything over the last ten years, especially when he was put in that position nine months ago?"

"He's done a great job for the last nine months. And that's why I've recommended that he move up… Nobody's ever questioned Mr. Dyal until I recommended he become permanent…."

I think he's done a good job… We've got to move on.”

Councilman Sampson responded, "Mr. Mayor if you would have signed the document letting Colin Baenziger [the headhunter] move forward, it would have been moved forward. That's according to the email stream."

Mayor Witt said he didn’t delay anything.

Mr. Sampson continued, "Let's speak to another thing. You mentioned this is ten years ago. What about these three in the last two years? What about these judgments in these court cases?”

Mayor Witt said, “I’m not aware of them.”

Mr. Sampson said, ”You shut down the process at the last meeting. You shut down the process. I specifically said – we need a process. Mr. Mayor, you failed the City.”

City Councilman Jake Hill
As the level of conversation digressed, the look of Councilman Hill said it all.

City Manager Dyal Weighed In

Mr. Dyal claimed the court documents with Mr. Sampson just held up were not about him.

Mr. Dyal said, "Those documents that he just showed. I want him to prove that they're mine. If he can prove that they're mine, I will hand him $10,000 when I walk out this damn building tonight. Other than that, he can take those documents and shove 'em up his ass. They are not mine."

Mr. Sampson remarked, “This is the professionalism to expect from Mr. Dyal.

Mr. Dyal said, "They are not mine, and I'm gonna sue your ass for defamation."

Councilman Jake Hill: “Mr. Dyal. Mr. Dyal”

Mr. Hill said, "I agree with what the Mayor said about Mr. Dyal. The City has been running perfect. His personal life shouldn't have anything to do with how he does his job. And he's been doing his job. The City has not missed a beat since he's been in that position… I think Mr. Dyal has served the City well in the present, as well as the past."

There was discussion between Mr. Hill and Mr. Sampson regarding the bankruptcies of President Trump and the background checks of former City Managers Wendell Johnson and Joe Helfenberger.

City Councilman Eugene Jefferson: We’ve done it before

Mr. Jefferson said City Hall had been closed early before on other holidays. "What's so negative about this time? I think we have hard-working employees. Some of them not making much money. I think that's an adequate way to show our appreciation for them… had it came before the Council, I would have voted to allow them to go because we have done that before…."

Councilman Eugene JeffersonMr. Jefferson continued, "The assistant city manager -- I was told that that was interim. It wasn't a fixed-appointed position. That is something that falls under the umbrella of the city manager."

"The third thing, the misuse, and abuse of female employees. I haven't heard any of that. In view of that's the case, employees have an avenue to voice their displeasure with whatever the issue might be. There's a format and a procedure for that. No one has voiced these type things to me…."

Facts: The City has closed early, and mostly it has not voted for the shutdown. That is not legal.

Mr. Jefferson is correct about the Interim Assistant City Manager being an appointment of the City Manager. The Council approved a Personnel Policy that mandates the position must be advertised internally. It was not.

The abuse of female employees appears to be a continuing issue in Lake City. Mr. Jefferson showed no interest in seeking the truth.

Sylvester WarrenCommunity Activist Sylvester Warren came to the microphone [as spoken]:

 “I think it is very unbecoming of anybody holds political office to do Mr. Dyal like this. If anybody understands government, and they got to rate the government, they even went through school to understand American history. Government is set up a certain way. Paul Dyal -- let's be honest -- let's just talk about what a city manager -- the city manager does not even do the budget… this whole idea of Paul -- as if Paul in the Bible or somethin' like -- like he's a disciple, an apostle or somethin' -- like he does all this stuff and his personal life has some type of way of makin' the City -- there's so many checks and balances -- what can Paul do? Paul can do anything. He's got to go to procurement -- it's got to get voted on… to attack a man when you don't have nobody. That is totally disrespectful."

Councilwoman elect Chavella YoungCity Councilwoman elect Chavella Young: "This board has worked in a manner of incompleteness, and here again we are wanting an empty seat, and it's totally unacceptable… I stand to ask that we hold off on any decisions -- at this point, allow this to be a fresh start for a complete Council. (Ms. Young was asking to wait until November so that all the seats on the Council would be filled).

Councilman-elect Ricky Jernigan: "I went by and talked to Mr. Dyal. I talked to other department heads. I haven't heard anything about any negativity… let's give this man a better chance to do the job at hand. Now, if we find somebody better than he is,

Mr. Dyal asked, “Mayor, can I make a comment before we adjourn? Please.

Mayor Witt:  “Yes, sir.”

Interim Lake City City Manager Paul DyalInterim City Manager Dyal spoke:  “I'll try and do this in a civilized manner considering the source. The first thing I'd like to address is his personal attacks on my personal stuff. He can try and find anything that he wants, but he's not going to find anything. It just shows his character. That's all I'll say about that.”

“If he wants to attack me, I attack back. I'm not somebody that just sits here and have you say something that's not true about me. If it's true, I own it.”

The other thing I want to address. I've never disrespected any women within the City. You can look in my file – there's some stuff in there – it's all been addressed and taken care of.

And I highly disagree with any attacks on Mr. Demetrius Johnson while he's sitting in this seat. That is just totally unacceptable to me.

I don't care about his damn background because I know him for ten years. I know what type of person he is. And I know what he's done for this City in the last few weeks. Just because some people can't see it or they see him in a different light or something – that is unacceptable. He is the best choice that I can make for the City, inside and outside.

As long as I sit in the seat, he's going to stay there. Because in my opinion, he is the best person for this job. He's probably better at it than I am because he's got a better demeanor than I have. I don't take BS, especially when it is not true.

The City Personnel Policy does not allow Mr. Dyal to make “feel like it” appointments.

Epilogue: Lake City Has Become a Spectacle

Councilman Sampson asked, “Mr. Mayor, so we're not going to follow City Personnel Policy? That's just going to be the way it is, I guess.”

The Lake City legend continues. The Youtube video of Tuesday’s meeting now has over 1,000 views. 

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