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LC Mayor Witt: Did He Collude With Interim City Manager Dyal to Keep the City In the Dark About Mr. Dyal’s Trip To Alaska?

Collusion: agreement between people to act together secretly or illegally in order to deceive or cheat someone*

Lake City City Manager Paul Dyal being interview for the City Manager position in Ketchikan, Alaska
Columbia County Obserever graphic

widget-city-manager-storiesLAKE CITY, FL – Lake City Interim City Manager Paul Dyal, in 2018 and again in 2022, had his heart in Alaska. Did he and Mayor Steve Witt level with the City Council and the public in the City’s search for a new City Manager?

According to Mr. Dyal, Mayor Witt knew about Mr. Dyal's July 2022 trip to Alaska and his search for new employment. It is unknown if any of the Council members knew of Mr. Dyal's quest to leave Lake City or the nature of his absence from the City between July 13 and July 19, 2022.

While this trip to Alaska was for Mr. Dyal’s personal business, he did not submit slips for PTO (personal time off) or vacation pay; City records show he was paid his full salary while he was out of town being interviewed for Ketchikan’s City Manager position.

Background: Paul Dyal

In 2012, Mr. Dyal applied to Lake City for the position of GIS Technician while still employed by Food Lion supermarket as a meat cutter. He was earning $12hr. His prior experience was as an engineering technician doing GIS and mapping. He was laid off from his previous job due to “slow business.”

At the same time, Mr. Dyal was working in a custodial position earning $8.25hr.

It was the recession.

On January 6, 2012, Mr. Dyal began his career as a GIS technician with Lake City at a starting rate of $14hr or $29,000 a year plus benefits.

On January 1, 2014, Mr. Dyal applied for the job of Asst. Executive Director of Utilities. He received the promotion at $34.41 hr.

On December 9, 2015, Mr. Dyal was promoted, again courtesy of City Manager Johnson, at a salary of $39.06 hr.

By September 2017, Mr. Dyal was now earning $44 hr and had been moved into the senior management class of the Florida Retirement System.

Mr. Dyal’s title was now Assistant City Manager – Utilities and Public Works. His yearly salary was now $91,520 plus benefits.

By all measures, Lake City was treating Mr. Dyal very well.

Meat Cutter to Assistant City Manager In 5 Years

Mr. Dyal Had a Dream: It was not staying in Lake City

Picturesque Ketchikan, AK.
Picturesque Ketchikan, AK. (photo:KRBD)

In March 2018, Mr. Dyal applied to Ketchikan, Alaska, for employment as the Assistant City Manager/Utility General Manager.

In his letter to Ketchikan, Mr. Dyal wrote: “My wife and I have always dreamed of living in Alaska, and this would be a perfect partnership toward that dream. We have family and young grandchildren in Port Orchard, Washington, and this position would put us closer to being able to see them more often."

In May 2018, Ketchikan wrote to Mr. Dyal that another candidate had taken the position. This had nothing to do with Mr. Dyal. The Ketchikan letter explained the position was advertised as "Open until Filled," and the City was in the final stages of hiring a previous applicant.

However, had Ketchikan checked Mr. Dyal's application, it would have found that he ignored the application instructions regarding employment history, "Please account for all employment during the past 10 years…."

Mr. Dyal counted each promotion with Lake City as a new job, listing each separately. His time at Food Lion and custodial work was left off the application and his resume.

Dyal Tries Again

Utility Director Paul Dyal said if the Interim City Manager was gone, he would be, too.
Director of Utilities Paul Dyal let it be known if Interim City Manager Ami Fields was gone, so was he. She was -- he wasn't.

In the beginning of 2022, Ketchikan began advertising for a city manager, and on May 8, 2022, Mr. Dyal applied for the position.

He wrote to Ketchikan’s headhunter: “It is with great enthusiasm that I submit my qualifications for the City Manager/Ketchikan Public Utilities General Manager position for the City of Ketchikan. After having reviewed your recruitment notice and becoming familiar with Ketchikan’s informative website, I am extremely interested in being considered for this position.”

As in 2018, Mr. Dyal wrote, "Some of my greatest strengths are my ability to solve problems, listening to others, treating people with respect, being a man of my word, and leading by example with integrity and good humor based in "Servant Leadership."

Again, Mr. Dyal provided his resume; an application was unnecessary; again, Mr. Dyal omitted his work at Food Lion.

On June 6, 2022, former City employee Linda Andrews addressed the Lake City City Council. Ms. Andrews said: I moved to Lake City in 1998. I was employed by the City for thirteen years… We have an excellent Interim City Manager in Mr. Dyal. He has been with the City for over ten years. He has an engineering degree and vast experience in utilities…"

Mr. Dyal does not have an engineering degree. He was in attendance. He did nothing to clear up Ms. Andrew’s misstatement.

Mr. Dyal’s added the following phrase throughout his most recent resume to Ketchikan: “Honest communication to Management, Council, and Public on City issues.”

Concurrent with his application to Ketchikan, the search for a permanent Lake City City manager was stalled. There were issues getting the contract with headhunter Colin Baenziger executed by Lake City Mayor Witt.

On July 5, 2022, the City of Ketchikan, in a media release, announced that Lake City’s Paul Dyal was one of the five finalists.

Off to Alaska: City Taxpayers Pay Mr. Dyal’s Salary, All the Way to Alaska and Back

On July 12, Mr. Dyal sent an email to the City Council, his secretary, and the City Clerk stating he would be "out of the office" from July 13 to July 19, but, "As always, I will be monitoring email, phone calls/text, and PO requests."

Mr. Dyal didn’t explain more than that. However, some may have assumed he was receiving some sort of medical treatment, as he had been home quite a bit due to an undisclosed medical condition(s).

An examination of a city payroll report for his Alaska trip shows that Mr. Dyal did not request personal time off, vacation pay, or sick leave for his excursion to Alaska. He remained on the payroll, collecting full pay and benefits.

Finding a city manager was a big deal in the City of Ketchikan, Alaska. Local media, the headhunter, and City staff got the word out that city manager candidates were heading toward Alaska.

On Friday, July 15, the candidates were given a tour of Ketchikan and sat for a question and answer session at the Ketchikan Civic Center. On Saturday morning, July 16, the candidates were interviewed by the City Council in City Hall.

"The Mayor Knows I'm Applying for This Position Here"

Mr. Dyal introduced himself and spoke of his education. Then he told the City Council:

"Just to be clear. I have been asked to be the City Manager of Lake City. I have declined that position because I talked to the Mayor before I left. The Mayor knows I'm applying for this position here. This is the position that I want, and I didn't think it was fair for me to accept the position in Lake City when I really had no intentions of wanting to continue to be there."

[There is nothing in the Lake City record that shows Mr. Dyal was offered the full time LC City Manager position by anyone before he went to AK. - ed.]

“This is the place I've always wanted to be in. I applied to Ketchikan several years ago for the assistant position. I didn't get it then. So this isn't like the first time I've tried to gain employment in Ketchikan.”

During his interview, Mr. Dyal misrepresented the City’s connection with the Tourist Development Council (TDC), but he noted the importance of recognizing community mental health issues.

Mr. Dyal also claimed that Lake City agendas are available by Wednesday of the week preceding Council meetings. This was and is not true.

During the question and answer session at the Civic Center, Mr. Dyal explained that he and his wife found the friendliness of the people of Ketchikan exceptional. He said it was not like that in Lake City and that Ketchikan is where he would like to live.

Mr. Dyal also commented about all the eagles he saw, telling everyone, "My wife must have taken 500 pictures of eagles.”

Mr. Dyal was not offered the position.

Back to Lake City

According to Mr. Dyal, Mayor Witt knew Lake City was not the place Mr. Dyal wanted to be or that he desired to be the City Manager of Lake City.

It is not clear if any other members of the Council knew that Mr. Dyal went to Alaska or that while he was interviewing for the Alaskan job, Lake City was fully paying him.

The takeaway from the Lake City/Alaskan episode is that Mayor Witt, if he knew that Mr. Dyal was 'off to Alaska,' abused his elected office and the trust of the citizens of Lake City by keeping silent and explaining why he was not ramping up the City Manager Search with headhunter Colin Baenziger & Associates.

It is also unclear if Mr. Dyal's recent support by some community segments was done in spite of or in ignorance of the facts presented here.

Tonight, Lake City gets a new City Council.

The ball is in their court.

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