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Lake City News

Lake City City Manager: Background Check for City Manager Still a Question Mark for City Council

Photo of City Manager Paul Dyal, still without a contract
Still without a contract, Paul Dyal .

widget-city-manager-storiesLAKE CITY, FL – This past Monday evening, the two new members of the City Council doubled down on the continuing reluctance to do a background check on Interim City Manager Paul Dyal.


City Manager Paul Dyal’s biggest supporters in Lake City are community activist Sylvester Warren, a former North Florida drug kingpin, and Lake City Mayor Stephen Witt, Mr. Dyal’s former bankruptcy attorney.

Mayor Witt appears to have been the only one on the City Council who knew Interim City Manager Dyal went to Alaska in July to interview for the City Manager position, where Mr. Dyal said, "The Mayor Knows I'm Applying for This Position Here."

Mayor Witt, who in the past allowed Mr. Warren to careen out of control at Council meetings and was routinely publically vilified by Mr. Warren, has made some mutual pact with Mr. Warren, who has not been bashful of reminding the Mayor of that.

Mayor Witt now treats Mr. Warren with the deference of an ex officio Council member or, at times, an actual Council member. The Mayor allows Mr. Warren to ignore established citizen time limits and council rules while allowing Mr. Warren to make multiple trips to the microphone to interrupt Council business and Council members.

Sylvester Warren comparing Paul Dyal to Jesus
August 2022: Sylvester Warren compares Interim City Manager Paul Dyal to Jesus.

In the past, Mr. Warren has compared Mr. Dyal to Jesus., telling the City Council, Mr. Dyal is “good enough to give us what we need.

More Background

Going back to the early 2000s, [the extent of this reporter’s knowledge] no Lake City City Manager candidate has evaded the eye of LCPD background checks. While the extent of these checks was overboard, every City Manager candidate had a background check.

See: LCPD City Manager Investigation: Background Check or Stassi Like Police Overreach?

The City’s last Interim City Manager, Mike Williams, had a sterling reputation in the military, government service, and the corporate world and was quietly offered the permanent City Manager position at $130k.

Even with Mike Williams' sterling credentials, he was the subject of a background check. In the end, Mr. Williams decided that Lake City was not for him.

Monday Night in City Hall: It is Lake City

Sylvester Warren was invited to the microphone by Mayor Witt. It was the public comment portion of the meeting.

Mr. Warren brought up his private deal with Mayor Witt: (to the Mayor) "We've had several conversations about decorum -- moving forward -- wanting things to be better. We've been very cordial about that. I think that I have honored my end of the deal. But tonight, Mayor, there's gonna probably be a Judas among us. I would love for you to make sure that not only the citizens act in a way of decorum. But also those who sit on the dais act in a manner of decorum." (Mr. Warren was talking about Councilman Sampson)

Mr. Warren continued, discussing the city manager position as though he were a member of the Council: "I think that the most important thing that we should be doin' tonight -- as a governing body -- is makin' sure that we get a pilot for our airplane -- a captain for our ship… We do not need to be wastin' our time as a body. We just need to move forward with what's most important to the City…and I hope that becomes our key focus tonight…."

Thirty minutes later, Mayor Witt brought the item to the floor.

Mayor Witt said, “A while back, we made Mr. Dyal permanent. We never did a contract. We was waitin' on our new Council members. We are at that point, so we need to see how we move forward.”

City Councilman Jake Hill
Veteran Councilman Jake Hill comments during Monday's meeting.

Veteran Councilman Jake Hill said, "I would recommend that Mr. Kennon (the new City Attorney) and Mr. Dyal negotiate a contract and bring it back to the board.”

Councilman Sampson motioned that Attorney Kennon negotiate a contract with Mr. Dyal and that Councilman Hill be the Council liaison. Councilman Jernigan seconded the motion, and public comment and councilmember discussion ensued.

Former Council member Glenel Bowden came to the microphone to make his public comments. He introduced himself as a past City Council member of 16 years, adding that he worked with city councils “all over the state for 24 years.”

Mr. Bowden said, “Since Mr. Dyal has been at the helm, things have been going pretty smooth.” Mr. Bowden asked the City Council to keep in mind that Mr. Dyal "stepped up to the plate.”

Mr. Bowden recommended that Mr. Dyal “be given some security in a contract,” adding, “make him feel like you want him to stay.”

Mr. Warren came to the microphone. Mr. Warren said that anyone with decency and common sense would recognize that Mr. Dyal has done “a terrific job."

Many decent people with common sense do not "recognize that Mr. Dyal has done "a terrific job."

Mr. Warren said the salary agreed to be offered to other City Manger candidates was $160k.

This was not true. After losing candidates to other cities, the Council agreed the "maximum" salary offer should be $160,000, based on experience.

Mr. Warren said, "We talked about that we were going to do nothin' less than a five-year contract. Mr. Sampson said that we all agreed on it.”

Mr. Warren continued, “If $160,000 are not in that contract (Dyal's contract), I will not be satisfied because that would be selling Mr. Dyal short of what you were all willin' to give someone else.”

Lake City Mayor Stephen Witt
Mayor Witt presiding on Monday evening.

Mayor Witt recognized your reporter, who said, "For the people that think Mr. Dyal is a baseball player, it is against the law to give him a 5-year contract or any extended amount of time.”

Your reporter continued, “I haven’t heard anything about a background check. I don’t know of any City Manager that has been hired without a background check… that's up to the City Council to decide…if Mr. Dyal was secure enough in his own skin, he would ask for a background check and not look for a free pass from the City Council.”

City Councilman Todd Sampson weighed in, “I heard that we had offered someone 160 [$160,000]. We never offered a single candidate 160. The only offer we actually made to a candidate was Thomas Thomas. The only other offer we made was for Mike Williams to come back. I believe the number for Mike Williams was 130."

Lake City Councilman Todd Sampson
City Councilman Todd Sampson makes a point.

"We talked about 160 for an experienced person. We never offered 160 to anybody."

Mr. Sampson spoke about background checks and recommended the City do a background check “just so that we are covered.”

Mayor Witt ended discussion and called for the Clerk to call the roll.

Interim City Manager Dyal interrupted. The Mayor permitted him to speak.

Mr. Dyal said, “As far as my background check. I'm not really worried about it. I figure between certain members of the media and everywhere else, there ain't a whole lot in my past that hasn't already been dug up. And if there is, I don't really ( pregnant-pause) care….”

Mr. Dyal continued, “I've been here ten years. I've been in this position a year this month. If you want a background check, you should have been already to find [sic] anything you want about me. And if that ain't, you ask me, I'll tell ya.”

Mayor Witt, without comment, said, “Ms. Sikes, will you call the roll.”

Lake City Councilwoman Chevella Young
Newly elected Chevella Young listens this past Monday evening.

Newly seated Councilwoman Young interceded, “He has sat in the seat as the interim. Was anybody concerned about his background check, and he's doing the same job as he'll be doing? Has anybody been concerned about a background check? Was it a concern?”

Mr. Sampson answered, “Yes, it was a concern.”

Ms. Young began to speak, “Has a background check been…." Mr. Sampson jumped in.

Mr. Sampson: “We brought it up. It got voted down. They didn't want to do it at the time. It's been a concern.”

Again, Mayor Witt said, “Ms. Sikes, will you call the roll, please.”

Ms. Sikes read back the motion: “Motion to appoint Council member Hill to serve as the Council’s liaison; to work with the City Attorney Kennon in negotiation of contract with City Manager Paul Dyal.”

The motion passed unanimously.


Lake City City Attorney Todd Kennon
City Attorney Todd Kennon.

Florida courts repeatedly have stated that the entire decision-making process is subject to the Sunshine Law, not just the formal assemblage of a public body at which voting to ratify an official decision is carried out.

According to an Attorney General opinion, Councilman Hill's designation as the Council liaison in Mr. Dyal's contract negotiations with the City Attorney requires all contract negotiations including Mr. Hill to be noticed according to Florida's Sunshine Law.

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