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Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Lake City City Manager Search Over: 18 Months After It Began a 4-1 Vote For Ex-Utility Director Paul Dyal Leaves Most Questions Unanswered

Paul Dyal, Lake City City manager with headline:

LAKE CITY, FL – Tuesday evening in City Hall, there was only one lone voice asking questions and looking for answers in the final stampede to hire former City Utility Director Paul Dyal as Lake City’s permanent City Manager: Councilman Todd Sampson.

The Long Story-Short

Lake City’s Controversial former Utility Director was offered a contract to be Lake City’s permanent City Manager.

Four members of the City Council [by seniority]: Mayor Stephen Witt and council members Jake Hill, Chavella Young, and Ricky Jernigan, voted to hire Mr. Dyal without a background check, credit check, or completed City job application. Mr. Dyal was not required to subscribe to the ICMA Code of Ethics.

Publically, other than Councilman Todd Sampson, none of the other Council members, other than Mr. Hill, asked any relevant questions of Mr. Dyal.

While much remains unanswered about Mr. Dyal, new information was revealed at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

That along with the known and unknown may be putting Lake City at risk.

Councilman Sampson Inquires About Mr. Dyal’s Alaska Connection

In an undated letter sent to the City Council on Sunday, March 27, 2022, Mr. Dyal, who had been serving as Interim City Manager since January, advised the City Council that he wanted to step down

On May 8, 2022, Mr. Dyal applied for the job of Ketchikan’s city manager.

The Observer uncovered the Dyal Alaska Connection in November 2022. See: 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?

Mr. Sampson, quoting from Mr. Dyal’s July interview, inquired about the Dyal Alaska Connection during Tuesday’s Council meeting.

Mr. Sampson said:"

 “To quote Mr. Dyal: ‘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."’

Mr. Sampson continued, “In Mr. Dyal’s own words, he told the Mayor he did not want be City Manager of Lake City, and told the Ketchikan City Council he had been offered the job.”

Mr. Sampson addressed Mayor Witt, “I have a question. Mr. Mayor, did you, in fact, offer the job of city manager to Mr. Dyal?”

Mayor Witt refused to answer.

Mr. Sampson continued, "I have asked the City Attorney if the lack of a background and credit check would expose the City to additional liability. The e-mail I received from Mr. Kennon this morning said he is looking into it."

Mr. Sampson concluded, “Without this question being answered by our legal counsel, I would make a motion to table this negotiation until we get the answer from Mr. Kennan in writing."

Mr. Sampson's motion died for lack of a second.

A Laundry List of Issues With Mr. Dyal

Mr. Sampson read a laundry list of Dyal issues into the record:

• Failure to follow HR procedures for promotions even after City Attorney Koberlein advised him to do so.

• Mr. Dyal killed a grant concerning HAECO because he didn’t like it.

• Failure to follow normal management norms when dealing with certain directors, mostly female directors. The former City Attorney said this could qualify as both age and sex discrimination.

• Failure to follow the directions of the Council. After the Council voted last week to move forward with an appraisal on the airport property and extend HAECO’s lease by one year, Mr. Dyal continued negotiating with HAECO through their manager and lobbyist.

• Authorizing payroll reimbursement in excess of guidelines and standard practices to a former City employee at cost of almost $8,000 in extra pay.

• Taking time off with pay. [Mr. Dyal used none of his sick or PTO (paid time off) time for his many absences, saying he would be working from home the best he could – Ed]. This includes the time he spent travelling to and from his job interview in Alaska.

Councilman Hill: Now about that Alaska Trip

While Mr. Hill said he thought Mr. Dyal had filled his role as interim city manager, he had questions.

Mr. Hill asked, "When you went to Alaska, how do I know … you won't in the next month or two jump ship on us?"

Mr. Dyal said the interview was in July, leaving out the fact that the Ketchikan position opened up at the beginning of May, which was when he applied, writing to Ketchikan's headhunter, “I am extremely interested in being considered for this position."

Mr. Dyal continued explaining, "There was [sic] discussions with some council members about whether I would stay or where I would go. So that's when I was getting to the point with all the conversations goin' on -- I didn't feel very secure with staying here. That's why I took the liberty to go up there."

Then, Mr. Dyal said, “When you go to an interview, you usually try to do whatever you can to make it sound good within reason. And that's what I did.”

Among other things, Mr. Dyal told the folks in Ketchikan that the people in Lake City were not friendly...

Mr. Dyal told the folks in Alaska that one of his greatest strengths was “treating people with respect."

Mr. Dyal's unhinged, insulting, and pejorative remarks to anyone who disagrees with him have been relatively commonplace in City Hall. Telling Councilman Sampson to take some papers and "shove them up his ass" is just one example.

Mr. Dyal said, “As long as I feel secure in this position, I'll stay here… I love the City…,” again mentioning that when he didn’t feel secure, “I’m gonna look elsewhere."

Councilman Hill weighed in again, "I would have felt better about it if you had spoke to me, as well as you spoke to the Mayor.

I would have appreciated, just like you told the Mayor…. It just would have set better with me, hearing it from you, then hearing it from somebody else.”

Sometime after his Alaskan trip, Mr. Dyal mentioned to a high-ranking County official that the Mayor told him he did not have to take personal time off for his Alaska trip.

Epilogue

Paul Dyal is now the official City Manager of Lake City.

Mr. Dyal's rude and obnoxious disposition and behavior and his admitted loose grip on the truth are recognized and problematic.

Present lawsuits and EEOC complaints against the City are also problematic. This is another reason for comprehensive background checks.

Finally, a major scandal involving Mr. Dyal, high-ranking present and former City officials, and some of Mr. Dyal’s top lieutenants appears to be gathering steam.

The City’s new attorneys would do well looking at the history of the Lake Shore Hospital Authority for instruction on what happens when the D&O insurance is removed from a trustee-appointed manager.

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