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Lake City Reaching for the Lowest Common Denominator: Lowers Requirements for Assistant City Manager, 4-1

A college degree: Now you see it - now you don't.

Silhouette of Florida with headline: Lowest common demoninator. Lake City lowering the bar. Florida is watching

LAKE CITY, FL – The unraveling of Lake City continued at the tail end of Tuesday's drama-filled City Council meeting. Buried at the bottom of the agenda was the undated rewrite of the Assistant City Manager job description.


Going back to Assistant City Manager Grayson Cason, the City position of Assistant City Manager has been filled with qualified managers with the education and experience to supervise various departments, which at times have included the airport, recreation, economic development, community planning, utilities, and finance.

Community Activist Sylvester Warren
Community activist Sylvester Warren was in favor of removing the educational requirements from the ACM position. He handed out an email which he claimed was from an HR professional. A google search of the person's name drew a blank.

Over time, the job descriptions have changed according to the City Manager and his requirements.

The official City Assistant City Manager job description has become a moving target.

In the early fall of 2022, your reporter met with HR Director Hubert Collins and City Councilman Todd Sampson to review various HR files and positions.

Mr. Collins was conversational, professional, and courteous, providing answers and requested information without pushback.

City Manager Paul Dyal had been running the City as the Interim City Manager since January 2022.

City Agenda January 17: the last item
Assistant City Manager job description update

On page 171 of 175 pages was the agenda request form of HR Director Hubert Collins.

Mr. Collins timely submitted the form and backup material for the current Assistant City Manager (ACM) position and the proposed revision.

 The process for the change in the ACM position is simple. The City Manager or HR Director would have reviewed the present job description. In the ACM case, the City Manager would have suggested changes that would have been reviewed, evaluated, and approved by the HR Director, "utilizing established criteria.” Then, the recommended changes would be sent to the City Council, which must approve all job description changes.

In 2022, the Florida legislature and Governor DeSantis officially diminished the value of a college education with the July signing of Florida statute 112.219: Substitution of work experience for post-secondary educational requirements.

The legislation was absent from Mr. Collins’ provided information (dated Jan. 11), as was any mention of it. Mr. Collins written summary of the request and its background was one sentence: “Approval of Job Description update for role of Assistant City Manager to update positions qualifications.”

At 4:21 pm Tuesday, the day of the meeting, your reporter forwarded the legislation to Mr. Collins, City Manager Dyal, and the City Clerk, who forwarded it to the City Attorney.

It was obvious that none of them were aware of the legislation before your reporter sent them the information or before the City Clerk forwarded it.

Doubling Down On Dumbing Down
The Lake City City Council In Action

Approximately two and a half hours into the meeting, HR Director Collins was invited to the microphone to explain the Assistant City Manager position change.

Mr. Collins: “Thank you, Mayor. I'm hoping that everyone has gotten an updated version of the job description. Are there any questions?”

Newly elected Councilman Ricky Jernigan asked: "So you and the city manager -- or personnel -- personnel and the city manager, made the necessary changes for us to hire an assistant city manager?”

Mr. Collins responded, "Necessary changes – what we did was change the qualifications to throw a broader net out to get as many applicants as we can get. There's - there was a change in the Florida Statute mid-last year that allowed for the difference between formal education and experience. So we're applying that new standard at the city manager's election.”

Mr. Jernigan inquired about the City Manager Paul Dyal’s involvement, “So he was heavily involved in this, right?”

Mr. Collins: “Yeah, it was -- wasn't a big discussion. It was pretty quick.”

City Attorney Todd Kennon weighed in with his newly found knowledge, “Just for reference, that’s 112.219. And it would require the Council to recommend and approve the requested change because you are the head of the employing agency, as that statute is written.”

Mr. Kennon got it half-right-half-wrong. The Council has to approve all changes to job descriptions because that is what the City’s Personal Policy directs it to do.

Councilman Sampson addresses City Attorney Kennon, “So it’s not a required change we have to make for this position? (Silence – Mr. Sampson asks again) It’s not required change?”

Mr. Kennon answers, “No, the statute allows for the inclusion of applicable experience in lieu of years of required education.” 

Mr. Sampson follows up, “So has the experience got to be documented and applicable to the actual job – so you would have to be in management to have a year offset of management?”

Mr. Kennon read from the statute.

Mr. Sampson addressed HR Director Collins, “So is it normal and standard that you would see someone as the number two person in a city not have a bachelor's degree?”

Lake City HR Director Hubert Collins
HR Director Hubert Collins has his eye on City Manager Dyal as he responds to the Council's questions.

Mr. Collins replied, “I don’t know.”

Mr. Sampson asked if the position was budgeted for $120k a year.

Mr. Collins said that was correct.

Mr. Sampson asked if the City would hire an employee (for assistant city manager) without a degree, “But has some kind of work experience.”

Mr. Collins said it "needs to be verifiable, and it needs to be related.”

Mr. Sampson said, “Sounds kind of broad.”

Mr. Collins replied, “On a year-for-year basis for post-secondary education.”

Mr. Sampson asked if the City was going to remove degree requirements from other City positions.

Mr. Collins responded, “There's no plans that I know of to do such a thing.”

Mr. Sampson asked, “So we're changing this just for the person in the position, so they qualify for the position?”

Mr. Collins didn't get a chance to answer.

Councilman Hill weighed in, saying that while Interim City Manager Demetrious Johnson might not be qualified, others in the City have jobs for which they are not qualified.

Mr. Collins said, “I can't speak to that.”

City Councilman Ricky JerniganAfter some more conversation, Councilman Jernigan again weighed in. He said, “We have a city manager -- Mr. Dyals. Mr. Dyals wanted a particular person who's just like any other city manager that we bring in from Chicago, and everywhere else city managers come from. If he wants a particular person, I think we should honor his request. That's just me.”

Mr. Jernigan continued, “You don't want to work with a guy from - from - from somewhere else that may not see eye to eye. So why do that? If you want to get somebody that's working for you, working with you, that you can see eye to eye, then make the best decision for the City. And I think Mr. Dyal -- whatever he’s taken out or added to the description for the job, I think we should respect his decision.” 

The Decision

There was more discussion, but the writing was on the wall.

The Council voted 4-1 in favor of changing the Assistant City Manager description, eliminating the need for a bachelor's degree, and removing the assigned responsibilities.

The job descriptions provided by Mr. Collins were not dated, nor did they have revision numbers on them.

Councilman Sampson was the lone dissenter.

Unless the City Council changes the job description again, the next person applying for the assistant city manager position will know one thing: they will be working at the whim of a City Manager who announced to the world that it's okay to tell people what they want to hear.

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?

Epilogue: What is the risk?
The marketplace may provide the answer

Will the lead to dumb down Lake City by City Manager Dyal, a man who admittedly has a loose grip on the truth and questionable judgment, harm Lake City?

Is the willingness of the City Council’s majority to fall into lockstep with a leader of whom it refuses to do a background and credit check prove harmful?

Florida and others are watching.

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