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Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Paul Dyal Out As City Manager, Dee Johnson In As Interim. City Attorney Willing To Ignore City Purchasing Policy To Acquire Headhunter Services

Paul Dyal and Dee Johnson
Paul Dyal (left), Demetrius Johnson (right) | Photos: Columbia County Observer

widget-city-manager-storiesLAKE CITY, FL – Last night in City Hall, it took 26 seconds for the City Council to accept City Manager Paul Dyal's resignation. While Mr. Dyal's resignation should have become effective 30 days from his resignation letter (September 19, 2023), City Attorney Todd Kennon threw a wrench in normal resignation policy by adding curious language to Mr. Dyal’s contract, which was seemingly unnoticed by the City Council.

There were four previous City Manager contracts, not counting Mr. Dyal's. All the contracts said basically the same thing. In the event that so-and-so voluntarily resigns his/her position with the City, so-and-so shall provide a minimum of thirty (30) days notice unless the City and so-and-so agree otherwise.

Interim City Manager Mike Williams’ contract called for a minimum of 2 weeks written notice, while former City Manager Wendell Johnson’s contract called for 90 days written notice.

Former City Manager Joe Helfenberger's contract did not call for written notice, nor did Ami Fields' contract.

None of the former contracts Herbert Darby or Fred Koberlein prepared called for a resolution accepting the manager's resignation.

City Attorney Todd Kennon of RKK attorneys, in the case of Paul Dyal, came up with the “indentured servant” clause. Mr. Kennon’s contract, approved by the City Council, added language: “If the City Council offers to accept Dyal’s resignation, by majority of the City Council, Dyal may resign and declare a voluntary termination as of the date of the offer to accept Dyal’s resignation.”

This weird language led to Mr. Dyal’s resignation not being accepted by the City Council during its special meeting on September 26.

The Council blew through approving Mr. Dyal’s resignation, this time in 26 seconds, making his resignation effective on October 2, if that is what Mr. Dyal wants.

It is unclear what would have happened if the Council decided not to accept Mr. Dyal's resignation or exactly the meaning of Attorney Kennon's unorthodox and confusing language.

As they did during the special meeting on September 26, all Council members except Councilman Sampson asked Mr. Dyal to stay. He didn’t.

The next issue addressed by the Council was Manager Dyal’s successor.

The Council unanimously agreed to have Assistant City Manager Dee Johnson become the interim city manager when Mr. Dyal departs.

According to the City Charter, the qualification of the City Manager are: “The city manager shall hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited four (4) year college or university and have either ten (10) years of progressively responsible experience in municipal or corporate management in a senior management position or any equivalent combination of training and experience.”

Mr. Dee Johnson has a recently acquired associate’s degree and does not meet the other qualifications.

That did not inhibit the Council from appointing Mr. Johnson as interim city manager via a motion by Councilwoman Chevella Young and a second by Councilman Hill.

Councilman Sampson asked City Attorney Kennon if the City Manager qualification in the charter would apply to an interim city manager.

Mr. Kennon’s remarks were mostly unintelligible as he refuses to speak into the microphone, but he could barely be understood saying “no.”

The motion appointing Dee Johnson interim city manager passed unanimously.

Councilman Sampson's plan to accelerate hiring the next City Manager found no takers.

Ignoring the city’s procurement rules, City Attorney Kennon is going to reach out to Headhunter Colin Baenziger to see if he is still interested in searching for a City Manager for Lake City.

*Update: fixed special meeting date from October 19 to September 26

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