By Mike Phillips
Was it a done deal? Of course it was. Well before the Fernandina Beach City Commission’s vote to dismiss City Manager Dale Martin Tuesday evening:
- Mayor Bradley Bean had paid a courtesy call on Martin the day before to wish him farewell.
- Bean also had lined up former police chief Mark Foxworth to serve as interim city manager.
- And everyone at City Hall, and pretty well everyone else in town, knew what was going to happen.
So then the question is, what next? Will the commission engage one of the search firms that specialize in finding city managers? They don’t know. How long will the search take? They only engaged Foxworth for 90 days, but they left room for an extension — which means they don’t know. What qualities are they looking for in a city manager that Martin didn’t possess? They haven’t said.
And the ultimate question is:
What was wrong with Dale Martin? The only answer you get back from commissioners is, “It’s time for a change.” Or, “We’re going in a new direction.” What change, what direction they haven’t said. In his almost 8 years at the helm (a long stretch for city managers in general) Martin with infinite patience got major capital projects done in a community that doesn’t like paying for capital projects. He convinced department heads to take responsibility for their departments rather than running to the city manager for direction. He discharged unproductive people but did it gently. If you’ve ever had to do that, you know it’s perhaps the ultimate mark of a good manager. And unlike any other city manager I’ve ever known (which is quite a few) he told the community every week what was going on.
So where is the city headed after this significant change? Only engaged citizens can answer that. The engaged citizens who came to the microphone Tuesday evening said they didn’t understand why the commissioners were in such a hurry, why they lacked the patience, or wisdom, to forge relationships with Martin. Good question.
Sad and underhanded. The three who gave the axe have destroyed the community’s trust in the Commission’s ability to govern in the sunshine.
Not much sunshine in anonymous.
Many, many problems with how this firing was handled, the first of which is the apparent collusion of some commissioners working behind the scenes, outside of public meetings and outside of our sunshine (transparency) laws.
It was time for the city manager to go. I’ve lived here for five years, and have a masters degree in public administration. I have been puzzled by the management of the city, especially during the pandemic, when he raised taxes and begged the county for funds.
No matter what you think about Mr. Martin’s management, none of this was a reason to not follow the city charter and related processes. Those who voted for this played way outside the boundaries. My question this morning – now that they have done this once and gotten away with it, who is next?
I’m not as concerned with the “who is next”, but more so with “WHAT is next”? What exactly is this FBCC’s goals and vision? Where do they want to take the city? I don’t have a warm and fuzzy on this one.
All the charges were relatively minor except, perhaps, the unproven “make it look ugly” comment. I just get the feeling something else is triggering this. Certain Commissioners and agenda items will bear close watching from this point….
I agree Doug. They say they want to be transparent. What they are doing is indeed transparent. My question is Why? Some external force got the two A’s elected using a lot of out-of-City money. Was this money spent so that a bloc could oust Martin? Or was it just sport? Or is there some further work to be done? I think that our non-partisan elections are at risk. Hope not but citizens need to be watchful.
Saw a lot of new faces in the audience last night and some that I recognized. Were they there to watch Martin get fired? Or were they there to make sure that the bloc stayed on plan to fire him?
You missed the 15 years before that when the City Manager job was a revolving door. Stability has been nice.
And I have a doctorate in strategic leadership. Which means nothing, considering I don’t know the inner mechanisms of the administration. But, nice way to make yourself sound knowledgeable.
This is a sad day for Fernandina. Dale Martin did an amazing job (in my opinion) under the pressure of small-city politics and rancor. I think that the commissioners will find that we have lost momentum on many fronts, and this was a very bad move.
Both substance and process problems in how this evolved. Commission decision and timing— even if there is merit in their concerns— In current employment market were foolhardy. What good City Mgr with options would come here once it becomes public they might be humiliated in public before due process?
The title says it all…..”manage” Period. Stop. Endless projects to justify ever expanding City Gobernment and staff have to s.t.o.p. Manage to stay within budget (like the rest of us Fools) and understand “The Little People”(Hillary Clinton term), us the taxpayers are not an endless supply of ever increasing tax dollars. I’ve run my own company 37 plus years. Limited sales due to COVID…… The brakes went on, staff were dismissed and I did not get paid. And no I did not accept CARES Act money. Period. Stop. This,” we’ll let the Feds, State, someone” pay for it” mentality has to s.t.o.p.
Sorry but seeing 5 or 6 Road Maintenace City of Fernandina employees standing around a manhole BS countless times over the past years has to stop. The Manager needs to get out of his(or her) chair and manage. The Budget across the board needs to get trimmed. There appears to have grown a lot of “fat” in the last ten plus years….at least on my tax bill. The checks sure reflect that. Period. Stop.
Mange – Yes! Be effective – Absolutely! And yet, among his first efforts, Commissioner Ayscue is taking a victory lap over convincing the FBCC to vote to turn the lights back on on Citrona at city expense even though the lights are on county roads. Again folks – the city manager (whoever he was, is or will be) takes marching orders from the votes logged by the city commissioners. Four voted to turn the lights back on with no plan on how the month utility charge will be paid. Ayscue wants to create “good will” with the county and negotiate money from them via the MSTU for beach walkovers. So far, all he has done is vote to capitulate to their refusal to pay for the lights on their streets. The beat goes on….
What is going on in Fernandina? What’s with all the cloak and dagger and last minute,late night cancellations with no explanation? Who is calling these shots and why…taxpayers have the RIGHT to know…somebody needs to start explaining and clarifying…NOW.
The beginning of the end. Pity Chip.
Thank you Dale, for all your hard work. Perhaps the bastards did you a favor.
The city commission made a huge mistake and has set our city back miles. This new commission did not have enough experience working with Dale to even have vote on such an item. These 3 commissioners will see the damage they have done to our city when they cannot find another city manager quickly that can 1 afford to live within city limits and 2 agree to take on a job that has 0 security. The fact that the city attorney still has a job, and the city manager who has contributed so much to our city is gone is frightening. I hope that these 3 commissioners realize what they have done. They obviously do not have our best interest in mind and only their small minded “politics”. They did not listen to their constituents and I’m sure will see the results of this horrible decision in the next few months and will regret it when THEY have cost our citizens a lot of money trying to find someone to take his place and the city engineers place. I can’t believe that we have such small minded people in this community. Bradley Bean will regret this when his popularity fails because that is all he cares about, as a “politician” and Sturges most likely does not even understand what he did and what the repercussions will be.
I suspect that there was collusion behind the scenes by the Republican city commissioners. Now I hope they can pick a new City Manager who will work for ALL city residents, not just the ones who support a pro-development agenda. Only time will tell.
I appreciated Dale Martin’s openness and transparency and am concerned by the lack of transparency in last night’s vote. I wonder what the termination will cost the City, how much they are paying the Interim Mayor, and estimated costs of recruitment will be. I also wonder what other department heads might be on their chopping block.
We need an explanation as to exactly why Dale Martin was fired. Commissioners: we live in an open and free democracy.
“Cruel: willfully causing pain or suffering to others, or feeling no concern about it.” “Arbitrary: based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.” At the Fernandina City Commission meeting on 2/21, these were both on display. I was appalled and disgusted.
You don’t even lived here Ms. Harmon, you moved out of state months ago Just more shrill progressive howling at the moon silliness without any facts. Good grief! Your comments are, as you say: “Appalling and disgusting”.
This really stinks. It’s clear that the new city council is more interested in politics than they are in fair and open government. We’ve seen this before, and unless local voters pay attention, we’ll see it again. And again.
Let’s be crystal clear. Last September the City Commission conducted Charter Officer performance reviews and neither Mayor Bean nor Vice Mayor Sturges raised any major concers with Dale Martin’s performance. Just 5 months later and Martin can’t do his job. What changed? A new commissioner elected to vote with Bean and Sturges. Totally unprofessional and pure politics cost Dale Martin his job. No one should be treated this way. You give executives a chance to perform after setting clear expectations. This is just the beginning.
…whines the sour grapes losing Commission candidate.
Taking the “low road” once again, I see. No factual rebuttal – just name calling. Unfortunately, your strategy may win.
might have something to do with this… not the first of a bunch of things gone wrong. [22CA000414AXYX filed in Nassau County last december
A million dollar lawsuit alleging improper building fees and impact fees? Keep moving. Nothing to see here.
Stunning display of incompetence by the commissioners.
A manager who makes an empire, adds jobs, doesn’t look to manage but expand his monetary budget is not a manager. He sided with the spend and make WOKE when this is a conservative city. Good ridance. All those who write to support him are woke leftists and proud of it. The silent majority has won.
John, could you please define Woke? I want to be sure I know it when I see it in this city.
Why did the 3 commissioners want to fire Dale so quickly? Why wouldn’t Sturges share the 23 reasons from anonymous citizens? Bean and Sturges are shady, and conniving, most likely doing this for their own gains. But what will those gains be? Sturges will not be re-elected, he offers the commission nothing and he himself is known to participate in shady business dealings. Should the community rally to get him fired like Dale? Bean is just a spoiled kid playing “boss” he has no leadership experience himself. What makes those two so powerful? Its because these 3 commissioners have something up their sleeves. They do not have the experience to fire someone who has been leading the community for 7 years. It is also curious why did they not make the number 2 Charles George the interim city manager? He has been monumental in running and managing the city departments since he has been here and sure knows more about the every day runnings of the City better than Foxworth? It makes no sense, unless these 3 are out to get him next? Are they so naïve to think that our city can run without permanent leaders, who know what they are doing? Watch out Fernandina, next you will see all department heads gone, with no one to fill them. You scream and cry about how long it takes and how much it costs to get a building permit, well when there is no one at the helm, you have no one else to thank but Sturges (a builder himself, real smart) and Bean who thinks he is the King and is untouchable. We sure should not be thanking them, we should be voting those with no brains out of office, those who cannot see past their own shady agendas.
The 23 transgressions is now part of the record, Commissioner Sturges was clear in explaing that he did not want their to be repercussions against the resident who provided him the 23 transgressions.
The City Commission only has oversight over 3 positions, the rest are at the discretion of the Charter Officers, primarily the City Manager.
Permanent leaders?? That’s a laugh. Fernandina has no leaders. There’s only lackeys of the rich and famous, followers of the almighty dollar, and newly elected commissioners who think they know what they’re doing. That’s the reason this is all happening in the first place.
Mark Foxworth will have a yeoman’s task ahead as his first priority is going to be the preparation of the City budget for 2023-24. It will be interesting to see the direction that he is given by the Commission with regards to Capital Improvement spending and priorities as well as staffing levels and overall general operating budget. Based on past experience it is going to take six months to search, vet and interview candidates and hire a new City Manager. This citizen’s panel proposed by Mayor Bean is a new wrinkle and it will be interesting to see how that works. Guess it will be like a search committee for a new pastor at a church. Borrowing a phrase from Neil Bortz-the Church of the Painful Truth.
Best wishes Mark.
Five individuals each appointed by one of the commissioners is hardly a citizen’s panel. They need to hire an independent search firm who will hold focus groups with broad citizen’s perspectives. This decision is too important to rely on a small group of “insiders”!
Anon, I agree with the need to utilize the services of a professional search firm as has been done in the past. I don’t think Mayor Bean precluded such an element in the hiring process. May be that that citizen’s group is simply going to help finalize a job description developed by HR and then work with commissioners to come up with a group of finalists from the submitted applications. In the past, the finalist candidates are brought in for a public meet and greet and then interviewed in public by all the commissioners after individual sessions.
Silent majority! Can we have conversation without using the words WOKE and progressive agendas? I imagine there was collusion behind the scenes with the new commissioners. I am surprised they did not get rid of him sooner. Sad and underhanded but not unexpected. Tighten your seat belts there is way more to come with this new city government.
Email me the proposed budget. Period. Stop. Assuming the “official” inflation rate of 9% in the past year(who really believes that), I have 9% less than I had a year before. I can assure you I can cut 9% fat from the ever expanding Fernandina Beach waste line(ops budget)…..starting with the City Managers job. Each Department Head also gets the Budget with direct to the point instructions, cut 9% .Period. Stop. The amount of pork around here has raised itself to heights not seen before. It is time to s.t.o.p.
First up, eliminate even discussion on the $2.5 million plus for porta potties in Bret’s parking lot for the thousands of cruze ship “visitors” that are soon to descend upon us. What Einstein thinks people with free food and booze on board will grace our restaurants with their presence and their wallets?
Isn’t there an Assistant City Manager? An Assistant to the Assistant City Manager? How many people Folks does it take to “do” a budget? Hummmm Let’s start with Total taxes collected from prior calendar year(line A), less expenses(line B). Line B cannot exceed line A. Figure it out……..PLEASE.
You’re forgetting that this is government, not business.
Line B can easily exceed line A when you’re dealing with OPM (Other People’s Money). There’s little incentive (personal rewards) to make a “profit” and return excess funds to the taxpayers. The primary incentive is to “look good” and (maybe) get reelected. Governments can declare bankruptcy but they almost never go “out of business”.
Nicolas, there is no proposed budget as of yet. With the City’s fiscal year running Oct to September, there are early efforts beginning soon by the department heads under the direction of the City’s Comptroller to develop departmental budgets. However, the most efficient process is for the Commission to give direction to the Comptroller as to what is acceptable to them from a millage rate standpoint. I have heard different options bandied about from a 10% overall reduction (which is a poor practice), to the rollback rate, to the rollback rate plus an inflation factor, etc.
When an initial budget is developed, the ICM/CM will present it to the Commissioners and public. It will also be posted in all its detail on the City’s website. Then there will be a series of workshops to solicit public comment as well as give the commissioners an opportunity to discuss together.
The city manager is required to live in the city. Mr. Foxworth lives in Duval County. Can someone share the workaround?
Where do you live Ms. Maguire? I don’t think you reside within 1,000 miles of Fernandina, unless Chicago has been annexed by FB.
Didn’t see anything about Ms. Maguire auditioning for the City Manager job. If she’s reading the Observer and taking the time to read all the discussion, she clearly has an interest in this town. Never knew one needed to qualify to have information or an opinion and share it.
Hello Dave Scott! Americans lived thousands of miles from Germany during WW2. We had not been “annexed” – yet. But, we chose to be involved. Not sure proximity is a qualifier.
Mary, the Charter requires the City Manager to live within the city limits within 90 days after being sworn it. Mr. Foxworth will not be the City Manager but the Interim City Manager and there is no requirement specified for residency.
He does live in the city. Public records…
Why are people allowed to comment as “anonymous”?
Richard, I agree with your sentiment but I don’t think there is really any way to avoid that option except by requiring an individual to register and have their registration authenticated and I’m sure Mike doesn’t want to go there.
Fear of retaliation, privacy issues etc
So your comments are irrelevant
I am appalled by this decision to fire the best City Manager Fernandina has had in decades. There is something going on here that isn’t in the Sunshine, I must to conclude. Some agenda to line someone’s pockets, I would bet. I live in Amelia City, and thank the Lord I am not a constituent of this fiasco. It affirms the reason why the south hall of Amelia Island will never vote to be part of the City of Fernandina Beach.
So back in Dec I met Dale Martin for the first time and was impressed with him and his generosity to those he serves. I was telling a friend of mine how much I enjoyed meeting him and how nice I thought he is. Their reply to me was, don’t get comfortable with him being around “he’s headed out the door” I have to say I don’t think I took it very seriously, when I asked who is pushing him out the door the reply was by the powers that be. But after what I just saw happen, I now know we have puppets for commissioners, and now the question is who is the puppeteer? I’m really sorry to see this type of conspiracy in our community. But I shouldn’t be surprised when our country is running the same way.
” The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home” – Confucius
I think our home has lost its integrity.
Major loss to the community. Now see what wisdom the city commissioners will show with their new selection, and how long it takes?