Ty Ross: Give Him Another Chance or Send Him on His Way?

By Mike Phillips

The truth takes its own sweet time.

We know the truth that City Manager Ty Ross got drunk one evening in late October. We know the truth that he tried to ride his bicycle home but crashed. We know the policeman who picked him up cut him some slack, didn’t administer a breathalyzer test (which he had every right to do) and gave Mr. Ross and his bent-up bicycle a ride home. All true.

And now we know that Mr. Ross thought he could keep the event under wraps. Not true. We know he didn’t even tell his bosses, who are the city commission. They began to hear the truth a month later when gossip, reporter calls and a formal records request by the Observer popped the lid off.

Now the records request has produced a police bodycam video of a drunk guy sitting in the grass trying to deal politely – but not very coherently — with a police officer.

We know all that, but we are far from knowing important truths about our new city manager. In other venues has he been equally slow to tell the truth? Why did he try to blow off a public event that city personnel guidelines and common sense say is not his to hide? He apologized – though not fulsomely. He cited stress and a need for professional help – but not in any way that would make the average layperson think he will shape up pretty soon.

What do we really know about this man? Not much. More truth is needed.

Yet the bosses he blew off at first will meet next week to decide what they should do.

Public opinion might not be helpful. The Observer’s reader comments so far lean slightly to giving the guy another chance and slightly more to saying he needs to go.

A friend of mine and I were talking about this and think the people who say he needs to go most likely are present or former managers who have been responsible for large groups of people. They know the critical importance of enforcing behavioral regulations from top to bottom. That’s a big part of how a group of workers becomes a team. From top to bottom we have high standards. No exceptions.

The people who want to give Mr. Ross another chance have good hearts, my friend and I think. The world needs as many good-hearted people as it can get. It needs a tilt toward forgiveness. But does Fernandina Beach need Mr. Ross? We both have carried the burdens of managing hundreds of people. We wonder whether Mr. Ross can manage his own problems, much less 200 city employees.

As they say, where you go is where you came from.

I hope our commissioners confront this problem with deep and, if they are so inclined, prayerful thinking. I hope partisanship doesn’t enter into their thoughts. In their conclusions lie the future of Fernandina Beach over the next year or two.

But truth never stops coming out, no matter how slowly. By the next election, we will have a much better idea whether they have chosen wisely or foolishly next week.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Noble Member
2 months ago

Well Good Heavens! You have now inserted the idea into the minds of readers that wanting to give Ty Ross a second chance translates to feeling with the heart and not really being qualified to assume a role in the deciding whether he is fired or not. Are you being sincere, or was this delivered with condescension? Oh how ridiculous! Some of the nation’s top business leaders give lectures about forgiveness and emphasize its beneficial roles and importance in the workplace. Forgiveness can actually be a healthy and productive strategy. Do your homework. Talk to Dr. Shawne Duperon. Talk to Dr. Rosabeth Kantor. You also say here that Ty Ross’s apology does not seem sincere but offer no reason. Could you elaborate more on this? The first line of your article packs a good punch, but while you acknowledge that time takes its sweet time, it sounds like you are expediting the process a bit.

Noble Member
2 months ago

I would put him on a 6 month “probation” and review his performance thereafter.

Active Member
2 months ago

That Mr. Ross had a bit too much to drink is not the problem–it is that he tried to deceive.
And had the assistance of the police chief–who had just been appointed by Ross.
Both are accountable for their acts–both must face consequences.
The public trust is vital and, once lost, is hard to regain–we deserve better.

Douglas M
Noble Member
Douglas M(@douglasm)
2 months ago

Ty has learned one valuable lesson…..there are no secrets in Fernandina…….everything gets spread around; over coffee, a beer, breakfast joints, etc. A few were present, and calls were made to supervisors…..there was zero chance this would stay underground. Not here….

So that is where I scratch my head, because things always look worse when you try to keep it hidden. Getting out in front is the way to go.

I just wonder how far the news traveled, because the FBCC should have a big problem with not knowing about this sooner….where was the breakdown in proper reporting beyond Ty Ross?

2 months ago

A manager might not be forthright but a leader is. If Ross had been open & honest from the get go, I’d say keep him. But he wasn’t. A police officer in Loudon, TN had a DUI this past year while Ross was managing that city.

This is Ross’s quote about that incident:
“I am aware that one of our police officers, Ben Everett, was cited for suspicion of driving under the influence last weekend in Monroe County. I take this matter very seriously and I am committed to holding our officers to the highest standard of conduct. The officer has been placed on administrative leave. Our officers are expected to uphold the law and to serve as role models for our community. When an officer is accused of violating the law, it erodes public trust and undermines our ability to keep our community safe. The legal process will run its course as it would for any citizen. I want to thank the citizens of Loudon for their patience and understanding as we work through this matter.”


2 months ago

The City Manager doesn’t deserve a free pass for bad behavior because he was drunk. He chose to go out drinking. He chose to ride his bike in a busy intersection at night. He chose not to tell his supervisors about the incident. His apology was all about how how fortunate he was not to be hurt and did not acknowledge how he was too incapacitated to respond to any emergency that might have arisen in the City. He should resign so that he can get the help he needs in a less stressful environment.

Jay Kayne
Trusted Member
Jay Kayne(@jay-kayne)
2 months ago

At a minimum, the commissioners need to know if this is a one-off or a pattern of behavior. If, as Mr. Ross claims, this was precipitated by the stress of a new job, new city, new home, etc. with no evidence of a pattern, that might be an extenuating circumstance.

However, there is a public record of Mr. Ross’ questionable behavior while city manager in Loudon, TN and a separation agreement as city administrator in Dalton, GA due to what was described as “a personal matter.”. The commissioners need to know if alcohol played any role in these incidences or any other concerns that led to his suspension in TN and resignation in GA.

2 months ago

Well framed depiction of public reaction.  All support CM getting treatment and improved mental health. Two big red flags. In his Dec 6 public comments Ty Ross continues to wish that the accident was not brought to attention of City Commissioners and downplaying incident because it was on “private time”. If he can’t manage two week separation from his family and easing into new job, how is he going to handle CM role in responding to a hurricane or other major disaster? Issues here are trivialized by comments about “sinners casting stones”. This is also not about getting even for the Martin termination. The “real deal” is about managing the future of our city which is more complex and challenging than many realize.

2 months ago

The bike situation, alone, may have been bad judgement from being inebriated. That situation might have been survivable had he admitted it happened.

Giving him a chance would have been working through that situation.

However, the sober (I hope) decision made daily, for 30 days, to conceal the event is egregious and indicative of continued bad judgment. In my opinion, that’s terminable.

Issuing an apology only after you’ve been exposed doesn’t seem like remorse to me. In his own words, he still maintained he “wish we’d never known” and that this was on his “own” time. To me it felt hollow and like an excuse.

I hope that he is able to get the help he needs and wish him success.

I also hope that our Commission has the wisdom and fortitude to do what’s right for the City of Fernandina Beach, first and foremost, and move forward without Mr. Ross.

2 months ago

Time for Mr. Ross to move on. He did state that he ‘unfortunately lives on Amelia Island’ so he should be allowed to return to his previous residence with no obligations to the city. I understand folks sometime drink a little too much: he was so drunk he was incapacitated. Given the reports or previous concerns as city manager, it seems likely that it’s an ongoing problem. Unacceptable for a city manager!

Noble Member
2 months ago

From the City Manager’s apology, we know that he was not apologizing for his public drunkenness, nor the public’s loss of trust in him, but instead for the fact that it all came into the public’s attention. He clearly does not understand that his generous salary is based in part on his availability on a 24/7 basis. Think of a drunk City Manager, unable to stand on his own, when one of RYAM’s ethanol tankers spills its volatile contents on 8th Street. He has lost credibility, respect and trust in the eyes of many. If he was truly contrite about his behavior, he would offer his resignation. It’s my understanding that the executive search firm warrantied his hiring. Let them find us a suitable replacement.

Active Member
2 months ago

To quote a Paul Newman movie, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” (Cool Hand Luke, 1967). Once the police were involved, the city manager should have immediately communicated with all city commissioners and been forthcoming with what happened. He chose not to, and that speaks to his character. As we all know, oftentimes the coverup is worse than the crime. He made poor choices all around and although alcohol impaired his judgement the afternoon and evening of the bike incident, when he was of sound mind the next day, he should have immediately notified the city commissioners with a major mea culpa. He chose not to and that is poor judgement and exhibiting deceptive behavior. He apologized only after the incident came to light. He should be held accountable as any other city employee would be and in accordance with his specific employment contract (did he violate conditions of employment?) and the city commissioners need to review any past incidents at previous employers to see if this is repeat behavior. The responding officer should have treated Mr. Ross consistent with requirements for any other citizen in that situation and not given any preferential treatment. You cannot be faulted for consistency, but you certainly can be faulted for giving preferential treatment.

John Hopkins
John Hopkins(@john-hopkins)
2 months ago

Why is no one concerned that this DUI accident involved a vehicle. Cyclists are considered “vehicles” under Florida law and must obey the same traffic laws as cars and trucks, like stopping at stop signs and traffic lights, signaling when turning, and riding with the traffic flow. So, if on a roadway this DUI incident of lack of control of a vehicle was illegal and could have caused a serious accident. If on a sidewalk in the dark, it could have been even worse for a another bike rider or pedestrian.

Being an avid bike rider throughout the Island, I know of no way of going from downtown to this intersection without using roadways, otherwise you would be riding on sidewalks with many pedestrians on them.

Last edited 2 months ago by John Hopkins
Noble Member
2 months ago
Reply to  John Hopkins

People have said that it was only the City Manager who was at risk, after all a bicycle/car accident will only have one loser. In reality, as the driver of the car in that situation, I would be haunted for a long time by the thought of having hit a cyclist, be he drunk or sober. One could say that he was lucky to have fallen on the curb side and not into the roadway, but either way, he wasn’t wearing a helmet. That was bad judgment when he left home on a bicycle to go drinking, and worse when he chose not to call for a ride.

Active Member
2 months ago

Ty Ross served 7 years as city manager of Loudon, TN.
Loudon Mayor Jeff Harris praised him, saying “he did everything he said he would do and more,
the city is a better place because of his work.”
Now that length of tenure and accolade says something about the man.
People should not be so bloodthirsty–maybe cool it a bit.