Gregg Lynk and Mike McNees. ‘Tis The Season?

What is this? Open season on City Managers?

According to the Florida Today, Melbourne is looking to dismiss their City Manager Mike Nees. More on that in a moment.

We wanted to talk for a moment concerning a comment left on our post that Palm Bay City Manager Gregg Lynk was relieved of his duties this past Wednesday night.

The last time our City Council took it upon themselves to fire (in this case for cause) a City Manager, it cost us taxpayers $300,000 and a bus ticket out of town.

I hope that those who decided this step was necessary had the foresight to look and see how much this little act of political (vengeance?) is going to cost us this time.

The commenter raises a valid point.

First, we aren’t sure where the number of $300,000 comes from. We aren’t doubting its veracity, but we can’t get to that number in our minds. (We really can’t get there with the Lynk termination so we will use the Lynk termination numbers.)

According the Mayor Capote and City Attorney Smith, Lynk’s separation package – irrespective of whether the separation was for “cause” of “no cause” – is 20 weeks of severance pay. According to several sources, Lynk’s contract was for a little over $183K so let’s call that $184,000 for the sake of making the math a little easier. Divide that $184,000 by 52 weeks then multiply it by 20 weeks for the cost of the separation package cost.

The cost of the separation package is therefore roughly $70,769. In addition, we suspect that Lynk’s medical insurance will be carried for a time and we have no idea how much that is.

To replace Lynk, the City will probably hire a head hunting firm. Based on similar situations in Brevard County where cities were looking for a City Manager, the cost of that is $25,000 – $30,000 plus the costs of flying in and housing final applicants for in person interviews which typically is less than $5,000 total.

Adding the totals, we come up with somewhere in the neighborhood of $106,000 plus the insurance costs.

We don’t get to the number that people are talking about on the debit side of the equation. Not even close. We maybe missing some numbers and we are willing to listen if those numbers are brought forth.

However, what people often forget is the salary of the person replacing any City Manager on an interim basis.

In the case of Palm Bay, the City Council named the head of the IT Department Lisa Morrell to that position.

There are two possibilities that affect that aspect of the the cost of Lynk’s dismissal:

1) If the City decides to pay Morrell Lynk’s salary, they aren’t paying her the salary for her position as the head of the IT Department. That money stays withing the coffers of the City.
2) If the City decides to pay Morrell her salary as head of the IT Department to be the interim City Manager, Lynk’s salary stays in the coffers.

Either way, the City has a vacant position – a rather high ranking position – that it is not paying. The effect is that the cost of the Lynk resignation is lowered.

How much will stay in the coffers will be dependent on how long Morrell stays in position and the City finds a replacement for the City Manager position.

We cannot get to the numbers that were mentioned by the commenter and mentioned on Wednesday by some speakers.

Absent of any new data that we missed, we believe the cost of dismissing Mr. Lynk is overstated by some.

We also want to mention the elephant in the room – the letter that was mentioned saying Lynk was the subject of criminal investigation. It would have been improper for the City Council to comment on that investigation, but the fact that it is out there is troubling.

That investigation leads to question, “how much money is saved or how much does it cost the City to allow corrupt officials, employees and elected officials?” By that we think the question that has to be answered is “are the citizens of Palm Bay willing to accept a certain level of corruption because to end it ‘costs too much?'”

Is the line of corruption, malfeasance and misfeasance malleable due to money? Or do the people want a City that does not accept such activities on any level no matter the cost?

After watching the Council meeting, a staff member here raised an interesting point concerning the timing of the dismissal.

One theme of some at the meeting was that terminating Lynk during this holiday season and the day before Thanksgiving was inappropriate.

What our staffer brought up is the idea that with Lynk is getting 20 weeks of separation pay – the equivalent of five (5) months salary. He will have a salary until mid-April.

Lynk wasn’t turned out onto the street where we could expect to see him begging in front of WalMart.

We don’t mean to be cruel here, but if one takes the idea that people shouldn’t be terminated with 5 months of salary, we wonder when it is appropriate to terminate such a person with that contract?

Assume for a moment that a City Manager was terminated in July. Count five months forward and you have the holidays where the same argument can be made about terminating someone during the holidays, family, etc.

If the City Council cannot terminate someone where the five months of separation pay doesn’t cross the holidays, according to our calculations, that means you can only terminate someone in May and June.

Anybody want to live with that restriction because we sure don’t.

Finally, we want to give our opinion on Gregg Lynk and the job he did.

As evidenced by some comments on Wednesday night, there are people who think Lynk is the best thing for the City since sliced bread. We think that there are people out there who blame Lynk for what happened and what is happening corruption wise in Palm Bay.

Frankly, we are somewhere in the middle. We would offer that Lynk serves at the direction of the City Council. If the Council is corrupt, they are going to direct the City Manager to do things that are not exactly kosher.

As an example, when former City Attorney Lannon was terminated, let go, resigned or whatever, it came out that many of the things that Lannon was doing were at the behest of City Council members were not right. Like Lynk, Lannon served at the direction of the Council.

Should Lynk and even Lannon say “I am not going to do that”? Yes. Yet we would offer that even in our daily lives we often look the other way at some behaviors that are not correct. (Don’t believe us? Look at your speedometer the next time you are driving.)

We had issues with Lynk and they concerned the City’s handling of public record requests. There is no doubt that the City handles such requests contrary to the law and neither Lynk, the legal department and the City Council are not willing to do anything about it.

“We’ve always broken the law” is not a reason to keep breaking the law.

In short, we don’t think Lynk was the saint that some portrayed him as, and neither do we think he was the devil as others think. We are somewhere in the middle of those assessments.

While this is not an excuse, sometimes people get caught in ethical situations they are not prepared to handle. Maybe that makes them the wrong person for the job. Or maybe it makes their superiors and supervisors unfit for their jobs.

There is an old saying dealing with sports coaches which goes something like “there are only two types pf coaches: those who have yet to be fired and those who have been fired.”

To some extent that applies to City Managers. We have watched several other cities hire City Managers and spoke to the head hunting company. They told us that according to their research, the average length of time in a job for City Managers is a little less than 5 years.

Our point is that Lynk was hired and took his first step as City Manager for Palm Bay in June of 2015. That’s 3.5 years ago. Statistically, he was on the way out no matter whether he resigned or was fired.

When it comes to City Managers, there is no gold watch for 40 years of service upon retirement.

As we mentioned earlier, Melbourne is looking to terminate Mike Nees, who is their City Manager.

Melbourne councilman moves to fire City Manager Mike McNees

Melbourne City Councilman Paul Alfrey wants to fire City Manager Mike McNees .

At Alfrey’s request, the Melbourne City Council will discuss McNees’ contract during its next meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’ve lost confidence in him. For him to tell me that he wasn’t looking or applying for another job is not factual. And I feel the city manager should be truthful to the council,” Alfrey said.

McNees started work in February 2013, replacing retiring city manager Jack Schluckebier. He oversees the city’s $220 million annual budget and about 900 full-time equivalent employees. His annual salary is $192,282.

McNees was named one of six finalists for the city manager’s job in Naples in August. He withdrew his name from consideration two weeks later.

During the Nov. 13 City Council meeting, McNees said he was not looking for a job, and he has no desire to work anyplace else. Rather, he cited a longstanding rumor that an effort was being organized to replace him with a local city manager — and he is now hearing that rumor “pretty much on an hourly basis.”

“If I weren’t aware of other city manager jobs, and other opportunities that might be out there — if it goes that way — I would be doing a disservice to my family and myself. And you ought to fire me for being an idiot for not being aware of what my options are, and watching out for my own financial future,” McNees told council members.

Afterward, Alfrey held up a copy of McNees’ Naples application package.

“To say, ‘I wasn’t looking for another job, but there’s a 108-page application on me,’ is a lie,” Alfrey said, slamming the paperwork on the dais.

Regarding the rumor McNees referenced, Alfrey said, “there is no consortium to get rid of you — I think we can do better. That’s no secret. And I’m not going to be lied to.”

This is an interesting situation where Nees applied for a job in Naples and then withdrew his application. After that, at a later time, Nees said that he wasnt’ looking for a new job.

Alfrey calls that a lie.

We won’t make the call as to whether that was a lie or not, but we do know that human resource professionals recommend that people seek job interviews so the person can stay “in practice” in case something does happen to their position.

It’s an interesting dissection and parsing of Nees’ statements and Alfrey’s understanding of what Nees said.

No matter what, two of the largest cities in Brevard County decided to deal with concerns over the actions of their respective City Managers. We can’t remember the last time there were two cities in the County looking to do that.

If nothing else, it is fascinating theater to watch and how the cities handle these issues says much about the folks up on the dais.

We keep thinking we really need the popcorn concession for Brevard County and its municipalities.

We could make a fortune.

2 Responses to “Gregg Lynk and Mike McNees. ‘Tis The Season?”

  1. Bob Chadwick says:

    To elaborate a bit on my post…. I was referring to the firing of City Manager Nanni, in mid-2002. I was comparing this action to the recent firing of City Manager Lynk.

    In looking at my archives on this, I can not find any direct reference to the severance package that Nanni got, however, my recollection was that it totaled around $300K. I am sure this is a matter of record somewhere in the city archives. (I tossed in the bus ticket as a bit of poetic license).

    I have copies of the City Council meeting minutes for this period, as well as some of my responses to Councilman Holton during this period. I will be glad to share them with you if you’ll give me an Email address I can send them to. Or I can deliver copies in person. Your call.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Bob Chadwick,

      Thank you again for your comment.

      We know that in the past there have been concerns with the costs of severance packages for upper level employees in Palm Bay.

      You mentioned $300K in the past and that very well may have been. We are not doubting your numbers or recollection on the past.

      However, at the meeting, at least two other speakers brought up the costs and mentioned $200,000. We can’t get to those numbers either given the statements by Mayor Capote and City Attorney Smith.

      It always amazes us that the worker bees don’t have the same “severance packages” as the upper echelons in any organization, much less the City of Palm Bay. If a supervisor can walk into the office of worker bees filing paperwork and say “you don’t work here any more,” (for cause or no cause) they have to leave the building. They may get accrued vacation pay or the City may pay them two weeks salary, but they don’t get five months of pay. Upper level management should, in our opinion, get packages that are closer aligned to those of the common worker.

      In some ways, we think the cost of dismissing Lynk is both a valid concern and a bit of a red herring.

      The reason we say that is because there were two main issues this year in Palm Bay. One was roads and the second was corruption / lack of faith in the City government. We would argue that it was Lynk’s job to administrate the roads issue and to work on eliminating corruption, malfeasance, misfeasance, nepotism, etc. Certainly the roads issue was constrained by funding so it is difficult to hold Lynk accountable for that. However the second issue he had the chance to help clean up the City. Arguably, he added to that corruption by not being aggressive on it. Frankly, that’s not good enough as far as we were concerned.

      The investigation, whatever it is, makes us lean toward termination of Lynk. People talk all the time about bringing new businesses to the City and while we agree with that concept, what company wants to move into a city where the former City Attorney, a former Councilman, a sitting (now former) City Manager were all investigated and there is still the State’s JLAC investigation is out there waiting to drop at some point. It is expected that investigation will find at the least administrative irregularities which would be Lynk’s responsibility.

      It is a mess that needs to be cleaned up. How much it costs to clean up the mess may be a concern, but we still ask “are we willing to sell the integrity and reputation of the City because it may cost ‘too much’ (whatever that number is) to do the cleaning?”

      Please understand that we are not trying to argue with you or demean anything you have said. We think that you raised a valid point in the costs and we wanted to try and address those costs in the Lynk dismissal.

      If you want to send documents, feel free. Our email address can be found in the Contact Us page.

      Thanks again for the comments.

      A. Afterwit.