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Palm Bay: City Manager Morrell In the Florida Today.

Palm Bay City Manager Lisa Morrell

Before we start this, we want to make clear two things. First, we took no exception to the termination of Palm Bay City Manager Gregg Lynk. Lynk had lost the trust of many people in the City which is bad enough, but his investigation by the FDLE for accepting bribes and kickbacks while City Manager is something that cannot be accepted. (Unless, of course, you are Councilmen Santiago and Anderson who voted to retain Lynk.)

Secondly, we like Lisa Morrell and thought that she would be a good Interim City Manager. We thought that she should get a chance to prove herself capable of sitting in the “big chair.”

However, we noticed some things that didn’t seem “kosher” right off the bat. When Lynk was removed, Morrell came to the meeting dressed in full professional business attire. We had never seen her dressed that way as her job normally allowed for much less casual attire.

When Morrell was nominated to be the interim City Manager, we knew that she had been spoken to prior to the meeting by one or more Council members.

If that occurred, as we believe it did, it was a violation of the City Charter which in fact limits the contact between Council members and the staff and department heads:

3.052 Interference with administration. Neither the council nor its members shall either direct, interfere, or otherwise deal with city officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the city manager, except through the city manager.

We had seen this before in Satellite Beach. Interim City Manager Ayn Samuelson was removed from that position and replaced by another Interim City Manager after a long meeting which went past midnight. The person who replaced her was the Police Chief, who had spoken with a Council member that morning contrary to the Satellite Beach City Charter.

On November 21, when Palm Bay removed Gregg Lynk, the City Council nominated and then voted to approve Morrell. The same series of events – the removal of one City Manager and the appointment of another – happened in Satellite Beach. When the City Council voted to appoint Morrell, they violated the Florida statute that requires that anything that needs a vote and accepts public comment must be on the agenda. Just like in Satellite Beach, the City Council failed to meet that obligation. The removal of Lynk was on the agenda. The appointment of an Interim City Manager was not.

Morrell’s first move in her first day as Interim City Manager was to fire Deputy City Managers Ron Clare, who was hired by the city in December 2014, and newly hired Deputy City Manager William Curry.

The firing of Clare was somewhat of a surprise as he had served in that position prior to Lynk being appointed to the position of City Manager. At the time, Morrell said of the firing of Clare:

In Clare’s termination letter, Morrell wrote that his services were no longer required, effective immediately. She stated that he served in an at-will position and could be released from employment without cause or notice, per city code.

Certainly Morrell had the authority to fire Clare, but the timing was surprising.

Curry was a different story, but there is a problem with that as well. Clare was still in his probationary period with the City and so could be let go. When she fired Curry, Morrell wrote:

In Curry’s termination letter, Morrell wrote that she was releasing him from employment “after carefully considering your performance during your initial orientation and probationary period.”

That’s a fair statement which makes us wonder why in an interview with Rick Neale of the Florida Today, Morrell changed her story a bit:

On Nov. 26, Morrell fired both of Lynk’s deputy city managers, Ron Clare and William Curry. Curry, who was newly hired after working 30 years in the New Jersey corrections system, had been introduced by Lynk during an October City Council meeting.

“He was introduced, ‘This is my friend from a long time ago. He’s going to join our organization.’ If we’re terminating Gregg Lynk, do you keep his friend on staff as your leadership team? Probably not,” Morrell said.

Terminating someone for being the friend of a terminated employee is very odd. It strikes of tribalism.

If someone wants to terminate someone because they were complicit in the illegal or unethical actions of another, we are all for it. If that is the case, then being a friend to the terminated employee doesn’t matter. You are terminating on the basis of conduct, not friendship. Even if Morrell wants to say that as a friend of Lynk, she feared or worried that Curry would be a cancer in the City, at least have transparency to back that up.

“Transparency” or the lack thereof, is what is bothering us about this whole series of events. We agree that Lynk had to go, but at the same time, violating the City Charter and state statutes to get a person in the position rings of backroom deals – the very type of deals that people of Palm Bay hate and demanded be stopped.

Instead, it appears that the deals continued.

Morrell then appointed Andy Anderson as Deputy City Manager.

That was a move that surprised many as Anderson’s history in and out of the City is “colorful” and controversial to say the least. Yet we have heard two reasons for Anderson’s appointment. The first is that Anderson is getting a degree and at the end of the Spring 2019 semester, he will leave the City. We don’t think that matters to the appointment as Deputy City Manager at all. The second reason is that Anderson was appointed to the position in order to fail so the City can get rid of him. Think about that a moment. If true and Anderson is seen as not a good employee within City Hall, why the heck do you promote him?

It makes no sense.

An article for the Florida Today from December 13, 2018 starts out by saying:

Palm Bay’s new city manager is rebooting her administration, vowing to hire strategic leaders while improving transparency and communication with the public.

We would have a lot more faith in that promise is Morrell hadn’t been appointed in a deal made contrary to the City Charter and contrary to the laws of the state. There was no transparency in that at all.

Morrell also said of applications for the position of Deputy City Manager:

“When you see ‘moving to Florida’ constantly, or ‘has no Florida government or local government experience’ on there, it’s probably not what you’re looking for,” Morrell said of the job applicants.

So the people that Morrell wants in the position are people that have should have experience with government? Isn’t that what got us into this mess? That people just float from one government position to another, never having to deal with the real world or pivot quickly like a private company does? Does Morrell really think that the only people in this world that can come up with strategic plans are those who have worked in or are in government? As for being in Florida, should we really be saying that a person with experience in South Florida, or Tallahassee or Jacksonville where indictments are flowing like waste into the Banana River are better than an honest person from another state?

We would argue that Lynk was the wrong person for the job of City Manager, but the corruption within the City was going on long before Lynk arrived. Limiting searches to people with only government experience is, sadly, an indication of what government does best – it defends itself.

“We can always improve on the process. And that builds efficiencies. And that makes us better partners and more transparent,” she said.

We agree. But the last place we would look for in “efficiencies” is any government. Historically, governments are slow to adapt, slow to pivot, slow to create new ideas and slow to react.

There is another issue that should be touched on lightly. Unlike private companies (that do not deal with the government) government workers enjoy whistle-blower protection. That means that if there is corruption within a government, like Palm Bay, the people who blow the whistle on it are protected. They have all sorts of legal protection against their jobs, evaluations, etc.

The City of Palm Bay touts that Morrell has a history of 18 years with the city. She was there when the corruption started, was happening and continued and it doesn’t appear she did much to stop it or bring it to light. We can excuse that to some extent. People are always afraid of losing their jobs for whatever reason. But now Morrell had taken on the job as City Manager through what appears to be shady deals and agreements out of the public view.

Yet there was a group that was happy with Morrell. On December 6th, the City Council voted 4-1 (Bailey opposing) to remove the term “interim” from her position and appoint her as the City Manager – after just 9 days in the chair. Without ever having to face a crisis, without ever initiating the very plans and procedures she says she wants to have the City go through, the City Council gave her the job.

Morrell was appointed Palm Bay city manager Thursday night during City Council’s regular meeting. Deputy Mayor Brian Anderson, who proposed her hiring, will help negotiate her employment contract during the next week or so.

Morrell had been named interim city manager the night before Thanksgiving, minutes after council members fired former city manager Gregg Lynk.

“I have no problem with Mrs. Morrell. The only problem I have is with the word ‘interim,’” Anderson said.

“This ship is always moving, and one thing a ship doesn’t need is rough waters. So we need to have a stable city manager. And if we’re going to make that decision, then that needs to be done sooner than later,” he said.

So the Councilman who voted against removing one source of corruption within the City in Gregg Lynk is, after nine days, sure that Morrell is the right person for the job? After two years of watching “the ship” go through turbulence with Lynk and supporting that turbulence, Anderson is suddenly the objective voice of what makes a good City Manager?

The same thing holds true for Councilman Santiago:

Councilman Harry Santiago described Morrell as a high-energy quick learner. He compared the move with the Brevard County Commission’s July 2017 promotion of Frank Abbate to county manager. Abbate — who had 28 years of experience in Brevard government — had been serving as interim county manager after Stockton Whitten left for a job at Eastern Florida State College.

“I think if anything, it shows that we’re willing to give folks from the inside a chance to step up and take the lead and steer the ship. I have full confidence in Mrs. Morrell,” Santiago said.

We should be willing to give those on “the inside” to step up. No one is disputing that. What is in dispute is how Santiago suddenly had an epiphany of what is a good City Manager after supporting Lynk?

Councilman Kenny Johnson agreed, saying he wanted a city manager in place quickly after voters approved up to $150 million in road repairs.

“I’ve seen her work with staff. And to me, looking on the outside in, it looks like she has the upmost respect and the full support of the staff in each department,” Johnson said.

There is no doubt that the staff feels that Morrell is better than Lynk. We fully agree to that. That is not the issue. The issue is whether she is the best choice for the job.

We don’t know, and the fact of the matter is that after 9 days, no one else does either.

(Unless there were deals in place to make this all come together.)

We apologize for our skepticism. We apologize for thinking that the City that has had its citizens endure corruption and lies at a high level is going to suddenly say “we have reformed!” after 9 days.

In some ways, this is about Morrell. We question to an extend her willingness to exist in City Hall during the corruption and not say anything. We question the process – the behind the scene talks that brought her to the November 21st Council meeting ready to take over the position. We question whether a person that takes over a position like that is the best choice. We don’t think that 9 days is enough to decide that.

Our concerns are more about the process and what got us here. We are more concerned about the people who play within halls of City government, trying to sell people on how great everything is.

We are skeptical because we fear that we have simply exchanged one group of power brokers acting behind the scene with another set of power brokers. We fear this is about power and not 100% about the people of Palm Bay.

We hope we are wrong.

Time will tell if we are.



22 Responses to “Palm Bay: City Manager Morrell In the Florida Today.”

  1. Truthful says:

    And now an individual without education in public administration or solid experience in leadership steps forward ready to hire new deputy managers to guide the city?
    Giving someone an opportunity to rise is worthy, but without objective analysis of real results achieved over time, how can such an important decision be a wise move on the part of council members? Have they already forgotten whom they should serve?

  2. Lisa says:

    Your article has quite a few errors. First and foremost I have seen Lisa in a business suit quite often prior to being appointed. A quick look at the videos online will support that. So that kinda blows up your entire premise that this was coordinated with her beforehand. Your entire premise is based on what the woman was wearing. Thats some great investigative journalism right there, let me tell you.
    Second is for a group who loves to reference things, where is your reference for the law that states that anything voted on by the council has to be on the agenda? It was a motion made as a result of another vote. I think if you do your homework just a little bit, you’ll find out that you are wrong again.
    After that your article just continues to crumble because it has no foundation in reality.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Lisa,

      Thank you for the comment.

      We have gone back and looked at the videos. Ms. Morrell does not come to the meetings in business suits and furthermore, she does not come with a large folder of materials relating to the meeting. You may have missed that, be we didn’t.

      As for the agenda item, while the item may be related, it is still a separate item. The Sunshine laws require that anything that is going to be voted upon be noticed to the public so that the public may have the chance to research and comment. That didn’t happen here. In addition, the firing of one City Manager is not related at all to the hiring of another. If the agenda item had described “action on the position of the City Manager,” that would be one thing. Alas, it did not. Two separate motions. Two separate issues.

      The law does allow for discussion of items not on the agenda, but that is not what happened. The vote changes everything.

      Furthermore, if the Council wanted to add another item to the agenda that night, they had to vote upon doing so as per Council Policies and Procedures.

      The last time you stopped by here you made the critical mistake of trying to say that people in the public eye could sue in order to stop people from talking about them in a negative way. You made the same claim that we hadn’t done our homework and we were wrong on the law as you are now.

      You were wrong back then and you are wrong today.

      Have a good day.

      A. Afterwit.

  3. Lisa says:

    I find it humurous again you referenced the “law” without posting it. I wonder why that is. I know. Because you’re wrong. Im quite certain if they were breaking the law that the ATTORNEY sitting to the immediate right of the City Manager would have made it known. I’m sure we would have heard something from the City Manager, the news paper, someone other than whoever “we” is when referring to yourself.
    As far as watching the meetings I cant argue whether you have or have not. But I can argue that she certainly does. You dont have to go back to far. Just go to the November 15th meeting, the one prior to the one in discussion and you will see in the thumbnail there she is in a business suit. Given in this particular video she has on tennis shoes. Then on November 1st at the 3 min mark guess what….business suit with heels.October 18th 20 second mark guess what, business suit. In fact the same one she wore the night she was appointed. October 4th 1 second mark guess what….I’ll let you check. In fact check the pitcure you posted in this “article” and then look at the videos. Man that suit and shirt looks familiar. Maybe you should just believe your eyes.
    I challenge you since you love to post references and proof, post screen shots of her in the last few meetings of what she’s wearing prior to being appointed. Secondly post the portion of the sunshine law you state they broke. We shall wait and see what excuse you come up with. You may do your homework, but those assignments get graded. So far you are failing.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Lisa,

      Thank you for the comment.

      I find it humurous again you referenced the “law” without posting it.

      We find it humorous that we give the reference and you won’t look at it.

      Im quite certain if they were breaking the law that the ATTORNEY sitting to the immediate right of the City Manager would have made it known.

      Why would you think that? The City has been violating the Sunshine laws when it comes to PRR’s and has done nothing to address it.

      In case you aren’t aware, the City attorney works for the City Council – not the City Manager and not the people of the City of Palm Bay. Why would they say anything that would embarrass their client?

      Lastly, under the Council Policies and Procedures, the Staff – including the City Attorney – cannot interject into discussions. They are only supposed to answer questions when asked. If she had raised an objection, she would have been out of order for the meeting.

      As for “grading,” it is clear in this discussion as in the last discussion we had with you, you are speaking from ignorance. Things can be “graded” by those who have knowledge of the subject. You don’t.

      The failure is on you.

      A. Afterwit.

  4. Lisa says:

    Tisk tisk tisk, wrong again. Quite often the city attorney does interject on proper procedure. You are showing your lack of attention or even watching the meetings at all. That was already apparent from your wardrobe comments on Lisa which I see you decided not to comment on this go round after it being pointed out how wrong you were with just the previous 4 meetings alone. Thats ok, no one would expect you to correct yourself. You aren’t concerned with truth, you are concerned with assertions and accusations no matter how unjustified or false.
    I have read the law, am very familiar with it. You’re failure to reference it properly (you’re the one writing the article) says more about you than anyone else. You even reference my specific comments in your responses, lol.
    You are correct she works for the council. Why would she say something to embarrass them? I don’t know that she would. Perhaps what would be embarrassing is if she allowed them to do something illegal without giving counsel on it. That would be embarrassing. But since nothing was done illegal, well then that’s probably why she had no comment on the matter. But that just makes too much sense doesn’t it? No what makes more sense is your stance that she is so afraid of embarrassing her “client” that she’ll just be silent and be derelict in her duty. Yea that’s it.
    At this point maybe you should be silent and not embarrass yourself any further.
    Still waiting on those screen shots of Lisa never wearing a business suit. LOL Or maybe you’re like the City Attorney and too embarrassed to correct who you serve….yourself.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Lisa,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Quite often the city attorney does interject on proper procedure.

      As usual, you seem to be saying that what is not proper is proper. According to the City Council Policies and Procedures, staff may not interject. The fact that they do does not make it appropriate or correct.

      I have read the law, am very familiar with it.

      Obviously not.

      Why would she say something to embarrass them?

      Thanks for making our point.

      But since nothing was done illegal, well then that’s probably why she had no comment on the matter.

      Except as we have said, there was something done illegally. Your alleged point is contrary to the facts.

      At this point maybe you should be silent and not embarrass yourself any further.

      Funny, we were thinking the same thing about you.

      After all, you supported a group in Cocoa Beach that lied on mailers. You supported a public person lying and trying to shut down comments that he found negative. And now you are supporting the actions of thus Council that were illegal and also contrary to their own rules.

      You have no credibility here.

      None.

      A. Afterwit.

  5. Lisa says:

    Still silent on your wardrobe premise eh? LOL. Again, your entire argument was based on what she wore to the meeting that day and that she had a folder with papers in it. Then you said she never wears that attire. Then it was pointed out to you that just in the previous 4 meetings alone she wore that attire, you can’t gather the fortitude to concede the fact.
    Again as far as the attorney interjecting I can give you time stamp and date just as I did for Lisa’s outfit, but should I? I mean you’ll just ignore it and maybe it’ll go away. LOL
    Seems like the history of what I support vs what you do, the voters tend to go with my views. Not yours. Again, just because you say it in your blog, doesnt make it true. In real life outside of your little blog people are smarter than that. Maybe you should just keep posting Christmas carols.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Lisa,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Again as far as the attorney interjecting I can give you time stamp and date just as I did for Lisa’s outfit, but should I? I mean you’ll just ignore it and maybe it’ll go away.

      Apparently you still don’t understand that fact that if something is done, that does not makes it correct. It doesn’t matter what they do or have done, the Staff cannot interject according to the City Council Policies and Procedures.

      Seems like the history of what I support vs what you do, the voters tend to go with my views.

      We didn’t realize that voters went with cities and elected officials lying, breaking their own rules and breaking the law.

      The fact that you support that says a great deal about you. The fact that you think voters agree with you shows something else.

      A. Afterwit.

  6. Lisa says:

    So about that wardrobe? Any further comment? Didnt think so.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Lisa,

      Once again the hypocrisy of people on the left rises to the top.

      You demand things from people and yet fail to acknowledge when you have made false statements and lies. You then resorted to spamming the comment section for this thread. (Which we removed.)

      How childish of you.

      As we said, you have zero credibility here and in many other places.

      A. Afterwit.

  7. Lisa says:

    False statements? You wrote an article saying she doesnt wear business suits. I give you video evidence that you said you watched of her wearing business suits. You refuse to admit youre wrong. You seem to be the one with a problem acknowledging things. Especially when they dont fit your conspiracy theories.
    And I wasnt spamming you, i hit submit too many times while it was taking forever to load the comment.
    Bottom line is you said she doesnt, everyone can see that she does. Plain as day. Thats a fact. Everything else you want to argue about is just subjective and hearsay.

  8. Lisa says:

    Quotes from your article.

    “However, we noticed some things that didn’t seem “kosher” right off the bat. When Lynk was removed, Morrell came to the meeting dressed in full professional business attire. We had never seen her dressed that way as her job normally allowed for much less casual attire.

    When Morrell was nominated to be the interim City Manager, we knew that she had been spoken to prior to the meeting by one or more Council members.

    If that occurred, as we believe it did, it was a violation of the City Charter which in fact limits the contact between Council members and the staff and department heads:”

    1. I showed you time stamps from the previous 4 meetings where she is in full business attire. Even in the same attire as the meeting that night.

    2. You said “we knew that she had been spoken to prior to the meeting” then in the following sentence say “we believe she did”. Well which is it?

    You have a tendency to state what you believe as fact and form a conclusion, and then go on to say why you THINK it MIGHT be true and base an entire article off an often wrong guess.

    Thats not conservative or liberal; its just dumb.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Lisa,

      We know that you are trying to drag this into the ground and that is fine.

      We don’t make claims without checking things out and because of other issues, we may not tell you how we do that. We are under no obligation to tell you the myriad of ways we check things out.

      We stand by our story. It is accurate. Deal with it.

      A. Afterwit.

      • Lisa says:

        LOL you check it out? You sound just insane at this point. Everyone can see plane as day from the videos you are dead wrong. Just let it go and accept it. You’re bordering desperateness at this point.
        You have a history of making wrong claims.

        • AAfterwit says:

          Lisa,

          Once again, you keep making accusations.

          First, look at the long picture here. We were right in what happened. That’s the bottom line.

          Secondly, as for a “history of being wrong,” that is a matter of conjecture on your part. The last time you stopped by here was to try and defend Kenny Johnson’s campaign manager Robert Burns. We said that there were no subpoenas issued as he claimed and you tried to attack that. There were none issued as time has proven. We did our homework and you did not.

          You also chose to support the PAC “Protect and Preserve Cocoa Beach” which was, in fact looking to fundamentally change Cocoa Beach. You also made the claim that the Commissions had voted in favor of the change to the Charter when in fact they had not and instead had voted only to place the item on the ballot.

          As we have said, you have no credibility here.

          None.

          A. Afterwit.

          • Lisa says:

            LOL, you just cant do it can you. Look at the little pictures of the videos and just admit you were wrong. She wears the business attire quite often.
            Oh wait, you said you did already and still wont admit the obvious.
            Shame.

            • AAfterwit says:

              Lisa,

              The story overall point of the story is true. Sorry that you can’t deal with that.

              We are also sorry that you are so intent on this one issue that you won’t admit your own lies and failings.

              Shame on you.

              A. Afterwit.

  9. Outsider says:

    Not being a PB resident I don’t really have a dog in the fight so I really wasn’t too concerned about Miss Morrell’s qualifications or attire. I did take a quick look at the 11/21 meeting video where they appointed her interim manager and found three things that seemed a bit odd. I apologize in advance if I’ve missed something said earlier in the meeting as I just reviewed the part of the video that seemed relative to this topic and the agenda posted.

    One: At 35:15 the mayor says “I guess the next motion falls on you councilman Bailey” who then makes a motion to appoint Morrell. This indicates to me that he had prior knowledge that Bailey was going to make his motion which he shouldn’t have had unless there had been some discussions outside of the sunshine laws as the motion was not on the agenda.

    Two: After the motion was made there was no attempt made to allow public input or discussion (doubt there would have been any, but I believe normal process is to ask if the public has any input.), which again seems to indicate this was already a done deal.

    Third: Seems pretty amazing that they all voted to make this appointment with absolutely no discussion amongst council members which tells me that the wheels had been greased prior to the meeting. In fact after the motion is made the mayor doesn’t even ask if any of the council members have any inputs or want to discuss anything before voting, again this is not standard practice. This is a very important position and for any council to appoint anyone without any discussions is troubling.

    I think all City Boards need to work harder to make sure that there is absolutely no perception of impropriety (ie all discussions amongst members must happen in the sunshine) to help build public trust in our elected officials.

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