A special meeting on Wednesday of Key West City Council will talk about the potential firing of the city manager

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM yesterday morning to talk about what’s been going on in the city.

City Council will have a special meeting this week to discuss the potential dismissal of City Manager Al Childress.

Johnston said, “Unfortunately, this is one of those issues that is going to divide Key West for a long, long time. We’ve had a history of city managers who have come and gone and come and gone and it’s been a revolving door for the city of Key West, which is not good for stability and for progress in the city. We hired Al a year ago, April 3, I believe, out of a nationwide search, and we narrowed it down to four candidates and Al Childress received the majority of the votes. Before then I had met with the vast majority of the directors because I thought, these are the people that actually work with the city manager the most. Most city commissioners come in to City Hall twice a month. So these are the people that actually get to work and are most affected by that top spot in the city. Of all the directors that I interviewed, all of them, with the exception of one, wanted Al Childress as our city manager based on his experience and his style. So, we hired Al, and I have worked with Al for about 15 months now. I’ve also worked with five other city managers in my 14 years as an elected official. I can say unequivocally that Al is the most qualified, most efficient, most moral, most equitable manager that I have ever worked with. I’ve heard rumors and I see these quotes in the paper about how people don’t like his management style and yet on his public evaluation, less than two months ago, he was marked at meeting and exceeding expectations in those categories. I’ve heard that staff morale is poor. And yet I am in here every day, I meet with staff every single day and that couldn’t be further from the truth from my dealings with staff. One of the things that Al is doing, however, is he’s enforcing our rules and regulations, the same policies that the board that I sit on, the City Commission, put into place, and Al is enforcing those. Al is also moving the city forward in so many other ways. Like, the Duvall Street revitalization, the Mallory Square revitalization, our streets and roads are being repaired. We’re cleaning up the city, we’re taking out the visual clutter, the shopping carts that people leave on every corner. He’s making people clean up their properties and he’s doing exactly what the people of Key West asked him to do. So this is egregious in my estimation. I have not heard one fact, as to why you would terminate this good man who has come into the city Key West. He’s been coming here since he was 10. So when people say he doesn’t understand Key West, he does understand Key West. I just think it’s egregious what’s happening right now.”

Was outside counsel consulted?

Johnston said, “Yes, in fact, this is an attorney from GrayRobinson, who happens to also be our lobbyist. But that occurred because of conflicts with the city attorney. Several issues have been brought up about the chief building official who was the brother of the city attorney. So we will have outside counsel so that those conflicts can be addressed.”

Will there be a vote on Wednesday?

Johnston said, “It is scheduled for two o’clock. We will be taking public comment. So if any of you would like to come and comment on this action by these four city commissioners, we welcome you. The meeting starts at two o’clock. It will be in City Hall and you have three minutes to speak.”

Some council members are suggesting they now need more time before taking action.

Johnston said, “That’s true which is another head scratcher because it was these very same four commissioners who have pushed off all of the major items until the new commission comes in. So I think that begs the question to those four commissioners. The thing that I’m most concerned about, for our community is it’s a very destabilizing, polarizing issue and here we sit, with a potential no city manager, we have no assistant city manager, we have an interim director of utilities, we have an interim director of engineering and we have four brand new elected officials who have never served in public government in this aspect. It’s of great concern and we’re doing this right in the middle of budget season and hurricane season.”

While other resolutions and other votes have been put off until after the election when a new commission has been put in place, but the vote for dismissing Childress is still up in the air.

Johnston said, “It is a dark cloud. It’s backroom politics at its best. It’s not something that the city of Key West should be proud of. But let me tell you one positive thing, is that Al Childress and I are meeting with 22 second graders from HOB, at 11 o’clock today and we are going to be talking about city government and how city government functions. So it’s always a joy to bring in our children of Key West who want to know about how we function and how we get things done, and what the importance is of city government for them. So that’s going to be a bright spot in the day, believe me.”

Michael Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM pointed out that Johnston has had “14 years of public service to the city as an official and we want to thank you certainly for that.”

Johnston said, “Thank you for those kind words. I’ve enjoyed every single moment of public service, because there are so many, many good people in Key West, that we need to make sure that their quality of life is good. It’s a struggle every day, it’s a struggle to keep those two balls up in the air, to make sure that we’re a strong economic community, and also to make sure that quality of life is good for all of the people that call Key West home.”