Councilman accuses board of violating charter

Sheri Kotzum | 315-4353 | @DestinLogSheri |
At the October 15 meeting, the Destin City Council discussed a new City Manager, a on-leash dog park pilot program and the half-cent sales tax. [SHERI KOTZUM/THE LOG]

The Oct. 15 City Council meeting was full of ups and downs

Council members voted to separate the Code Enforcement Division from the Community Development Department. This decision means that the Code Enforcement manager will report directly to the city manager.

While all council members were in agreement, Councilman Cyron Marler called out the council and stated that he believed they were violating the city charter by interfering in the “administrative duties of the city manager’s duties.”

Section 3.08 of the Destin City Charter states that the mayor and the council cannot dictate the appointment or removal of any city employee that the city manager is supposed to appoint. The council may express its views and freely discuss anything about appointing or removing an employee with the city manager but unless there is an inquiry or investigation, the mayor or council members are supposed to deal directly with the city manager.

Marler said the council violated this part of the charter by calling out the Code Enforcement Department in a public forum, instead of presenting their concerns to the city manager.

“In several public meetings, we have pretty much put down our Code Enforcement Department,” Marler said. “…That blows the morale. That’s why we’re losing city staff left and right around here.”

Councilman Chatham Morgan defended the council’s actions by saying “I think my job is to address problems in this city … it’s our job to discuss this in a public meeting.”

Marler said the council should make the city manager aware of a problem and then let him/her investigate it before reporting back to the council in a timely manner.

Before other members responded, Mayor Gary Jarvis cut off conversation.

“We’re at the point it’s just a matter of opinion right there, so we’ll just nip that in the bud,” Jarvis said.

Search for a new city manager continues

At Monday’s meeting, each council member was supposed to present their own shortlist of their favorite city manager candidates to HR manager Karen Jankowsi. But due to the hurricane, the council decided to push the deadline back to Oct. 29, which is the Tuesday before the next City Council meeting.

Jarvis encouraged council members to meet with Jankowski and Buz Eddy, the senior adviser with the Florida City and County Management Association and International City/County Management Association who is assisting the city with the search, to discuss the current candidates and to help create their lists of preferred candidates.

Councilman Tuffy Dixon expressed concern about the candidates.

“I was a little disappointed in the list," Dixon said. "… I’m not saying we can’t find somebody good outta there, but I am a little concerned.”

At the next council meeting on Nov. 5, Jankowski will present the official short list to the council.

Council approves pilot program of on-leash parks

After signage banning dogs was installed at the city parks, the community has been vocal about their frustrations.

“I think everybody thinks we basically hate dogs up here,” Dixon said. “We’re not against dogs, but I do think a couple of our parks need to be reserved for … people who don’t like dogs.”

In an email to council members earlier this month, Interim City Manager Lance Johnson, wrote “Staff is simply in the process of replacing old, damaged and missing signage in many parks and have not implemented any new rules.”

He also stated that the Parks and Recreation recommended the council consider approving one or more parks to be designated as on-leash parks during an August meeting.

During Monday’s meeting, staff recommended Mattie Kelly Nature Walk and Kell-Aire South Park become on-leash parks as part of a pilot program for six months.

The board voted unanimously to create the pilot program. Councilman Morgan said he would like to add Main Street Park after that six month period.

Half-cent sales tax projects discussed

In the upcoming November election, Okaloosa County residents will have the option to approve or deny a half-cent sales tax. If passed, the city of Destin will be getting about $10 million over the 10-year life of the tax. While Okaloosa County Commissioners have laid out detailed plans about how the money will be spent in the county, Destin officials have yet to do the same.

“I would feel better if we had something from us that said how we intended to spend it,” said Councilman Skip Overdier.

Multiple council members stated that there is a long list of capital projects within the city that need to be funded.

“We certainly have plenty of items that we need to fund and can utilize this money,” said Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell.