Mount Dora City Council Meeting of February 2, 2016 – With Attached Video

Couldn’t make the last Mount Dora City Council meeting?  Below is a very detailed, narrative minutes format of the February 2, 2016 Mount Dora City Council Meeting.

Video of the council meeting is also attached, in three parts.  We fell victim to technical difficulties very briefly, as we were filming – as Ms. Rich was addressing the council with a written statement.  We requested her statement, in full, so that we could present a complete picture of the meeting.  Her statement is below – after the narrative minutes.

We would like to apologize, in advance, for names that may be misspelled, below.  In some cases there was no record kept of who was spoke.  We did the best we could to provide an accurate, detailed accounting of the meeting. Every member of the public who spoke is noted.

 

 

Public Comments (matters not on the agenda)

Dr. Ella Paets  – E. 10th Avenue

Dr. Paets expressed concerns about the amount of information lost due to the council’s decision to go to action minutes.  She began to speak to Mr. Pastue’s situation and Mayor Girone reminded her it would come up later on the agenda.  She was also concerned that it seemed that council was not listening to residents’ concerns, saying, “At that huge meeting where so many of us spoke, my feeling is that the council was listening, but not hearing.  Things were said that went right into the air, and I am very uncomfortable about that.”

Henri Paets – E. 10th Avenue

Addressed the council, saying, “The actions that Mr. Slaby and Mrs. Tillett took at the council meeting right after you were sworn in divided the city.  Ever since then we have been in the headlines in the Lake Sentinel and the Daily Commercial.”  He read several headlines. (At this point Mr. Slaby objected to his actions being referenced by Mr. Paets) Mr. Paets then said the “fresh eyes” needed were on council.  He apologized to Mr. Pastue, Mr. Shepard and Mr. Reggentin for the actions the council has taken. He also said he felt bad for the department heads and staff who he feels are facing a rocky future.

Dr. Mike Kiernan – Waterman Avenue

Mr. Kiernan commented on the conduct of meetings.  He also had issues with truncated minutes.  He discussed the small percentage of voters who voted in the last election but said, “Your actions and mis-actions have certainly succeeded in waking those who were previously dozing.  Just look at the dramatic increase in attendance of city council meetings.  SRO last week, SRO this week.”  He also encouraged inexperienced members of council to rely upon the senior management staff of the city more.

Mike Masterson – Crosswinds Way

Mr. Masterson discussed the media and its importance to the process, but said their credibility is damaged by a couple of mistakes, saying, “the media has an important role in what’s reporting and what’s going on in Mount Dora. About 200 people will be able to attend this meeting, the rest will be depending on the media.  If the media makes a couple of mistakes, it loses credibility.  I believe our internet and print media need to step up their game.”  He went on to explain he listens to audio tape and disagrees with recent reports.

Kathleen Lathrop – Calgary Lane

Ms. Lathrop explained she is trying to sell her home and expressed her frustrations in trying to work with the City to address a utility easement in her yard that she has been told her swimming pool encroaches upon by 5 feet.  The easement/encroachment is causing underwriting concerns from banks that may make it difficult to sell the home and others in her neighborhood.  She would like her easement reduced or eliminated.  She has had difficulty in working with the city to accomplish this. She finished by saying that the pool was built long ago and that she is told there is no documentation available for her to rely upon.  She implored the city for help to address the issue.

Approval of Agenda

Mayor Girone said he would like to remove Item #6 from the agenda – he told council he would entertain a motion.  (Item #6 is: Consideration to Approve Employment Agreement for the Deputy City Manager)  Mr. Slaby moved to approve the agenda as amended.   Mr Rowlett seconded.  Mr. Rolfson asked why and wanted to discuss that.  Mayor Girone asked the City Attorney if the removal warranted discussion.  The attorney confirmed that, as there was a motion on the floor, it was available for discussion.

Mr. Rolfson said it would be nice to know why.  Mayor Girone said that the State of Florida is an at-will employment-type state and agreements outside of the city manager usually aren’t used.  Mr. Rolfson asked why the agenda item was moved forward after the conversation the previous week, only to be suggested it be removed at this meeting.  He also asked for the council, as a group, to discuss the issue with a labor attorney.  Marc Crail said he would like to hear from Mr. Shepard.  Mr. Shepard said it is optional to the council whether to proceed with a contract with the Deputy City Manager, as Mr. Girone had indicated.  Mr. Shepard said it was unusual to remove an agenda item rather than to discuss the merits of the issue.

Mr. Pastue said his intent, with regard Mr. Reggentin and himself, the context was to provide an executive level agreement for Mr. Reggentin to transition from the city, based upon election discussions and other discussion that occurred afterward.  It was intended to be a transition vehicle outside of the city’s existing personnel policies and procedures to provide for a longer severance agreement.

The mayor said the issue has never been tied to Mr. Reggentin.  “We’ve had discussions.  He is a grown man, we will discuss that separately.”  Mr. Pastue referred back to his January 19th memo, when the mayor had wished them both well with their future endeavors.

Marc Crail said he had intended to vote no, on Item# 6.  He said he wanted Mr. Reggentin to stay, but the timing of the agreement was bad. He mentioned not wanting to set a precedent for other department heads.  He said he does not want Mr. Reggentin to go.

Mr. Girone reiterated that he does not want to see the council enter into contracts with anyone other than the city manager.

Mari Rich asked the mayor how he could live with himself.  A heated debate ensued, with the mayor closing off Ms. Rich’s commentary.  Vote to remove Item #6 from the agenda was approved: 4-3, with Crail, Rolfson and Rich dissenting.

Public Hearings and Presentations

1) Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Program

Presentation through the County, LEASH representative Whitney, executive director talked about the program that works with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department for Trap, Neuter, Release program.  The program is designed to reduce the population of feral cats in the City of Mount Dora.

Ms. Rich mentioned that she had used her own money to spay cats in downtown Mount Dora.  She thinks this is an important initiative. She has had support form Commissioner Campione and resident Steve Shank.  She made the motion to approve.  A city ordinance is not necessary for a one-year pilot program, but if the program continues after one year,  it will need to be brought forward in ordinance form.  Deputy Chief Bell from the Mount Dora Police Department expressed support.  Ms. Tillett seconded.

Resident Monique Richison asked if cats are tested for feline leukemia when they are neutered.  Response was that the cats are not, as the organization feels the best use of funds, given the small population of cats affected is low and the money is best used to neuter – though they will euthanize obviously ill cats rather than return them to their cat colony to suffer.

Motion passes unanimously.

2) Discussion – City Administration’s Recommendation to Review Public Art Requirement in the Land Development Code

City Manager indicated there has been some discussion that there is a perception that Mount Dora is business-unfriendly.  He acknowledged that we are an arts-friendly community.  But the costs for the EPIC Theater to comply with our ordinance could be upwards of $100,000.  City manager suggests perhaps the city could fund some public art – and also pursue outside grants, as well.

Deputy City Manager discussed that matching funds are required for almost all public arts grants.  Ms. Tillett interprets the movie theater itself as being art – any performance structure is part of art because of its inherent function.  She said she didn’t think they shouldn’t have to put up any more funding.  Mr. Reggentin explained that exemption doesn’t meet current code. Ms. Tillett said she likes the idea of the public arts ordinance.  She thinks it’s good to continue public arts but the levels of funding and the words in the ordinance need to be addressed.  She recommended the current ordinance be reviewed by the planning and zoning board and the public arts commission.

Mr. Shepard mentioned that the law has changed since 2006, when Mount Dora’s original ordinance was passed – the law relative to extraction of items for public benefit has changed.  He recommended that the ordinance get a legal vetting for validity against current case law.

Cal Rolfson made a motion that the ordinance go through appropriate legal and arts commission vetting and be brought back to council.  Mr. Slaby seconded the motion.

Mayor Girone asked if the arts commission could review the ordinance quickly enough to satisfy current development concerns.  Mr. Reggentin explained it would not, based upon developer timelines.  Mount Dora Christian Home and Bible’s Science Building, Dora Parc, and Epic Theater are all in state of waiting relative to the outcome the ordinance.

Ms. Tillett said the theater in and of itself is art.  She asked if a variance could be done.  Mr. Reggentin said the requirement test of the current ordinance could not be met, as the art would not be visible to the public 24 hours per day.  Ms. Tillett disagreed.

Mayor Girone wants to know if Mr. Reggentin can do something to get the EPIC theater going.

The City Attorney informed council that they could not deviate from their own ordinance, but as written in the current ordinance, they could escrow the appropriate amount of money until the council figures out what to do with the public arts ordinance.  It would expedite the timeline if they would be willing to meet the requirement temporarily by escrowing the funds for a later disposition of the issue.  Mr. Reggentin said he had offered that as a suggestion to EPIC already.

Mr. Rowlett read a statement, also saying he agrees with Ms. Tillett.  He also said it would be a good idea to call an emergency arts commission meeting to address it.  He brought up Dora Parc’s four penguins, the art they are displaying, criticizing that installation.

Mr. Rolfson said the legal questions about the ordinance must be addressed first.  Mr. Slaby began discussed the merits of the ordinance. He also agrees that the arts commission should review the ordinance.  He supports a public arts program.

Mr. Shepard reminded the council that movie theaters are private, they are not free and accessible to the public at all times.

Marc Crail also feels a theater is something different than other development.  He is also concerned about Mount Dora Christian Academy.  He feels it may be burdensome to non-profit organizations to provide public arts.

Ozell Ward, wanted to comment about supporting the arts, but wondered why we are struggling so hard to make an exception for things others have had to do.

Liz Wincup, chair of public arts commission asked for a referral back to her commission.  She asked that they be allowed to look at the guidelines for art and make them less subjective.  The artist must be scrutinized.

Vote was unanimous to move the process along through the public arts commission.

Mr. Rowlett wanted to move the review with the arts commission along, so EPIC could move ahead. Mr. Pastue recommended the legal review take place first.  Mr. Shepard said he will also make recommendations to the arts commission for their consideration, if that is council’s pleasure.  He will offer a legal opinion to the arts commission about what the city may or may not be able to enforce.

3) Discussion City website update

Megan Glass, the City’s public information officer, discussed planned updates to the city’s website.

Civic Plus manages the City’s website, it is now time to refresh it.  She explained how she will work with staff and Civic Plus to make the site more effective and user-friendly.  The issue will come back to council to review before it goes live.

New Business

  1. Consideration to Approve Resolution for the 2016 Freedom on the Waterfront Special Event and Fireworks (for July 3rd, with Mount Dora Area Chamber of Commerce)

Motion to approve – Mr. Rowlett, seconded by Mr. Slaby – no discussion, unanimous vote to approve

2) Consideration to Approve Renewal of the Village Market Agreement

Item was introduced by City Manager – Visit Mount Dora pays $25.00/hour for limited city participation

Mr. Rowlett felt the arrangement locked up the park and kept others from using it.  The city manager pointed out that the next sentence of the agreement, after Mr. Rowlett’s stated concerns, address that the City has the discretion whether to allow additional events.  Mr. Pastue says no authority is granted, and he feels the City maintains control over the park.

Mr. Rolfson supports the market and the renewal, but wants to make sure the costs are at least cost neutral to the City.

Mr. Girone wants to know if the water and electric use of the market is monitored and he feels they use utilities for 8 hours, not the 5 hours stated in the agreement.  Mr. Don Stuart said that his organization pays about $6,000 per year for use of the park and he feels they use any utilities minimally during their 5-hour operation each week.

Visit Mount Dora is also looking at the potential to experiment with an evening farmers’ market.  Mr. Girone said he felt the market was using the space for eight hours, not five – by the time setup is accounted for.  Mr. Stuart said that the market uses the park from 9-2 on Sundays, but certainly they are at the mercy of the city and they can tell them what they can and cannot do.

Mr. Girone objected to an automatic renewal clause in the contract and compared it to the Sylvan Shores situation.  Mr. Stuart said that Visit Mount Dora does renew at the end of the contract period, but the city can also cancel the contract at any time with 15 days notice, he reiterated that they operate at the pleasure of the City.

Discussion continued about the market, Mr. Stuart explained that each incremental use of the City requires permission.

Mr. Rolfson moved approval of the contract to operate the market under the terms submitted. Ms. Rich seconded the motion.  Mr. Rolfson said the contract covers any problems that may occur.

Mr. Girone agreed with Mr. Rolfson and disagreed with the automatic renewal.  He compared it to renewing with a waste carrier.  He asked for Mr. Shepard’s input and the city attorney said it was a matter of preference of the council.

Mr. Slaby attempted to make a “secondary motion” to postpone action on the item until the second regularly scheduled meeting in April.  Ms. Tillett seconded the motion.

Mr. Girone interrupted Mr. Slaby to ask why April instead of “maybe March?”  Mr. Slaby thought the renewal should wait until after the parking study was done.  Mr. Rolfson said he believed the motion was out of order.  Mr. Girone asked Mr. Shepard if council was allowed to make a secondary motion.  The city attorney said that issues like this are why councils typically do not exactly follow Robert’s Rules of Order.  He suggested the best way to change the intent of the original motion would probably be to defeat the original motion and then make a new motion.  He said it was not the only option, but the secondary motion could be moved forward if that was the way they wanted to go. Mr. Pastue said the current contract has expired and they have been functioning without one.

Mr. Slaby withdrew his motion.

Resident Cecil Thomas (Bridgepoint Bay Circle) addressed council.  Mr. Thomas said he has seen other contracts that have an automatic extension – but for a limited number of extensions.  Mr. Rolfson has no problem with either situation, the mayor’s position or Mr. Thomas’ suggestion, he said he was happy to move the issue along.  Mr. Rolfson reluctantly amended his own motion to remove the automatic renewal at the mayor’s insistence.  Ms. Rich held her second.

The motion passed unanimously.

3) Consideration to Approve Special Event/Street Closure: 2016 Monty Boyd 5K Run, SE 1308 (April 23, 2016 starting at Mount Dora Christian Academy)

No discussion.  Mr. Slaby moved approval.  Ms. Rich seconded.  The motion passed unanimously.

4) Consideration to Approve Special Event/Street Closure: 2016 Mount Dora Blueberry Festival

(April 23 & 24 at Evans Park, closing Egerton Court)

Girone says the event was extremely successful last year and far exceeded the sponsors’ expectations.

Mr. Rolfson moved to approve, Ms. Tillett seconded.

Mr. Slaby asked about use of Sunset Park and wanted to talk about the closure of the street next to it, but that he didn’t necessarily want to talk about it in regards to the blueberry festival.

Mr. Girone talked about businesses being adaptive.

The motion passed unanimously.

5) Consideration to Adopt Resolution Amending Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Dispatch Budget and Ratify Acceptance of Grant through Lake County for Purchase of Uninterrupted Power Source

Mr. Pastue introduced the item as a matching grant received from Lake County for 50/50 share in a $22,000 purchase – funds to come from contingency in the general funds.

Mr. Rowlett moved approval, Mr. Rolfson seconded the motion. No discussion.

Motion passed unanimously.

7) Consideration to approve a Separation Agreement for the City Manager.

Mr. Pastue, feels this is the desire of the council and he brought forward the agreement at the direction of the council.  He discussed his separation agreement which would take effect March 4, 2016.  Provisions consistent with his employment agreement.  He did ask for reimbursement of some of the expenses from his employment interview which he had previously not submitted, he intended to let those go since he got the job.  He said he would appreciate the reimbursement, but if council pulled it out he would not complain.

Mr. Rolfson opposed council accepting the resignation and urged to work ahead with Mr. Pastue for at least the next several months. Ms. Rich seconded.

Public Discussion:

Carroll Jaskulski – East First Avenue

Mr. Jaskulski objected to what he called “gross mischaracterization” of Mr. Pastue’s presentation made at the last council meeting.  “The presumption that this was some disrespectful ultimatum and a signal of his desire to leave Mount Dora couldn’t be more wrong.  He has repeatedly voiced his strong preference to stay.  I see his action as a demonstration of his desire to ensure much needed continuity of talented, proven Mount Dora talent at a critical time. Nonetheless, it was something of a risky move on his part and what was put most at risk was his livelihood.” Mr. Jaskulski went on to say he found Mr. Pastue’s actions admirable, as he had put his personal and professional integrity above his paycheck. He encouraged council to retain him and went on to praise his performance as city manager.

Henri Paets – East 10th Avenue

Mr. Paets says he already sees the council struggling.  Now, to fire three people – “How many of you people have knowledge of city management?”  He asked the council to retain the staff.

Ed (with apologies, could not understand the gentleman’s last name)

Ed explained he has lived in Mount Dora for 18 years and did not, “I don’t like the action of what’s going on to get rid of a terrific man with a great background and men who have worked to make this city what it is today.”

Rob English, President, Mount Dora Area Chamber of Commerce

“I only want to make one thing clear, it was in a private meeting, there are people in this room that know what was said, and I can assuredly tell you that this gentleman does not want to leave  the City of Mount Dora.”   Mr. English acknowledged there had been rumors out in community, but he assured council he knew Mr. Pastue did not want to leave.

Ryan Donovan – East First Avenue

Mr. Donovan presented council with a petition to retain the city manager, deputy city manager and city attorney he said was signed by approximately 200 people.  “The only difference with this, other than past petitions, is that I will actually turn this in, it will be on record.”

Margie Prentiss – Highpoint Drive

Ms. Prentiss said she would repeat a question she had asked at the previous meeting and not gotten an answer for, “What have these three men done wrong that we need to get rid of them?  They are exceptional men, they’ve done nothing wrong.”  She went on to ask Mayor Girone why he wanted to be a dictator.  She asked why he was making it so difficult and uncomfortable for the three to stay.  Mr. Girone said the three were not asked to leave and asked to move on to someone else.

Patrick O’Farrell – East Eighth Avenue

“If Mr. Pastue is so eager to stay in Mount Dora all he has to do is withdraw his resignation.”  If the council is willing to accept it – do it quickly, this has festered long enough. “The cemeteries of this country are full of indispensable people.”

Mr. Rolfson confirmed what Mr. English had said, and urged council to pass his motion.  He asked for a vote of confidence in the city manager.

Marc Crail asked the City Manager if he would like to stay or not.

Pastue responded, “The answer is that I would like to stay.  But, I will tell you, let’s go back to where we started. If I interpreted that when some of the comments with big changes coming, and again the nexus of it being prior to the city election and employees hearing big changes were coming. Okay – if that meant Mr. Reggentin and Mr. Shepard (and certainly his position is under review) – I would offer up to you Mr. Reggentin – I think he would accept the agreement that you initially had before you tonight.  But, as I said, as a manager, I am crippled.  I have essentially capitulated to political pressure by handling Mr. Reggentin’s transition from the organization.  And that was the starting point.  Do I want to leave, no…but when I presented it to you on the 19th under those circumstances, yes, I would have accepted leaving.”

Crail asked if Pastue thought the separation agreement should be removed?  Pastue said there was strong language in the letter that challenged the council, but that there is important work to do.  He said if the council had no interest in defending Mr. Reggentin’s position or anything like that then he considered that a great start.  Pastue emphasized the messages coming from council were concerning all of the employees, for their own futures.  Relative to Reggentin he said, “If the council’s not willing to go on record of not defunding his position, assuring the employees that there will be stability going forward, then I’m okay.”

Ms. Tillett says defunding has nothing to do with any department head or employee.  She said the city manager has chain of command of the employees.

Mr. Rolfson clarified his motion to encourage Mr. Pastue to withdraw his resignation. The motion failed 4-3 with Tillet, Rowlett, Slaby and Girone voting against it.

Mr. Slaby made a motion to approve a separation agreement with the city manager.  Mr. Rowlett seconded the motion.

Public Comment:

Mayor Girone asked people to limit their comments and not keep repeating the same thing over and over again.

Judi Phillips Jones – Cactus Lane

“I would like to ask you all before you vote on this motion, take a breath, step back.  Come on folks, three of you have only been on this council since November.  You have been running headlong into more trouble than you can shake a stick at.  You don’t understand your jobs yet, you don’t understand the charter and you don’t understand the complexities of a town that is someplace special, like Mount Dora.  Quit running headlong into dismantling our town.”  She went on to ask that they try to compromise.

 

Jim (apologies, could not pick up last name) Normandy Drive

“I couldn’t say anymore, there’s nothing I could say any better.”

Gwen Johns

“This may be career suicide for me and if it is so be it.  I am a big girl and I can handle it.  I have worked with several city managers, several city attorneys in my career and I’ve not worked for any better than what we have here.”   She went on to say she believed that a huge mistake was being made but she prayed the city would recover.  She expressed her love for the city and her time in Mount Dora.  She expressed concern that the city would be deeply hurt by the decisions being made.

Rozann Abato  – East First Avenue

“I liken this city council to Thomas the Train, because there is one train wreck after another.  This car is off the track, this car is off the track.  If you all vote tonight to let Vince Pastue leave  and you do anything that is detrimental to the continued employment of Mark Reggentin and Cliff Shepard, all I can say is that you will have a legacy, as this city council, of screwing up a city faster than any city council probably in the history of this country. This is absolutely incredible.”  She spoke positively of her impressions of Mr. Pastue and asked the city council to be responsible in keeping him.

Terry Honroth – Clark Court

Explained he has only lived in Mount Dora for a year.  He said he’s seen signs go up in shops and rents are being raised in town.  He said, speaking of another town, “It doesn’t compare to the quaintness of this little New England Town.  I don’t know why in the world we want to give it up.  I mean to me it’s ridiculous.  We don’t want to be another Lake Mary, or the other one I can’t remember the name of, it’s ridiculous. We have a city council that can move us forward. I am for this council.”

Susie Waddell – North Grandview

“We will survive.”

Mike Masterson

“A lot of challenges here.  Unfortunately, Mr. Pastue you have brought this to a challenge, you’ve brought this to a head with your announcement at the meeting two weeks ago.  As I have said earlier, you’re an excellent politician, but the city needs an excellent manager and we don’t need another politician.  Unfortunately, you’ve allowed yourself to be embedded, in my opinion, with a segment of the politicians that are unbending after losing an election.”  He agreed with Mr. Crail about setting an unwelcome precedent if Mr. Reggentin were given an employment agreement. He went on to personally and professionally criticize Mr. Pastue and how he has handled the situation and how he manages – suggesting council should have chosen “the other fellow who was, perhaps, a little more flexible.”

Mike Ondrasik  – Donnelly Street

Mr. Ondrasik said he did not feel Mr. Pastue’s departure would solve the council’s problem.  “He’s your employee.  I don’t know anything about running a city, I  give you that.  I do know about managing people.  And, for you not to recognize that there was a problem in the relationship with your city manager, and let it get to this point, indicates to me that you’re out of touch with the running of this city.”  He encouraged the council to build on their relationship with the city council and said that if Mr. Pastue leaves, and council doesn’t learn a lesson about working with their city manager, this problem will happen again with the next city manager.

Lynn Leederville

“On Tuesday, I almost got up at the very beginning when you called for people and said, ‘here’s what I think’s going to happen two hours later – Cal’s going to make a motion, Maria’s going to second and it’s going to be defeated 4-3.  We’re doing the same thing tonight.  You’re not going to pay any attention.  4-3.  Anything that was critical, 4-3.”   She expressed that it was a shame, but the officials are duly elected and they have the right to do this.

Bill Waddell – North Grandview

“In talking to the people in the lobby, I understand that a lot of people who do not live in Mount Dora were here to make comments and did at this podium, which I really don’t respect, in itself.  I have travelled South Florida for 35 years for a gentleman that maybe some of you have heard of, Wayne Huizenga, and I was in the garbage business and so I got to learn a lot of city managers and a lot of council people and I will tell you there are two forms in South Florida, there is the city manager that kind of runs the city and there’s the council that kind of runs the city, and our charter indicates that it’s the council and I don’t know what the big thing is.”  He went on to say the city manager should find a city with a charter that better suited him, also saying,  “City Managers are a dime a dozen, I’ll tell you that.”  He suggested the council find a city manager who is not using veiled threats to try to manipulate.  He said that the council is the ruling party in the city.

Vincent Calvo, downtown business owner, 29 years

“Downtown is a very special place; we are dependent upon tourists.   That’s what runs most of our businesses.  When you talk about rents – our rents are acceptable – if they’re not acceptable, you move on.  When I came here in 1987, 4-5 stores were open.  Everything else was boarded up.  We work very hard, the whole team of us.  Some of us didn’t succeed, others did.”  He went on to say that if the council doesn’t do it’s job right, they will be voted out. “I just want to say it’s unfortunate we don’t get along a little better in town, we should. Our livelihood is dependent upon everyone coexisting.  You have a lot of hate, you have a lot of misunderstanding. He said there were only a few property owners in downtown and it was wrong to single people out in that manner.  He asked the council to set a better tone of getting along.  “You have to look a little more at yourselves and think of the general agenda, not private agendas. You don’t say nice things, it’s not right.  You should be a little kinder.”

Andrea Honroth – Clark Court

“I just want to say I support our new council members, 70% of us voted for you, we expect you to do it.”

Akhtar Hussain – 29 year resident, business owner

“I’ve lived in this town 29 years, when I came to this town there was nothing, only 4 businesses between 4th and 5th Avenues on Donnelly Street.  I put all my youth, all my grey hairs are from this town. I gave the best years of my life to this town.”  He talked about how people who moved here recently did not know how empty town used to be.  “I live in this town, I have a business in this town, I love this town.  This town has given me a lot.  This town gave me everything.  I am thankful to this town and this country.”  He went on to express his concern that the council did not really understand the town, or the people who have given it so much over many years. “Just don’t destroy this town, please. Look at your decisions and what you are doing to this town.  I respect all of you because you are elected by the  people of Mount Dora.  But, don’t always think the majority is right.”

Carol Bruno – Clark Court

“I was very interested in the recent election and I went to all of the presentations that I could, and I listened to all of the platforms that the people had for what they saw as the vision for Mount Dora and at the end of each one I asked the question, ‘So what do you think your job is?’  And, I got a variety of responses, but my response back was, ‘City council it is your job to manage the city manager. It is not the city manager’s job to manage you.’  And when a city manager in any setting, whether it’s a city, a corporation, a small business, a major tech firm, it doesn’t matter what it is, but when a manager, a head a CEO comes to an organization, publicly and offers an ultimatum, with conditions for his continued employment, and offers his resignation, it should be promptly accepted.”

End of Public Discussion

Ms. Rich said she had put together her “Hail Mary” – a letter to Mr. Pastue.  It offered apologies to the city manager for the current situation and expressed her dismay at the tone of the last council meeting.  She said she thought 3 people were taking the fall for “political agenda gains.” She said she thought it was best for the city to keep the management team in place to deal with the times ahead.

Mr. Rolfson discussed the SWOT analysis done by Mr. Pastue, and how the council should deal with the policy issues within it.  He asked what Mr. Pastue has done that has not served the city well.  Mr. Rolfson said the losers in this are the residents of Mount Dora.  He is concerned that, in the future, there may well more divisiveness, not less.  He asked the council to vote ‘no’ on the motion.

Marc Crail said he believed the separation agreement was fair to all concerned and legal.  He explained he would vote yes, to approve it, but he was hopeful Mr. Pastue would not resign.  He said he did hope Mr. Pastue did not exercise his right to resign.

Mr. Slaby said he has raised his family here and he loves the town.  He said he was going to do what he thought was right, and because of that, people would treat his kids “like crap.”  I don’t like that.  He said he was going to tell his kids to “buck up, pal.”  He said everyone at the table has the right to make the vote they think is best.  He says he is open to learning. He said he has almost declared a “bromance” with Mr. Reggentin and he made a motion to review the attorney’s contract and he thinks that is prudent.  He that the council members are not amateurs, they are professionals, because they get paid.  He feels the important being sent to the employees is that there is order.  He thinks that the separation agreement is a reasonable agreement.  He said these are the cards the council was dealt.  He has not heard why Mr. Pastue has a problem.  He said he and his family’s life for the next two years will be “crappy” for the decision he is making.

Mr. Rowlett said no one asked Mr. Pastue to resign.  He feels the letter could be construed as an ultimatum and said that no one ever said anything about abolishing Mr. Reggentin’s job.  He said Mr. Shepard has been here around 10 years and that’s a normal rotation.  He says Mr. Pastue asked for the separation.  He hates to see him go, but he’s the one who asked for it.

Mayor Girone said the issue was brought to them by the city manager.  He said he feels bad.  It seems like it always is 50/50 in the city.  He said he is an elected mayor.  He hopes this doesn’t divide the city.  He knows the city will survive.  He said there have discussions and efforts made,  he said,  “We are here because of one person’s decision.  He said Mr. Reggentin was never part of the mix, that is why he took the issue off of the agenda.

Motion was repeated:  Mr. Slaby moved to approve the separation agreement of the city manager, Mr. Rowlett seconded it.  The motion passed, 5-2 with Mr. Rolfson and Ms. Rich dissenting.

City Manager Update:

Mr. Pastue discussed water and wastewater study, which is posted on the website.  They are looking for a workshop the week of February 15th.

There are 3 items for trees to be removed because of their condition.

There are upcoming agenda items that will be moved to next agenda. CDBG grant and public hearing and right-of-way acquisition for 441.

Mr. Girone questioned why the council is being involved in tree removal, as that is up to public works to decide.  Mr. Pastue responded that he was being sensitive to the council’s concerns for tree removal and he was just making them aware.

Council Comments:

Ms. Tillett reported that Mount Dora Community Trust met and announced the committee’s awards.

Mr. Crail went to Institute for Elected Municipal Officials.  He would like to see a couple of the speakers with the Florida League of Cities do presentations to the council.

Mr. Rolfson mentioned when he was last downtown he spoke to people from all over the country who were visiting Mount Dora.  He was proud of the tourism business coming to Mount Dora. He heard glowing praise about the city.  He supported Mr. Crail’s suggestion of having the League of Cities come to talk with council.

Mr. Girone read a statement thanking people for participating.  He praised the employees and the citizens.  He called for a special meeting, per the charter, Thursday at 8:00 to discuss getting an interim city manager.  He asked the city clerk to post the meeting.

Ms. Rich said she had to work.  The mayor said everyone may not be able to be there, but he just needed a good part of the council there to start the process.  He wants to move quickly.  Mr. Pastue will only be here for 4 more weeks.

Mr. Rolfson did not feel like it was appropriate for the mayor to unilaterally set the meeting date.  He asked to coordinate dates through Mr. Pastue so all could be present for the meeting.

Mayor Girone said he had a right to call the meeting.

Ms. Rich asked for 6:00 Thursday night, so she could attend.

Ms. Tillett said the charter says the mayor or the majority of the council could call the meeting.

Ms. Tillett said she had a schedule conflict in the evening, but she would be available during the day, beginning at 4:00 in the afternoon.  She has company coming.

The meeting time was set for February 4th, 6:00 p.m. for Thursday evening.  Mr. Pastue will not be present.  They will discuss the interim city manager and the permanent city manager search.

Mr. Rolfson wanted to poll the council to see if anyone at the table had already made their mind up.  Mayor Girone said, no, they hadn’t.

The meeting was then adjourned.

Below is the complete text of the statement made by Ms. Rich.  It was provided by Ms. Rich, at our request, after we experienced technical difficulties.  In the middle of the meeting the camera’s media card filled and had to be switched out.

“I would like to begin by addressing you personally, Mr. Pastue.  Speaking for myself, and for much of the Mount Dora Citizens, I apologize.  We apologize.  We were so excited when you accepted the position of City Manager 7 months ago and we were looking to our future with you.   All 15 of the focus groups I conducted picked you and one other as their top picks, including the “shining on government group”.   We are a quaint, little town, growing by leaps and bounds and you are the perfect choice to lead us in the right direction.  Our history is deep as well as rich in uniqueness and we continuously fight to keep it that way.  Our attitude has always been of togetherness and harmony that looks forward to working together and meeting the significant challenges on the near horizon.  We are working so hard to present our better angels that we actually began to convince ourselves that we might really be those angels: that we could become what we admire.

Then we had an election.  And our better angels stayed home.

What we saw last Tuesday:  that is not the real Mount Dora: an animosity and divisiveness so thick you could almost smell the sulfur.  No point in trying to deny it.  The pretense is shattered:  this is part of Mount Dora that I don’t understand.  Trying to halt process and fill political agendas at the cost of letting go of all the history in the three people who have dedicated their knowledge, expertise and heart into what is TRULY OUR SOMEPLACE SPECIAL.  Anyone with your experience can see that nothing could ever be called progress could even draw a breath in this environment.  Again, Mr. Pastue, Sorry for the few of the Mount Dora citizens who have disrupted your goals and ideas to bring us forward into the future.  Sorry we filled you with our aspirations and enthusiasm, to only have the rug pulled out from beneath your plans.

How did we get to this place?

President Harry S. Truman famously had a sign on his desk that said “The Buck Stops Here”.  So, WHO IS RESPONSIBLE MR. MAYOR?  You are our elected leader, but I don’t see any leadership on this Council…

As all too often, the wrong guy is taking the fall.  In this case 3 people are taking the fall for political agenda gains.  Mr. Shepard has been doing a fine job for over a decade, in our community and others.  Mr. Reggentin has been working miracles all over Central Florida for a long time and we are just going to throw away a person who knows Mount Dora better than anyone else on staff?  Mr. Pastue has been reliability competent for over 7 months; even his most strident critics cannot point to anything that could be called legitimately be called a mistake without resorting to outright fabrication—that is lying….The new regime…that has been in place for a mere two months, and we’ve already lost count of their mistakes.  Where does that buck stop Mr. Mayor?

We are a small boat on a big ocean, we are taking on water and there’s a storm coming.  And your solution is to jettison three seasoned decorated Captains, and just keep the anchor?  Not a good lead Mr. Mayor.

Does anybody honestly think that by accepting the reluctant resignations of a competent, motivated, inspired team of seasoned professionals in favor of a cadre of overmatched amateurs, that this will end the New Jersey form of politics in Mount Dora?  That everything will henceforth be peaceful and harmonious?  This train wreck marks the end of only the first two months.  We have two year of this toxicity to look forward to.

The true value of the departing team of professional and devoted pros will become quite evident once they are gone.  And the true nature of what remains will become evident by it odor.

As the old Greek saying goes;  the fish rots from the head”.