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City parts ways with Gay

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Chiefland City Manager Kevin Gay erupted in a fury Monday night after city commissioners, in a 3-2 vote, decided not to renew his contract.

Gay, though not specific about the issues, accused city officials of kowtowing to the county on the matter, and added he had some damaging information he would be presenting on county officials in the near future.

"I'm gonna' burn their ass now!" Gay shouted.

"Do you see what I mean about 'vindictive' now?" Chiefland Commissioner Chris Jones said.

For more than 30 minutes, commissioners, as well as members of the public, debated Gay's performance during the last year. Jones, one of the three to vote against a contract renewal, was the most vocal about a performance that, to him, was an issue of concern.

Jones said the most disturbing aspect of Gay's performance was what city employees have been calling "loose lips, sink ships," implying that workers need to be careful about what they say regarding the goings on at City Hall.

Jones acknowledged that Gay had been working hard to attract businesses to the area and improve the city's fiscal operations, but that wasn't enough, he said.

Another issue in Gay's review was his invoking of the Fifth Amendment on the scored portion of his written self evaluation. 

The Fifth Amendment is often used when a person is being accused of a crime and chooses not to incriminate him or herself during a trial, not necessarily as a way to avoid a self evaluation.

In his written evaluation, Jones stated, "I see Mr. Gay as a very progressive manager that is working towards city growth. I agree with most of his comments in his self evaluation, but I am somewhat perplexed by his 5th Amendment invocation above all of his scale ratings. I feel he is lacking in people skills, paranoid without reason, and has a demeanor that can lead to confrontation."

Jones gave Gay an overall score of 156, the second lowest, contributing to the city manager's combined score of 831.3.

Commissioner Betty Walker, who gave Gay his lowest rating at 120 points in this most recent evaluation and who also voted against renewing his contract, wrote in her review, "It is hard to review you when you have submitted to us that you plead the Fifth on every question which leaves me with an uneasy feeling that something criminal has happened or you are a part of …. We are not here for criminal action, but an annual evaluation."

Walker asked Gay Monday night what he had meant by "pleading the Fifth" on his self evaluation.

Gay said it was his way of not scoring himself in a manner that would have provided a "dig" for officials during their own evaluations of him.

"I'll never mark myself down," he said.

At Gay's six-month evaluation in November of last year, he gave himself perfect marks. Some commissioners, citing examples of "unprofessional" behavior back then, disagreed and gave him an overall score of 897 points, which was still higher than the most recent scoring.

"You can't please everyone all the time, or however the saying goes," Gay said about alleged comments from the public on his performance.

Gay said he's worked hard to establish a rapport with city employees and members of the public since his first evaluation in November.

"You feel your relationship with the majority of city employees is in good standing," Jones asked Gay.

Gay said he did and asked that if he was "so stern" why an employee who cussed him out had been allowed to stay employed.

Mayor Teal Pomeroy, though not the most vocal about issues with the city manager, was the deciding vote not to renew Gay's contract. He said later, toward the end of the meeting after demands from a few audience members on exactly why the decision was made, that he'd received lots of complaints from the public about Gay.

Vice Mayor Teresa Barron, at 231.8 points, gave Gay the highest rating, though the evaluation by her was still down from Gay's first when she was, again, his biggest supporter. She was the one to make the motion to keep Gay on as city manager.

"I want to say I'm pleased with Mr. Gay's overall performance," Barron said early in the meeting, praising the city manager for his leadership skills, availability, willingness to resolve issues and ability to work within the budget.

"I appreciate all that he's done," she said. "I think that he's (been) one of our best city managers."

Commissioner Rollin Hudson, who seconded Barron's motion to keep Gay as city manager, was the only one to evaluate Gay with a score that was higher than the first six-month evaluation. Hudson gave Gay 164.5 points, though he asked that if Gay's contract was to be approved that it have minor modifications dealing with severance pay and length on contract.

Gay said he was fine with the modifications and willing to work for the commission's approval, though that wasn't to win a majority of votes in the end.

Chiefland Fire Chief James Harris, like Barron, praised Gay, saying he, among other things, has been instrumental in the city's petition to the county to get non-transport advanced life support (ALS) status.

Chiefland officials have been pleading for months to acquire ALS status, claiming it will help save lives.

Jones and Walker both said ALS has nothing to do with Gay's evaluation.

"All of us want ALS," Walker said. "But we're not here for ALS today."

Several members of the audience, none identifying themselves, spoke up in support of Gay.

One woman said the city had not done its part in providing adequate communication with Gay on what officials wanted him to do. Another man said the city is in better financial standing because of Gay. Another woman demanded to see proof that Gay had done a bad job.

"I appreciate Mr. Gay's service," Pomeroy said at the end of the meeting. "It was a very difficult decision for me."

Gay said the city would be hearing from his attorney.

 

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