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NEW FOR TUESDAY: With OC Council Setting Deadline, City Manager Candidate Says ‘My Future Is In St. Pierce’
OCEAN CITY -- Although contract negotiations have not officially been halted, the chosen candidate to fill the resort’s city manager post said last night his future is in Florida, but he stopped short of saying he formally has withdrawn from the Ocean City process.
The specific points of contention that have stalled the negotiation process between the Ocean City Mayor and Council and Ft. Pierce, Fla. City Manager David Recor have not been verified, but Recor made it clear at his city commission meeting last night in Ft. Pierce, Fla. he is content in his current digs and plans to continue to call the coastal Florida city home for the foreseeable future.
Since last Tuesday’s 4-3 vote of the council to authorize consulting firm Springsted, Inc. to proceed with contract negotiations with Recor, at least two offers were reportedly made by the city, one coming as recent as Friday, both of which appear to have been deemed unacceptable by Recor, who has been the city manager of Ft. Pierce since 2008.
The resort’s city manager vacancy was created last September when the council voted 4-3 -- with Brent Ashley, Jim Hall, Joe Hall and Margaret Pillas in favor and Doug Cymek, Mary Knight and Lloyd Martin in opposition -- to give long-time City Manager Dennis Dare an ultimatum -- retire or be fired. Dare chose to retire and worked out a severance package that paid him his full salary until April 1.
At last night’s Ft. Pierce Commission meeting, Recor broke his silence and discussed the Ocean City job, saying it was tempting to consider coming back to his home area. Recor reportedly has family roots in the Onancock, Va. area.
“My future is in Fort Pierce," Recor said. "So, I think that should put a period on the issue that we have been discussing, at least from my perspective."
In March, Recor told his commission he was withdrawing his name from consideration from another manager post in Florida. At that time, he also sent an email to Springsted’s Jon Anzivino, announcing he was removing his name from consideration for the Ocean City job as well.
However, after being told he was the frontrunner for the city manager job in Ocean City, he reportedly decided to stay in the running and came to Ocean City on April 13 for his second interview. The 4-3 vote of the council came just two weeks later.
At the commission meeting last night, Recor said his commitment to Ft. Pierce, Fla. was still solid, despite getting a call earlier in the year about an opening at his original home. He called it "a very tempting offer to explore a professional opportunity on the Eastern Shore.”
He added, "Because the call of home was so strong, I felt that I owed it to myself and to my family to take one last hard look at professional opportunity, which I have now done," he said. “In doing so, what I discovered was that home has two meanings for me. One is that place that I will forever hold in my memories and the other is the future. As I have said before, mayor and commissioners, my future is in Ft. Pierce.”
However, according to council members reached this morning, no formal withdrawl from the city process has been made by Recor. In Recor’s statement last night, he never specifically said he is out of the Ocean City process, and contract negotiations could be continuing between Recor and Springsted, but the city's last offer appears to be its final word on the matter.
Council President Jim Hall said this morning the city has set a deadline of Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. for Recor to decide on the city’s offer.
“We have negotiated in good faith. We went back and forth a couple times. We are not changing our offer. If we don’t hear something by Wednesday at 5:30, we will go back and re-advertise and get a new pool of candidates. There’s no charge from the consultant to do that,” Jim Hall said.
The city could offer the job to the runner-up in the process, but that does not appear to be a viable option. There were two finalists who were interviewed in Ocean City on April 13. Recor was chosen over the other individual, whose identity is unknown.
Recor’s identity was revealed when city cell phone records, obtained by this newspaper, showed Councilman Joe Hall called Recor’s cell phone on April 11 and had a 13-minute conversation over the importance of the city manager understanding a 4-3 majority vote was meant to be taken as the direction of the city. Joe Hall referred to Recor as his “front runner”.
Since that phone call, Councilwoman Mary Knight and Councilman Doug Cymek have sought a restarting of the process. That could well be what happens now that negotiations have reportedly hit a dead end.
“One of my concerns is the vetting process originally with the candidate. I firmly believe this candidate and all candidates should be vetted better before. Some of the things that have come out about him should have been known before he was a finalist,” Knight said. “I think if there was a better vetting process originally I don’t think this candidate would have been a finalist. There have been so many things along the way that should have been known. If we had known what we know now originally, I don’t think he would have been the candidate. I would like to see us advertise again because things change. We need to go back out again and get some new people.”
Whatever the outcome of the ongoing negotiations, Councilman Joe Hall said the town needs to continue on the path to bringing a qualified individual to Ocean City.
“We are still in the process and I am confident in our search company and that it will bring us a viable candidate. I am not sure if it’s going to work out with the current negotiations, but we have not concluded them,” Joe Hall said. “My goal has been to bring the best person to Ocean City for Ocean City. Sometimes some people end up not fitting. Sometimes you have to take a turn, and I think the full council will make a majority decision on which direction we will continue in. A lot of unfortunate circumstances occurred with the top consideration that’s made it more difficult than it should have been … We are in it to win it for Ocean City.”
Since it’s an ongoing personnel matter, details of the stalled contract talks are unclear, but a hurdle could have been as basic as differences over salary. Recor wants more than the city is willing to offer, according to sources.
When Dare, a 29-year city employee, was removed from office, he was making an annual salary in excess of $173,000. The city had made it clear the new manager would not be receiving that salary, but how much lower the offer was is not known. Industry sources say an offer in the neighborhood of $140,000 to $150,000 would be fitting for a town with a budget the size of Ocean City’s.
For many in Ft. Pierce, an Atlantic coastal community with a population of 44,000, Recor’s decision to remain in Ft. Pierce is not that simple, as the commission will discuss his future next month with Commissioner Tom Perona appearing ready for a personnel change in the municipality’s chief executive office.
In a statement read at last night’s meeting in Ft. Pierce, Perona said, “It is not the fact that David Recor is looking for a new job that bothers me. It's not being truthful that I cannot tolerate. Lying to the commission and the public that we serve is inexcusable. We as commissioners cannot task our city staff individually, which makes us dependent upon an open and truthful ongoing dialogue with our city manager. We pay Mr. Recor $133,640 plus benefits each year to tell us the truth and we our bound by our constraints to rely on his statements as factual. I am convinced that he has intentionally violated this basic obligation and is not to be trusted.
“When David Recor sat for that interview in Maryland, he lit the match that ignited his return bridge to his job in Fort Pierce. Today in my mind, that bridge is a pile of charred wood and twisted metal. It is obvious that he was not successful in his recent attempt to negotiate a better deal in Ocean City. He now asks us to look the other way and return to business as if nothing had happened. This is something that I cannot do. Since we were not successful in past attempts to achieve a consensus for no confidence, I plead with you that we consider not renewing his contract and task the city attorney to inform us of our options and procedures to accomplish this direction."
The Dispatch will have more on this developing story as the week progresses.