october 5, 2009

The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special workshop session on Monday, October 5, 2009 at 8:30 a.m., at the Fire Rescue Training Station #70, Sunnyside Drive, Leesburg, Florida.  Commissioners present at the meeting were:  Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Jennifer Hill, Vice Chairman; Jimmy Conner; Elaine Renick; and Linda Stewart.  Others present were:  Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Cindy Hall, County Manager; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.

open discussion

Commr. Cadwell commented that after the evaluations, it was clear that the Board needed to have a discussion about where they were going and how they would get there. He stated that the evaluations indicated that Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, was working on a 3-2 vote, which he did not think would be a good situation under which to work, and he wanted to find out if there was an opportunity to get a consensus on the Board that they had the right leadership and were going in the right direction.

Commr. Renick stated that one of the issues she had concern about was communication with the constitutional officers.  She felt that Mr. Bob McKee, Tax Collector, had problems in the past while the building was being constructed and that the Sheriff was currently having problems communicating with the County.

Commr. Cadwell clarified that the Sheriff’s concern was what the County planned to do regarding the historic courthouse, but he was working with Ms. Hall to figure out what they would do there.  He related that the Sheriff mentioned to Ms. Hall that during the budget negotiations, the Sheriff was under the impression that Commr. Cadwell stated he could have the use of the entire building if the Sheriff cut $1 million out of his budget.  However, Commr. Cadwell stated that he did not make that promise to the Sheriff and that there was a misunderstanding about that.  He mentioned that the County could probably give him the whole building in a couple of years, but he was working on a plan to give him that building sooner than that by moving everyone else out of it in a timely manner.  He noted that the Sheriff did not want the bottom floor, however.

Commr. Renick inquired if they were going to put Congressman Alan Grayson in that building.

Commr. Cadwell responded that that was just one of the options that he talked about with Ms. Hall, but they would talk about that later in the workshop.

Commr. Renick commented that she thought the Sheriff’s concern was that he was not consulted about the decisions regarding the historic courthouse since he would be the end user.

Commr. Cadwell opined that part of the communication problem with the constitutional officers was that there were times when Ms. Hall was expected to communicate with them, but there were other times when they expected to communicate with him instead.  He also added that it was an especially tough time because they were going through the construction.

Commr. Stewart commented that this problem would be easy to solve by setting up guidelines for communication with constitutional officers or a back and forth flow of information, so if there was an issue, they would set up a meeting.

Commr. Hill commented that the Chairman is usually the liaison to the constitutional officers.

Ms. Hall stated that she would like to discuss this with the Chairman to find out who they speak to, because she thought there could be a problem with the flow of how the communication is working and the need to set up a better system.

Commr. Cadwell noted that the Sheriff as a constitutional officer can make decisions on his own, but the Board has guidelines that they go through that the constitutional officers do not particularly have to go through.

Commr. Stewart commented that there should have been meetings set up regarding the construction in South Lake between the Board and the Sheriff so that the communication was there and the needs were recognized.

Commr. Hill asked if Mr. Jim Bannon, Director of Capital Construction, have had a stakeholders type meeting with them.

Ms. Hall answered that they could sit with the Sheriff and work out what works for them, but she thought they gave them all the information that the County had.

Commr. Cadwell stated that they should set up meetings or make appointments with them on a regular basis such as monthly or every two weeks to discuss any issues or update them about what they were doing.

Commr. Renick commented that the Sheriff should not have to be surprised by hearing news involving his office from someone else, such as hearing about the space for Congressman Grayson from phone maintenance staff who were putting in the phone lines.

Ms. Hall stated that at that time she did not envision the Sheriff using the fifth floor of the historic courthouse, but she now had some plans that she believed would work.  She specified that she had originally thought of letting Congressman Grayson use one office that used to be utilized by Mr. McKee after he moved out so that the Congressman’s office could have a presence in this area to meet with their constituents.

Commr. Conner commented that he thought a lot of decisions got delegated to the County’s staff, but he believed that the Board should make those decisions about the use of the space.  He opined that he did not think the fifth floor would be a good location for Congressman Grayson’s office, since it would not be easily accessible for many people.

Commr. Stewart agreed that the Board should have some more input into some of those decisions, but commented that it would be too overwhelming for the Board to be involved in every decision that was made.

Commr. Cadwell explained that the reason they had an office for Congressman Grayson was so that his staff members could work out problems for constituents having problems with issues such as Social Security.

Commr. Conner suggested that they give Congressman Grayson space with an expectation that he would hold a town meeting in County Commission chambers a certain amount of times a year in addition to providing a constituent service.  He also commented that keeping the constitutional officers happy was important to him, because they have quality judges, judiciary, and constitutional officers, and he wanted to be in a position to resolve any issue that was not making them happy.

Commr. Renick stated that they should find a happy medium between micromanaging too much and being too hands-off, so that the Board had a good idea of what was going on and things were brought to the Commission.

Commr. Cadwell commented that the problem was not a personality issue, and it was confirmed by all the Commissioners that they all got along with Ms. Hall personally.

Commr. Renick stated that Ms. Hall was great in many areas, but she had a problem with her as far as personnel issues.  She commented that it was hard to bring up some of the personnel issues that she was concerned about at a public hearing, and commented that employees who work for the County get criticized in public and do not get the basic considerations of people that work for private industry.

Commr. Conner opined that he thought the County had some very good department heads, but there were also some strong glaring weaknesses there.  He commented that he was not pleased with a hands-off management style, and he believed that the Commission was being ignored by staff regarding their business-friendly initiatives.

Commr. Stewart commented that she was more content with the hands-off style before, because the department heads know their business and should be taking care of the responsibilities.  However, she stated that things keep coming up that should not have happened, so she was taking a second look at that.

Commr. Hill commented that everyone relates to Ms. Hall in a different way, and stated that she communicates with Ms. Hall every day rather than presenting things all at one time.  She opined that when Ms. Hall no longer had a deputy county manager, she hired directors that were very professional and had more of a “board of directors” style of management.  She suggested possibly giving her back that position if the Board wanted her to micromanage County business more.

Commr. Renick commented that she did not see letting that position go as giving the department heads any more power, but instead she was expecting Ms. Hall to be more hands-on.  She added that she admired Ms. Hall’s loyalty to her employees and defense of her department heads, as long as she knows exactly what they were doing and that what they have done is really defensible.

Commr. Cadwell pointed out that purchasing was an area in which a government could really get in trouble if they were not doing it in the right and proper way, so they hire people trained in purchasing.  He noted that they have not told staff how to go about professionally giving preference to local companies.

Commr. Conner commented that 95 percent of his frustration was with the Request For Qualifications, not the hard bid.  He was displeased that the County recently automatically renewed a landscape architect contract that was originally done a few years ago, instead of rebidding it for local people to apply.  He opined that they could not fix the type of problems regarding the County Manager’s professional differences of opinion about the performance levels of some of the department heads.

Ms. Hall explained that the business friendly policies that they brought forward did not have a local preference specifically, and she did not feel she could ask her department heads to give that preference.  She stated that she did not have any problem doing a local preference policy if that was the direction of the Board, but she has not gotten the direction to do that yet.

Commr. Conner stated that he was asking for staff to give local companies the opportunity, but was not asking them to give local companies preference.

Commr. Renick explained that it was about leveling the playing field.

Commr. Conner related that staff awarded to an Orlando firm the job of the East Lake Park, which was a small job that did not require a high level of expertise, and that firm was going to spend 37 percent of that money in Lake County, as opposed to a Lake County firm that was going to spend 78 percent of that money in Lake County.  He also pointed out that if they had not renewed the landscape contract, they may have been able to negotiate a better price in this economic environment.

Commr. Cadwell stated that the Board needed to readdress the idea of whether a Commissioner would serve on the selection committee or hear from the top three companies.

Commr. Conner commented that he did not want to go to that level, but they had to address the makeup of that committee.  He stated that he had served under several different models, and they needed to look at the different models, discuss them, and make a decision as a Board.

Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that the trend was away from elected officials participating in that process, and one of the big recommendations of the grand jury from Palm Beach was to take elected people out of the selection committee process, because it led to problems.

Ms. Hall explained that the members of those committees are at a higher level and would be department directors or division directors.  She stated that it was fine with her if the Board wants more participation, but she needed a process that was even and that the selection committee would understand.  She added that they tried to make the selection process objective.

Mr. Minkoff related that one of the things in the statute that they were allowed to consider was location of the person that was asking for the work.

Commr. Renick asked how they would know the difference between a firm that was out of the County but had many employees who lived locally, including the owner, versus someone who just has an office locally.

Commr. Conner pointed out that one of the things they were requiring with their new policy was for the businesses to list their sub-contractors, which would show the percentage of the money that is being spent in Lake County.

recess and reassembly

At 9:50 a.m. the Chairman announced that there would be a ten-minute recess.

open discussion (cont’d)

Commr. Cadwell stated that he had talked with Ms. Hall, and after listening to the things that were being said and the direction the Board wanted to go, he did not think that Ms. Hall could be an effective leader as the County’s Manager and that the Board should terminate her contract.  He specified that he did not think that Ms. Hall could provide the different style of management that the Board was looking for, and he thought that terminating her contract was the best thing for her and for Lake County.  He added that he is proud of the job she has done and that she has taken them to a different level than they have ever been in Lake County.

Commr. Conner opined that that was the only way the problem would get corrected.

Commr. Cadwell stated that they needed to stand by the contract they had with Ms. Hall, which provided for six months of severance pay.  He commented that they had too much going on for this to be an issue every day, and he thought they needed to move forward.

Ms. Hall stated that she respected the decision of the Chairman.

Commr. Renick asked why they jumped to this step of letting Ms. Hall go, when the people that have made the mistakes are still going to be there.

Commr. Cadwell responded that they only hire two people, and if they directed Ms. Hall how to handle her staff, that would put her in a bad position as a professional.

Commr. Conner asked the County Attorney whether a County Commissioner has the legal authority to direct the County Manager to fire a department head.

Mr. Minkoff answered that the Board could not do that and only hires the County Attorney and the County Manager.

Commr Renick stated that if they know there was a problem somewhere else in the organization, they could address that with Ms. Hall, and if she did not address it, then they would have a problem with her.

Commr. Conner pointed out that the County Manager has to manage the department heads, not the Commission.

Commr. Cadwell agreed with Commr. Conner, and did not think she could be an effective leader and have clout with any of her employees if that was the case.  He reiterated that terminating Ms. Hall’s contract was the best thing for Lake County and for Ms. Hall, even though he did not like doing that.

Commr. Stewart asked Ms. Hall if she did not think she could change her management style.

Ms. Hall responded that the she and the Chairman have discussed all the issues, and she respects his decision and did not disagree with anything he said.

On a motion by Commr. Conner, seconded by Commr. Renick and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to terminate the County Manager’s contract.

Commr. Hill commented that she voted in favor of this because it was what Ms. Hall wanted, but it was under protest.

recess and reassembly

At 10:15 the Chairman announced a five-minute recess

open discussion (cont’d)

Commr. Cadwell stated that they would appoint Mr. Minkoff as the interim County Manager and Ms. Melanie Marsh, Deputy County Attorney, as the acting County Attorney.

On a motion by Commr. Conner, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to appoint Mr. Minkoff as interim County Manager and Ms. Marsh as the acting County Attorney.

Commr. Cadwell stated that on the other issues they had on the agenda, he would give Mr. Minkoff time to look at Ms. Hall’s recommendations on those, and he would discuss those at the regular Board Meeting on Tuesday, October 6.

Mr. Minkoff reported that Niagara has started to push the attorney’s fee issue, and he had gotten Commr. Cadwell’s approval to have their outside counsel, Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson PA, represent the County rather than the Foley firm. He commented that he thought the County’s position was not exactly the same as Groveland’s and the billing was much more comfortable for them using the Nabors firm.


There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 10:30 a.m.



welton g. cadwell, chairman