FLORIDA TODAY (Brevard County, Florida)
BYLINE: By, Rick Neale
Longtime City Manager Michael Crotty’s employment contract comes up for review Wednesday night during a City Council special meeting – sparking rumors that Crotty may be fired.
Vice Mayor Scott Rhodes requested the meeting, Crotty said. Anonymous political fliers distributed to residents this week predict Crotty will be terminated as an example of “Satellite Beach Government by Vengeance.”
Crotty earns $126,059 per year as Satellite Beach’s chief executive officer. He has served since September 2, 1985, overseeing City Hall services for this beachside community of 10,109 residents.
“We’ve come through a very challenging stretch here. There’s a lot of political issues and conflicts that need to be resolved. This is the first opportunity the manager and the council have had to talk about these,” Crotty said of Wednesday’s meeting.
“I think this’ll be useful dialogue to have. We have to identify the path we’re going to take, and how we’re going to get there,” Crotty said.
“I’m in my 27th year here. It’s been the greatest experience of my life. And I hope it continues. I’m committed to the city manager form of government, and I’m committed to making it work,” he said.
In November, Gregg Billman and Sheryl Denan were elected to seats on the five-member council by promising City Hall reforms. Laura Canady, community redevelopment director, resigned the day after they were sworn in, and City Clerk Barbara Montanaro retired.
Last week, by a 3-2 vote, City Council terminated its $56,127 annual contract with Plain English Writing Service, the city’s longtime grant-writing firm headed by Lorraine Gott and John Fergus.
At least four out of five council members must agree to fire a Satellite Beach city manager, City Clerk Leonor Olexa said. If this occurs, City Council shall immediately appoint an interim city manager and name a permanent replacement within 180 days, per charter.
If Crotty is fired his contract calls for a severance package that includes 12 months of salary.
Mayor Joe Ferrante noted that a handful of residents called for Crotty’s ouster during last week’s City Council meeting – but he remains “strongly in favor” of Crotty’s job performance.
Councilman Bill Higginson called Wednesday’s meeting “much ado about nothing.”
“His diplomacy is beyond reproach. And his ability to generate a high level of morale and loyalty with staff has been exceptional,” Higginson said of Crotty. “I don’t know what there is to review about his contract.”
In chain emails, Billman has expressed dissatisfaction with city management – and he stated “the buck stops with the senior leader.” He also criticized Crotty last month for not notifying council members about a fire department unionization movement for 10 days.
But Monday, Billman said he wants to hold off discussing Crotty’s contract until a City Hall forensic-accounting audit occurs. City Council approved this action Jan. 18.
“As we’re looking at his contract, I think we should have as much data as possible on the state of the city,” Billman said. “I don’t understand the goal for the currently planned Wednesday night meeting.”
Messages seeking comment Monday from Rhodes and Denan were not returned.
Former Mayor Pat Utecht, who chaired the selection committee that recommended Crotty’s 1985 hiring, fears the worst.
“I’m concerned over the future of the city. Extremely concerned over it. I see us going from a very stable environment to one that I have no idea what will exist,” Utecht said.
“I would have expected that the new council people would have spent a few months learning the lay of the land – before they tore it up,” Utecht said.
The Satellite Beach City Council will conduct a special meeting on City Manager Michael Crotty’s employment contract at 6 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 565 Cassia Blvd.
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