Commissioners decided to hire a full-time Executive Director for the Margate Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) after eight years of part time leaders. _____________
Since 2006 Margate's City Manager has served dually as the part-time Executive Director for the city’s CRA (aka Agency). His salary largely paid from the city budget in conjunction with a compensatory “offset” of $40,000 a year from the Agency.
In total, three city managers have served as the CRA’s Executive Director in the past eight years, despite their lack of qualifications or experience with redevelopment, said Margate Mayor, Le Peerman
“The City Manager should not be the CRA Director, period,” she told fellow commissioners at the November CRA meeting. “We need a CRA director that concentrates solely on the CRA."
In her three years in office - and even before - the Mayor said she has never favored a City Manager serving as the CRA Executive Director at the same time.
Though on the agenda for discussion purposes only, commissioners (sitting as the CRA Board) were presented with an Executive Director (ED) candidate already by Redevelopment Management Associates (RMA), the services firm hired last year to run the day-to-day operations of the Margate CRA. Unlike past EDs, this one would be outsourced by the City and contracted through a third party.
Once prompted for details by the public, the unnamed female candidate was said to have 14 years’ experience in redevelopment and to currently work for the Delray Beach CRA - an organization also run by RMA. The salary range for the proposed candidate would be $90K - $110K.
The way the issue was presented at the meeting didn’t sit well with Margate resident, Todd Angier. He told commissioners that deciding to hire a person before first discussing whether to onboard a full-time Executive Director was disingenuous.
“You passed a contract with RMA [setting salary limits] to hire a CRA Director knowing full well that you already have somebody in mind to fill that position. Yet we don’t know out here that you’re making a decision; you’re putting a contract in place; you have got the money set aside and the next thing you’re going to do is decide on a position to have this - but you already have a person in mind. That’s not really transparent, that’s not really putting it out there for us to understand what’s going on. It’s like you guys are already making a decision with a preconceived conclusion in mind and I don’t think that is right.”
That’s not really transparent, that’s not really putting it out there for us to understand what’s going on. It’s like you guys are already making a decision with a preconceived conclusion in mind and I don’t think that is right.”
Margate resident, Rich Popovic agreed. He said commissioners should have publicly discussed the candidate and his/her track record. “When the public will know who it is?” he asked.
Another resident questioned whether outsourcing the Executive Director position would limit public disclosure and records access with regards to private sector negotiations and contracts by the CRA - a quasi governmental agency compelled to follow open government laws.
"They [RMA] speak to transparency, but their actions are that they are not transparent," said Dr. Sabrina Segal.
Commissioner, Tommy Ruzzano - who was against hiring an independent contractor as the CRA Executive Director - said for him it was an accountability issue.
"We need to have someone who is responsible to us and not responsible to RMA,” he said. “I would like to hire somebody who I have confidence will do the right thing for the City.”
As in the past, the first-term commissioner suggested expanding the city’s Economic Development Department to oversee the CRA much like the City Manager does now. By putting the CRA under the economic development umbrella, Ruzzano said residents would be assured that the city is accountable for moving development forward, which RMA has been slow in doing.
“If you look at the CRA now it’s not too successful,” he said, “We have a great economic development department sitting over there. Why not utilize them?” he asked.“He [Ziskal] is young and ambitious and has ideas. He knows planning; he knows redevelopment; he knows the city inside and out. The CRA and city center will be a major part of economic development in Margate for the next 20 years."
Having already given RMA the blessing to negotiate with a third-party ED as a matter of contract, commissioners were not keen on the idea, but if Ziskal wanted to enter into negotiations with RMA that would be his choice, said the Mayor, adding that she didn’t know if Ziskal wanted the job or if he was qualified for the job. Then she offered words of encouragement.
“I know you sell this city 24/7. I would have no problem with you being CRA Director, however, you work for the city of Margate...," she said.
Margate resident, Anthony Caggiano, said outsourcing the Executive Director position to RMA has the “potential for disaster.” Should the city decide in three years not to renew the contract with the firm, the CRA would lose its Executive Director, leaving the CRA “out on a lurch.”
Planning Chief for Margate CERT, Eddie DeCristorfaro, suggested removing the ED’s salary from RMA’s contract and hiring an Executive Director employed by the city. “End of story,” he said.
Expressing optimism in hiring the unnamed candidate, Commissioner, Frank Talerico, a year ago had reservations over onboarding an "outsider" to lead the CRA.
“You never know what you’re going to get when you hire an outsider,” he said at an August 2013 CRA meeting.
Though not officially voting to hire an Executive Director, commissioners approved a contract with RMA on Wednesday that included a CRA manager position, and agreed to meet with the unnamed candidate in the coming week.
RMA Managing Partner, Kim Briesemeister, assured commissioners and that the candidate was highly qualified and is the right fit for Margate. To boot, the Delray CRA is highly successful.
“If you approve the contract, which you just did, my intention is to bring you a full time CRA Director,” she said.
When asked why the candidate would leave her job in Delray Beach for one in Margate, Briesemeister told MargateNews.net that since the Delray agency is doing well, the candidate sees a challenge in similarly growing the Margate CRA.
The decision to hire an Executive Director marks the second administrative leadership change in the Margate CRA in a year.