‘To Sam May’ or ‘not to Sam May?’ that is the question city commissioners will answer at the Wednesday city meeting. A Margate employee of 29 years and Public Works Director for seven, May was on-boarded “shotgun style” as Interim City Manager in January with no contract, no salary discussion and no formal interview process.
The city manager is one of three charter officers hired and contracted by elected officials. The two others are city attorney and city clerk. ______________
September signals the end of May’s probationary period and determines whether he’s earned the title of City Manager (CM) or returns to the Public Works Department. The decision can be made by the city commission or by May if he decides to continue working for the City. If he sheds his Interim title and is hired for the city manager job, May would be the city’s 5th City Manager in the past ten years.
May is asking for a salary of $191,052. Arguably the most a City Manager has ever been paid in Margate - a nine square mile city. His proposed contract calls for a late model city vehicle to use at his discretion both on and off the job; an $80 phone allowance and the continuation of full benefits equivalent to that of any Margate department head. Like predecessors, he will also be able to make his own hours, but is required by contract to work only four days. His contract also does not require that he keep a log of whereabouts or work-related activities and daily outcomes.
May is likeable, professional, knowledgeable and hard working. He’s received awards from the American Public Works Association in his current position and successfully spearheaded curriculum at Atlantic Technical College for students interested in a career in Public Works. Having been with the city nearly three decades, May is familiar with how city government functions and as Public Works Director is intimate with city infrastructure - the replacement and upgrading of which is ongoing.
Some elected officials have expressed reservations in appointing May as City Manager - similar to last week when commissioners discussed whether he possessed the knowledge to run the CRA - a quasi-judicial form of government regulated by state statute. As Interim CM, May has already been criticized by elected officials for not moving fast enough in severing a land development deal in downtown Margate that three of five commissioners believe is a bad deal for taxpayers. As far as May's ability to effective oversee the CRA, the Agency’s annual budget runs $25 million in comparison to a total city budget that exceeds $100 million.
Other concerns from elected officials included whether hiring an insider is a good idea. Having worked in the city so long, May has established lasting friendships with city employees he now will be required to supervise, review and possibly terminate. Similar has happened with previous city managers, resulting in cronyism. Some commissioners expressed interest in conducting an executive search prior to hiring May as CM.
A possible conflict in the salary portion of May’s contract is the clause “Employer agrees to increase the annual base salary each year by the cost of living adjustment/across the board pay increase, if any, that is granted to Department Heads of the City of Margate.”
This means May gets a raise when everyone else does, which in turn fosters a reward process based not on professional performance, but rather on the arbitrary wage increase of others. Wages for non-bargained employees in the past have been tied to pay increases for union members. To this end, May would negotiate union contracts, which in turn can impact his own pay.
Still some commissioners would like to see the Margate City Manager live in the City, to which May does not. Neither did four city managers before him. Though he currently resides in Coral Springs, May raised his family in Margate for decades prior, so his face and reputation are known throughout the city.
For the first time last year, elected officials conducted a review of the city manager’s performance. This after MargateNews.net reported in 2015 that city employees and department heads in the City had not received formal reviews for ten years. Instead pay raises were awarded capricious and not based on any measurable performance factors. Consequently, elected officials enabled a system that lacked accountability, measurability and clear direction for city staff.
Lack of measurability is already seen in the City’s revised Strategic Plan up for discussion at the Wednesday city meeting along with his contract. After a full day meeting in June with department heads and elected officials, the city’s strategic plan for Fiscal Year 2018-2022 differs little from the 2014-2019 FY plan and includes no measurability component or expected outcomes vital to effective strategic planning. Moreover, much of the input by elected officials at the June meeting does not appear in the revised plan. No meeting notes were transcribed and no audio of the meeting taken by the City, so elected officials have only their own notes to fall back on. The meeting was facilitated at a cost of $17,000 by a Colorado-based consultant and took place in a different city with zero public input. This amid talks at the meeting that centered on improved public outreach. The plan proposed for Wednesday also contains no implementation strategy.
Read with interest: 08/05/2017 Strategic Planning Meeting Reveals Rifts in Communication 07/30/2017 Margate Struggles With “Hometown Feel” 06/18/2017 City holds Strategic Planning Session far from Public Eye
Talks at the strategic planning meeting called for improving communications among city staff and elected officials, yet commissioners are still unsatisfied with getting backup materials for meetings on short notice, including May’s own contract, which was pulled from a previous city commission meeting because of insufficient time to review it.
Having sat in the City Manager’s seat since March, May is getting things done, said Margate Mayor, Tommy Ruzzano. Ruzzano originally nominated May for the position and describes the Public Works Director as a “go to” “hands on” guy. To that end, Ruzzano and other commissioners received no emergency operation plan leading up to Hurricane Irma.
Commissioner Lesa Peerman, said in the past that she prefers a city manager who lives in the city and Vice Mayor, Arlene Schwartz has leaned toward an executive search for a CM to see what talent is out there.
Commissioner, Joanne Simone, said she spoke with May in-depth and is confident he is the man for the job.
Commissioner, Anthony Caggiano likes the idea of hiring from within and moving people up through the ranks, but said May needs clear direction from elected officials. Presently, city commissioners are divided on selling taxpayer owned land in the downtown area worth $30 million for $10 million to a developer - far beneath fair market value.
“He [May] keeps saying is negotiating, but I haven’t seen anything concrete yet,” Caggiano told MargateNews.net.
As far as May’s salary request, Ruzzano thinks it high - in particular for a contracted four-day work week. His predecessor made $178,000 to which May wants a 7% increase after working as Interim City Manager for six months.
Still not approved as City Manager, May was appointed Executive Director of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) for an additional $12,000 last week - a 'cart before the horse' move by elected officials. The two positions together will gross May over $200,000 yearly in wages alone.
As Public Works Director, May earned in the area of $141,000.