Brooksville City Manager Mark Kutney will keep his job. At the February 1, 2021 Brooksville City Council meeting, members voted 3-2 to approve the City Manager’s annual evaluation and continue Kutney’s contract, which comes with a salary increase of 2% until the next review takes place.
Kutney received a “Key Performance Areas” average rating of 3.95 of a maximum 5.00, which is described in the report as “over half-way between ‘Meets Expectations’ and ‘Exceeds Expectations’.” This is an increase of 0.42 over 2019’s average rating of 3.53.
Kutney also provided the council with a Self Evaluation, a 5-page narrative of accomplishments over the past year. The evaluation begins with changes at City Hall when the COVID pandemic began. Layoffs were avoided and Kutney developed a COVID Policy team that consisted of the Fire Chief, Finance Director, City Clerk and Human Resources.
After Mayor Pat Brayton submitted his recommendation to approve the Council’s evaluation and salary increase, Vice Mayor Robert Battista made a motion to approve. No one seconded the motion. The first to speak of disapproval was new Council Member David Bailey. Though Bailey and Battista gave Kutney the highest ratings; a score of ‘5’ in all areas of the evaluation, Bailey offered the following reason why he would not vote to approve:
“My review is based on my personal experiences,” Bailey said, acknowledging that his time spent on the council has been short, his term beginning on December 7, 2020. “I’ve done my due diligence, and I’ve asked many business owners and residents of the city what their feelings were, and to my regret, it’s always been a negative review.”
Later in the meeting, Bailey reiterated that his evaluation of Kutney was based on his personal experience. “You’re a good man, you’ve always had an ‘open-door’ policy with me, you’ve answered all my questions, so man-to-man, we’re good. I’m motioning for termination because of the general consensus of the people I’ve spoken with.”
Bailey then moved to not renew Kutney’s contract.
City Attorney Becky Vose responded by saying that the matter up for vote was to approve the evaluation, and that Kutney’s ongoing contract does not follow a renewal process. Bailey rephrased his motion to terminate Kutney’s contract, which was seconded by Council Member Blake Bell, also newly sworn in as a council member in December.
“I find it very disingenuous,” Battista began, “for the two of you who have not even been here two months yet … you’ve taken input from not the 9,000 people who live in the city, but from a group of acquaintances who you lay lot of credence with them, otherwise you wouldn’t be proceeding in this direction.”
Battista added that Kutney was not his first choice when he was hired in 2017. Then-Mayor Battista favored another candidate. During this meeting, Battista described his current opinion of Kutney as “Extremely impressed,” and went on to say that Brooksville had been “in distress” and Kutney’s actions and choices in staffing relieved much of that distress.
According to Kutney’s Self Evaluation, he reviewed an estimated 300 resumes and conducted 60 interviews and negotiations. “The ultimate result was the hiring of an IT Coordinator (Tim Grantham); Special Projects Coordinator (Charlene Kuhn); City Engineer/Utilities Director (Jeremy Burgess); Assistant Finance Director/ Procurement Manager (Pamela Macaluso); Public Works Director (Paul Booth); Community Development Director (Chris Anderson); Human Resources Administrator (Kimberley Price); Deputy City Clerk (Lisa Morris); and the Cemetery Sexton, Cemetery Attendant and Customer Service positions.”
Battista credited Kutney with the city’s ability to drop the millage rate to its current 5.9, and added that another cut could be in the future.
Council member Betty Erhard also does not support Kutney’s removal, however was the first to amend the salary increase from 4% to 2%. She went on to say that for the past two years, she has given Kutney the lowest scores compared to the rest of the council, “… because I want him to be more visible in the community.” Erhard agreed with Battista on his assessment.
In addition, Erhard mentioned Kutney’s strategic plan for economic development and would like to see him follow through on the work that has already been done. City Council adopted the proposed Strategic Planning Process Initiatives Action Plan that Kutney referenced in his self evaluation on July, 28, 2020.
Bell also spoke directly to Kutney, stating that his vote was not personal, but based on conversations he has had with people over the past 12 months. He reported that during the COVID lockdown in March 2020, he reached out to business leaders and citizens on the phone. “To my surprise, I did not get one positive feedback about the direction of the city.”
According to Bell, one business owner reported that they have been unable to expand their business “because of issues with the city,” however did not elaborate on those issues.
Bell acknowledged that there could be a disconnect between public perception and reality. When the COVID restrictions began, Bell said that City Hall should have been an information hub for the business owners, however they received their information from outside sources. He reported other examples of deficiency of Brooksville’s leadership as described to those he spoke to, adding that he does not believe the city is practicing fiscal responsibility.
Kutney’s other accomplishments according to his Self Evaluation include:
Development of a new collective Bargaining agreement with Fire Union Local 4661
Development of a Comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and Capital Budget in conjunction with the FY 21 Budget. This five year plan (FY 2021-26) was adopted on January 4, 2021.
Procurement Policy – currently in its third stage and expected to be submitted to City Council at the end of February 2021.
Personnel Policies Manual has been submitted to city council, however was not approved at the time of this writing.
Continued Review of Alternatives and Associated Actions Regarding the Provision of Technological Services
Development of a City Wide Succession Plan and Merit Review Program is expected to be completed in March 2021
Roadway Management Plan/Stormwater Infrastructure – streets will be identified and the process commenced in April 2021.
A Master Plan for the Quarry has been hindered due to problems with the property’s legal description, and the need for a clear deed and title as well as the submission of an environmental survey. This is expected to be remedied this year.
Police Pension Fund/ Fire Pension Matters: Kutney wrote, “In conjunction with the City Attorney, I am working on resolving funding issues with the Substitute Trust. Amendments have been proposed to the Fire Pension Board and those amendments will be coming back to City Council for disposition … Future Pension plan review will occur within the collective bargaining process.”
Classification and Compensation Plan Study – expected to come before the City Council in March 2021
Security Issues – Kutney intends to meet with City Council members on an individual basis to develop security policy that will be brought before the council as a whole for approval.
Insurance Procurement is expected for FY 2022. Kutney wrote, “It is not expected to be the right time for such a procurement during the FY 21 Fiscal year. This outcome is subject to the insurance markets and the impacts related thereto.”
Impact Fees Study – expected to conclude in June or July 2021
Kutney also mentions the following items completed or underway:
–Gallery Coordinator contract
–Served as Interim Community Development Director from February to September
–Yearly omnibus fees resolution amendment
–Veteran’s Day Celebration
–FRDAP Grant for playground replacement at Tom Varn Park
–Alpine Circle and Oak Park Circle water line repairs
–Iron Containers Piggyback contract with Lakeland
–CARES Act funding
–Urban Senior Program
–Legislative Funding 2021
–Improvements to the Fire Station as a result of the Division of State, Fire Marshal grant funding
–Jerome Brown roof leak repairs
–Activities with GRS related to OPEB in the Audit for the fiscal year ended FY 19
–Continued disposition of Police Department surplus equipment
–Activities associated with the City wide reorganization pursuant to the FY 20 Budget
–BMS funding agreement
–Continuing City policies review
–Continuing efforts to move the Fire Department move from BLS to ALS
–Sewer Rehabilitation Phase IV
–Cascades Reuse Project (legislative funding)
–Oxidation Ditch at WSWWTP
–Lamar Drinking Water Plant
–FDOT Good Neighbor Trail water line conflicts
–Modification of Master Lift Station at Cortez
–East Ave Lift Station
–East Avenue Drainage
–Stadium Decking Repair
–Softball Lighting (west) parks
–Jerome Brown Parking lot
–Russell Street Park Walking Bridge /Boardwalk