by PAT RAIA, [email protected]
During their regular meeting on June 21, 2021, members of the Brooksville City Council voted to terminate the contract of City manager Mark Kutney by a 3-2 margin.
The firing stems from controversy connected to the City of Brooksville’s inadvertent sale of its water tower to Robert Read of Read Property Ventures, LLC. Read learned that his purchase included the City’s water tower after visiting the Property Appraiser’s office on June 11 to obtain a new address for the parcel. Read later conveyed the water tower back to the City of Brooksville via a warranty deed.
During his presentation about the sale, Kutney said that the accidental sale took place after staff had presented an inaccurate legal description of the property which was subsequently forwarded by Kutney’s office to the city attorney.
“This does not mean I’m blaming my staff members,” Kutney told the Council. “Ultimately the manager is responsible and accountable for all actions taken by the City – I am accountable for the situation.”
During the public comments portion of the meeting Andrea Read, wife of parcel purchaser Robert Read presented files to each council member containing copies of correspondence between Read and the city.
“We just want everyone to have the information,” she said.
Later, Brooksville businessman John Lee called for Kutney’s contract to be terminated.
Before the question of termination was put before the Council, Vice Mayor Robert Battista said the situation involving the deed was a common one.
“I received word from our local clerk of the court and the official records section and they said that this happens probably once a month,” Battista said. “So this is not an end-of-the-world-type thing – errors happen.”
After a discussion about when Kutney knew that there was an issue connected to the water tower property and when he notified the council, Councilmember David Bailey called for Kutney’s resignation.
“I have lost confidence in the (city manager),” Bailey said.
But before that vote was taken, Erhard made an amended motion asking Kutney to resign his post as city manager.
That motion was carried by a vote of 3-2 with Erhard, Bailey, and Bell supporting it and Battista and Mayor Pat Brayton opposing it.
Kutney declined to resign his post.
“I’m not going to run out on my staff,” he said.
A subsequent vote to terminate Kutney’s contract was approved by a 3-2 vote with Erhard, Bailey, and Bell voting in favor of termination, and Battista and Brayton opposed.
John Lee called the termination “a fresh start for Brooksville.”
Kutney was not available for comment on the termination.
Neither Administrative Assistant Terri Carter nor Charlene Kuhn, the City’s public information officer was available to comment on succession protocol for the city manager post.
Kutney was selected for the city manager position in September, 2018.