By: Sharon Aron Baron
On Wednesday, the Parkland city commission voted to move forward to discuss and take action on a separation agreement with current City Manager Bob Payton.
Earlier, Mayor Christine Hunschofsky and City Attorney Andrew Maurodis met to discuss a separation agreement with Payton, and according to Hunschofsky, the commission had also discussed it on December 17.
“Mr. Payton, would you like to work on a separation agreement? Asked Mayor Hunschofsky at the meeting.
“Are you suggesting that I resign?” He asked. “That’s important to be able to discuss with the commissioners in a fair and equitable separation agreement.”
Maurodis said that Payton had three options: resigning, negotiating a severance agreement to be brought back at the next meeting, or decide to stay on as a city manager.
Payton, who was hired in June 2017, told the commission a year ago he wasn’t a good fit for all of them.
“So here we are today,” said Commissioner Bob Mayersohn, “You still aren’t a fit for all of us. So what has changed?” He cited an example that he couldn’t just hold workshops with nothing tangible on the agenda as staff had to prepare for them.
“We rely on staff to put those things together. We rely on the city manager to make those things happen.”
Vice Mayor Ken Cutler said to Hunschofsky, “I don’t know what your problem is with Bob, but unfortunately the Sunshine Law has precluded us from getting an understanding of all of that, and you’re unwilling to disclose that to the public. I understand that.”
Cutler said the process of selecting another city manager would be extremely arduous and that it took over seven months to find Payton. He said they had to deal with head-hunters, hundreds of resumes, candidates, and interviews. He felt with two earlier city managers leaving; this would also pose a problem in the future.
“We’ve dealt with floods, hurricanes, shootings,” Cutler said to Payton. “We dealt with 30,000 people coming into this city and every step of the way you were a leader in all those tragic events. I think your vision is what our city needs to move us forward into the future. I understand you are unhappy. If it’s personality conflicts, maybe we can work and mediate those conflicts.”
Cutler added he didn’t want to see Payton go and said that everyone was suffering from trauma and it was important that they didn’t make rash decisions.
Hunschofsky took offense at Cutler’s statements. “To dismiss what I’m doing as a personality conflict….I, as a female, can also be logical, business-oriented and not always emotional and have personality conflicts. You aren’t in my meetings, and I haven’t shared with you what goes on in those meetings. By making a comment like that, you have made an assumption.”
She said, “I don’t want what’s convenient or comfortable. I believe Parkland is at a moment now where we can be the best in many areas and that’s going to be up to us and the community to decide what those areas are. That takes strong administration skills, not just vision skills. The vision comes from the public. The vision comes from our community, and it’s for us to adopt the policies for that vision, and it’s up to the city manager to administer that vision.”
After Payton changed his mind about the earlier-discussed separation agreement, Hunschofsky said she was unwilling to discuss specifics and said that treating one another with professionalism and respect was paramount.
“Maybe a separation agreement is too much to do. Maybe termination is better,” she said.
Hunschofsky believed it was best for the city and for the residents.
“I trust our staff that this will not be an issue to get through. I would love if Mr. Payton would stay until the end of February and do consulting for the next five months so that he is compensated adequately and we have the back-up and support, and that is what we discussed before this. But if that’s not amenable, then I go with my termination.”
Payton, who earns 184,824 per year, ultimately agreed to resign on February 28, acting as a consultant for the city for five months after. The commission voted to hold a special meeting Tuesday, January 29, at 5:30 to discuss the terms of his separation agreement.