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Administrator, clerk: Council wanted to recognize promotions

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By Jeff Bryan

Initially, the city’s “invitation-only party” was supposed to celebrate success the city had achieved in the past year, from a financial emergency, turnover of administrative staff, changes on the council and a

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number of bad operating decisions, according to City Administrator Dawn Bowne’s deposition during a Florida Commission on Ethics investigation.

“As a group, we had made a lot of headway,” she told investigator Travis Wood, with her attorney, Mark Herron, by her side. “To have a celebration to sort of recognize, just take a little credit for the success and enjoy each other as a staff and council outside of day-to-day work.”

At some point, subsequent to that, Bowne said, she was asked by several council members to make time at that party on whatever agenda there may or may not be to recognize promotions.

“So then there were some guests of employees who were invited as part of the promotion,” she said. “It was just sort of something that wasn’t heavily discussed; it was the concept and they were all for that and staff started to plan.”

That, Bowne said, was the reason the entire city staff was invited.

“You know, like I said, guests of employees or whoever council might have invited,” she added. “I don’t think anybody … we posted it on city website, because we would have more than one council (member) attend. We didn’t advertise it in the paper.

“We didn’t turn anybody away that may have showed up at the door, we didn’t intend to do that. There was a capacity limit to the room and food being served, so we didn’t advertise it and send the whole town invitations. That was sort of the thought process behind it.”

The idea came up, in a discussion, we would solicit contributions to put on a reception honoring this occasion, not particularly the individuals, but the occasion, Mayor Walter Green said.

“I didn’t even see the invitation list, I was a guest there myself,” Green explained. “I didn’t know most of the people there, because they were family members and people who had known the city administrator and city clerk for many years. They were there to help them celebrate. Of course, I knew some of the people there, but I didn’t know the rest of them.”

What Roberts remembered is Bowne sending the council an email requesting permission to solicit donations for the event to recognize the accomplishments of the council in the past year.

“Some council people wanted to recognize the promotions during the event, hers and mine,” Roberts explained during her deposition.

At first, Roberts volunteered to reach out to the individuals and vendors for donations.

“Because some of the council wanted both of us recognized at the event, it would seem kind of odd coming from me, I guess,” explained Roberts, who served as assistant city clerk for 17 years before her promotion.

That’s how the whole idea came to Mayor Green, according to Roberts.

“Maybe it would be a better idea if it came from me,” she said Green suggested. “Since the two of you are going to be recognized, it might look kind of weird coming from the employees we’re promoting,”

The reason behind soliciting vendors for a party, Green explained, there was no effort in the city whatsoever, to his knowledge, to recognize the situation the city was in.

“We had gone a long time with an acting city manager,” he told Wood. “We had elevated an employee of 31 years; it’s pretty remarkable that someone hires out at a beginning job in their life and winds up being administrator. The assistant city clerk was elevated to city clerk. So what you did is combined jobs and we eliminated an entire position. So it was something to celebrate as far as efficiency’s within our government.”

There was no announcement whatsoever or an effort made to recognize this event, from any angle or any source.

“It was not even announced in the newspaper until I wrote a column in the newspaper acknowledging what had happened that they were assuming these roles,” Green said about the promotions of Bowne and Roberts.

Green spoke with both of them about what they’d like to do. He said they wanted to have a reception or something to that effect.

“I said that was fine, but we cannot spend city funds on it,” he explained. “We don’t have funds for anything like that. We can figure out a way to pay for it, that’s fine. But we don’t want to use any city funds on it.”