Mulberry City Manager Expects to Be Fired

On the job for only 15 months, Frank Thomas thinks tonight’s the end.

By Rick Rousos

The Ledger

Published: Monday, October 8, 2007

MULBERRY | Mulberry city commissioners are on the verge of firing City
Manager Frank Thomas tonight. When asked about the odds of keeping his
job, Thomas said, "3-to-2. I’m gone."

Thomas, on the job for 15 months, has twice survived 3-2 votes by the
City Commission. The difference this time is that Commissioner Julian
Mullis, who voted twice to keep Thomas, now wants him out.

"I have lost faith in Frank’s ability to manage," Mullis said.

The
City Commission will meet at 6 p.m. today at the Mulberry Civic Center
for a special meeting suggested by Commissioner Jim Splaine and
seconded by Mullis. The meeting could not be held at City Hall because
a Relay for Life gathering is being held there.

City Attorney
Gerald Buhr, often an adept referee at fractious city meetings, can’t
attend because he’ll be at an Avon Park city meeting.

There are
four items on tonight’s agenda: take-home police cars, whether to
eliminate the public safety department and go back to separate police
and fire departments, the fire Web site and Thomas.

The fire Web site is a bone of contention that may have been the last straw for Thomas.

Commissioners voted Tuesday to have Mulberry take over in-city fire dispatch duties from Polk County.

The
Web site, which is produced by the fire union, said Mulberry would
spend more than $100,000 per year for around-the-clock dispatching,
while the county’s yearly charge for the same service is just $10,000.

Mullis
says that the $100,000 figure is inflated, He said the city fire
station and fire trucks belong to Mulberry, and so should the
dispatching.

He said the plan for the past several months has
been to have Mulberry take over the fire dispatch and that Thomas
should have softened feelings at the fire department, not made them
worse.

The Fire Department is also to blame, Mullis said. "The Fire Department is supposed to put out fires, not start them."

For
the past several months, Mullis has said the county is plotting to take
over Mulberry, not just the fire and police departments, but City Hall
as well.

Thomas said that’s an unfounded fear that Mullis is making come true with his attempt to take the city backward.

Thomas
said Mullis has his facts wrong about the fire dispatching. "We’ve said
we could do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do," he
said.

Thomas said Mullis "doesn’t hear what he doesn’t want to hear."

Mayor
Mark Seigler, upon seeing at Tuesday’s meeting that Mullis was voting
with Splaine and Commissioner Terry Evers, said he didn’t know whether
Mulberry could survive that. He said Sunday that he did not wish to
comment for this story, but would do his talking at the meeting tonight.

Thomas
can be his own worst enemy. He has repeatedly slammed Splaine and had a
spat a few months ago with Commissioner Jerry Woods that has been
patched up.

On Tuesday, he responded to a comment from Evers by calling it "asinine," which clearly upset Evers.

Evers,
who did not return repeated calls for comment, has sided with Splaine
on nearly every vote and on several occasions has expressed
dissatisfaction with Thomas and the way the city is being run.

Both Splaine and Woods said they would be "shocked" if Evers did not vote to fire Thomas.

Woods said the timing for firing Thomas is terrible, particularly with the city on the verge of huge expansion.

Woods
said he also worries about the domino effect, with Public Safety
Director Larry Cavallaro, police officers, firefighters and City Hall
workers possibly following Thomas out the door.

"I believe they’re being short-sighted," Woods said of the men who will vote to fire Thomas.

"I don’t think they have a plan" for what to do when Thomas is gone.

 

 
© 2007 The Ledger. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.theledger.com/article/20071008/NEWS/710080373/1004/News

 

 

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