Commission Meeting Draft Minutes

Draft Minutes of the February 4, 2019 1 p.m.
Commission Meeting

The special meeting of the Lady Lake Town Commission was held in the Commission Chambers at Lady Lake Town Hall, 409 Fennell Blvd., Lady Lake, Florida with Mayor Jim Richards presiding. The meeting convened at 1 p.m.

Call to Order

Mayor Jim Richards

Roll Call

Commissioner (Ward) Present
Hannan (Four) Yes
Kussard (One) Yes
Holden (Two) Yes
Vincent (Three) Yes
Richards (Five) Yes

Staff Present

Kris Kollgaard, Town Manager; Maureen Gochee, Human Resources Director; Thad Carroll, Growth Management Director; Wendy Then, Senior Planner; John Pearl, Information Technology Director; C.T. Eagle, Public Works Director; Pam Winegardner, Finance Director; Debbie Lopez, Accounting Specialist; Dawn Woods, Accounting Clerk; Philomena Bodie, Utilities Customer Service Representative; Mike Burske, Parks and Recreation Director, Butch Goodman, Utilities Supervisor; Ted Williams, Street Maintenance Supervisor; Marsha Brinson, Library Director; Interim Chief Capt. Robert Tempesta, Lady Lake Police Department; Capt. Jason Brough, Lady Lake Police Department; Elvira Ruiz, Records Supervisor; Charles Gehrsitz, Lady Lake Police Officer, Julia Harris, Administrative Assistant to the Town Manager; Nancy Slaton, Deputy Town Clerk; and Carol Osborne, Staff Assistant to the Town Clerk.

Public Comment

Mayor Richards stated that he would hear public comment after New Business as many questions may be answered during the discussion.

New Business

1. Discussion and Direction Regarding Town Manager Position

Mayor Richards opened the discussion by asking Commissioner Holden to make his statement.

Commissioner Holden read from a prepared statement regarding his concerns that his opinions were not taken into consideration by the Town Manager and the leaders of the Commission during budget workshops. He stated he had recommended the purchase of a new truck rather than spend funds on a major engine repair. He accused the Town Manager of leaving a budget workshop in progress several years ago without returning, leaving the Finance Director to finish the workshop.

Commissioner Holden stated three years ago, there was discussion regarding building a new Public Works building and everyone agreed it was needed. He stated the Town Manager stated that it should wait until the library was paid for in two years, when the Town would be debt-free. Commissioner Holden stated he suggested they move forward with a loan of 3.5% interest rather than risk higher interest rates later. The other Commissioners agreed with the Town Manager to wait.  He stated he would have preferred that staff go over their proposed budget by line item, and he felt that staff did not listen to his ideas regarding the budget and just rushed through the meeting.

Commissioner Holden also stated he had discussions with former town employees pertaining to former working conditions alleging temper tantrums, threats to fire, etc. He stated this is unacceptable. He spoke about the turnover in the police department being due to different reasons including disability, retirement, young officers moving on, and those that get into trouble.

Commissioner Kussard stated that she was appalled and embarrassed at the last Commission meeting. She stated if any of the Commissioners have an issue with the Town Manager, they need to discuss it with her and not at a public meeting. She stated residents approached her after that meeting expressing their embarrassment as they never thought they would see that kind of behavior at a Lady Lake Commission meeting.

Commissioner Kussard read from a prepared statement regarding her support for Kris Kollgaard as Town Manager. She stated the Commission cannot and should not micro-manage her, undermine her authority or impede her ability to do her job as Town Manager. Commissioner Kussard stated that she discussed Ms. Kollgaard with the department heads and many employees, past and present, who had high praise for her.

Commissioner Hannan stated that he had no comment.

Commissioner Vincent apologized to Ms. Kollgaard; stating he was out of line and not professional at the last Commission meeting. He stated that he went through the personnel files and did not find documentation to support her decision regarding the former Police Chief. He stated that Ms. Kollgaard should have talked to the Commissioners individually and not let this issue go on for six years.

Commissioner Vincent stated that he has heard from several people that Mr. McKinstry hid things. He asked Ms. Kollgaard how she received this information and whether she had a meeting with the informant, the chief and other people to discuss and resolve the issues. Commissioner Vincent stated there is no documented counseling in Mr. McKinstry’s personnel file. He also stated that he was not pleased with bonuses given to department heads without documentation of the reason for it. He stated that he did not submit an evaluation form for Ms. Kollgaard because he could not document that she did a good job.

Commissioner Vincent stated that he, too, does not like how the budget is reviewed. He stated that he would like the salaries to be broken out.

Commissioner Hannan commented “Town Charter”.

Mayor Richards stated he passed out the matrix to the Commissioners showing how the Town Manager was rated over the past several years. He noted there are several categories on the Town Manager’s evaluation form. He stated normally comments are made if an employee exceeds expectations or if they are unsatisfactory. He stated that is the time when each Commissioner has the opportunity to have input on each category on the Town Manager’s evaluation.

Mayor Richards clarified that the Town does not give bonuses; rather the Town gives raises based on the merit system and cost of living (COL) increase. He stated the COL is determined by the consumer price index. He stated the Town of Lady Lake has the second lowest tax evaluation in all of Lake County, and keeping as debt free as possible is a good outcome. He stated the Town operates efficiently.

Commissioner Vincent asked how Mayor Richards knows this because there is no documentation.

Town Manager Kris Kollgaard mentioned the budget is documentation of the Town operating efficiently.

Mayor Richards replied the Town has a roadway pavement planning system that meets or exceeds the roads of any other community in the area. He stated the police force is approximately 50% of the Town’s budget. He stated that he reads the police reports, is proud of the police force, and he thanked them for all that they do. Mayor Richards stated the Town’s economic development is prospering. He stated he is pleased with the work done by the Public Works Department regarding storm cleanup, landscaping and road edging.

Mayor Richards commented to Commissioner Holden that he was probably was guilty for moving the budget workshop along; yet there are five Commissioners at that meeting.

Commissioner Holden stated the proposed budget should have been reviewed line by line as was done in the past.

Mayor Richards stated when each department’s proposed budget is presented, he asks each Commissioner for their input on anything in a line that he or she does not like.

Commissioner Holden disagreed, stating he was cut down when he stated there were two other items that should have been included in the budget.

Mayor Richards asked Commissioner Holden if any other Commissioner supported him on that.

Commissioner Holden replied they did not.

Mayor Richards stated that has nothing to do with the Town Manager; it has to do with the other Commissioners and him. He pointed out that none of Ms. Kollgaard’s job evaluations have “unsatisfactory” on them.

Commissioner Holden asked if there is a place to mark that.

Mayor Richards replied affirmatively.

Commissioner Holden stated he will make sure to do that in the future.

Ms. Kollgaard stated Commissioner Holden marked two areas that he felt needed improvement on her last evaluation by him. She stated that she contacted him, they met and discussed these issues, one of which was the budget. She stated she explained that the Town Charter requires that the Town Manager submit a balanced budget, and it is the Commission’s choice to review the budget by each line item. She stated that she understood Commissioner Holden’s position and asked the department heads to provide a list of what they want to do this upcoming year. There had been discussion with the Commissioners to have a workshop in February and she was going ask the Commissioners for their direction prior to discussing the budget.

Mayor Richards stated there are approximately 250 line items within the budget and he does not want to discuss small items such as postage costs if it falls in line. He stated he would like to discuss the issues that are over and above what they have been. He stated when he reviews the monthly budget report, he looks at the rate of spending and how that compares to the revenue versus expenses for that particular month.

Commissioner Holden commented that they can always do better and he does not care if it takes four hours.

Mayor Richards replied why do it if it is not necessary.

Commissioner Kussard stated that the Commissioners receive the proposed budget books in advance of the workshop and she reviews each line item at home. She stated it is not necessary to do so at a workshop as it is a waste of time. The important items are the ones that need to be discussed.

Commissioner Holden stated no one wanted to discuss the construction of the Public Works building. The money could have been borrowed at 3.5% instead of delaying it two years to have bragging rights that the Town was debt free. He stated the Town Manager did not invite the Commissioners to the meeting when the building construction was discussed or to the bid opening.

Commissioner Hannan stated what resonates with him is the excellent reports on the Town’s budget from the auditor.

Commissioner Vincent stated that he would like to have the department heads’ and Commissioners’ salaries itemized.  He stated that his constituents have requested this also.

Town Manager Kris Kollgaard addressed Commissioner Holden’s comment that she left a workshop and did not return. She stated that she has never left a meeting and not returned.

Mayor Richards and Commissioner Hannan stated they could not recall any such thing.

Ms. Kollgaard stated that she understands the Commissioners get frustrated, although she cannot do anything unless she has three Commissioners give affirmative votes. She stated the Public Works building plans were brought to the Commission and all bid openings are open to the public. She cautioned that if more than one Commissioner attends a public meeting, it must be posted. All of the plans are presented to the Commission for their approval or denial.

Ms. Kollgaard stated it is the Town’s policy to give a 2.5% cost of living increase and up to a 2.5% merit increase. She stated most of her department heads exceed their job performance, which is why they are department heads. She stated she receives a plan from the department heads each year.

Ms. Kollgaard stated that Commissioner Holden stated the he felt she let the developers get away with everything. She disagreed, stating Town staff ensures the developers follow the Land Development Regulations, which are approved by the Commission.

Ms. Kollgaard stated she believes she has been doing a good job as Town Manager and the Town is doing well. She reiterated that her door is always open, and there is a good work environment without a large turnover. She stated the police department has more turnover because it is a smaller department that gets officers just out of the academy, who may later want more experience in a larger city. Ms. Kollgaard stated it is important to her to have trust that the department heads are following her direction, as she is answerable to the Commissioners and the residents.

Mayor Richards asked the Commissioners if they wanted to move on to the next item or vote on the Town Manager.

Commissioner Hannan stated the Town Charter is the answer to almost everything. He stated it states that the Town Manager has the right to hire and fire and does not have to come to the Commission. Many issues that came up today will remain unless the Town Charter is changed.

Commissioner Holden stated that although he disagreed with Commissioner Hannan at the last meeting that the Town Charter needed to be reviewed and amended, he has changed his mind and agrees with him now.

Commissioner Kussard stated that she checked with surrounding communities and all but Wildwood said their City Manager or City Administrator has the authority over personnel matters regarding their police chief, as does the Town.

Mayor Richards noted that the Town’s Charter was written this way to isolate all of the employees, with the exception of the Town Manager and the Town Attorney, from the day-to- day politics. He stated no individual Commissioner can direct any Town employee to do anything. The Town Manager and Town Attorney can only be removed by a majority vote of the Commission. The Town Manager can be directed to do something by a majority vote of the Commission.

Mayor Richards called for public comment after the Commissioners agreed to vote on this after public comment.

Phil Mathias of Lakes of Lady Lake stated that the public should be able to comment on the Town’s budget.

Mayor Richards stated the public is invited to the budget meeting, although no members of the public were in attendance this past year.

Ms. Kollgaard stated the budget meeting is a publically noticed meeting and is posted at Town Hall, on the Town’s website, and agenda notices are sent to the media. She stated the Daily Sun normally mentions the area’s public meetings.

Mr. Mathias complained that the new building at Public Works should not be necessary. He also stated he would like to see salaries detailed and see where his tax dollars are going. He commented on various items such as the last Town Manager, and the Town Charter. He stated the Town Charter should be updated periodically. He also stated the Town Manager should not have so much power.

Betty Salas of Lady Lake stated that she spoke to officials in Belleview, and their police chief answers only to the Mayor, not the Town Manager. She stated she read the Town Charter after Commissioner Hannan brought it up at the last meeting, and better understands the way the Town runs. She stated that every jurisdiction that she spoke to, over a dozen, has charter review committees made up of seven to a dozen people. Those committees review their charters every five to ten years to ensure that it is still pertinent to the size of their community and activities happening. She stated the review committee then brings their suggestions to their Commission.

Reverend Dr. Paul Harsh of First Baptist Church of Lady Lake stated he has been in administration either in church or industry for over 40 years. He stated the catalyst that brought this issue up was between Chris McKinstry and Kris Kollgaard. Dr. Harsh stated Mr. McKinstry spoke to him about Ms. Kollgaard a few weeks ago and had nothing but praise for her except for a difference they had in management styles, which he called micro-managing. Dr. Harsh stated the Commission has given the Town Manager the authority to do what she did. He stated he has been in Lady Lake for 30 years, and there have been good and bad Town Managers during that time. He stated he would say that Ms. Kollgaard is a great Town Manager, although not perfect. Dr. Harsh stated that if the Commission were to vote against retaining Ms. Kollgaard as Town Manager, it would hurt the Town. He stated that the arguments between the Commissioners is embarrassing, and they should not violate the code of conduct required of those attending the public meetings. Dr. Harsh stated the Commissioners should not release Ms. Kollgaard because of a difference between herself and a subordinate. He stated he has surveyed a number of department heads and heard comments such as Ms. Kollgaard is the best boss they ever had and one said they wanted to do well so she would not be disappointed. He said the morale of Town employees is incredible and is a great indicator. Dr. Harsh thanked Commissioner Vincent for apologizing earlier to Ms. Kollgaard for his previous outburst. He stated the Town should never be run on emotions and based on not getting along with each other. He stated he supports Ms. Kollgaard as Town Manager, and has seen her operate with integrity, honesty, and produces a good environment for Town employees to work in.

Richard Johnson introduced himself as a former employee as Records Supervisor of the Lady Lake Police Department for 14 years. He stated he has known Ms. Kollgaard for more years than that and that she never micro-managed his department. He stated he has never heard a bad word about her, and that she has dedicated her time and a lot of her life to this Town and the public. He stated she is a professional and a good person.

Nora Choquette of 212 E. McLendon St. read a prepared statement regarding the balance of power for the benefit of all. She stated that regardless of whether everyone agrees with the outcome of Mr. McKinstry’s resignation, the Commission seemed to recognize at the last meeting that protocol was followed. She stated it appears that dissention resulted between the Town Manager and the Commission, and created confusion and despondence for the citizens of the Town. She stated many felt Mr. McKinstry carefully guided the police force during his reign as chief; and on the same note, she has heard nothing but good things about the Town Manager. It appears she was acting within her authority regarding the police chief’s position. She stated the Commission should consider how to prevent scenarios that cause such passionate responses from occurring in the future. She asked that the Commissioners put aside personal differences and preferences and consider what is best for the Town in this situation.

Commissioner Kussard voted to retain Ms. Kollgaard as Town Manager. Commissioner Hannan second the motion. The motion passed by a vote of 3 to 2 (Holden and Vincent).

2. Discussion and Direction Regarding Police Chief Position

Mayor Richards stated this issue may be moot after the vote on the first item. He asked if Commissioner Vincent wanted to say anything since he had issue with this.

Commissioner Vincent stated he had nothing further to say.

Commissioner Hannan noted that it is apparent that the issues between the former police chief and Ms. Kollgaard was a difference in management style. He stated they each, individually, perform their jobs very well, and he is sorry that this happened. He wished the former chief Godspeed and good luck in the future.

Commissioner Kussard agreed with Commissioner Hannan.

Commissioner Holden stated that prior to today’s meeting, he received a phone call from a former department head expressing her thoughts, which were in stark contrast to what he has heard at this meeting.

Mayor Richards stated he, too, has received phone calls and none of them were negative. He stated that he also interviewed department heads as he was concerned how the employees were doing. He stated that this caused turmoil, yet when something is brought up, it cannot be ignored. He stated when Mr. McKinstry wanted to talk to him, he made his house available to him.

Commissioner Kussard stated that she, too, made herself available to talk with Mr. McKinstry.

Mayor Richards stated there were other issues such as documentation and proof, not just management style. He stated that when Mr. McKinstry discussed his story, it was the same story as the Town Manager’s. He stated that there was no violation of policy and procedures, no violation of the Town Charter or of the state statute. If it comes down to a personality contest, the charter explains what is to be done. He stated he told those that contacted him that he investigated it.

Mayor Richards asked if there were any comments from the Commissioners or from those in attendance.

Yolanda Buchanan the Lakes of Lady Lake stated she received Ms. Kollgaard’s job evaluation and asked if she could have Mr. McKinstry’s job evaluation.

Ms. Kollgaard stated she could have a copy of Mr. McKinstry’s job evaluation.

Commissioner Vincent stated he would like to make a motion to advertise for a new police chief.

Mayor Richards stated this is the responsibility of the Town Manager.

Attorney Derek Schroth agreed that it was the Town Manager’s discretion.

Commissioner Vincent clarified that he was asking that the position be filled from an outside source.

Ms. Kollgaard stated the normal procedure is to advertise in-house, and then outside, and conduct interviews.

Commissioner Hannan asked if the position was already advertised.

Ms. Kollgaard stated it has not been posted due to the issues to be discussed today.

Commissioner Vincent stated he was told that the Town was going to “try out” a new chief. He stated he wants a candidate that has experience as a chief.

Ms. Kollgaard clarified that the Town is not “trying out” a chief. She stated she had to appoint an interim chief until the position is filled.

Mayor Richards stated that hiring is entirely the Town Manager’s responsibility. He stated he understands Commissioner Vincent would like an outside professional to fill this position. He stated that he always tried to promote from within if a qualified candidate was available. He stated it would be a bad precedent to only hire an outside professional.

Commissioner Kussard made a motion to accept the decision made by the Town Manager to accept the resignation of former Police Chief Chris McKinstry. Commissioner Hannon seconded the motion. The motion passed by a vote of 3 to 0, with Commissioner Holden and Commissioner Vincent abstaining.

Mayor Richards asked if there were any further comments from the public.

Phil Mathias of Lakes of Lady Lakes stated he thinks Chris McKinstry was the best police chief Lady Lake ever had, and he does not think it was right.

Mayor Richards replied that the Commission went through all of this because of what was originally instituted. If nothing else, the Commission gave it credence, heard it and deliberated over it.

Mr. Mathias stated there were issues with former Police Chief Nathanson, and those who were on the Commission at the time looked the other way.

Mayor Richards stated it went that way until such time that the Town Manager at the time cured it. He stated the Commission has done all that it could, and although there is room for improvement, everyone should move on.


There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:14 p.m.

Kristen Kollgaard, Town Clerk

Jim Richards, Mayor

Minutes transcribed by Carol Osborne, Staff Assistant to the Town Clerk