Wednesday, December 06, 2006

City Commission 12/5/2006

After looking at the agenda for last night's City Commission meeting, I decided to remain at home and monitor it on TV. I thought at first that it might be a new record; by 6:30 they were through the agenda and only Commissioners' comments remained. I tuned in 10 minutes late, by which time all of the preliminaries were done and the consent agenda was being read. Shawn Smith was in the City Attorney's chair. City Manager Julio Avael was back from his November vacation.

The only agenda item that caught my attention was a resolution invoking "Zoning in Progress" limitations on the conversion of transient rental properties into residential ones. I'm not sure exactly what that was about. I think that it has something to do with the conversion of hotels into condotels, but I didn't have a chance to find out because after a very brief discussion, the resolution was tabled until January.

The Commission scheduled an executive session during Commissioners' Comments, which went on for at least another 30 minutes. Commissioner Mark Rossi raised the topic of the Code Enforcement Department reorganization in the the wake of the firing of Code Enforcement official Jim Young and the removal of Joe April as head of that department. Assistant City Manager John Jones is running Code Enforcement on an interim basis. He's been given the task of eliminating a backlog of fourteen cases, at least one of which goes back to 2000. He is also expected to strengthen the department's on-going enforcement of violations-in-progress. It is Rossi's contention that violations of code are rampant, that many are not being discovered, and those that are found take too long to resolve. He found support from Commissioners Clayton Lopez, Bill Verge and Mayor Morgan McPherson. Commissioners Harry Bethel and Dan Kolhage argued that Jones be given more time to fix things that are broken and to make recommendations to Avael and the Commission in the longer term. Bethel and Kolhage seemed to fear the creation of another City Directorate and the designation of a new Director. Commissioner Jose Menendez used his time on this topic to wish his consituents happy holidays, although later, when the Commissioners had moved on to another matter, he opined that Code Enforcement ought to be strengthened because of the beneficial effect it would have on the City's financial condition.

There was a discussion too of the City Manager's Performance Appraisal and the process put in place for it. He is to be rated for performance by each Commissioner through an appraisal instrument Mayor McPherson obtained through the League of Cities and that Avael assented to. The appraisal process consists of each Commissioner rating Avael's performance on a list of criteria (I haven't seen it, but I know what these things are from my time in corporate America). There are three possible performance ratings for each criterion: below expectations, meets expectations, or exceeds expectations. In response to a question from Avael, McPherson (with help from Harry Bethel) proposed that Commissioners deliver their completed appraisals to City Clerk Cheri Smith (she also reports directly to the Commission, as do the City Attorney and the City Auditor) for tabulation and delivery to the Commission. Someone -- I think it was Avael -- asked for an oportunity to meet with Commissioners individually when their appraisals were done and to be give the opportunity to discuss them before they are given officially to the Clerk. That is a common procedure in perfromance appraisal best practices. There is a provision for the person receiving the appraisal to ask questions for clarification and to furnish written comments on the completed appraisal form.

I've heard it whispered that there may be a move on the part of some of the movers and shakers in Key West to get the Commission to extend Avaels' contract beyond the December 2007 date set for its expiry. If that is the case, this process could be the mechanism for it. Commissioners will need to be very frank in their opinions of Avael's performance, and will need to be specific in their reasons for the ratings given.

Apparently Avael has never been given a clear set of performance expectations by this or any previous Commission. It will be interesting to see the appraisal document's line items. I'm going to ask for a copy.

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