The three Riviera Beach City Council members who fired the city manager last month voted Wednesday night to hire as interim city manager someone they neither interviewed nor vetted.
And he withdrew from contention the next day, after media reports about his past.
Council members Lynne Hubbard, Terence “TD” Davis and Dawn Pardo voted to hire James A. Poag, a former internal auditor for Wellington and investigator with the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics, to take over the job vacated when they fired Jonathan Evans last month after he served six months on the job. There was no explanation of how Poag came to their attention.
Hubbard made the motion, seconded by Davis, to hire Poag first, do a background check on him later and meanwhile look for a permanent city manager.
Broward County civil court records show his wife Veronica accused him of domestic violence in 2006. The case was settled or dismissed a few months later and they divorced in 2009.
None of that was mentioned at the council meeting but first was reported by WPTV on Thursday, and in The Palm Beach Post.
Poag was fired from the Village of Wellington Aug. 2, 2016, “due to violations of the Village Employee Standards of Conduct and to violations of the Villages Purchasing policies and procedures,” according to his letter of termination by Assistant Village Manager James Barnes.
“During the media’s investigation of how and why Riviera Beach came to its decision, aspects of my past personal life were also reported,” he wrote in a letter to City Attorney Andrew DeGraffenreidt. “I deeply regret my past actions and have worked tirelessly to correct them and move forward with my life in a positive manner. My personal life has no bearing on my competency or career.”
At the city council meeting Wednesday, Davis noted that Poag, whose résumé had been distributed to the council members, came recommended by his former boss on the Ethics Commission. He’s “right here in Florida and here today,” Davis said, adding that he found his résumé impressive.
Others did not agree.
“I was not impressed with that résumé at all,” Chairwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson objected. “That doesn’t mean we offer somebody a job, because he happened to come to the meeting.”
Councilwoman Tonya Davis Johnson also voted against the hiring.
The city has been in an uproar since the Sept. 20 firing of the popular Evans without explanation, for alleged “misfeasance.”
Miller-Anderson recommended that because none of the three council members who voted to fire Evans provided evidence of misdeeds, and because Evans remained available, they should reinstate him as the interim city manager, even as his and the city’s lawyers are negotiating his separation agreement.
But the three passed on the recommendation and immediately voted to install Poag, who works in the Miami Gardens city manager’s office. The Riviera Beach employee currently standing in as interim city manager, Troy Perry, is expected to leave the city in two weeks, for unstated reasons, so the council was in a hurry to fill the post.
Poag was an investigator/auditor with the county Ethics Commission for 20 months, then served as director of internal audit and compliance in Wellington.
He previously served as Broward County director of the office of professional standards and as interim director of that county’s Office of Equal Opportunity.
A certified law enforcement and correctional officer, he has a master’s degree in justice administration and a graduate certificate in public management from St. Thomas University, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Florida A&M University.
Riviera officials said the interim manager would serve for 90 days and could be considered for the permanent post.
Now they’re expected to call a special meeting to seek a new interim manager.