Turnover, vacancies contribute to internal dysfunction in Riviera

12:39 p.m Friday, Oct. 27, 2017 Local
The city council voted 3-2 in September to fire popular City Manager Jonathan Evans after six months on the job but have refused to say why, angering many residents. (Tony Doris / The Palm Beach Post)

Riviera Beach is in disarray.

A few months ago, the assistant city manager who’d been passed up for the manager job resigned. The human resources director gave notice this month.

The city has no assistant human resources director, purchasing director, IT director or building services director. The police chief, recently the subject of a 67-3 vote of no confidence by the county Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, is scheduled to retire near the end of the year.

The public works director has been on leave for months, pending an internal investigation, while receiving full pay.

In September the city council, in a 3-2 vote, fired Jonathan Evans, the popular city manager who inherited the mess six months earlier, after they fired the previous manager.

The three who moved to oust Evans Sept. 20 gave no reason for doing so, other than alleging “misfeasance,” which he denied.

The three voted Oct. 11 to hire an interim city manager without interviewing or conducting a background check, based on a resume that was presented them. Within a day, job candidate James Poag withdrew, after the media reported that his ex-wife took him to court for alleged domestic abuse in 2006 and that he was fired by the Village of Wellington last August, for “violations of the Village Employee Standards of Conduct and… violations of the Village’s Purchasing policies and procedures.”

Wellington had hired Poag to ensure village compliance with federal grant regulations.

“He was terminated for non-compliance,” Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes said Tuesday. There was no criminal investigation but the village hired an outside reviewer and fired Poag and one other employee.

Riviera Beach’s council has gone back to reviewing resumes for interim city manager and the permanent position.

They’ll have to move fast. The city employee who’s been filling in, Troy Perry, has given notice that he’s leaving the city Nov. 3.

Meanwhile the council members’ jobs have come into question, as well. A citizen petition drive is underway, seeking recall elections to oust the three members who voted to fire Evans.

Mayor Thomas Masters, a frequent flyer to conferences near and far to promote the city, told the council at its Oct. 24 meeting that because of all the turmoil, he called off a trip to Detroit he’d planned for this past week, to the World Conference of Mayors, where he’d been asked to give a presentation on Riviera Beach.

“When I Googled Riviera Beach,” he said, “I knew that the attendees, mayors from around the world and the United States, no matter what I present, when they’re Googling the city, they will find that in the last few weeks there have been stories that have been very embarrassing that have gone viral.”

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