Shake up in City Planning and Building department


From what Historic City News has been able to learn, yesterday was the last work day for a sixteen-year department head with the City of St Augustine; a parting that was unexpected albeit understandable in light of recent events.

Director of Planning and Building, Mark Knight, a fixture at the city since April 17, 1998, is officially on “paid administrative leave” status, and David Birchim is “Acting Director of Planning and Building”. Birchim previously served as Deputy Director, according to Human Resource Manager, Nancy Rawson.

Historic City News editor Michael Gold spoke to Knight on the telephone today, not surprisingly there are a number of details that he was unable to discuss. Specifically, we asked Knight, who arguably holds one of the most nerve-wracking and stressful jobs at the city, if he had submitted a letter of resignation. He said that he couldn’t answer, but that we “could make a public records request to the city”.

We contacted Assistant City Attorney Isabelle Lopez and City Attorney Ron Brown to determine if there was either a “letter of resignation” or a “change of status” on file. We were told that, at this point, there is neither — however, they were able to confirm that, as of yesterday, Knight is on paid administrative leave.

We do know that, as a department head, Knight was earning a $98,875.42 annual salary, plus benefits; Birchim was earning $65,430.22 annually, even though Birchim has actually been on the job four months longer — Birchim started work on December 29, 1997.

As of today, we were unable to confirm if Knight resigned or was terminated, if that termination was voluntary or involuntary, and, if it was a disciplinary action, the nature of the complaint and what remedial efforts preceded the termination of employment.

Lately, Knight has been at the center of attention on several high-profile zoning and permitting issues, including the 7-Eleven on San Marco Avenue, the Aquarium and Children’s Musuem at Riberia Point, and lingering issues, such as the Wendler lawsuit against the city regarding the proposed demolition of buildings on her King Street property.

It is not known if Knight has retained his own legal counsel. Because of the fact that Knight continues on the payroll, we have left open our request for the two human resources documents.

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