City manager evaluation process in question at St Augustine Beach

St Augustine Beach Commissioner Rich O’Brien has refused to provide a written evaluation of City Manager Max Royle, despite consensus of the remaining commissioners to comply with the process supposed to be part of the basis for his salary in the next budget year.

Although four of the five commissioners provided or agreed to provide a written evaluation of Royle and Police Chief Robert Hardwick prior to the final budget hearing on Monday, O’Brien has said publicly that if anything serious arose, the issue could be discussed at a meeting; otherwise, there was no value of having a written record for the public or commissioners.

“I do not feel that it is appropriate in a public setting to evaluate and discuss the evaluations of a department head in public,” O’Brien said in one published report. “I just think it’s inappropriate. I don’t like the idea. And, quite honestly, I don’t intend to — except for minor observations — I don’t intend to participate in that discussion.”

St Augustine Beach Commissioner Rich O’Brien

Mayor Undine George, a local attorney, disagrees. She admitted that evaluations of both the city manager and police chief have been very inconsistent; both before she joined the commission, and after. George said that it’s her understanding that the commission plans to do evaluations of both city officials at least annually and that she supports doing that.

George provided both compliments and criticism of Royle while St Augustine Beach Commissioner Kostka offered a wide range of criticism. While Beach Commissioner England criticized Royle’s oversight of the building department during the tenure of the previous building and zoning director, she was largely positive about Royle’s performance since.

The construction of Embassy Suites, despite a 35-foot height limit, may have been the most visible of Royle’s criticism. George’s concerns also included Royle’s handling of a sexual harassment allegation against a former city employee, the delay in getting a new sexual harassment policy, lack of attention to detail, and inconsistent use of city policies.

Commissioner Kostka observed that good management requires constant, consistent direction and follow-up. Her evaluation states that “direction and follow-up are lacking from the city manager”.

The St Augustine Record reportedly made a public records request for written performance evaluations last week. They reported that it wasn’t clear what written policy, if any, exists in St. Augustine Beach for city manager or police chief evaluations. Royle was hired as city manager 29-years-ago, in July 1989. According to the response from the custodian of record, City Clerk Beverly Raddatz, the only evaluations in Royle’s personnel file are from 1990, 2014 and 2018. It wasn’t clear how many other evaluations have been done over the years, verbally or otherwise.

Increases in Fiscal Year 2019 will raise the city manager’s pay from $120,009 to $121,209.14; the police chief’s pay would increase from $98,758.75 to $101,227.72.

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