By REID TUCKER
The DeFuniak Springs City Council accepted the resignation of Finance Director John McCue, who held the office for five months.
McCue’s resignation was announced at the Council’s regularly scheduled meeting on the night of Tuesday, Nov. 13, with his last day on the job set for the following Friday. Speaking by phone a few days later, McCue said his decision to resign from the post was not due to any kind of personality conflict between him and other city staff members, nor was he being forced out by the City Council. Simply put, the job wasn’t a good fit for him, he said.
“I’m leaving with no hard feelings or animosity whatsoever,” McCue said. “I wasn’t suited for the job and the job wasn’t suited for me. The job’s duties and responsibilities didn’t match up with my skill package, and I came to the conclusion after several months that the best way to resolve the situation is for me to move on.”
McCue, who moved to DeFuniak Springs from Volusia County’s Orange City, said that his job as the city’s finance director essentially amounted to working as an accountant, something he emphatically said he was not. The day-to-day minutia of money transfers and balancing bank statements is not the same as managing a city’s financial resources, said McCue, who previously worked as county manager in Leon and Wakulla Counties as well as working for the state Department of Revenue and as a finance teacher at Florida International University. McCue said that, while this style of management may have worked well for the city in the past, in his view it prevents city government from “seeing the big picture.”
To that end, McCue prepared an exit report for the Council detailing some of his suggestions and observations based on independent data and his own personal observations. This document was not procured by press time, but McCue said it is a comprehensive report, dealing with the budget, billing, cash flow and annual audit, among other things. It was his hope that the City Council takes his suggestions into consideration when moving forward to hire a new finance director and in general when it comes to making decisions about the city’s future.
The Council voted 4-0 (Mayor Pro Tempore Wayne Graham filled in for Mayor Harold Carpenter, who was not in attendance at the meeting) to approve City Manager Sara Bowers’ recommendation to award a temporary pay increase of an additional $7.20 per hour for billing staffer Sandra Arnold. Arnold will handle McCue’s duties until a new finance director comes on board. The city will accept applications for the position through Nov. 29, after which time the Council will convene in a special 2 p.m. meeting on Dec. 4 to choose their preferred candidates.
The remainder of the agenda was dispatched quickly, with the Council voting unanimously to approve several items. Among them was a request from City Marshal Mark Weeks to purchase a 2013 Ford Expedition at $25,000 for use by the Police Department, which will use part of the remainder of a $39,000 grant to convert the vehicle to run on compressed natural gas. The Council also gave the go-ahead to purchase a $200 upgrade to the municipal airport’s Automated Weather Observation System, which will now able to able to provide pilots with data such as cloud height and more accurate local weather conditions, both of which are critical for a safe landing.
Additionally, the Council approved the first reading and advertisement of two new ordinances that will, if approved following the public hearing on Dec. 10, authorize the board to set rental fees for the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood and Community by resolution. The Council also approved the first reading of an ordinance to grant an ad valorem tax exemption to Professional Products, Inc. The city has the ability to waive ad valorem taxes for new or expanding businesses thanks to the passage of a county-wide voter referendum at the general election earlier this month.
Finally, and by the most unexpected item of business on the agenda was a request from DeFuniak Springs resident Kirti Patel to rent an elephant for her upcoming wedding, as elephants, she said, are symbolically very important in traditional Indian culture and are often featured in wedding ceremonies. Patel and her groom-to-be already received the permission of the Council to rent the Community Center for their wedding, and their pachyderm guest, Judy, will be confined to the parking lot of the building. The company from which Patel will rent the elephant carries a $1 million insurance policy, and Patel provided the Council with all applicable licenses, permits and proof of said insurance.
“Of all the duties I thought I might have to deal with when I got this job approving for an elephant was not even on the list, but this sounds wonderful,” said Councilman Ron Kelley.