Opa-locka Commissioners hired John Pate as the city’s manager.
At a special commission meeting Wednesday, in the Sherbondy Village Auditorium, the five commissioners discussed the terms of Pate’s contract then voted 3-2 to hire him before voting on other city matters that Pate will face as the newest chief administrative officer.
Pate is the seventh person to hold the position in seven years. He is expected to start Oct. 15.
Acting City Manager Newall J. Daughtrey was picked after elected officials fired Ed Brown in April 2018. A 3-2 vote from the City Commission in August 2018 saved Daughtrey from getting axed. He was assistant city manager and city manager for Opa-locka once and three times, respectively.
Yvette Harrell resigned in April 2017. The elected officials also tried to remove her twice.
David Chiverton resigned in July 2016. Chiverton was under federal investigation at the time. Harrell went from assistant city manager, to acting city manager then replaced Chiverton.
Steve Shiver was fired in November 2015 after less than three months on the job.
Brian Finnie was spared a firing by a 3-2 vote in 2012. He later resigned in July 2012.
After 19 expressed interest in the Opa-locka city manager job, and seven were interviewed, the City Council selected Kelvin L. Baker Sr. in July 2012 to replace Finnie.
Baker resigned in 2015 after a report from former Mayor Myra Taylor’s Budget Task Force.
The report showed Opa-locka’s budget deficit to be nearly $2 million, with three months left in the fiscal year, ending Sept. 30. It was the third consecutive year the city ended with a deficit. That was grounds for the state to step in and seize control of the city’s finances.
The nine-member oversight board was put in place by former Gov. Rick Scott in early June 2016 to manage city finances, which at the time was millions of dollars in debt owed to Miami-Dade County and other vendors. The county and U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson had urged Scott to send help, fearing the city was on the verge of bankruptcy.
The board ordered commissioners to give up leases to SUVs, free gasoline and their $200-per-month stipend. Inspector General Melinda Miguel said that wasn’t enough. She told commissioners to turn over their keys to city fuel pumps. “We don’t want any friends and family” discounts, Miguel said.
Mayor Matthew Pigatt defended Pate’s contract, five years at $162,500 per year, after other commissioners questioned and disagreed with the terms.
“It’s the estimated time he felt he needed,” Pigatt said. “It is a long time.”
Commissioner Alvin Burke asked why not two years. Pigatt did not recall two years as part of conversation.
Commissioner Joseph L. Kelley said he would only support a three-year contract.
“To me three years is enough time,” Kelley said. “They came here; they did the research; they know the task.”
Kelley asked about a probationary period, which was not included.
“It’s not designed to put pressure on the person,” Kelley said. “Sometimes they realize it just won’t work out.”
Commissioner Sherlean Bass said it was her first time seeing the contract.
“I’m not going to sit here in 15 minutes to decide on a five-year, $162,500 contract. I’m not,” Bass said.
Pate has to provide 60 days of notice if he chooses to resign. There would be no severance or continuation of health insurance.
Bass and Kelley voted against Pate’s contract. Pigatt, Burke and Vice Mayor Chris Davis voted for the contract.
After deciding on a new manager, Pigatt brought up Acting Manager Daughtery’s getting to work on Mondays and his use of a city vehicle.
Pigatt said he scheduled 10 a.m. on Mondays to meet with Daughtery, who said the time is inconvenient for him because he checks with city staff to receive updates of what happened during the weekend. Daughtrey said Pigatt switched the meetings to 9 a.m.
“I’ve been tracking the city manager,” Pigatt said. “What time do you report to work?”
Daughtrey, who first started working for Opa-locka in 1973, brought up the city code and his experience in defending himself.
“Trying to micromanage the manager is contrary to the code,” Daughtery said. “Before you were born I was doing this job.
Pigatt repeated his question.
“Per the code I am on call 24 hours per day. I have worked 10-12 hours per day, everyday. ”
Pigatt then asked, “What are you doing up in Pembroke Park in a city vehicle?”
“Whatever I choose to do, sir. Whatever I choose to,” Daughtery said.
After the meeting, Pigatt said to The Miami Times the discussion about Daughtery was to hold the manager accountable but he refused to say whether he would fire him.
Davis said if the accusations are true, it should be fireable.