Mahaney Is Out - 01/16/10
When Larry R. Deetjen was ousted as city manager, there was joy in this house. This is not the case of Michael Mahaney.
LRD was corrupt in the most basic sense: secretive, deceptive, abusive of his power, and way too cozy with developers and other business elites who could care less about the mostly working-class residents of Deerfield Beach. His downfall raised the prospects for a better era for city government, and Mike Mahaney, as it turned out, was the key to that.
Now we start all over again.
I think Bill Ganz acted in good faith and had the best interests of the city in mind, but some of us remember history and find it difficult to side with Mr. Ganz on this one. Mike Mahaney was an honest official so far as we know and honesty has been a rare commodity in Deerfield Beach politics lately.
There will be lingering doubts, moreover, as to the true motives of Mayor Noland and Mr. Popelsky. Their actions may have been fueled more by past grievances against Mr. Mahaney than the best interests of the city. Mayor Noland, in particular, may wish to eliminate all impediments to an enlarged range of power at City Hall. The impediment, in this case, was an independent-minded city manager.
Mahaney had shortcomings as a manager. But keep in mind that the city manager form of city government has never worked well in Deerfield Beach. What will be different next time if the elected officials themselves are not willing to make it work?
The Demon - 01/13/10
It's a preposterous idea, right? But I've gotten e-mails and phone calls galore on it. The subject was raised at a roundtable discussion I attended last weekend. This little demon has been around since the 2009 election.
The demon is the idea that Larry R. Deetjen will be rehired as city manager after the commission votes to oust Mike Mahaney.
During the 2009 city election campaign, some people feared that if Gary Lother, a "Deetjenite," were elected in District 4 along with Peggy Noland and Joe Miller in District 1, there would be an attempt to bring LRD back to Deerfield. Sylvia Poitier, most believed, would support Deetjen's return as well.
I was inclined to dismiss this possibility. I felt it was too risky for any elected official to support such a move, given the circumstances of LRD's departure from the city; and, further, than none of the above named candidates, if elected, would have anything to gain by LRD's return. Of course, politics doesn't necessarily follow simple logic.
So now, with Mahaney's termination a near certainty, the demon has again surfaced. I've even heard a rumor -- I stress rumor -- that Mayor Noland has already touched base with LRD on his possible return. Likewise, I've also heard that Noland has told people close to her that she has no intention of bringing LRD back to Deerfield Beach.
There will be no winners in this Mahaney affair. There will undoubtedly be political fallout. Bill Ganz could be hurt. I believe that Ganz is acting in good faith. It probably does not matter much in Popelsky's case because he's not eligible for reelection anyway.
Not necessarily so in the case of Mayor Noland. She's disliked Mahaney from the beginning; her calling him scum at a public meeting is a word that speaks volumes about her feelings. Her list of grievances reported to a blogger is petty almost beyond belief.
Exactly what the fallout will be is a matter of speculation at this point. There will be residual bad feelings among city officials for some time I feel. And one can only imagine what will happen if the "triumphant return" of LRD even figures in the equation.
Let's hope it doesn't.
More on the Mahaney Affair - 01/10/10
Mike Mahaney's fate will be decided by the city commission at a special meeting on Friday at 7:00 p.m. Some are pulling for Mahaney, but I doubt too many are laying bets that he'll be city manager on Saturday.
After last week's commission meeting, I hammered out an article concerning the Mahaney Affair. Actually, I spent the better part of Wednesday on the piece, then did the computer equivalent of tearing it up.
I pulled back to reflect on what people were saying and writing to me and also what others were writing in the blogs and so forth. I listened again to the commission meeting that led up to the vote to terminate Mr. Mahaney. What I was hearing from readers was mostly a combination of shock and befuddlement. What brought this on and why now?
And, of course, what are the real reasons? For some reason, with Peggy Noland in charge of the city, people suspect an ulterior motive.
Commissioner Popelsky asked the same question at the meeting, seemingly caught off guard, but he ultimately supported the motion to terminate. Popelsky reasoned that if "40%" of the commission could not work with Mahaney then he should not be city manager. Mr. Ganz stated that the situation with him was "untenable" and Mayor Noland was almost giddy with excitement at the prospect of getting rid of Mike Mahaney.
It's interesting that Mr. Popelsky jumped so quickly on the bandwagon to fire Mahaney when, if memory serves, he had so much difficulty deciding the issue of Larry R. Deetjen against whom there were well documented cases of unethical, embarrassing, and possibly unlawful conduct.
Be that as it may, I concluded that the public was entitled to a fuller and truthful explanation for this action than they got last week. That was the gist of my previous entry.
It is the common perception that the city manager works for the commission, and they can do what the want with him. I don't see it that way. I say he works for the people.
So do the mayor and commissioners. They don't always act like it, but they are accountable to the citizens and taxpayers for what they do. This includes firing the city manager.
I now have a few things to add.
So far there have been no allegations of which I am aware that Mr. Mahaney is guilty of any sort of wrongdoing. The rationale appears to be that he is unresponsive to the commissioners, or at least to Mr. Ganz and Mayor Noland. There is also clear animosity between Noland and Mahaney, somewhat reminiscent of the situation between Steve Gonot and LRD, though not quite to the point that it requires police patrols on the second floor.
The mayor called him scum. Remember when Mayor Capellini called Gonot the scum beneath the scum? That is how our mayors sink below the fray. It's things like this that put Deerfield Beach in the news more than almost any of the other 30 cities in Broward County.
In an interview at mid-week with a blogger, Mayor Noland provided her "list of grievances" against Mahaney. The list included such things as a bathroom on the beach being locked one day and the fact that Fourth of July banners were slow to arrive.
To apply an inelegant term to this list, it was mostly chicken shit.
At the meeting itself, however, the mayor stated that the people had elected a new commission in 2009, and that Mike Mahaney was part of the old administration. Of course, as people who have been around for a while know, Noland has a knack for interpreting election results in an interesting way. I, for one, was not aware that Mr. Mahaney's continued employment as city manager was in any way, shape, or form an issue in the election in 2009.
Peggy Noland won her election with 30% of the vote in an election that brought out 15% of the voters against a field about as glamorous as day-old bread. The ex-mayor, who was awaiting trial on charges of public corruption and could not have served even if every single vote had been cast for him, got almost as many votes as she. Noland won her election because voters did not know who her opponents were or knew them all too well.
There was no mandate in the 2009 election. There certainly was not a mandate to get rid of Mike Mahaney.
You may remember also, if you were here in 2001, that after Mrs. Noland was reelected to the city commission by the skin of her teeth (61% of the voters voted for somebody else), she declared her win a great victory for the commission's vision for the beach. This came only weeks after voters trounced a key element of their plan for the beach in a referendum election. As I say, Noland has an interesting way of interpreting the meaning of elections.
Then, some people suspect that Noland's position with respect to Mahaney has nothing to do with imaginary election mandates or silly lists of things Mahaney supposedly did or did not do. There's simply no way that anybody could believe that citizens of Deerfield Beach want Mahaney fired because he parked his car in a visitor's spot at City Hall (another of her "grievances") or that the pier restaurant closed a little early one day.
It's all about firefighters: That's what some people think. Mahaney's tough stance in the union negotiations presumably was at the direction of the commission, but Mahaney and his people get the blame. (Negotiating strategy is planned by the commission in executive session, thus can only be inferred by the manner in which negotiations are carried out.)
I've heard, but from sources I cannot disclose, that Noland has in some ways interfered with the union negotiations with firefighters. Officially, she has not participated because both her husband and son are union members. In fact her husband, Howard Noland, is part of the union's negotiating team.
It obviously does not look good for Mike Mahaney. Unless Popelsky or Ganz changes his mind, it looks like Mahaney is gone. Unless Ganz has gotten a whole lot of flack from his constituents, there seems little chance of that.
I don't know if Mahaney deserves to stay or not. But I'd sure like a better explanation from the commissioners who want him out.
I wonder what the want ad will look like for a new city manager. Maybe like this:
What's ironic about this situation is that after the election in 2009 -- another mandate gleaned by Mayor Noland apparently -- she declared that the city was "back in business." The voters had rejected those do-nothings who sat on the previous commission. The irony is that this commission, assuming the motion to terminate Mahaney carries in the end, will be in essentially the same position. No manager, divided, and probably some residual hostilities.
Citizens Are Due the Facts, Truthfully, in the Case of Mike Mahaney - 01/08/10
City commissioners have some explaining to do. They owe citizens and taxpayers of Deerfield Beach a bill of particulars of why they want to fire City Manager Mike Mahaney at this time.
They should detail each case of wrongdoing committed by Mahaney, if there are any that form part of the rationale for this decision, and every instance in which he has failed to perform his duties as manager.
If it is a matter of incompetence, a complete and factual explanation is required: Exactly what part or parts of the city government don't work because of Mike Mahaney's failure as city manager?
This is not optional so far as I'm concerned. The city manager works for us, the city. The mayor and commissioners represent and are accountable to us, the citizens, for every decision they make.
When Larry R. Deetjen was on the chopping block, it took months, two suspensions, hours of discussion, public comment and negotiation, not 10 days, to resolve his situation. Each allegation of wrongdoing leveled against LRD was documented and proved. It was an agonizing process. Even then, the commission could not decide.
The termination of a city manager may have far ranging consequences. This not only affects his life, but the life of the city, which will be left without leadership possibly for several months. Whatever his imperfections, there is no guarantee that a new city manager will be better or as good.
Both Mayor Peggy Noland and Bill Ganz, who moved to terminate Mahaney, stated that the city manager was not responsive to their requests. It is widely known that Noland has had it in for Mahaney from the time of her election and has the reputation of overstepping her bounds as mayor on many occasions. It is telling that two of the commissioners work well with the manager and two do not. Whose fault is that?
Unlike the case of his predecessor, there have been no accusations either by the sponsors of his termination now or before that Mahaney has engaged in illegal or unethical behavior or acted in any way as to give an appearance of impropriety.
Of course, Mr. Mahaney has rankled some people. This is typically the case of a city manager or anyone else in authority who must make decisions that affect other's lives. LRD referred to Mahaney as "Hillbilly Mike." Mahaney's low-key, Southern boy demeanor is very different to the corrupt, swaggering egomania of his predecessor.
Some city employees don't like him. It's not unusual for employees to dislike the boss, especially when he is trying to hold the line on union negotiations in the interest of all the citizens. The role Mahaney's strong negotiating position with respect to the firefighters' contract plays in Peggy Noland's position on his continued employment is a matter of concern.
It is not too late to reverse this decision. If it stands, the people of the city have a right to know why. And that means the truth.