Griggs wins unanimous City Commission support to become city auditor and clerk

She has been serving in interim position since December 2018

Shayla Griggs answers a question during the Oct. 7 City Commission meeting.

It took less than 20 minutes on Oct. 11 for the Sarasota city commissioners to offer Interim City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs the formal opportunity to remove the “interim” from her title.

Voting on a motion by Commissioner Willie Shaw, the board members authorized city Human Resources Director Stacie Mason and City Attorney Robert Fournier to draft a contract for Griggs and schedule a board vote on that contract for a future meeting.

As The Sarasota News Leader reported last week, in early March, Shaw suggested Griggs be allowed to serve in the interim position for at least six months before he and his colleagues discussed facets of a potential search for a replacement for City Auditor and Clerk Pamela Nadalini. The commission formally fired Nadalini in January. That action followed completion of a report on an investigation into allegations that Nadalini had been abusive of staff in the Office of the City Auditor and Clerk.

On Oct. 11, Shaw pointed out that, over the past 10 months, he and his colleagues had had the opportunity to observe how Griggs handles her own responsibilities and interactions with other city staff members. “[She] has done, to my observation, an outstanding job,” Shaw added.

“I probably spend as much time as any of you in the Office of the City Auditor and Clerk,” he continued. “The amount of change in morale has been extremely high.”

Griggs and her staff have met all necessary deadlines and expectations put upon them, Shaw added.

During the past 10 months, he said, the Office of the City Auditor and Clerk has completed audits on the operations of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the city’s Utilities Department, the Sarasota Police Department’s Property and Evidence Division, and state housing initiatives, he pointed out. “All of these audits have been well received and taken care of. I just think it’s time that we as a commission make a decision on the appointment of Mrs. Griggs from interim to city auditor and clerk,” Shaw added.

Citing concerns that the potential of Griggs’ change in status was not clearly part of the agenda item, Fournier and Mason provided the board options about how to proceed. If the choice was to make a motion to name Griggs city auditor and clerk, Mason then recommended that Mason and Fournier prepare the contract for future commission approval.

Mayor Liz Alpert. File photo

Mayor Liz Alpert responded that she thought the Oct. 11 agenda item entailed a potential board vote on Griggs.

Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie then elicited some laughter when she suggested, “I think it makes sense to ask Ms. Griggs if she wants the job, first.”

“Yes,” Griggs responded. “I am 100% interested in this position.”

Griggs added that she had spoken one-on-one with the commissioners.

More plaudits

Then Alpert noted that two people had signed up to address the agenda item.

Pearlie Freiberg and Martin Hyde both offered full support of the naming of Griggs as auditor and clerk.

“She’s been absolutely wonderful,” Freiberg said of Griggs, adding that Freiberg has spent a lot of time in the Office of the City Auditor and Clerk, asking questions and endeavoring to learn about city processes. “The office is really very well run.”

Additionally, Freiberg showed the commissioners a printout that described all the responsibilities of the city auditor and clerk, noting that they were enumerated “from A to Q.”

“How many of you guys have duties like that?” she asked the commissioners.

When it was Hyde’s turn to speak, he told the board, “Just to break a losing streak, I’m absolutely in agreement with Commissioner Shaw.”

If the board members authorized a search for a replacement for Nadalini, he continued, “You might do a little bit better; you might do a lot, lot worse.”

He added, “Shayla is a cheerful, happy person. She brings a great sense of positivity.”

Martin Hyde listens on Oct. 7 as Pearlie Freiberg makes her points about the multiple responsibilities of the Office of the City Auditor and Clerk. News Leader image

Moreover, Hyde pointed out, Griggs’ promotion would be a signal to other city employees that it is possible to attain higher positions, that they will not have to contend with a “glass ceiling.”

The only concern that any commissioner broached during the discussion was related to whether Griggs has the necessary professional certification for the position.

Commissioner Hagen Brody raised that point.

Reading from the Sarasota City Charter, Human Resources Director Mason said the city auditor and clerk “shall be appointed solely based on professional qualifications. … There’s no specific education listed in the Charter, or experience.”

Griggs explained that she has been working for the past three years, through the Florida state university system, to attain certification as a municipal clerk. She expects to complete that process this year, she added. She also told Brody that she is working to attain certification as a pension board trustee, as oversight of city pensions is one of her office’s responsibilities.

“It’s almost like a given, that you would expect that of the position,” Griggs added. “Ms. Nadalini also had those [certifications].”

Brody asked that she meet with him one-on-one to talk about to discuss that issue further. “My biggest concern is that you’re duly qualified to hold the position,” he added. “I know that you’re actually qualified …”

Brody pointed out that he has learned that from personal experience and that he has heard the same from community residents.

After Shaw made his motion, Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch seconded it.”

Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch. File photo

Ahearn-Koch told Griggs, “You really showed your willingness to learn, to take control, to be a strong component and part of our city.”

“I wholeheartedly concur,” Mayor Alpert said. “I also think it is a really, really good idea when you can promote from within.” Prompting more laughter, Alpert added, “I agree with Mr. Hyde …”

Shaw then pointed out that the city has benefited from a number of internal promotions over the years, including Human Resources Director Mason and City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw. “It has only made this family of ours that much stronger.”

“[Griggs] and her staff are exemplary to work with,” Commissioner Freeland Eddie added. “We need to do everything we can to keep her here.”

City Manager Tom Barwin said Griggs “has been a complete delight to work with. She’s been a consummate professional.”

The Office of the City Auditor and Clerk “often can be a pressure cooker,” he said. “She has been cool, calm and collected at all points.”

“Even though I don’t have a vote,” City Attorney Fournier added, “I have to say I agree.”

After Shaw’s motion passed 5-0, applause broke out in the City Chambers.

Griggs has been a member of the city staff since Aug. 14, 2017, Jan Thornburg, senior communications manager for the city, told the News Leader in an Oct. 8 email.