Lege the latest administrator planning to leave City of Sarasota employment

Assistant city manager has accepted position of finance director in Delray Beach

Assistant City Manager John Lege III. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota

Following in the wake of a number of City of Sarasota personnel changes since late 2020, Assistant City Manager John C. Lege III has announced that he will be leaving his position as of “the close of business” on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

In a Jan. 15 letter addressed to then-Interim City Manager Marlon Brown, Lege wrote, “It is with many emotions that I submit my resignation … My eight+ years in Sarasota have been both challenging and rewarding. I have been afforded the opportunity to work with an amazing group of Department Heads and the most dedicated team members.”

Lege added, “I would like to thank former City Manager Tom Barwin for giving me the opportunity, as Assistant City Manager, along with other team members, to be part of many of the City’s successes.”

He copied Mayor Hagen Brody and the rest of the city commissioners on his letter.

During the Jan. 19 City Commission meeting, the board members officially made Brown the new city manager, replacing Barwin, who had announced his retirement in December 2020.

During a Feb. 3 telephone interview with The Sarasota News Leader, Lege talked of his pleasure in working with his City Hall colleagues and noted some of the major projects with which he has been involved, including the plans for development of The Bay Park on the 53 city-owned acres on Sarasota’s waterfront.

Asked about his decision to leave, Lege referenced the administrative changes, adding that he had received “no clarity in what [his] role was going to be.” This seemed a good time, he continued, “to move on to something else.”

He is looking forward to serving as finance director with the City of Delray Beach, he added, a position he recently accepted.

Lege was finance director for the City of Sarasota before Barwin named him assistant city manager.

Gina Carter, the public information officer for that municipality, told the News Leaderin a Feb. 3 email that Lege “is in the pre-employment process and does not have a confirmed start date yet.” In response to a News Leader question, she added, “His starting salary will be $165,000. The position has been open since January 15, 2021.”

City of Sarasota Communications Specialist Jason Bartolone told the News Leader in a Feb. 3 email that Lege’s salary is $175,330.

A long career in public service

The city announced Lege’s hiring in early 2013.

Following his retirement from the U.S. Navy in 2001, after 21 years of service as a division officer and department head, Lege worked in other local government positions before relocating to Sarasota.

He was assistant city manager and chief financial officer for two-and-a-half years for the City of Ocala, following an almost three-year stint as the finance director of Sumter County, working under the county clerk of court.

For the six years prior to that stint, Lege was a senior auditor with Carr, Riggs and Ingram in Gainesville. The accounting firm specialized in audits of local governments and not-for-profit organizations.

In his resignation letter to Sarasota City Manager Brown, Lege noted a few examples of the accomplishments in which he took part:

  • Reduction of the city’s Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Unfunded Liability by more than $100 million.
  • Successful negotiations involving interlocal agreements with Sarasota County as part of the settlement of a years-long dispute over the Downtown Sarasota Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) Trust Fund, as well as the transfer of several parks to city management.
  • Negotiation of the partnership agreement with the Bay Park Conservancy “to transform the City’s 53-acre bayfront property into a blue-green oasis along with negotiating an interlocal agreement with Sarasota County for a Tax Increment Financing District,” which is expected to generate close to $200 million over the next 30 years to help pay for the development of amenities at The Bay Park, including a new performing arts venue.
  • Eight consecutive years of balanced budgets while increasing city reserves.
  • Improving the city’s bond rating to the second highest level possible.

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve the citizens of Sarasota,” Lege wrote. “Many challenges lie ahead for the City and I wish the City many successes.”

This is a rendering of the master plan for The Bay, shown to the County Commission on Jan. 15, 2020. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Barwin promoted Lege to assistant city manager in the September 2016. As Lege notes on his LinkedIn account, his responsibilities in that job included oversight of the Financial Administration, Information Technology, and Human Resources departments, the Facilities Division, and Strategic Planning; serving as the city manager’s designee for union negotiations; coordinating and implementing the city’s Strategic Plan; overseeing the preparation and presentation of the city manager’s Operational and Capital Budget to the City Commission; and making presentations to civic and community groups regarding city finances.

Turnover at City Hall

News of Lege’s decision to leave the City of Sarasota came just weeks after the City Commission accepted then-City Manager Barwin’s decision to retire.

Barwin’s announcement came just weeks after the election of two new city commissioners — Erik “E” Arroyo, whom the other commissioners chose to serve as vice mayor; and Kyle Scott Battie, who replaced District 1 incumbent Willie Charles Shaw.

After being named interim city manager in December 2020, Brown quickly appointed former Sarasota Deputy Police Chief Pat Robinson as interim deputy city manager.

Sarasota City Manager Marlon Brown. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

After the city commissioners voted unanimously on Jan. 19 to approve Brown’s contract as manager, Brown removed the “interim” from Robinson’s title.

Then, just last week, the city announced that Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino was resigning, effective as of Jan. 29. That followed public reports that the city had received a formal complaint about her making a joke to a group of colleagues regarding a homeless person. The incident occurred during an outdoor Sarasota Opera performance in November 2020 at the department’s Adams Lane headquarters in downtown Sarasota.

This week, City Manager Brown appointed Capt. James Rieser as the new chief of police.

Having nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience, Rieser became the 12th leader of the Sarasota Police Department.

Thus, Lege will be no stranger to administrative change when he begins his new job in the City of Delray Beach.

In a Jan. 15 article, The Palm Beach Post wrote, “Administrative turnover continues to haunt the city as the finance director, an assistant city manager and two deputy directors in the utilities department have all recently either resigned or been let go …”

Moreover, The Post continued, Delray Beach has an interim city manager who was appointed in June 2020. The City Commission had voted to suspend City Manager George Gretsas after he had been in place “less than six months.” The manager was fired on Nov. 20, 2020, The Post noted.

“The purge of Gretsas’ hires has been evident,” The Post continued. “Let go were Assistant City Manager Allyson Love, Economic Development Director Gemma Torcivia and videographer Josh Padgett. All three were hired by Gretsas. They had worked with him previously in cities where he had been city manager.”