Brief confusion about timeline ensues during Sept. 4 board meeting
On Sept. 4, as the Sarasota city commissioners were trying to wrap up their afternoon session in time to get a break before the 6 p.m. start of the evening session, Mayor Liz Alpert made a request of Human Resources Director Stacie Mason.
“Could you please address why you had not come back with a recommendation on … an investigation?”
Alpert was referring to the decision the commissioners made on Aug. 20 to direct the Human Resources Department to work on a contract with a firm to look into allegations that City Auditor and Clerk Pamela Nadalini has been abusive of staff and that she has not comported herself appropriately in other ways in her office.
“I thought that was going to be on tonight’s agenda,” Alpert added of the contract proposal, saying people had questioned her about that. (The Sarasota News Leader reported on Aug. 31 that the issue was not on the agenda for the meeting this week.)
Mason explained that she had received the proposed contract, at the conclusion of negotiations with the firm the department had selected. However, she did not get the document until after the deadline for publication of the Sept. 4 agenda. “So [the recommendation] is on the next agenda.”
The board’s next regular meeting will be on Sept. 17.
“What are we talking about?” Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie asked.
“What we asked her to come back with,” Alpert began.
“We who?” Freeland Eddie interrupted Alpert.
“The commission,” Alpert replied.
Alpert reminded Freeland Eddie about the Aug. 20 discussion, when Mason discussed her communications with representatives of two law firms — one in Sarasota and one in Tampa — as well as a Sarasota firm that specializes in human resources issues. “We gave … the HR Department the option to provide a recommendation [about the hiring of one of the firms with which Mason had communicated],” Alpert added.
“We just told her to go do it,” Commissioner Hagen Brody pointed out, referring to Mason. “We didn’t say, ‘Come back and let us give approval.’”
“The city attorney insisted [the proposed contract] had to come back [to the commissioners for approval],” Alpert responded. “That’s all I know.”
“There was a Sunshine [Law] issue,” City Attorney Robert Fournier interjected, “and I did say that [about the contract].”
Fournier also said he thought Alpert was correct in her recollection that the board directed the Human Resources Department director “to make a recommendation.”
“I agree with that,” Freeland Eddie said, adding, nonetheless, that she did not recall the commissioners telling Mason the matter had to come back to them on the Sept. 4 agenda.
“Maybe it was just an assumption that it would be the next meeting,” Fournier said.
Fournier added that he knew Mason would not be able to make the publication deadline for the Sept. 4 agenda.
Brody recapitulated Alpert’s Aug. 20 motion, noting the board directed Mason to choose a firm out of the three with which she had communicated. “We just said, ‘You choose,’” Brody said, looking at Mason.
“With it being brought back,” Mason responded.
“It’s still going to happen?” Freeland Eddie asked.
“Yes,” Mason told her.