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3 leaders fault mayor for words to worker

The Redington Beach commissioners take issue with urging public works director Mark Davis to resign.

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2003

REDINGTON BEACH -- Three commissioners rebuked Mayor Jerry Reitz last week for trying to persuade public works director Mark Davis to give up his code enforcement duties.

Reitz met with Davis on Jan. 16 and suggested that he resign because two mayoral candidates wanted him out. After that meeting, Davis wrote a letter to Reitz saying he found the suggestion "offensive and intimidating."

"I was very, very disturbed by this letter," said Commissioner Linda Wilson, who said Reitz's action was threatening and had created a hostile working environment.

Two other commissioners had similar criticism for Reitz, but Wilson was unable to get their support for Davis in writing.

Commissioner Tim Gregson said the next commission, which will have at least two new members after the March 11 election, will make its own decisions and evaluations.

Reitz and Commissioner John Fish are not running for re-election. Gregson faces opposition.

The discussion Tuesday night had the flavor of a courtroom interrogation.

Wilson asked Reitz if he had encouraged Davis to resign.

"Oh, yeah," responded Reitz, adding that the meeting part with the candidates was "misinterpreted" by Davis and never happened. He said he suggested the resignation because two of the three mayoral (candidates) indicated they wanted a different approach to code enforcement.

"If I were him, I would have considered that," Reitz said, insisting that he was offering advice as a friend. "It had nothing to do with his director of public works position. I just think a new regime is going to do it. It doesn't mean that we were wrong or that they are right."

Reitz said when he received the letter from Davis he immediately apologized. "I had not intended to upset him," he said.

Wilson and Gregson wanted to know how Reitz knew the candidates wanted to remove Davis from code enforcement.

"You had conversations in the past with the candidates?" asked Gregson.

"There was no meeting. It was just hearsay," said Reitz.

"So on hearsay you went to an employee and suggested he resign?" Wilson asked.

"Yes," Reitz said.

Fish then asked Reitz why he hadn't brought the issue to the commission. "I've worked with Mark for three years (as commissioner of public works) and I've never seen him in such a state. Mark is a human being who works very hard and who reeks of integrity. He has a lot of pride. It makes me sick."

With 25 years served and a salary of $46,000, Davis is the town's longest-serving and highest-paid employee.

When town attorney Dominic Amadio said Reitz did nothing illegal in meeting with Davis, Gregson countered that "ethically there were some questions to this process."

Amadio then cautioned the commission not to characterize Reitz's actions because of the town's potential legal liability.

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