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Reviews mixed on fire chief's work
By KATHERINE BLOK
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 30, 2000
SPRING HILL -- Spring Hill Fire and Rescue commissioners issued their evaluations of fire Chief Mike Morgan on Wednesday night, adding a 4.6 percent pay raise to the satisfactory performance grades awarded by the five commissioners.
Although two commissioners recommended a raise of 3 percent and two others recommended 5 percent, Chairman Gene Panozzo suggested Morgan receive a 7 percent raise. The suggestions were averaged to arrive at the final percentage, bringing Morgan's pay from $64,750 to $67,728. "I feel the employees are getting a 7 percent increase, and the person who heads this department deserves the same," Panozzo said at the meeting.
Panozzo's only complaints were that an improper paper trail was left regarding a grievance about firefighter Joel Rivera last year and that Morgan did not have the commission's lawyer review a contract for a new maintenance building before submitting it to the commission.
Commissioner Al Kroner awarded Morgan perfect scores in every category because Morgan "had improved quite dramatically over his last review (and) I thought he was excellently qualified for his position."
Another positive review of Morgan came from Commissioner Eugene Wright, although he was critical of Morgan's relationship with the board.
Wright awarded Morgan satisfactory grades for the categories "seeks and accepts constructive criticism of his work" and "remains impartial toward the board, treating all members alike."
In his evaluation, Wright told Morgan he "needs improvement in not letting certain personalities dictate your treatment toward them."
Panozzo said there are personality conflicts among Morgan and commissioners Dennis Andrews and Bob Kanner, both of whom gave Morgan low scores and recommended a 3 percent raise, the minimum. Morgan was instrumental in Andrews' resignation from the fire department a few years ago, Panozzo said, and bad feelings about his departure likely will be reflected in Andrews' evaluation of the fire chief.
"I believe (the low marks are) nitpicking. We have one of the smoothest-running departments around. (Morgan is) the head of the department. He's the one who makes it happen," Panozzo said.
Kanner said he thinks his marks were fair and said the lower marks reflect what comes down to poor communication between Morgan and the board.
"He does a very good job in the command structure," Kanner said. "When it comes down to being a people person, he has weak points."
Morgan's behavior and performance has improved significantly during the past eight to 10 weeks, Kanner said.
"If this was two months ago, his score would have been a lot lower," Kanner said. "But I have seen an improvement in him . . . I will give him the benefit of the doubt, look at everything with an open mind and give him the opportunity to improve."
Kanner denied Panozzo's comment that he does not get along with Morgan.
"I have a relationship with him like I have with anybody else, and that's a professional relationship. I'm not on the board to be everybody's friend," Kanner said.
Andrews could not be reached for comment.
Morgan would not comment on the fairness of the negative evaluations or his relationships with Andrews and Kanner. Morgan did say, however, that the 4.6 percent raise was the lowest raise he has been awarded in his five-year tenure as fire chief.
Morgan said the evaluations "speak for themselves."
"Each person has their feelings on how they run their department," Morgan said. "As usual, I will strive to improve relations (with the board) and do a better job."
Morgan said he thinks he has "made a concerted effort" to improve his relationships with the commissioners and "most of the evaluations show that."
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.