Former Riviera City Manager Jonathan Evans, who was fired from the position without explanation on Sept. 20, is one of six finalists for the position in Plant City.
But the reasons surrounding the firing have commissioners in Plant City concerned.
“It wasn’t settling and it wasn’t quick,” said Commissioner Michael Sparkman during a special meeting on Dec. 11. “I was disappointed in his candidacy and I will not support his candidacy. I don’t know if this is an issue - it’s something that I noticed - he is of color. I don’t know if it’s Hispanic or black, but the lead commissioner was a black gentleman that was adamant for him to leave. A black female commissioner also supported that and a white female commissioner supported. One comment I thought was interesting, I think they said they should’ve done a better background check. I don’t know what that means.”
A WPTV investigation found there was nothing in Evans’ Rivera Beach personnel file. Instead, emails between Evans and other city officials showed that he had asked for an internal investigation into Councilwoman Lynne Hubbard’s use of public funds on a private driveway. Hubbard was one of three council members who voted to fire Evans for cause.
Council Member Terence Davis made the motion to fire Evans “for misfeasance” on Sept. 20, but never explained his reasons behind it.
Then, on Oct. 18, council voted to change the record, saying they voted to fire Evans “without cause.”
Some Plant City commissioners said politics are clearly involved.
“There were several other issues in that jurisdiction that indicate that that local government there (in Riviera Beach) is just a train wreck,” said Commissioner Nathan Kilton. “So he (Evans) found himself in a bad spot. I hate to disqualify him over a set of circumstances that were completely out of his control and he had no impropriety, but at the same time we don’t have any reconciliation at this point. His termination was Sept. 20 and they still have yet to reveal why he was terminated. So that does give me some concern. That is a cloud that would be challenging to get over without some more clarity.”
Evans, and five other candidates, are advancing to the next step in the interview process for the Plant City city manager position.
Should Evans not get a new job because of the turmoil in Riviera Beach, that could allow him to sue the City of Rivera Beach for damages.
We reached out to Evans for comment today but he declined to comment at this point.