STUART, Fla. - In a special meeting Wednesday, Stuart City Commissioners voted 4-1 to put City Manager David Ross on paid leave.
He's only held the position for seven months.
This comes after the mayor called for his resignation last week, and other commissioners supported the request.
“I myself want his termination,” said Commissioner Becky Bruner. “There’s too much water under the dam.”
Commissioners and community members say they’re concerned about low morale for city employees, Ross missing three meetings in six months, not participating in enough community events, taking too much PTO and pushing out senior staff.
Now that he is on paid leave, he will still make $500 each day, according to Bruner. She was the only commissioner who voted against paid leave, wanting Ross on unpaid leave.
“Too much going on, it’s been going on for months. Losing all of our top people, I mean our top people,” Bruner said.
But in a letter, Ross details why he thinks the concerns surrounding him are simply rumors and hearsay.
He says his reasons for missing meetings were validated. He went to a conference, had a fever and also had to leave town for a family emergency.
He said he has been praised by employees for doing a good job and has done his best to boost morale.
He said he has also done his best to start going to more community events.
As far as concerns over Ross taking too much time off, Ross said he would be willing to not take anymore time off.
He also addressed concerns about senior staff members recently quitting, and says it has nothing to do with him.
He explained the commission had just approved a voluntary early retirement/separation incentive in January. Ross said he recognized the program would be costly in the short term. He did not believe it would be wise to offer the incentive program in future years, so he said he told all department heads that he did not intend to offer the package in the future. If anyone was considering leaving the city, he told them now is the time. “I didn’t want anyone to leave, but if they had another opportunity, I wanted to be upfront and fair with them,” Ross said.
Residents like Merritt Matheson explained their concerns at the meeting.
“The amount of senior staff that have left in the short amount of time since he was hired is incredible.”
He’s among the residents concerned about the turnover in the city in roughly one year.
Mayors Eula Clarke and Tom Campenni resigned after calls for their resignations. Campenni in March resigned from the commission entirely.
Matheson hopes city leaders find a way to regain stability.
Mayor Kelli Glass-Leighton said she called for the meeting to put Ross on leave to keep staff members from a stressful situation of working in an office with Ross while his job is in question.
Commissioners will meet again on May 14 to continue discussing Ross’ future with the city.