Bloomfield city manager’s future uncertain after first year

BLOOMFIELD — City Manager Stanley Hawthorne will not be traveling to Florida.

Hawthorne, who is one year into her three-year contract with Bloomfield, was among four finalists for a county administrator position in Citrus County, Florida.

In his public interview processHawthorne told Citrus County commissioners he hoped to move to Florida so his longtime adopted son could live in the state where he was born. However, Hawthorne’s presentation to Bloomfield City Council on Tuesday had a very different tone.

The presentation, which included slides summarizing every major milestone of his tenure as city manager, concluded with Hawthorne sharing his “greatest challenge” at work and in his 30-year career in a single paragraph.

“The inability of a few members of the governing body to come to terms with last November’s transition of power, whether involuntary or intentional, has had a corrosive impact on the organization and a chronically stressful impact on several members of the administration because their professional reputations and commitment to impartial service have been repeatedly called into question, whether by word or deed,” the paragraph reads.

Hawthorne said writing and sharing the statement was not easy.

“This is the hardest statement I’ve felt the need to write during my tenure,” Hawthorne said at the meeting. “Although the statement is nameless, it is very real. I say this with all seriousness if we are sincere about the healing needed.”

It’s unclear whether Hawthorne is applying for other jobs, and the city manager’s office declined to comment.

“As Forbes magazine recently reported, the number one reason people quit their jobs is ‘toxic company culture,'” Bloomfield Mayor Danielle Wong said in a statement. “The City Manager has made it clear that we have issues, and until those issues are resolved, I don’t know if the City Manager will stick around for the long term.”

Board division

Wong, who was elected mayor in November 2021, also attributed the challenges in Bloomfield to the reluctance of some council members to accept the transition of power. Councilwoman Suzette DeBeatham-Brown served as mayor of Bloomfield from 2018 until Wong won. Both are Democrats.

“When I was elected mayor, I called for unity for the good of our city,” Wong said. “I reiterate that call today and encourage everyone to stick together with our very talented City Manager and focus on the job: economic development, housing and workforce development.”

In an interview with Hearst Connecticut Media Group, DeBeatham-Brown chose not to speculate what Hawthorne meant in his statement.

“It’s very obvious the board isn’t as cohesive as it should be,” DeBeatham-Brown said.

DeBeatham-Brown said she doesn’t believe the splits were what led Hawthorne to apply for the job in Florida.

“An election is an election, you do your best, but once the election is over, the only team you need is Team Bloomfield, which means the decisions we make should only be for the best. interest of the city,” DeBeatham-Brown said. “It shouldn’t be about making one band look good and one band look bad. I don’t think we’ve achieved that as a board.”

An article from 2002 from the Sun Sentinel describes a similar tumult in Hawthorne’s tenure as city manager of Laurderdale Lakes, Florida. The board fired Hawthorne after four years following apparent problems with some commissioners and low morale among the employees.

Performance reviews and compensation

In Hawthorne’s presentation, he highlighted his performance reviews. In a city manager system like Bloomfield’s, the city manager is hired to be the “CEO” of the city, who reports to the city council, holding most of the decision-making power. The city council, including the mayor and deputy mayor, provide annual performance reviews to help determine potential salary increases and measure progress.

Wong, along with another board member, gave Hawthorne a perfect 5.0. Three others, including Deputy Mayor Greg Davis, gave Hawthorne a 4.5. Two others gave it a 4.0.

DeBeatham-Brown and former deputy mayor Kirton gave Hawthorne 3.375 and 3.25, respectively. Both figures are below the 3.75 minimum required to qualify for a performance bonus. The median score was 4.25.

“The lowest ratings could void a bounty even with high ratings from seven of the nine reviewers,” Hawthorne said during the meeting. “That was one of my issues with the process as it unfolded this year. It remains a concern for the future. So yes, I am losing faith in the evaluation process despite the high scores, relatively.”

In an email obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media Group, DeBeatham-Brown contacted Wong on Aug. 12 after the ratings were collected and asked him to raise his rating for city manager.

“My score was definitely incorrect,” the email read. “I see where I have 2 and these should have been 3. I am pointing this out as it was not my intention and 2 they affect the GM rating.”

After the city manager’s presentation, DeBeatham-Brown said giving the city manager perfect grades leaves little room for growth.

“I was in the middle of the road,” DeBeatham-Brown said. “I’m a supervisor, I was CEO. Stanley who had just arrived in Florida from a new part of the world. I think giving Stanley a 5.0 in his freshman year is a set-up. You tell me that he has no other place to go.”

In its evaluation, DeBeatham-Brown gave Hawthorne a 2.0 for ensuring members of the city council receive important information in a timely manner. All other reviewers scored 4.0 or 5.0 in this category. In a category relating to “earning the trust of the city council”, she also scored Hawthorne a 2.0. Kirton scored a 3.0. All other reviewers received a rating of 4.0 or 5.0.

Hawthorne’s pay, contingent on appraisal, increased further in the second year. However, his total income decreased because he received a $20,000 allowance for his moving expenses in his first year. Last year’s total, including the moving bonus, was $237,612 and this year’s is $218,123.

“My first and only request to change the employment contract was on August 8, 2022 as part of the assessment process which shocked me,” Hawthorne said. “What I have requested is that the taxable income for the second year of the contract be equal to the taxable income for the first year plus a general salary increase of 2.5%, the increase in the base salary of the city ​​employees as of July 1.”

His request stood “entire” and said his position had not changed.

Public support for Hawthorne

Members of the public who spoke at the meeting expressed confusion and frustration at the uncertain state of the city’s leadership.

“The differences between members of the city council are readily available to the public,” Bloomfield resident Suzanne Petky said at the meeting. “I think it’s an obstacle for the city manager. I met the city manager and was very impressed with him. This is a message to the city council to find a way to work with the city manager and him enable him to carry out his duties. I hope we can retain Mr. Hawthorne as our Managing Director.

Other members of the public mentioned that losing Hawthorne would mean the third search for a city manager in the past three years. Former City Manager Robert Smith quit the job after just 13 months.

“When I read in the paper that we could still lose our city manager, I want to know why and I think the public should all understand why,” said Cindy Lloyd of Bloomfield.

In an interview with Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Davis said he’s glad the community recognizes Hawthorne’s strengths.

“I’m optimistic the City Manager will be with the City of Bloomfield for years to come,” Davis said. “We’re doing everything we can. However, there’s no guarantee that if we give the city manager an extra $30,000 today, he’ll be here in six months. Obviously he’s been looking. We “We can’t control this. All I want to make sure is that we as a council support and work well with the city manager to keep the business of the city running.”

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