City Manager Bob Bartolotta received an improved job evaluation this year from a majority of commissioners. However, one commissioner, Mayor Kelly Kirschner, continues to be Bartolotta’s harshest critic.
Sarasota’s city managers are graded on 19 job-performance duties, including leadership, communication, professional knowledge and team approach.
Commissioners assign one of three numbers to grade his performance — a “three” exceeds expectations, a “two” meets expectations and a “one” is below expectations.
For the second consecutive year, Kirschner ranked Bartolotta “below expectations” in 11 of 19 areas.
The next-highest number of “below expectations” that he received was in three areas, from Commissioner Terry Turner.
Vice Mayor Fredd Atkins and commissioners Suzanne Atwell and Dick Clapp did not give the city manager any of the lowest grades.
Although it is not customary, Kirschner wrote in the margins of his evaluation form detailing the reasons for his sub-par ratings.
Under quality-of-life issues, the mayor wrote that Bartlotta was below expectations in dealing with events, the waterfront and homelessness.
In the area of economic development and recovery, Kirschner cited the Palm Avenue parking garage retail space and parking meters as reasons he thought the city manager performed below expectations.
Kirschner and Bartolotta were at odds over how to treat the eight storefronts built into the parking garage.
The mayor wanted the city to retain ownership of the space and lease it, while the city manager
advocated selling, saying the city is not in the commercial real-estate business.
The majority of the commission chose to sell.
Kirschner had been critical publicly of the city manager several times over the past year, including the most heated confrontation July 19 concerning the Police Advisory Panel.
At the time, Bartolotta accused the mayor of setting city staff up for failure, and the mayor shot back: “If you’re concerned about setting yourself up for failure, perhaps we need someone else in management.”
Atkins said the city manager met expectations in all 19 scoring areas this year. Last year, he gave two “below expectations.”
Turner gave the same number of lowest and highest scores (four) in 2009 and 2010.
Last year, Bartolotta received 14 “exceeds expectations” from Clapp. That number rose to 15 this year.
Atwell’s scores showed the biggest change year-to-year. Last year, she gave Bartolotta three “below expectations” grades and two “exceeds expectations.”
This year she gave no “below expectations” and 13 “exceeds expectations.”
The commissioner said she talked to many citizens this year to help her with the evaluation.
“Overwhelmingly, they said he seems to be everywhere,” she said. “He has great negotiation skills. He has the commission’s back.”
One of the biggest criticisms of the city manager last year was that he did not appear in public much.
Bartolotta vowed to work on that, and he is now a regular fixture at community meetings, such as the Downtown Improvement District and Downtown Sarasota Alliance.
For the second year, Atwell lobbied for a different system in which to evaluate the three charter officials, which include the city auditor and clerk and city attorney.
“This one-size-fits-all process doesn’t do our officials justice,” she said.
Atwell objects to the simplistic grading system that doesn’t allow the commissioners to explain why they gave the grades they did.
She suggested a new system, in which each commissioner would produce a narrative evaluation and a consultant would be hired to gain sentiment from the charter officials’ employees and the public.
For the second year, Atwell’s suggestion received no support from the other four commissioners.
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org