LAKEWOOD RANCH — The Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority Board has ordered Lakewood Ranch Town Hall Community Manager Bob Fernandez to review policies of the IDA that may be affecting the morale of staff at Town Hall.
In a prepared statement made during the IDA’s Accounting and Invoice meeting Jan. 19, Supervisor Glenda Robertson stated: “There are conflicting comments regarding the effectiveness of the IDA administration. It appears that at a minimum, communications, morale and employee relationships of the IDA staff can be improved.
“Whether correct or not, there is a perception that staff is not being kept fully informed and that this is affecting morale,” Robertson said.
Taking Robertson’s recommendations, the IDA has asked Fernandez to review the IDA’s incentive program for employees, review and reinforce the training of staff in regard to dealing with residents and the public and to review the relationship the IDA has with its human resources consultant, Selective HR, to ensure the IDA board is kept informed of comments regarding personnel.
Additionally, the IDA will consider whether Town Hall should continue with a four-day work week or move back to a five-day week in which hours would be extended on certain days to accommodate residents who work. Fernandez also will review the overall layout of Town Hall and the position of staff to ensure “optimum coordination and productivity.”
Fernandez will give the IDA board an outline of how he intends to correct the issues within the IDA at the board’s meeting in February. In the meantime, he will work independently and directly with IDA Chairman Tom Green to address some of the concerns, Green said.
“This board takes its obligation to employees and to the residents very seriously,” Green said. “Hopefully this will never happen again.”
Robertson’s remarks and recommendations are the result of interviews with more than 20 current and former employees of Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
Green requested the investigation because there has been a large turnover in staff in two IDA departments — property management and operations — during the last year. The fact was brought to light after community development district supervisors received a letter in mid-December from former Town Hall employee Susan Kara, who alleged Town Hall was a “toxic and dysfunctional environment” and that she had been treated poorly by her managers.
Green said he did not feel a third party was necessary to conduct the interviews with personnel, and he selected Robertson for the job because of her background in human relations.
“I thought it was the best thing to do,” Green said. “People on the IDA board are more aware (of what’s going on).”
Although Kara questioned Fernandez’s management style, IDA supervisors expressed their belief in his ability as the community’s manager.
“I can only judge by what I see when I work with Bob, and from what I see, he’s a very good manager,” Green said, adding he sympathizes with employees who have been asked to deal with a lot of change over the years. “He’s done a lot for this community. He’s not going to please everyone.”
At the IDA meeting Jan. 21, IDA Supervisor Jean Stewart also said she was confident the hiring of three new employees in the property-management department — property managers Judy Hess and Tara Wagner and their supervisor, Rob Edgington — would help pave the way for improved relationships within Town Hall, because she was confident all disgruntled employees were gone.
Regina Morris, whose last day at Town Hall was Dec. 31 after working there two-and-a-half years and who was one of at least five employees to quit or be terminated in recent months, attended the meeting but did not speak.
Afterward, Morris said she felt like the board’s comments did not fully reveal the extent of what was happening inside Town Hall and she was concerned the IDA board would let the issue die after it falls out of the public spotlight.
“When Glenda (Robertson) came around, everybody saw a glimmer of hope,” she said. “Everybody’s hoping it’s going to be corrected.”
Below is a portion of the prepared statement IDA Supervisor Glenda Robertson presented at the Jan. 19 Accounting and Invoice meeting, which was a precursor to the regular CDD meeting Jan. 21.
“There are conflicting comments regarding the effectiveness of the IDA administration. It appears that, at a minimum, communications, morale and employee relationships of the IDA staff can be improved.
“Whether correct or not, there is a perception that staff is not being kept fully informed and that this is affecting morale. I would recommend that the IDA have Mr. Fernandez review the incentive program such as providing benefits for those receiving certification or accreditation in their fields. We also need to have Mr. Fernandez review and reinforce the training of staff in regard to dealing with residents and the public.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].