Delve into 12: Tension at City Hall

 

Delve into 12: Tension at City Hall

 

Date: January 5, 2012
by: Kurt Schultheis | City Editor

 
 

 

The signs are everywhere that there’s a problem between City Manager Bob Bartolotta and City Clerk and Auditor Pamela Nadalini’s departments.

Most recently, the most glaring sign occurred in a Jan. 4 email sent to Nadalini, in which Bartolotta calls a forensic investigation of his department’s computers “unfair” and claims Nadalini’s investigation has “ulterior motives.”

The email was sent Wednesday after a series of events that have unfolded since September.

In September, the Sarasota City Commission approved the transfer of the city’s Information Technology (IT) department out of Bartolotta’s office and gave Nadalini control of it.

The move upset Bartolotta, who told commissioners he took issue with the move, which was proposed by Commissioner Paul Caragiulo. Caragiulo believes the auspices of the IT Department can be handled more efficiently through the clerk’s office.

“I have to take this action as proposed as a vote of no confidence,” Bartolotta said at the time. “I believe I’m the CEO and responsible for administrative actions and I take those responsibilities seriously.”

Bartolotta questioned why the move was being made, explaining that he hasn’t been made aware of any issues with the IT Department and the way it’s currently handled.

“We don’t have a broken system, and I don’t understand the reasoning behind taking one of the departments out from under me,” Bartolotta said. “You are going to shackle this department and create new conflicts.”

As the Sept. 19 discussion ensued, it was apparent commissioners believed there were issues between Bartolotta and Nadalini that needed to be worked out.

Mayor Suzanne Atwell stressed at a September meeting that department heads and employees need to get past an issue brought to light, when Bartolotta announced that an audit revealed a former city employee was double billing the city and the state through a Newtown youth program.

The audit states that the city “did not require or request information on how the (youth program’s) matching funds were utilized.”

“In light of the recent allegation toward the city auditor and clerk’s office and others … the city manager and clerk desperately need to do lunch and work out a realignment,” Atwell said. “All of us need to get our act together and build collaboration and civility in out city.”

In October, the relationship appeared to further sour after Nadalini took Bartolotta and Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown’s computers away to investigate a complaint from Sarasota attorney and former state Sen. Bob Johnson. Johnson accused Bartolotta and Brown of ordering their computers “scrubbed” of data before the IT Department was officially transferred to Nadalini’s office on Oct. 1.

Bartolotta and Brown have adamantly denied the allegations and questioned why the investigation was requested and performed by Nadalini’s department.

Bartolotta said he has reached out to Nadalini and that one meeting was held since Atwell and other commissioners made the remarks.

“She (Nadalini) told me we didn’t have any problems to work out,” Bartolotta said. “I was back in my office in less than five minutes.”

Nadalini has not returned multiple phone calls to the Sarasota Observer for comment over the last three months.

In the Jan. 4 email, Bartolotta requested all information, records, emails and any other information related to the investigations because he said the investigation should not be exempt from public record laws because it’s not an internal audit investigation.

“I am concerned with the manner in which these two reviews are being conducted,” Bartolotta said. “Neither Marlon nor I have been interviewed by the consultants. It appears that there is some ulterior motive behind the way that these reviews are being conducted. We feel that we are not being treated in a fair manner.”

In the meantime, Bartolotta said the investigation is fruitless, because any information from computers is backed up as part of the city’s public record program.

More than three months later, a special Sarasota City Commission meeting is planned for 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, to discuss the computer investigation, even though commissioners have no report to review.

Meanwhile, in December, a circuit court judge, who investigated Nadalini’s office after former employee Maryellen McGrath resigned in September and sent commissioners an e-mail that claimed the Auditor and Clerk’s Office was “in disarray,” found the former employee’s claims to be “baseless.”

In the report released Dec. 1, Judge Thomas Gallen said he found no issues with the department and described the remaining staff at City Hall as “proficient, professional and dedicated.”

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