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High marks ... and a question mark in Longboat Key performance reviews

Commissioners praise town manager and attorney in their reviews, but note concerns about succession planning


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  • | 6:00 a.m. November 16, 2016
  • Longboat Key
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Town Manager David Bullock still needs to work on his delegation skills to better train successors for his eventual departure, Longboat Key commissioners say.

They also say Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale, 42, needs to develop sharper leadership instincts.

Those themes ran throughout the performance reviews Bullock and Mooney-Portale received Monday at the Longboat Key Town Commission workshop.

Despite generally high marks, there’s an ongoing concern about Bullock.

Mayor Jack Duncan — who describes Bullock as a great hands-on manager — knows the town manager will leave someday, and the commission must prepare for that reality.

“If Dave left tomorrow, who on the staff could replace him?” Duncan said. “We should be able to identify a successor if we were doing good succession planning.

Duncan is concerned because he believes Bullock doesn’t delegate well — so he ends up doing a tremendous amount of work.

“We need to give staff members and particularly his direct reports, as much responsibility as they can,” Duncan said. “It’s just good succession planning. Dave could get a hit by a bus any time. If you are really doing it well, you’d have a couple people behind every department head ready to move up. Dave has to delegate, too.”

Duncan expressed his concerns in his written review of Bullock, who recently celebrated his 66th birthday, saying Bullock takes too much on himself and needs to better develop management talent under his leadership.

“My concern is the same as last year,” wrote Duncan. “Giving more exposure to subordinates is critical. You must push the babies out of the nest.”

Bullock’s employment agreement calls for the commission to evaluate his job performance and set objectives annually.

Other commissioners expressed similar concerns at Monday’s workshop.

“(He’s) perhaps a bit too much hands-on,” Commissioner Jack Daly said.

Vice Mayor Terry Gans said results are good under Bullock, but he questions what will happen once he retires.

“I don’t know how prepared the town is in the long run, particularly at assistant manager and public works,” Gans wrote.

Bullock, who earns $180,000 annually, turned down a $7,200 performance-related raise in November 2015 but accepted 15 extra vacation days. He now has seven weeks of paid vacation valued at $24,220.

Bullock gave a five-year commitment when hired in October 2011. He has said he is not yet ready to retire but is now taking it day by day.

He admits to having a tough time delegating work to staff members.

“That’s a personality flaw,” Bullock said. “An area to be improved. It’s my weakness, not theirs.”

Bullock indicated concerns over who might succeed him are overblown. He said many qualified applicants, on and off his staff, will apply once he retires.

“I’m pretty sure there would be a host of folks that could take over and do far more than I am capable of,” he said. “There will be a lot of folks here or other places who want to take this over.”

Budgeting prowess, decision-making skills, sound judgment and cognizance of complex issues facing Longboat Key earned Bullock plenty of praise.

Mooney-Portale’s review format was different than Bullock’s. Commissioners had four choices for ratings in 11 categories: excellent, fully satisfactory, satisfactory and unsatisfactory. She was rated excellent or fully satisfactory in the vast majority of all categories by commissioners and earned perfect reviews from Commissioner Armando Linde and Irwin Pastor.

The positive reviews indicate Mooney-Portale has mended the rift between her and the commission, which caused her to resign in May 2014 after she faced criticism from commissioners over issues such as her handling of a nuisance hearing involving Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.

She eventually withdrew her resignation after much discussion with the commission.

Commissioners Phill Younger and Ed Zunz reviewed Mooney-Portale more critically than fellow commissioners.

Zunz said Mooney-Portale failed to properly advise the commission on its legal obligations while it was considering how best to pay for moving all overhead utilities underground. The result: The funding mechanism for the project has been roundly criticized as unfair and is still being developed, and the “55-foot rule,” a controversial standard the town has used to determine assessments for underground utilities based on how far a property is located from overhead utilities, has been criticized as an arbitrary measure and not a legal benchmark, according to Zunz.

Younger gave Mooney-Portale a half “unsatisfactory” and half “satisfactory” rating in three categories: personal characteristics, job knowledge and legal counsel responsibility.

Pastor, however, summed up the general tone in most of Mooney-Portale’s reviews with this comment: “Our town attorney on all occasions has proven to be accurate and technically correct on existing legal issues.”

“I’m pleased,” Mooney-Portale said. “I enjoy working for the commission. And there’s always room for improvement.”

Full reviews are posted at longboatkey.org.