Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budget for Atlantic Beach Wins Approval; and That Includes the New Assistant City Manager Post, despite Some Opposition

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budget for Atlantic Beach Wins Approval; and That Includes the New Assistant City Manager Post, despite Some Opposition

Article excerpt

Byline: DREW DIXON

ATLANTIC BEACH - Despite some of the sharpest criticism so far from some residents over the new addition of an assistant city manager position, the City Commission Monday approved the 2008-09 budget.

The commission voted 4-1, with Commissioner Carolyn Woods dissenting, in favor of the $29-million spending plan. The budget takes effect Oct. 1.

But it was one item, the transfer of Police Chief David Thompson as recommended by City Manager Jim Hanson to the newly opened assistant city manager post, that drew the most criticism.

Resident Alicia Paley said Hanson "is failing this community in monumental ways. ... To argue that we need all of these top-heavy, executive-type positions to function efficiently is nothing short of ludicrous."

Paley called on Hanson to resign which was met by support for Hanson and Thompson by members of the City Commission and staff.

A point of criticism in recent weeks has focused on Thompson's continued salary of $109,000 annually when he shifts to assistant city manager and that the position was not opened for any other candidates. Current police Capt. Michael Classey will move into the chief's position, another job that was not opened for applicants or consideration of any other candidates.

While Woods said she has no reason to doubt the talents of Hanson or Thompson, she said she still opposed the position shift on economic principle.

"In this time of [national] economic crisis, I don't think we should be expanding our operating expenses and creating new positions. That's going to be an ongoing burden," Woods said. "I just think we're making a mistake with this budget."

But City Attorney Alan Jensen, who also was once a city commissioner, said the individual verbal attacks on Thompson and Hanson went too far.

"Attacks on their integrity and their honesty and their credibility are totally unwarranted," Jensen said. "These men are high in integrity, high in honesty and high in credibility. There's no cronyism or good-old-boy politics going on here at all."

Mayor John Meserve agreed. "We know what the job description is that we've asked the assistant city manager to do. …

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