In an over two-hour marathon session, the Palm Coast City Council unanimously agreed to appoint Denise Bevan, the current Palm Coast Chief of Staff over Infrastructure, as the interim City Manager. This follows the resignation of current City Manager Matt Morton on May 27th. This was the first meeting since his resignation. The appointment wouldn’t start until Bevan’s contract as interim City Manager is finalized. The appointment will waive the 30-day contractually obligated resignation period of Matt Morton.
Councilman Barbosa made a motion to hire a replacement, continue the 30-day payout to Morton and discontinue his presence at meetings. Councilman Barbosa also made the recommendation for Denise Bevan. This was followed by a clarification from City Attorney Bill Reischmann on what events would proceed with the recommendation. Councilman Klufas asked for Barbosa to rescind his motion and stated they would get back to it later in the meeting. They did. In the later dialogue, other candidates were explored but this being the first time the Council has spoken about it, the remarks were general and exploratory.
Other parties were suggested during dialogue including Ronald Mclemore who emailed Bill Reischmann, City Attorney, that he would only be willing to come in as an interim City Manager. Ronald Mclemore was previously interim manager for the City of DeBary and former Daytona Beach Deputy City Manager of Operations from 2009 to 2015. He had also served as City Manager of Winter Springs in 2009, resigning that year after 13 years. Councilman Danko stated he would be interested to get to more about Mclemore due to the opportunity for the individual to, “hit the ground running.”
Additionally, Councilman Klufas made reference to his experience in a previous vacancy with Jim Landon. Klufas talked about someone already in a leadership role stepping up, such as the Fire Chief. That would be referring to Jerry Forte.
Palm Coast Fire Chief Jerry Forte however would come to the podium to back Denise Bevan. “When you start looking at the chain of command and who is going to be the next in line, you want somebody that is going to be understanding and have a good ability to work with everybody in the organization and I think what we need now is some calm, some stability, and the ability to take what we’ve got and move forward.” He continued by saying, “When you start considering, ‘is Denise Bevan qualified?’, she is, and she is a gap-bridger.”
At this point, Councilman Branquinho reiterated his point about wanting to hear from Denise directly. Denise rose and walked to the podium to some applause which was gaveled while Klufas looked for clarity on whether Palm Coast Fire Chief Jerry Forte would be the number two to Denise Bevan. He stated, “Absolutely. Whatever she needs, she’s got our support.” Denise would then approach the podium to speak.
“Good evening, City Council. Thank you, Chief Forte, for those kind words. Thank you for hearing the level of confidence you have in your staff tonight. I’m here to serve the City of Palm Coast in any capacity necessary, I would ask to better understand the terms and to work with each Council member” (Denise turns to her team seating in the back of the room), “and our amazing team on what that looks like. With that, thank you, and yes.”
AskFlagler asked Denise Bevan for comment after the meeting: “What you heard tonight… [I’m] completely ready to serve our community. A lot of processing right now.”
When asked if she planned on applying for the City Manager position during the current search, she replied: “No, my plan is to support the Council and this community. That’s my immediate plan.”
During the City Council meeting, several residents voiced their concerns over Morton maintaining his position following his resignation and at several junctions, tried to address Matt Morton directly, but were reminded to talk directly to meeting leader Nick Klufas.
Robin Peterson was one resident who spoke: “I am opposed to accepting Mr. Morton’s resignation. I want him fired.”
One resident, former digital communications coordinator, Jason Giraulo, who had previously tendered his resignation back on June 21, 2019, came up to speak. His last day working for the City of Palm Coast was July 5, 2019. Morton’s previous comments to the News Journal on his resignation were that he tried to convince Giraulo to stay, but he was intent on starting his own business. Giraulo stated in his resignation letter to Beau Falgout, ‘Unfortunately I feel we have reached an impasse in my career, one that can only be rectified by my resignation.”
AskFlagler asked Jason Giraulo for follow comments after tonight’s proceedings, in the context of Matt Morton’s potentially waived 30-day resignation period:
“So, my biggest thing is we won. Finally. This has been my life for two years, I resigned after 9 years of service to this City because of Matt Morton’s and Milissa Holland’s policies. And the fact that they’re both gone now, I can breathe a sigh of relief because what they did to the residents of this town is unknown but what they did to the employees are still going through…horrible times, people who are still unemployed, that worked for the City for a long time and ended up suffering for a long time because of their policies and the way they treated all of us, so I’m relieved and feel like victory and it’s when I held up my hands at the end of the meeting when they banged the gavel because finally, I feel like we won. Right as one and regardless of the other bad things that happened, I’m glad that it’s over.”
The appointment of Bevan will waive current City Manager Morton’s 30-day contractually obligated resignation period. Morton will remain the City Manager until Bevan’s contract as interim City Manager is finalized, which could be completed as soon as the end of the week.
You can watch the replay of the City Council Meeting here.
This article will be updated when more comments come in from mentioned parties in the article. AskFlagler has reached out to Nick Klufas and Victor Barbosa for additional comment.