The request to reappoint Matthew Brower as Ocala’s city manager was rejected on a three-to-two vote in the Ocala City Council meeting Tuesday evening.
The result did not come as a surprise after Brower received a mixed performance evaluation result by five council members and after Ocala’s three unions — the Fraternal Order of Police Ocala Lodge No. 129, the Professional Firefighters of Ocala, IAFF Local 2135 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — publicly expressed their lost confidence in his abilities as city manager.
Although some community leaders expressed their support for Brower in the meeting, the three union leaders complained about unions’ dissatisfaction with Brower’s leadership, exemplified in Brower’s lack of efforts in negotiation and his “cronyism” by “reclassifying certain employees to give them raises while other employees go without increases.”
Robert Altman, president of Professional Firefighter of Ocala, thought Brower did not communicate well with employees or successfully promote real communication between unions and the council. Altman said Brower had his own agenda to work on instead of conveying unions’ true opinions.
Council member Mary Rich voted for renewal of Brower’s contract. Before the vote, Rich said giving Brower at least a one-year extension would be in their best interest.
“And if he does something that you don’t like, go to him and talk to him,” she said.
Rich expressed concerns about the evaluation on Brower, which was given to two of the five city employees with contracts due, and said the council should not “get rid of” him based on this evaluation.
“We should do them all instead of picking one or two,” she said.
Rich gave Brower the highest rating in the evaluation.
Council member Jay Musleh, who created the evaluation, explained there was not enough time to review all five people. Musleh said the review was intended to introduce some procedure to evaluate those whose contracts were up for renewal pending a vote.
Musleh said the council will work out a method of evaluating all such individuals in the future.
Council member Brent Malever gave Brower the lowest rating on the evaluation.
“Everything can be done better,” Malever said.
Malever said his biggest problem was with money spent on different projects he said aren’t going anywhere.
“We are looking out for our citizens,” he said. “I have to make my vote count in the right direction.”
Council member Jim Hilty echoed Malever’s sentiment to consider “what is good for the community,” but he also wondered if now was really the right time to lose a city leader. Hilty voted for renewal of Brower’s contract.
Brower expressed his honor to serve as city manager and thankfulness for those supporting him after the vote. He recognized those who love the city and who want to make the city a great place to live and prosper.
“Remember that vision is bigger than me,”Brower said. “I’m asking you to continue to fight for that vision, continue to work hard for that vision, and help that vision be realized.”
Brower was appointed city manager of Ocala in February 2011. His contract will end on December 21, 2014.