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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

 

Ex-Lake City City Manager Paul Dyal's $ 1/4 Million Resignation Payout Questioned. After 9 Months on the Job, the City Council Is Asking Questions.


Columbia County Observer photo & graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – Resigned City Manager Paul Dyal hit the jackpot as Lake City financial oversight careens out of control. Ex-City Manager Dyal voluntarily resigned from his position as City Manager nine months after being hired at $3,000 a week and was then kept on the City payroll as if he was terminated and entitled to severance pay.

Paul Dyal has been a controversial figure in Lake City government for years.

In July 2022, Mr. Dyal secretly went to Ketchikan, Alaska, to interview for the job of City Manager. He was Lake City's interim City Manager at the time. Lake City's Mayor Steve Witt knew about the trip and kept it a secret, allowing Mr. Dyal to be paid his full-time salary and earn vacation pay and sick time while on his Alaskan job hunt.

See: LC Mayor Witt: Did He Collude With Interim City Manager Dyal to Keep the City In the Dark About Mr. Dyal’s Trip To Alaska?

While in Alaska, Mr. Dyal told the Ketchikan City Council that the people in Lake City weren't friendly, and he always wanted to live in Alaska. Other than Councilman Todd Sampson, Lake City's City Council didn't mind, and Mr. Dyal was given a contract in January 2023.

Nine months later, City Manager Dyal voluntarily resigned – as in, quit with notice. His resignation caught City residents and the City Council by surprise, and some members of the Council begged him to stay on – to no avail. Mr. Dyal's resignation was effective October 19, 2023.

The Payout

City Councilman Todd Sampson, Lake City, FL
City Councilman Todd Sampson asked the hard questions about Mr. Dyal's payout on Monday evening. (file photo)

On November 17, 2023, the Observer requested "All information used to calculate the final payout of Paul Dyal."

While the request was completed on November 17, a screw-up in the City’s public record system withheld the information until December 1.

The Observer reviewed the information and sent an email to City Attorney Todd Kennon asking four questions about Mr. Dyal’s severance. On December 4, the email was copied to City Clerk Audrey Sikes. The Clerk’s Office emailed the information to all City Council members and also printed the material for the Council members for the evening’s City Council meeting.

During the December 4, 2023, Council meeting, your reporter came to the microphone and questioned the Council and the City Attorney about Mr. Dyal's severance pay.

Your reporter mentioned the four questions in the email.

1. Does your law firm(s) [RKK and Folds & Walker] dispute that Mr. Dyal resigned of his own free will?

2. What part of Mr. Dyal's contract authorized the Mayor to execute Appendix I without City Council approval? (Note: the appendix as approved on 2023-01-03 was filled with blank spaces which were completed and then executed on 2023-10-27).

3. If your firm has obligated the City to pay Mr. Dyal 16 weeks of pay and some benefits, Appendix I states this payment is not to sue the City. Is this wrong?

4. Does your E&O [errors & omissions insurance] cover the bogus payment of severance pay to Mr. Dyal, considering the City Council never approved the executed version of Appendix I?

Your reporter also asked who gave the Mayor the authority to execute Mr. Dyal's severance agreement without Council approval.

The City Attorney ignored the questions, and none of the Council members followed up.

City Attorney Todd Kennon has not responded to the questions.

December 17, 2023
Councilman Sampson Brings Up Dyal’s Severance

Finally, during Monday night's Council meeting, Councilman Todd Sampson brought up the question of Mr. Dyal's severance pay, asking how somebody who quits gets 16 weeks of pay and benefits.

The other Council members also thought something was wrong with this equation and decided to discuss and further investigate the Dyal severance pay issue during a special meeting on December 27 at 5 PM.

How Much is Dyal Getting Paid?
Did the Attorneys Read the Contract?
Did the Mayor, Who Is an Attorney, Read the Contract?

Mr. Dyal’s payout pays him $158,361.80 in accrued sick and vacation pay. The City tax payers are also paying him $3,000 a week for sixteen weeks. This does not include City payments for Social Security, Medicare, payments into the Florida Retirement System ($10,754.31), and Worker’s Comp. All the numbers are here. While the City put Mr. Dyal on the payroll, he is not working.

The City’s personnel manual grants a maximum accumulation of no more than 320 hours of annual leave. The payout only occurs at the time of separation. The personnel manual allows a maximum accumulation of no more than 500 sick leave hours.

City Attorney Kennon and Councilman Hill reviewed Mr. Dyal's contract and decided that 500 hours of paid leave and 500 hours of sick time would be fair if Mr. Dyal were terminated and met the conditions to receive severance. Mr. Dyal didn't like Mr. Hill's revisions and would not sign the contract unless he was paid for all hours of accrued leave and sick time.

Two pages of Mr. Dyal's contract explain termination, severance, and resignation. They are here.

Section 9 (A) – Resignation states the following: “In the event that Dyal voluntarily resigns his position with the City, Dyal shall provide a minimum of thirty (30) days' notice unless the City and Dyal agree otherwise. If the City Council offers to accept Dyal’s resignation, by majority of the City Council, Dyal may resign and declare a voluntary termination as of the date of the offer to accept Dyal’s resignation.”

Mr. Dyal quit. As the Civil War ended slavery, it is unclear what would have happened if the City Council had not accepted Mr. Dyal's resignation. If he quits voluntarily, without duress – it's game over.

As the Termination and Severance sections of Mr. Dyal’s contract were designed for involuntary resignations-terminations and severance pay, Mr. Dyal’s quitting does not fall into those categories.

While the introductory paragraph under Termination” (pg. 5 – or 351) states that termination “excludes the applicable section of the City Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual,” quitting is not covered. Quitting is covered in Section 9, on the next page, which is called “Resignation.”

“Resignation” mentions noting about severance pay. However, Resignation does state that Mr. Dyal “may resign and declare a voluntary termination as of the date of the offer to accept Dyal's resignation."

There is no record where Mr. Dyal has declared “a voluntary termination” as required by his contract.

Did the City Council Approve the “Separation Agreement?”

The short answer is no.

Section 8 (D) Severance states the following: “The termination and severance of Dyal shall be in accordance with the "Separation Agreement" agreed to by the City and Dyal.”

The Separation Agreement is called “Separation of Employment and General Release.” Besides all the problems with this agreement, when the City Council approved the entire agreement on January 3, 2023, the termination of employment section with the dates was blank. Nothing in the entire agreement authorizes Mayor Witt, without City Council approval, to fill in the blanks and execute the agreement." Mayor Witt is not Lake City.

Your reporter, having witnessed the discussions at the Council meetings, it is clear that the City Council never intended for Mr. Dyal to voluntarily resign and then be kept on the City payroll at $3,000 a week, accruing City benefits, inclusive of additional sick time and vacation pay, health and other benefits.

Epilogue

Once again, Lake City and its City Council will be the center of attention when, on December 27 at 5 PM, the City Council will hash this out the Paul Dyal severance pay issue.

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