AP nixes Deleon's residency requirement
Marc Valero | Highlands TodayAVON PARK - City Manager Julian Deleon's request for more time to move to the city sparked a debate when one council member balked at Deleon's efforts to comply with the relocation provision in his contract.
Published: January 16, 2013
Published: January 16, 2013
At Monday's meeting, after a lengthy discussion and persistent opposition from new Councilman Garrett Anderson, council voted 4-1 to remove the residency requirement.
Deleon noted his three-year contract includes a provision for him to relocate his residency to within the city limits within two years.
His home in Lake Placid has been listed for sale for about 12 months, he said. The price is reasonable. He has lowered the asking price and hopes it will sell as the economy turns around.
In the meantime, he made three separate offers to purchase property in Avon Park, but none of those offers materialized. He has purchased a lot just off Main Street where he is hoping to build, Deleon said.
Deleon was not sure if he could do it within the two-year period, which ends on Sept. 13, so he asked for a 12-month extension.
Councilman Garrett Anderson asked Deleon why he was unable to relocate to Avon Park?
Deleon responded, "Can't afford to maintain two houses."
Anderson said, "You knew that when you got hired so why is it our problem that in two year's time you wouldn't be able to relocate? That seems like a pretty lengthy amount of time."
Mayor Sharon Schuler said Deleon put his house up for sale before he signed his employment contract with the city.
He was outbid on one house that she knew about, she said. He has bought acreage to build on.
Anderson asked why would Deleon purchase a lot knowing that he couldn't have a house built in time? That seems kind of pointless.
Deleon responded, "Are you trying to tell me where and how to …"
Anderson replied, "It seems like a poor decision unless you were counting on an extension."
Councilman Parke Sutherland said this is a mobile society and in many instances where someone works has no bearing on where they live.
He doesn't think it is wise for the city to limit its ability to consider any employee based on where they live, Sutherland said. If you perform your job well it doesn't matter if you live in Polk County, Lake Placid or Okeechobee.
Sutherland said he would be in favor of providing an extension to the residency requirement.
One thing that can't be questioned is the benefits the city has seen with Deleon serving as the city manager, he said.
If council says Deleon has to comply with this agreement, "I know of other government entities that are actively wanting to solicit him to work for them," Sutherland said. "Letting him leave the city would be a travesty and a very poor decision of this council.
Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray said Deleon has done a "fantastic" job for the City of Avon Park. This is the best she has seen the city during her 12 years on the city council. It's reasonable for him to ask for an extension.
Councilman Terry Heston said Deleon tried on several occasions to buy two houses and both of them fell through. Deleon would love to live in Avon Park and when he sells his house he will be here.
Gray was about to enter a motion to approve the extension, when Schuler noted someone had signed up to comment on the matter.
Former mayor Tom Macklin said he empathized with Deleon concerning the housing market, property values and the challenges of moving with children during the school year.
But about two years ago when he was on the planning and zoning board, Macklin said, Deleon was "boastful" about how successful he was and how much money he had and that he didn't need this job and the city was lucky to have him.
At that time, Deleon said he had some property on the east coast, Macklin said.
Macklin questioned Deleon's statement about not being able to maintain two households.
Addressing Deleon, Macklin said, "Do you still have those holdings on the east coast of Florida, sir, that you were alluding to at that point in time?"
Responding to Macklin's question, a few council members spoke simultaneously, with one saying it wasn't any of the council's business.
Macklin said Deleon's comment about not being able to maintain two households may be misleading if he is already maintaining that many or more. Also, renting is a viable option.
Schuler said if Deleon had been able to attain one of the homes that he had put a bid on he would be having to maintain two homes regardless of whether he wanted to or not.
Deleon has looked into renting, but if his wife is not happy with the places they have looked at he would probably respect her opinion, she said.
Schuler said she would support giving Deleon an extension because he has made a lot of effort to move to the City of Avon Park.
"We are down to the lowest millage here, so property owners here are only at that millage because of the foresight of Mr. Deleon as far as thinking ahead for this city," she said.
Former councilman Paul Miller said Deleon's finances are his business, not the city's.
"We are not here to discuss that," he said. "We are here to discuss his job, which he has done a darn good job."
Sutherland made a motion to remove the residency requirement from Deleon's employment contract.
Gray seconded the motion.
City Clerk Cheryl Tietjen first called on Anderson for his vote.
Anderson responded "I believe this is very irresponsible and I hope you guys know what you are getting into and I vote 'no.'"
Schuler, Gray, Heston and Sutherland voted "Yes."
Tietjen said the motion was approved four to one, which prompted applause from most of the approximately 15 citizens who were attending the meeting.
Addressing Anderson, Deleon said, "you are welcome to go down to Worden Realty; three separate offers have been entered; I am not very much used to being confronted in public and being put on the spot over specific matters.
"If you have any questions that are personal in nature you are welcome to come by my office anytime."
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