By John Bozzo
For Hometown News
HOLLY HILL -- Ending a troubled chapter, the City Commission agreed to pay $100,000 in severance plus payroll taxes to Oel Wingo, the fired former city manager.
Ms. Wingo served as city manager from Jan. 1, 2010 to October of that year when she was fired.
A Florida Ethics Commission investigation found probable cause that Ms. Wingo tampered with documents, destroyed public records and obligated the city to personnel contracts exceeding her authority. She was subsequently cleared of the charges in a hearing.
The payment of severance didn't sit well with resident Jim Legary, who told the Commission, "I thought we said the city didn't owe her anything."
City Manager James McCroskey said the money was severance pay required in Wingo's contract.
Scott Simpson, city attorney, added, "Once she was cleared of the charges, she was entitled to severance."
Before taking the Holly Hill job, Ms. Wingo previously worked 10 years as assistant city manager in Palm Coast and served in the same position in Ocala. She now has a consulting firm in Reddick, a city near Ocala.
Other personnel items on the April 9 City Commission agenda were more pleasant.
Mayor Roy Johnson read a proclamation thanking Police Chief Mark Barker for 30 years of service to the city. Barker started as a patrol officer and worked his way up to chief, stepping into the interim city manager role in the wake of Ms. Wingo's turbulent tenure. Mr. Barker also is a graduate of the FBI Academy and a lifelong resident of Holly Hill.
"The great privilege of my life has been serving this community," Mr. Barker told the Commission. "You have given me everything I have and everything I hoped for as a patrolman."
Commissioners also welcomed James Bland as the city's new fire chief.
Mr. Bland is a familiar figure in local fire-fighting circles, having only recently retired from the Daytona Beach Fire Department after 25 years, serving as chief since 2010. He replaces Ronnie Spencer, who retired this year.
"I think he's going to take this department up to the next level and beyond," Mr. Spencer said as he introduced Bland to the elected officials.
On an unrelated issue, the Commission agreed that its intent in January 2012 was to allow auto repair as a side business to car lots along Ridgewood Avenue.
In January 2012 the City Commission reversed an action taken by a previous City Commission in 2005 to prohibit car lots and auto repair on properties along Ridgewood Avenue. Elected officials in 2005 worried about the avenue looking junky with row after row of used cars for sale parked right up next to the sidewalk.
The City Commission in 2005 hoped the car sales and auto repair businesses would eventually leave and other businesses would move in. Businesses did move out, but no one moved in and the city was left with vacated property.
The action in 2012 allowed car sales on Ridgewood Avenue as a special exception as long as landscaping buffered the property from the avenue, the color scheme is consistent with other buildings and the business used a monument sign.
Mr. McCroskey, the city manager, asked the City Commission on April 9 if the intent in 2012 was to allow auto repair as a sideline for the car lots along Ridgewood Avenue. Commissioners unanimously agreed their intent was to let car lots repair vehicles.
The city has received a request from a business owner to repair cars. Holly Hill plans to provide a grant to landscape the business frontage along Ridgewood Avenue and erect a monument sign.