Riviera Beach assesses how to move forward after firing CRA director

RIVIERA BEACH The firing of Community Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Floyd Johnson Wednesday was unjustified and confusing, said Judy Davis, the only council member who voted against terminating his contract.

"For the reasons given last night, I didn't see the justification," said Davis, who supported hiring Johnson in 2004. "I didn't get it."


Floyd Johnson dismissed from the Riviera Beach CRA:
 
  • Johnson was fired Wednesday in a 4-1 vote of the city council, sitting as the CRA board. Councilwoman Judy Davis cast the dissenting vote.
     
  • Council Chairwoman Dawn Pardo led the move to fire Johnson, saying she was "underwhelmed" by his performance and that money spent by his office could be better used to attract businesses to the city.
     
  • He will continue to oversee the CRA until late August, when the city manager's office is expected to take control of the redevelopment agency. Johnson will receive severance pay of $92,750.
     
  • Johnson earned $185,500 annually and was criticized for being overpaid, for keeping a staff too large for the job and for excessive use of consultants. A 2006 state audit criticized procedures used by the CRA in hiring consultants.
     
  • He was praised for resolving $1.6 million in unpaid bills when he started with the agency in 2004, for opening a public research area in the CRA office, for beginning neighborhood revitalization work in Rivera Beach Heights and for developing administrative policies as recommended by state auditors.
     
  • The city council (CRA commissioners) approved a two-year renewal of Johnson's contract in July 2008. Councilman Shelby Lowe voted against his contract extension.

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    But Davis said she does not plan to question the change in CRA leadership further.

    "Once the vote is taken, you move on," she said.

    Davis said council members, sitting as the CRA board, gave Johnson mostly positive evaluations and ignored his advice on the city's negotiations on the marina overhaul with Viking Developers before firing him.

    Council Chairwoman Dawn Pardo led the move to terminate Johnson's contract, saying she recently met with Johnson and pored over the CRA's books before making her decision.

    "The agency really lacks the drive to succeed," Pardo said. "I'm quite underwhelmed with the leadership in the CRA and I question whether we should continue funding all of the employees."

    Johnson served nearly five years as the CRA's executive director. Under terms of his contract, he will receive six months' severance pay - $92,750.

    Pardo suggested closing the CRA office in the Bank of America building on Broadway and moving the CRA staff into the municipal complex on Blue Heron Boulevard. She also suggested reducing the size of the CRA staff and using the savings to attract new businesses into the city.

    The CRA has five full-time employees, including two planners. The agency hires an attorney, Michael Haygood, as its general counsel.

    On Wednesday, Pardo questioned Johnson's commitment to the CRA's redevelopment mission, noting that he applied for the city manager's job in Wichita, Kansas, in November. At the time, Johnson said he had been called by an executive search firm and was not actively looking for a job.

    The CRA is responsible for encouraging the redevelopment of blighted areas and promoting businesses in the CRA district, which borders Broadway and includes the marina.

    On Wednesday, the council ignored Johnson's recommendation to terminate its marina-redevelopment relationship with Viking Developers and to invite other ideas for revitalizing the marina district. He also recommended giving Viking 30 days to deliver a written proposal for land swaps around the marina.

    The council decided to continue marina negotiations with Viking at the Aug. 12 CRA meeting.

    Viking submitted a proposal for a $500 million overhaul of the marina and surrounding properties in September, just before the collapse of real estate and financial markets. A scaled-down plan submitted by Viking in May calls for the city to pay for improvements to Bicentennial Park and the public areas of the marina during the first phase of the redevelopment.