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."
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.