By Tim Pallesen
Delray Beach is without a city manager after three city commissioners suspended, but couldn’t fire, Louie Chapman Jr., their manager for only a year.
Mayor Cary Glickstein joined Commissioners Jordana Jarjura and Shelly Petrolia to suspend Chapman with pay for 90 days on May 13. The city charter requires four votes to fire a city manager.
A second attempt to fire Chapman failed by a 3-2 vote on June 3, with Commissioners Al Jacquet and Adam Frankel objecting.
Commissioners then voted on first reading to set an Aug. 26 special election to amend the city charter to require only three votes to fire a city manager. A public hearing and final vote on the special election will be June 17.
Chapman’s departure comes as he was preparing the city budget and negotiating police and fire contracts. His temporary replacement, Assistant City Manager Bob Barcinski, retires June 16.
Commissioners agreed on June 3 to offer an interim city manager position to Terry Stewart, a former city manager in Fort Myers Beach and Cape Coral.
The commission majority targeted Chapman for ouster after the county inspector general said he misled commissioners on a $60,000 purchase of garbage carts.
“I have a huge problem that you not only lied to commissioners but you lied to an investigating agency,” Jarjura told Chapman on May 13. “These are grounds for termination.”
The investigation found that Chapman received an email from his staff to alert him that the city had already purchased 1,000 trash carts in October, before Chapman requested approval to buy another 1,000 carts in January.
Chapman said he didn’t read the email. “I should have verified how much had been purchased at that time,” he said at the May 13 meeting.
Chapman’s attorney said the discipline was too harsh. “Termination is capital punishment. There’s nothing warranting capital punishment in this case,” attorney Harry Turk said.
But the three commissioners said they can no longer trust Chapman.
“What started out as a simple human error became a scheme to deceive and cover up the truth,” Glickstein said.
“Once trust is broken, it’s very hard if not impossible to regain it,” the mayor said. “Dishonesty is the highest form of disrespect and arrogance. What message do we send to our young people if the city manager can lie and keep his job?”
The May 13 vote to fire Chapman failed 3-1, with Commissioner Adam Frankel voting against. Commissioner Al Jacquet was absent. Glickstein, Jarjura and Petrolia then suspended Chapman.
Chapman was hired to his $160,000 job in January 2013 after 22-year city manager David Harden retired and before Glickstein, Jarjura and Petrolia were elected. Jacquet supported his hiring then and Frankel opposed it.
The inspector general also cited Community Services Director Lula Butler for misleading commissioners about the garbage carts.
Butler, a 28-year city employee, submitted a letter of resignation before the May 13 meeting, but Glickstein asked her to stay until the end of the year.
“Ms. Butler knows she misled me,” the mayor said. “She was loyal to her boss. She took the low road and told a lie about a lie.”