By Joe Capozzi
South Palm Beach Town Manager Robert Kellogg said he plans to resign at the end of March, a decision he made a day after a town councilman called for his termination.
At the Nov. 15 Town Council meeting, Ray McMillan didn’t offer a public explanation for his motion to fire Kellogg, other than to say: “It’s the best thing for the town.’’
McMillan’s motion, made as the council was about to discuss a contract extension for the town manager, got no support from the mayor and two other council members on the dais. Councilman Robert Gottlieb was absent.
“This is no time to change. We’ve got some big stuff coming up here. We need his experience and familiarity,’’ Vice Mayor Bill LeRoy said.
Instead, the council voted 3-1, with McMillan voting no, to extend Kellogg’s contract another month while the town manager continued negotiating a new contract with the town attorney.
The next day, Kellogg told Mayor Bonnie Fischer and Town Attorney Glen Torcivia that he plans to resign March 31.
“I think the best thing to do under the circumstances is we move on,’’ Kellogg, 69, said in an interview with The Coastal Star, adding: “I wish (McMillan) nothing but the best.’’
Kellogg has been the town manager in South Palm Beach since 2019, when he replaced Mo Thornton. He is making $105,000 a year.
McMillan offered a harsh assessment of Kellogg during an interview with The Coastal Star a day after the council meeting.
“My position is, his shelf life has expired. We need to get somebody else, somebody with different ideas, who’s younger,’’ said McMillan, who was elected to the council in 2020 after eking out a 17-vote victory over Elvadianne Culbertson.
“I didn’t want to bring anything up to embarrass him. I very well could have. There are a lot of skeletons in his closet I could bring out,’’ he said, refusing to elaborate.
When pressed about what aspects of Kellogg’s performance he had issues with, McMillan mentioned two examples.
He accused Kellogg of illegally ordering the removal of campaign signs for Republican candidates from the right of way in front of the Town Hall polling place on Election Day. He said he thinks Kellogg is a Democrat and therefore ordered the removal of the signs because they promoted Ron DeSantis, Dan Franzese and other Republican candidates.
Kellogg said he didn’t instruct anyone to remove any campaign signs, which are prohibited on town property. He said a sheriff’s deputy removed some signs from the right of way, where they are allowed. Those signs “were put back once the error was discovered,’’ he said.
McMillan also pointed out his dissatisfaction over Kellogg’s handling of a resolution, approved by the council later in the meeting on Nov. 15, that bans the consideration of ESG policies in town finances.
The ban stems from a Republican-led movement across the country that steers public money away from companies that prioritize environmental, social and governance issues rather than solely profits.
Earlier this summer, Gov. DeSantis announced plans to steer Florida’s state pension funds away from investment managers possessing what he called “woke” ESG policies focusing on issues such as climate change and diversity.
In July, the Town Council voted 4-1 to apply for a state grant to pay for assessing South Palm Beach’s vulnerabilities to flooding and sea level rise. McMillan voted no.
McMillan said he first called for South Palm Beach to adopt the ESG ban in August. He accused Kellogg of purposely delaying the final vote, which he said should have been placed on the agenda at the council’s September or October meeting.
He also accused Kellogg of adding to the agenda’s backup material an article “promoting ESG.’’
Although Kellogg conducted an informal survey in September that revealed none of the county’s municipalities have ESG bans, he said he was not involved with the town’s ESG resolution. That was handled by the town attorney.
“I’m not going to take the blame for that because that was all part of the attorney’s process working with (McMillan). Whatever,’’ Kellogg said.
Kellogg said he remembers adding “an informational piece” about ESG to the agenda material. “I didn’t think it was slanted one way or the other,’’ he said.
He said he had no idea what McMillan meant by saying Kellogg has “skeletons in his closet.’’
Kellogg has had indications that some other council members might not be happy with his performance. At a special meeting on Sept. 23, council members gave him an average score of 3.26 on a one-to-five scale. They called him “acceptable,” but expressed unhappiness with limited staffing at Town Hall and public perception of the permitting process.
Fischer said the council will discuss its search for a new town manager in January. She said she is glad Kellogg is staying through the end of March.
“I certainly didn’t want him fired. He does not deserve to be fired,” Fischer said.
“Partisanship is an issue with Ray and Bob and I don’t think it belongs with respect to the positions in the town, and that goes for the rest of us,” she said.
LeRoy said he supports Kellogg and wishes he wouldn’t resign. “I think he’s doing a great job,’’ LeRoy said.
As for McMillan’s motion to fire the town manager, LeRoy said: “He dropped a bomb on us. Everybody’s jaw dropped open. We had no idea. We were just in shock. That came out of the blue.’’
Councilman Monte Berendes said he’s “kind of” sorry to see Kellogg go, “but if that’s what he feels he needs to do, I would never stand in anybody’s way. I am concerned about the town and what’s going to happen when he leaves.’’
The town is trying to jump-start plans to build a new Town Hall. A vote on a contract with the architectural firm designing the building will be considered at a special meeting at 1 p.m. on Dec. 7.
“That’s going to take some effort and some direction,’’ Berendes said. “And now, if he does follow through with his resignation, we have to find somebody to fill his shoes.’’