By Dan Moffett
South Palm Beach Town Council members are turning to an old friend and neighbor for help in finding a town manager who fits their community.
Kurt Bressner, who from 2000 to 2011 was Boynton Beach’s town manager, now works as a senior adviser for the Washington-based International City/County Management Association.
Bressner and other retired municipal officials in the group donate their time and experience to help local governments solve problems. And South Palm Beach is looking to them for all the help it can get right now.
Council members thought they had a town manager for the long haul when they hired Jim Pascale from Princeton, N.J., earlier this year. But after three months on the job, he resigned in June.
Pascale, 63, says he essentially was forced out by town officials who asked him for innovative ideas and then turned against him when he produced them.
“I began to be shunned by the elected officials,” Pascale wrote in an email to The Coastal Star. “Overnight, I became, ‘radioactive.’ They just wanted me, and my recommendations, to go away. They got their wish.”
Mayor Bonnie Fischer said Pascale “just didn’t understand” what was important to the town and its residents. Vice Mayor Joe Flagello says it was Pascale who came forward, admitted the relationship wasn’t working and offered to leave.
“He told town officials it was best for the town and best for him to go,” Flagello said. Now the council is committed to undoing the damage, he said, and getting the right person for the job.
“We’ve got a pretty good available pool of candidates,” Flagello said. “I don’t think it will take many months to get someone in here.”
Four possibilities remain from the group the council interviewed along with Pascale late last year: Mark Kutney of Loxahatchee Groves, Robert Kellogg of Sewall’s Point, James Drumm of Zephyrhills and Kenneth Sauer, formerly of Haines City. Linda Stumpf, Manalapan’s town manager who had been in the running, signed a three-year contract to stay in her current position last month.
Bressner said, with ICMA’s help screening and advising, South Palm Beach could have its position filled before the start of the tourist season.
It’s a safe bet the next town manager won’t talk about dissolving the town, replacing the Police Department or spending millions on park space — as Pascale did.
“When I was hired I was told they were looking for ‘a fresh set of eyes,’ ” he said. “I zealously fulfilled their wishes, working feverishly, day and night, seven days a week. They got what they paid for, and much more.”
Pascale said when some residents objected to his brainstorming, council members gave him no support and, worse, shunned him.
“They developed feet of clay when a vocal minority voiced their objections before the public review process even began,” he said. “I was never told to slow down or stay away.”
Pascale says the town can’t go on ignoring its problems and deficiencies. “My separation from South Palm Beach will allow the town to go back to its political leadership style of kicking-the-can-down-the-road,” he said. “But it will only be a temporary respite. Sooner or later, the recommendations I proposed will be publicly addressed. It is inevitable.”
In other business, on July 28 council members unanimously approved keeping the town’s tax rate at $4.32 per $1,000 of assessed taxable value. South Palm Beach has had the same millage rate for the last seven years, despite losing half its property value during the 2008 Florida real estate crash.
South Palm Beach
Proposed tax rate: $4.32 per $1,000 of taxable value
2014-15 tax rate: $4.32 per $1,000 of taxable value
Change in property value: 5.4 percent increase
Total budget (operating and capital): $1.84 million
Public hearings: 5:01 p.m. Sept. 10 and 6:15 p.m. Sept. 22 at Town Hall.