Melbourne City Manager Mike McNees fired by 4-3 City Council vote
MELBOURNE — Melbourne City Manager Mike McNees was terminated Tuesday night by a 4-3 vote, shortly after two new City Council members took oaths of office.
Councilmen Paul Alfrey and Tim Thomas were joined by newly sworn colleagues Mark LaRusso and Julie Sanders in voting to fire McNees.
Mayor Kathy Meehan, Vice Mayor Yvonne Minus and Debbie Thomas voted no.
In August, McNees was named one of six finalists for the city manager's job in Naples from a pool of more than 80 applicants. However, he dropped out of the running two weeks later, stating "the best place for my family and I to be is right where we are," in an email to all city employees.
During recent meetings, Alfrey cited a lack of trust and communication with McNees over the Naples job application. In July, Alfrey said McNees told him he was not looking for a job. However, McNees did tell Meehan that he was.
“This isn’t about success and failure in looking for a job. This is about respect and courtesy. Because of this, I think we need to move forward and look for a city manager who will have trust in all seven members of the board and tell everybody everything equally so we can make the right decisions together," Alfrey said before moving to fire McNees.
McNees had served as Melbourne city manager since February 2013, when he replaced Jack Schluckebier. He earned $192,282 per year.
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A series of developers, lawyers, community leaders and residents voiced support for McNees from the public comment podium prior to the vote. After he was terminated, McNees thanked the previous City Council on behalf of his family.
“What drives me — my mother’s milk — is respect. And I have to honestly and sincerely thank the council members who spoke on my behalf tonight. And I’m completely overwhelmed by what came from the audience tonight," McNees said, shortly before stepping down from the dais.
"If I run on respect — I’ve been in this business more than 31 years — I’ve never seen anything like it. And I am happier tonight than I can ever remember being in 31 years because of the way you all stood up for me," McNees said.
Last week, the neighboring Palm Bay City Council fired City Manager Gregg Lynk by a 3-2 special meeting vote. Lynk had served as city manager since April 2015.
LaRusso, Sanders and incumbent Debbie Thomas were sworn in midway through Tuesday's meeting after winning seats on Election Day, garnering applause by delivering brief remarks to the audience. After a 10-minute transitional recess, they took their seats on the dais.
Sanders did not publicly explain her vote to fire McNees. FLORIDA TODAY asked her about it afterward.
"I've had a few meetings with the city manager. And also, some of my research that I have done in the past during my campaign. I think that the city needs to go in a new direction," Sanders said.
Tim Thomas criticized McNees' relationship with Orlando Melbourne International Airport officials. After the vote, LaRusso said "the evidence is clear" that McNees' relationships with Alfrey and Tim Thomas homas had been degrading for some time.
Thomas, Minus and Meehan recited lists of Melbourne accomplishments and highlights during McNees' tenure as city manager.
McNees’ supporters at the public comment podium included Ferass Al Quasma, president of the Islamic Society of Brevard County; Miguel Rivera, developer of the future $35 million Tapestry Collection by Hilton downtown hotel; Harry Mirpuri, developer of the future $30 million Riverwalk Marina at the Intracoastal Marina-Coral Bay Restaurant site on U.S. 1; Jarin Eisenberg, former executive director of Melbourne Main Street; Keith Donald, founder of Street to Home Movement; former councilman Dan Porsi; and Jim Stivers, founder of Certified General Contractors.
Meehan was dismayed by McNees' firing.
“I’m very disappointed. I’m very disappointed,” Meehan said.
McNees will remain on the job until Friday, and he will receive 20 weeks of severance pay. Deputy Manager Shannon Lewis will serve as interim city manager.
Lewis started work with the city in September 2014 after serving as assistant city manager in Port Orange from 2007-14. She was also business development and governmental affairs director in New Smyrna Beach.
She is president-elect of the Florida City and County Management Association.
Neale is the South Brevard watchdog reporter at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Neale at 321-242-3638
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