It is always amazing to me how far some people will go to trash others, weaving lies with truth in such a way that they think they can deceive good people. Ed Bowlin is a master at this tactic and usually best ignored. That he disagrees with me — and the Commission as a whole — on many issues is one thing. That he wastes everyone’s time looking for something that doesn’t exist is another. When he calls my integrity into question and attacks our City Manager for doing nothing more than her job - that I cannot ignore.
As Mr. Bowlin well knows, City Commissioners cannot discuss issues with each other “outside the sunshine.” That means we are forbidden by law to discuss anything that might come before the Commission except at a public meeting. In between those meetings, we can talk with City staff, and in particular, with the City Manager, about issues and ideas to benefit the City.
One issue that has continued to arise is the recreational needs of our residents and how best to use and maintain our existing recreational facilities. It is certainly no secret that Ms. Leary has worked with her staff and several commissioners over the past year to review current costs and to determine if there would be any benefit from consolidating all recreational facility maintenance and programming under one City department. Clearly, this would mean hiring a recreation director and other necessary support staff. And, any cost savings achieved by consolidating operations would not be enough to cover these additional staffing costs. We all know it would be impossible to fund these additional costs given current budget concerns. End of story. Right? Obviously not, since Mr. Bowlin has decided to stitch these facts together with several other facts to weave a conspiracy and used a “John Doe” request for public information to search everyone’s email to try to prove his point. And what did he find? One email from Ms. Leary to me, when she forwarded a copy of a Lake Wales News editorial I had missed while on vacation, where The Lake Wales News decided it was time for the City to hire a recreation director. Ironically, this editorial came to the same conclusions she and I had discussed, except for the fact that we both had already determined the City cannot afford to hire a recreation director at this time.
A search of Ms. Leary’s private email also “uncovered” the fact that a friend of hers was coming to visit her when he and his family came down from Macon, Ga on vacation to Legoland. Ms. Leary’s friend is the recreation director in Macon, Ga. And, while visiting Ms. Leary he said would be glad to “work” with her by spending a morning with her to tour Lake Wales and offer suggestions for improving the City’s use of its recreation facilities. I never met him and do not know what he suggested during his visit, but I understand Ms. Leary did introduce him to some of her staff. After she and all the Commissioners received Mr. Bowlin’s insulting letter (parts of which were published in his recent Letter to the Editor), Ms. Leary said she introduced him to her staff saying something like, “in a perfect world, he would make a good addition to our staff.”
And, finally, at the Commission’s final budget workshop, as the minutes show, I stated I was not in favor of staff furloughs and my fellow commissioners agreed. I pointed out that we had the money to pay our staff and not require them to take 80 hours of unpaid leave, at a time when our staff was already doing more with less. I also asked my fellow commissioners to consider an idea we had not previously discussed but felt we could afford - hiring an assistant manager to help Ms. Leary. Someone to become familiar with our City, its staff and operations, who would be available to stand in as City Manager when Ms. Leary decides to retire, giving the Commission time to decide what they want to do about replacing her on a more permanent basis. After all, the City had an assistant manager for many years until Judy Delmar took over the City Manager position when the former Commission let Tony Otte go. I also suggested the assistant city manager could be someone with experience in recreation management, who could help the City develop a plan for moving forward with improvements to its recreation program when the economy improves and funding is available.
My fellow commissioners were surprised by my suggestion, although during the hiring process we had all discussed the fact that whoever we hired as City Manager might need to have an assistant manager to help get the job done. But, the minutes will also show that they disagreed with my idea at this meeting and Ms. Leary also expressed her surprise about my suggestion. We went on to discuss other needs and ideas and agreed on a final budget for 2012-13. When the Mayor called for public imput, Mr. Bowlin promptly came forward and berated me for wanting to hire a recreation director while budgeting for staff furloughs! Wrong again on both counts, Mr. Bowlin. In conclusion, I would like to clearly state that I believe quality recreation should be a priority for our community. Second only to good education, it is a primary determinant of the quality of life we can offer our citizens and the jobs we are able to attract into our community. But, I am also a realist; I know that we can only afford to do the best job we can with the resources available. I will continue to do the best job I can for the City of Lake Wales as long as I am able and as long as its citizens allow me to do so. I will also continue to work with Ms. Leary and to propose new ideas that I believe will benefit the community.I will always be willing to listen to those who may disagree. I will not, however, quietly sit back and allow such untruths and personal attacks as Mr. Bowlin has made to go unanswered.