A group of residents upset about the way the town manager is running Windermere wants voters to have a say in whether she remains employed and how much education she should have.
The issue arose after a standing-room-only special Town Council meeting last week to discuss the arrest of the police chief, Daniel Saylor, who was fired at the meeting for failing to notify town officials that he had been suspended in 2009 by the Florida Police Chiefs Association.
Several people criticized Town Manager Cecilia Bernier for hiring Saylor and faulted her supervision of him. The Council voted, 4-1, to express confidence in Bernier.
Citizens for Change in Windermere, a political action committee that its chairman said has 20 to 30 members, wants the Town Charter rewritten to allow voters to decide every two or three years whether the city manager should be retained. The new group also wants the manager to be required to have a four-year college degree from an accredited school, said Andrew McCarthy, the chairman.
"We don't agree with the vote of confidence, so we want to remove her," said McCarthy, 28, a patent lawyer who is running for Town Council. "You can't directly do that."
Bernier, 61, who was town clerk for 8 1/2 years before being promoted to town manager 19 years ago, has no college degree, according to her personnel file. Her prior work experience includes jobs as an office clerk and market-research coordinator, a needlework instructor and a cashier. She earns $72,406 annually.
Sara Brady, owner of a public-relations firm hired temporarily to handle media requests, said Bernier was not in the office Tuesday afternoon. Town Attorney Tom Wilkes couldn't be reached.
McCarthy, who has two public-records lawsuits pending against the town, said public records in Windermere are disorganized and sometimes go missing. At last week's Council meeting, Bernier acknowledged that she had reviewed Saylor four times during his eight years as police chief but said three of the reviews are lost.
McCarthy plans to circulate petitions to try to get the proposed charter changes on the March 8 ballot. He needs 178 signatures — 10 percent of the town's 1,772 registered voters.
Saylor, 44, was arrested Jan. 12 after a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation revealed that he offered one of his officers bribes to squelch the child-sex investigation of a friend of Saylor's who lives in Windermere. The man, Scott Bush, 50, was arrested the same day.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times