Midway’s new city manager gets four-year contract

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By Erin Hill

Many Midway citizens who attended Midway City Council’s meeting this past Thursday expressed outraged after council members voted to approve City Manager Leslie Steele’s four-year contract.
Council members Carolyn Francis and Ronald Colston said they were still uncomfortable with giving Steele a four-year contract.  Colston favored a one-year contract, with six-month evaluations.  Francis had an issue with the salary.  The contract, which Steele drafted, includes compensation of $55,000 a year, which is at the top of the pay scale.  Francis said she did not agree with that because Steele has no prior city manager experience.  
Citizens asked Mayor Wanda Range to abstain from voting, due to a conflict of interest.  They said Range once lived with Steele, and she works for a business that Steele’s parents own.
Range and council members Sam Stevens and Charlie Smith voted in favor of approving Steele’s contract.
Range and Steele left soon after the vote, and before the citizen comments portion of the meeting to attend a county meeting on Hurricane Irma.
Once citizens were given a chance to speak, many expressed displeasure that Steele had been hired, despite council members not receiving the results of her background check.  Francis had mentioned before voting that she didn’t want to approve Steele’s contract without seeing the results of the criminal background check.
Stevens, who serves as mayor pro tem, adjourned the meeting while a citizen was at the lectern speaking, and abruptly left saying, “The meeting is over.”
After Stevens left, Attorney Anthony Thomas reopened the meeting as parliamentarian so the citizens could finish their comments.  
Midway’s former city manager, Auburn Ford spoke as a citizen.  He said he and other citizens plan to contact the board of ethics about the vote on Steele’s contract.  He and other Midway residents at the meeting said they plan to file a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics.  He also said Steele has made illegal changes to the city charter, and the only way the charter can be changed is by vote.
This included raising the city’s maximum millage rate to 10.99 percent.  He said the last legal changes made to the charter were in November, when a majority of citizens voted to eliminate the two at-large council seats, and go back to member- only districts.