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Midway rehires city manager it fired

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By Alice Du Pont

Less than 48 hours after the Midway city election on April 30, the balance of power had shifted and the town was in for a major shake-up.

The election of Eria Caesar, replacing former Mayor Ella Barber, signaled a change was coming to the tiny town halfway between Quincy and Tallahassee.

The first order of business during the regular May 2 meeting was to elect a mayor. Three names were placed in nomination: Charles Willis (mayor pro tem), Delores Madison and Jerrod Holton.

By one vote, Holton was named mayor and the audience erupted in thunderous applause.

“I look forward to working with everyone, and I will try to do my best to see that the city of Midway is served,” Holton said. David Knight was elected mayor pro tem.

Just two weeks ago, Holton was the subject of an attempt to remove him from office. Barber said Holton had missed too many meetings, and he should be voted off the council. The motion passed, but the council was reminded by Henry Hunter that they failed to follow the proper procedure.

According to the charter, a council member has the right to challenge any attempt for removal and request a hearing. The hearing must be advertised in a newspaper of general circulation at least one week before the hearing.

“I am challenging that tonight, and I make a motion that we not remove myself. Let’s just move forward,” Holton said.
The motion was seconded and passed.

In other matters:
* Auburn Ford Jr. was reinstated as city manager. Ford had been terminated abruptly in December 2012 and for the past four months has been seeking to have the city pay him $29,000 in leave and money owed him. Holton’s motion was to reinstate Ford at the rate of pay he was receiving when terminated and to pay him back pay at a later date. The motion took effect immediately.

“This is to avoid future damages,” Holton said.

“No, no, no,” said Council Member Allean Robinson.

“Are you still on probation?” Are you still in anger management classes? Why were you arrested, and are you still on probation?” Council member Delores Madison asked Ford in rapid succession.

She said re-hiring Ford would only bring unwanted media attention to the city.

*Interim City Manager Roosevelt Morris, in one of his last official acts, notified the council he has placed Police Chief Terron Lindsey on administrative without pay. Lindsey, who has been drawing his $42,000 salary since December 2012, when he was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on charges of official misconduct and petit theft. He said the city could no longer pay Lindsey.

“Just a paid vacation,” commented Madison.

* Council members also voted to drop the appeal the city has mounted after Council member Chuck Willis’ name had been ordered off the April 30 ballot by Circuit Judge James Shelfer. He determined that Willis did not live in District 4 as required if he wants to represent that district on the council.

Tallahassee attorney Mark Herron filed the appeal to the District Court of Appeal the day after Shelfer’s ruling, in effect stopping further action and allowing Willis to remain on the ballot.

Council member Charlie Smith asked Interim Manager Morris how much Herron was getting paid and where would the money to file an appeal, estimated at $4,500 come from. Morris did not answer Smith’s question concerned the filing fee but said Herron had not been paid anything, not even a retainer.

“He has not been paid one dime,” Morris said. “We are supposed to get together Monday to talk about his fee.”