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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Daytona Beach Newspaper Reporting That Lake Wales City Manager Is A Semi-Finalist To Be The New Smyrna Beach City Manager


By Carl Fish

Lake Wales City Manager Seeking Employment Elsewhere

Lake Wales, Florida – The Daytona Beach News-Journal, in it’s April 22 online edition, is reporting that Lake Wales City Manager James Slaton is one of 13 candidates chosen to be a semi-finalists for its vacant city manager position.

The news comes as a shock to many in the community. Slaton has been an employee for the city for almost 19 years (June of 2005). He spent 7 years as the cities Director of Information & Technology. He also spent various time as Director of Support Services, Director of Public & Support Services and Deputy City Manager. Since June of 2020 Slaton has been city manager for Lake Wales.

The Next Step For The City Of New Smyrna

“The next step is to prepare each semifinalist for the interview process, according to Thomas.

They will complete “a fairly detailed” questionnaire and participate in video interviews and a media search by SGR.

After the City Commission reviews the information, it will select three to five finalists for the next phase. This will take place during a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. May 16.” according to the The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Recent Decisions Dogging Lake Wales City Manager

Recent decisions, regarding the Lake Wales Police Chief, by Slaton has put him at odds with most of the constituents at one point or another. A grievance was filed against Chief Velazquez for his handling of advancement of staff to Lieutenant positions. The grievance felt race was an issue in the selection process and that a reposting of the position allowed one member an opportunity that the grieved felt was not fair. An independent company reviewed information gathered by the cities Human Resources Manager, Sandra Davis, and they concluded no racism occurred, but the appearance of favoritism and nepotism existed, but fell short of saying it occurred. The independent review also did not find that Chief Velazquez broke any rules by the city in his actions. It found that the chief was not consistent in how he handled job postings. This prompted Slaton to write a memo to Chief Velazquez instructing him that he was going to seek a replacement and relieve him of his duties once a replacement was found. “On April, 2024, I will advertise a search for a new police chief. You may remain in your current position until a new chief has been appointed.” said Slaton. This memo was provided to an organization named the Poor Minority Justice Association who leaked it to the media (entire memo here). This all happened on Monday March 11 as Chief Velazquez left on a family vacation cruise. A little over a week later, without much explanation, Slaton addressed the commission and advised he had changed his mind.

The memorandum coming out to the public without any further explanation and the fact it was sent the first day the chief left on vacation didn’t sit well with many residents. It allowed no opportunity for the Chief to even respond to the accusations or the memorandum. Additionally it brought into question why the police department was in charge of job postings and not the Human Resources Department, who has a much better understanding of labor laws and job postings.

The reversal decision by Slaton with little response to the public didn’t sit well with many residents. It even prompted Lake Wales City Commissioner Daniel Williams to state the following “I need everyone to know that when you see black people in the City of Lake Wales right now, and they’re frustrated, they got a reason to be frustrated,” Williams said. “We can handle anything if you tell us the truth. But if it seems like you said one thing today and then certain people call and then things get changed it makes us feel like we still up under Jim Crow, and we ain’t going back there!” 

“You have literally today told black people that power is more, and…or color is greater in this city,” Williams said. “I am extremely frustrated about how this went down.”

This coming from a sitting city commissioner was extremely damning of Slaton and sent a clear message a rift between the two had occurred.

This news brings more questions than answers at a time when so much is occurring in the central Florida city.

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