Marathon’s City Hall and the politically conscious public were whipped into frenzy this past week when allegations of inappropriate behavior were made against the city manager and top staff member, Clyde Burnett.
He earns $110,000 salary.
Since assuming the role of City Manager in April of 2008, Burnett has handled his position with such professionalism and productivity that the city council recently granted him a two-year contract extension with glowing remarks.
That aura was extinguished Sunday night with a single phone call and by Monday afternoon a shroud of darkness had fallen over Marathon with the news.
On Tuesday, as a radio-a-thon proved that the generosity of a small town trumps the disadvantaged, the coconut telegraph was exploding with all sorts of wild rumors regarding the latest public scandal.
Hearsay conjured images of Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton.
Speculation swirled over Burnett’s resignation.
Many wondered whether charges and press leaks were politically motivated considering the Marathon general election is in exactly two weeks and both the mayor and vice mayor are running for re-election.
Consequently, both spoke at length over the matter and each had his own philosophy on how to handle with the situation.
“Our responsibility tonight is not to judge right or wrong, guilty or not guilty, or do what is politically expedient at this particular point in time,” said Vice Mayor Don Vasil.
Running for re-election as “Champion of the Taxpayers,” he remained detached and stayed true to his promises of fiscal responsibility – citing the costs of administrative leave, the investigation and the “potential cost of litigation by whomever loses the investigation,” as a major factor in his decision to call for immediate termination.
His fellow council members and Marathon Mayor Mike Cinque disagreed.
“The cost?” Cinque asked, citing how “ill” the whole affair made him feel. “What cost do you put on right and wrong? Thank god our forefathers were bright enough, forward thinking enough to sign a constitution that we are a land of laws, not a land of men. Clyde Burnett does have a right to have his defense heard by this council before we make an arbitrary decision without the facts.”
By the time these words reach our readers, the matter may already be closed.
But what’s next? What happens now?
Political scandal and bureaucratic shake-ups have always enjoyed a nice, warm home in the Florida Keys. While the case of inappropriate behavior may be over quickly, Marathon will most likely be left without a qualified city manager respected by his staff, trusted by his council.
But Marathon is strong. Like the KAIRathon proved – the community rallies during crisis.
The peripheral political fallout from this is far from over. Please be careful not to pass judgment and be mindful of the issues and candidates when casting your vote on Tuesday, Nov. 3.