Morton earned an average of 3.73 points out of 5.
Grading City Manager Matt Morton on a formal evaluation for the first time since his hire a year ago, the Palm Coast City Council gave him an overall average of 3.73 out of a possible maximum of five points — a rating partway between “meets expectations” and “exceeds expectations.”
Passing the “meets expectations” level would have left Morton eligible for a raise of up to a combined 5% over his base pay, or an increase of $7,250 over his current salary of $145,000. But — noting that he’s suspended pay increases for city staff out of concern over COVID-19’s impact on the city budget — Morton declined the raise.
“There’s a lot of change that has hit our community this year, and our community is challenged ... in our revenues and our budgets,” Morton said. “I have asked and issued orders and expected, beginning in this next fiscal year, that staff step up and share in that sacrifice with our community, and have eliminated cost of living adjustments and pay raises … So that being said, while I accept the evaluation and I’m grateful, I would ... like to reject the offered pay raise.”
He added, “Leading by example in this community is what we need.”
City Financial Services Director Helena Alves had explained to the council that city staff received annual cost of living adjustments of 2% in January and merit increases of another 3% for performance at or above the “meets expectations” level.
Of the four major scoring areas on Morton’s evaluation form —assisting council with its policy making role; internal administration; external relations; and personal accomplishments — Morton got his highest score in external relations (a 3.93) and his lowest in internal administration (a 3.5).
Finer gradations within those categories showed that Morton’s earned his highest marks in the “intergovernmental relations” category of the scoresheet, where he earned an average of 4.07, and his lowest in the “financial management” section, in which he earned a 3.38.
He received a handful of 2’s from individual council members for specific performance measures, but in each instance had also received a “5” on the same performance measure from Councilman Eddie Branquinho.
The 2’s came from Bob Cuff on the performance measure “Informs the City Council of administrative developments”; from Vice Mayor Nick Klufas on the measure, “Assuming responsibility for staff performance”; and from Klufas in “Effective in selecting qualified and highly competent staff members.”
Mayor Milissa Holland, speaking during the meeting, noted that Morton had arrived in Palm Coast just in time for Hurricane Dorian and then the pandemic.
“I really found a lot of value in the fact that you did spend a lot of time with the directors that have been here for a while as well as building a team that you felt could met the expectations and the priorities,” she said. “... I have been very impressed and continue to be impressed. ... Your knowledge, your understanding and your work ethic is very very strong.”
Klufas said he felt that the council is “basically evaluating Mr. Morton every council meeting that we have.”
“I’m of the school of thought that this is more or less a checkbox,” Klufas said. “ I’m satisfied with how Matthew has performed up to this point.”
Councilmen Branquinho, Bob Cuff and Jack Howell both commended Morton for being available to answer council members’ questions.
“I find that anything that I need, information-wise, he’s right there, and I have no reservations at all in working with him,” Howell said. “He’s a good man. We did the right thing by selecting him.”