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Palm Coast Wednesday, Jun. 23, 2021 1 year ago

Former City Manager Matt Morton alleged he was forced out by councilmen Danko, Barbosa after resisting 'malfeasance'

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The councilmen had pressured him to fire individual city staff members, Morton wrote. Both councilmen denied the allegations.
by: Jonathan Simmons Managing Editor

Two days after he unexpectedly announced his resignation on May 27, then-City-Manager Matt Morton wrote an email to his own city email account stating that he was being forced out of his position by City Council members Ed Danko and Victor Barbosa after resisting what he called their “malfeasance.”

Headlining the email as “Retaliation / Constrictive Discharge / Forced Resignation Timeline,” Morton wrote, “I am writing this 29th of May, 2021 in advance I what I believe could be a retaliation/constructive discharge – certainly a resignation forced due to malfeasance of office and/or threats by Council members Barbosa and Danko.”

Morton, in his resignation letter, had cited Tenet 10 of the International City/County Management Association, which instructs managers to “resist any encroachment on professional responsibilities.”

In a separate email sent from his personal email account to his official city email account on May 29, he’d elaborated, writing that Barbosa and Danko had pressured him to fire specific city staff members and that Barbosa had tried to influence staff hirings and appointments. (By sending the email to his official account, Morton made it public record.)

Palm Coast’s City Charter prohibits council members from interfering in city staff business, stating: “Except for the purpose of inquiry and information, the Council and its members ... are expressly prohibited from interfering with the performance of the duties of any City employee who is under the direct or indirect supervision of the City Manager or City Attorney. Such action shall be malfeasance within the meaning of Florida Statutes.”

Danko, speaking briefly by phone while attending a mayoral candidate forum the evening of June 22, denied the allegations and said Morton was lying and had “resigned under a cloud.”

Barbosa, reached by Facebook messenger, wrote, “These accusations are not only false, but slanderous and shouldn’t be printed.”

Morton wrote that Danko “had a list of employees he wanted fired/gone among other things.”

“I disagreed with almost all of his nonsense,” Morton wrote, “and told him he was wrong, clueless and a ‘political who're’ who has traded good governance for politics and would destroy this community.”

“Matt Morton is a liar,” Danko said in the phone interview. “I never gave Matt Morton a list … I don’t have a list. The city manager hires and fires city employees. City Council can only hire or fire two people, the city manager and the city attorney.”

Morton, in his email, added that Danko was under an HR inquiry for harassing employees.

“Several employees came forward and requested action,” Morton wrote. “He was furious with me.”

Danko, asked by a reporter if he’d been the subject of an HR investigation, said, “No — that’s ridiculous.”

Morton alleged that Barbosa had pressed him to hire Perry Mitrano, the former solid waste supervisor for Bunnell, as the city of Palm Coast's garbage supervisor after meeting with the two men.

Barbosa denied that, saying he’d brought Mitrano to Morton to offer advice on the city’s solid waste issues, not to suggest that Morton hire him.

Mitrano said he was happily retired and wouldn't have even wanted the position.

"I was a very fortunate guy: I retired at 59," Mitrano said. "So I’m good, and I’m happy with what I’ve got going on. I don’t need the job; I don’t want the job."

He only met with Morton, he said, because Barbosa had asked Mitrano to offer some suggestions regarding the city's issues with Waste Pro.

"I was asked for my help," Mitrano said, "So we sat down and I gave Matt 45 years of experience in the trash business."

Asked about the allegations in Morton’s letter, the two remaining city council members — Nick Klufas and Eddie Branquinho — said they weren’t aware of Barbosa or Danko specifically asking for individual staff members to be fired.

But Branquinho said he believed Morton.

“I believe Mr. Morton’s statements,” Branquinho said after reading Morton’s email. “Mr. Morton never lied to me.”

Morton’s resignation had followed the May 18 resignation of then-Mayor Milissa Holland, who'd said she was stepping down due to her daughter's health issues.

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