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Palm Coast Thursday, Sep. 24, 2020 1 month ago

Jay Maher and Don Kewley are latest Palm Coast City Hall departures

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Maher had worked for the city for 18 years; Kewley for 1 year.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

Updated 11:34 a.m. Sept. 25

Jay Maher is the latest high-level city employee to leave City Hall, less than two weeks after Chief Innovation Officer Don Kewley resigned.

 

Maher retires

Maher worked for the city for 18 years, most recently as the compliance manager. In April 2020, he filed state ethics complaints, accusing the city of withholding public records from the media, and he believes he has been a target of city administration ever since.

Finally, he decided to give the city 12 days’ notice that he planned to retire on Sept. 22, saying in an email to the city that he was “sick of the harassment and the hostile work environment.” He turned in his equipment and transferred his employees.

"It is clear that these internal investigations which were opened only after I became a whistleblower were embarked upon with the motive of destroying my character and credibility," Maher wrote in an email to the city.

Meanwhile, City Manager Matt Morton said, Maher leaked public records to the media but refused to provide them to the city administration, breaking multiple policies and, potentially, laws. Morton attempted to terminate Maher on Sept. 21, following a report by an external investigator. In an email to the Palm Coast Observer on Sept. 24, Morton wrote that Maher’s departure “definitively closes yet another chapter in this saga waged by disgruntled employees/past employees who have clear political and personnel agendas.” However, Morton said later that day, the retirement was timed in such a way that it will stand, and Maher was not terminated.

“I guess we got played on that one,” Morton said.

Maher responded in a phone interview, saying that Morton’s attempt to fire him while he was retiring “goes to show what his character is. … [Morton] needs to be removed from office.”

 

Kewley resigns

Less than two weeks ago, Chief Innovation Officer Don Kewley resigned after one year in Palm Coast.

Prior to being hired by the city, he worked in Oregon and had been a candidate for the Palm Coast city manager position (the City Council ultimate selected Morton over him). With the encouragement of City Councilman Nick Klufas, Morton then hired Kewley in September 2019 to run the city’s FiberNET and other innovation initiatives.

On a recent Facebook post by mayoral candidate Alan Lowe, Morton criticized Kewley, saying he had failed “to complete any substantive progress” on his important assignments.

Kewley told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that he believed he had been forced out because “I didn’t wear a Salesforce banner on my back,” referring to the software solution used by Palm Coast Connect. Kewley previously told the Palm Coast Observer that he had been uncomfortable with the commingling of city initiatives and the interests of Coastal Cloud, the tech company that employs Mayor Milissa Holland.

Other key figures to leave the city since Morton was hired in April 2019 include two successive communications managers, Cindi Lane and Michael Schottey; Human Resources Director Debbie Streichsbier; Assistant City Manager Beau Falgout; and Head of Innovation Wynn Newingham.

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