Published: July 23, 2011
AVON PARK – Citing declining revenues of more than $700,000 since 2009 and increases in Avon Park’s pension and health insurance premiums, interim City Manager Julian Deleon has named police Lt. John King as interim public safety administrator as a cost-saving measure.
“Administrator King brings over 30 years of practical managerial experience. he previously worked for the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, for the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) and has worked for the city for over six months,” Deleon said in a recent letter to city employees. “He is an independent thinker and will be an asset in helping us through this … period, while adequately supporting the administrative needs for both city agencies.”
Deleon said Friday that the city’s initial plan called for having one administrator for the fire department and another for the police department, but that was scrapped in favor of a lone public safety administrator because of the budgetary challenges facing the city.
Naming King as administrator saves Avon Park money because he doesn’t have to hire a fire chief to oversee the fire department, Deleon said.
“I’m excited by the challenge of implementing the city’s desire to go to a public safety administrator’s style of management,” King said Friday. “I’m up for the challenge and look forward to the opportunity.”
King said he agreed to become administrator after Deleon asked him to accept the job. Although he made a bid several years ago to be the city’s police chief, becoming public safety administrator “certainly was not in my plans,” King said.
He will be paid an additional $1 an hour for “out of classification pay” and will remain as administrator until the police chief situation is resolved, Deleon said.
The raise adds another $40 a week to King’s annual salary of $51,000 a year, said City Clerk Cheryl Tietjen. If King stays in the job a year, that would amount to an annual salary of $53,080.
Police Chief Mike Rowan is suspended without pay and is being investigated by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney’s Office.
The investigations began after it came to light that Rowan had investigated several Avon Park City Council members and at least one city employee. Rowan forwarded his findings to the State Attorney’s Office. an investigator for the office conducted an inquiry and concluded that none of the employees had committed any ethical or criminal violations.
King’s position is “intended to be strictly administrative in nature, which would leave our fire captains in command over all technical matters associated with fire services; similarly, our police commander will continue in command over technical law enforcement matters,” Deleon wrote.
Deleon named King interim administrator after Cmdr. Jason Lister and Avon Fire Department Capt. David Cloud declined to be considered for the job.
On Friday, Deleon said Cloud was the de facto public safety administrator before he named King to the post. King’s appointment allows Cloud to return to his fire captain duties and “puts the fire department at full staffing,” Deleon said.
Although Rowan is on unpaid administrative leave, he remains chief and Lister is not the acting police chief.
King’s position is temporary but the “assignment will be evaluated, and could result in a permanent organizational restructure,” Deleon wrote.
“However, if this decision is made, the position would be properly advertised internally, offering all employees an opportunity to receive further consideration.”
Public safety services account for up to 60 percent of the city’s general fund budget, he wrote.
Other money-saving moves include consolidating the Streets and Parks divisions under the Public Works Department, he wrote.
In addition, “all city departments have given up vacant positions, and in some cases, currently-filled positions.
“The same measure is necessary for public safety,” wrote Deleon, who added that he named King as administrator “in order to attain a balanced budget for 2012 and avoid any further downsizing in staffing levels.”
The city’s health insurance premium payments have risen 15 percent, Deleon said.
Reach Robert Boyer at 386-5838