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Thursday, November 11, 2021

Ocala HR director resignation is fourth major vacancy among city leadership roles since last summer

The City of Ocala will look to fill its fourth major vacancy among its executive leadership in just under a year and a half with the resignation of its human resources director this week.

On Tuesday, Jared Sorensen submitted a letter of resignation as the city’s director of Human Resources and Risk Management, just a few days after he was arrested and charged in a domestic battery incident.

Ocala-News.com made a public records request on Tuesday for a copy of the letter. As of the publication of this story, the letter has not yet been received.

City of Ocala Director of Human Resources arrested after domestic battery
Jared Sorensen resigned from his position as Ocala Human Resources Director a few days after he was arrested on domestic battery charges

Sorensen is the fourth high profile job vacancy that the city of Ocala has experienced since replacing City Manager John Zobler last summer with Sandra Wilson.

In October 2020, just a few months after Wilson was appointed, Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham was tragically killed in a plane accident. Mike Balken was appointed as his replacement last November.

In July, the city replaced former Ocala Fire Rescue chief Shane Alexander with its current chief, Clint Welborn. According to a termination letter written by Assistant City Manager Ken Whitehead in June, Alexander’s termination was attributed to, among other issues, his abuse of a company phone and loitering time.

After the termination, multiple Ocala City Council members, Mayor Kent Guinn, former and current fire rescue officials, and members of the community voiced concerns with the apparent lack of transparency in Alexander’s firing.

Ocala City Council president Justin Grabelle, who called the termination a “disgrace,” made a motion to terminate Wilson’s contract with the city during the council’s first meeting after the termination. That motion failed after three council members voted against it. 

For weeks, multiple residents including one former fire chief and the president of the firefighters union, as well as attorneys representing Alexander, issued public comments in support of the former chief.

Sandra Wilson Mike Balken Clint Welborn
Sandra Wilson, Mike Balken, and Clint Welborn all took over their respective positions within the past 18 months

Although the city’s official termination letter referred to multiple issues that were refuted by Alexander’s attorneys and city council members, many of the issues had occurred months, or even years, beforehand. Along with Grabelle, that led former city council member Matthew Wardell to label the reasons as meritless.

Additionally, three weeks before Alexander was terminated, an incident involving his ex-wife made national headlines when video surfaced of the woman destroying bottles and attacking an officer at an Outback in east Ocala, all while naked.

Now, the city will look to replace another top official in Sorensen, who resigned after a report surfaced that he was arrested for allegedly attacking his wife with a hair dryer.

Sorensen held his post as the city’s director of human resources and risk management for over a decade.

According to the city of Ocala organizational chart, his position and the director of the office of strategic engagement are the second highest ranking positions in the city’s hierarchy, trailing only city manager Sandra Wilson.

The next director will be responsible for managing tens of millions of dollars in salaries and wages to the thousands of employees that make up city staff.

Among the list of responsibilities assigned to the human resources director are the classification of all city positions, the creation of a pay plan for all city employees, and determining the “merit and fitness of candidates for appointment or promotion,” according to the Ocala City Charter.