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Saturday, May 14, 2022

Ocala City Manager Sandra Wilson fired during city council meeting

Ocala City Manager Sandra Wilson was fired in a 3-2 vote during the Ocala City Council regular meeting on Tuesday.

The termination of Wilson’s contract was not on the agenda, and council member Barry Mansfield introduced the topic at the end of Tuesday’s meeting. A motion was made by Mansfield to terminate her contract, and the motion was seconded by council member James Hilty.

Ocala city manager Sandra Wilson fired
City manager Sandra Wilson was fired during the Ocala City Council meeting on Tuesday

Mansfield referenced a recent city auditor’s report which addressed a whistleblower complaint that was made by a city employee. The auditor was critical of management’s handling of contracts, including the failure to address the expiration of a contract in a timely manner.

“We’re held to a higher standard here. We’re not the private sector,” said Mansfield.

Council member Kristen Dreyer stated that she read numerous surveys from city employees, and those comments were “indicative of a lack of leadership.” She stated that one employee described a “toxicity of the city management team (that) seeps down to the employees.”

“It’s a bad look,” said Dreyer.

“I, too, have seen a lack of leadership,” said Hilty. He stated that he was handed a box “piled high” with surveys from city employees which listed numerous complaints about management.

Council president Ire Bethea, Sr. told the council members that they have not allowed Wilson to do her job without “micromanaging her.”

Council member Jay Musleh stated that he could see everyone’s point of view. He felt that Wilson never got a fair shake since day one, and he added that the allegations in the report did not warrant termination.

After discussion amongst council members, a vote was held on whether or not to terminate Wilson’s contract. Mansfield, Dreyer, and Hilty voted in favor of termination while Bethea and Musleh provided the two dissenting votes.

In July of 2021, a motion to terminate Wilson’s contract was narrowly defeated in a 3-2 vote. This motion came on the heels of the firing of former Ocala Fire Rescue Chief Shane Alexander. On at least one more occasion, council members attempted to terminate her contract, but those attempts were unsuccessful prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Wilson came to the city of Ocala in January of 2000 and assumed the role of human resources director. She led the human resources department in Ocala for 11 years. After her time at the head of that department, she transitioned to the City Manager’s Office as chief of staff before becoming assistant, and then deputy, City Manager.

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting, Wilson said, “I appreciate the opportunities that have been provided to me as the City Manager of this awesome city. It’s been a great experience. I’ve been with the city for 22 years and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Pete Lee has been appointed as the interim City Manager.