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City manager calls for Barnas to resign

W_-_Langman_Press_Conference_DSCF6068_copyHIGH SPRINGS – After working as the High Springs City Manager since Nov. 29, 2011, Jeri Langman held a press conference on Friday, June 8, 2012 to announce that Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas has repeatedly violated the city’s charter over the course of his time in elected office. Speaking to approximately 50 people, Langman called for Barnas’ resignation.

Citing Section 2.04 in the City Charter, Langman said that Barnas overstepped his authority as a commissioner.

“Therefore, as a result of Vice-Mayor Barnas’ repeated refusal to follow the law of the Charter of High Springs, I am calling for him to do the right thing and step down from his position as High Springs Commissioner immediately,” Langman said.

On Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Barnas said the accusations made by Langman were unfounded and that he had no intention of stepping down as a commissioner.

“It’s all up to her what she wants to do,” Barnas said, after stating that the issue was last week’s news.

After Langman spoke with Mayor Dean Davis about the charter violations, he said the issue will be discussed during Thursday’s regularly scheduled commission meeting. The mayor was unsure how the situation would be handled because severe accusations had been lodged by both parties.

“I respect both sides,” he said, “and I think the only way to deal with it is to let the attorney tell us what is legal.”

Within the Charter, the rules clearly state that the mayor shall operate as a figurehead and have no administrative duties other than those necessary to accomplish tasks of process, ceremonial matters and execution of contracts, deeds and other documents.

The city manager, Langman stated during the press conference, has the power to direct and supervise the administration of all departments of the city.

“Since I was appointed city manager, Vice-Mayor Barnas has attempted to run the day-to-day operations of the City of High Springs by directing me to take various actions,” Langman said. “He is a rogue commissioner.”

According to Commissioner Sue Weller, Langman is bringing attention to what has been going on within the walls of City Hall.

“I’m not surprised,” Weller said. “I’ve seen emails showing what she’s talking about.”

During the conference, Langman detailed several accounts of Barnas using his powers as a commissioner to accomplish goals not approved by the commission. In February, Barnas allegedly attempted to exclude former High Springs City Planner Christian Popoli from meetings regarding the city’s sewer system. Throughout the month of February, Langman said Barnas and High Springs City Commissioner Linda Gestrin asked her to fire Popoli.

“Because I refused to fire [Popoli], Vice-Mayor Barnas manipulated the budget to eliminate Christian’s position,” Langman said during the press conference. Since beginning her job as city manager, Langman has kept a record of Barnas’ violations, which include berating city employees, directing Langman to fire employees and carrying out instructions not decided on by the Commission.

Langman intends to contact the State Attorney and Governor’s Office to file a formal complaint.

However, not everyone in attendance agreed with Langman’s allegations.

“Usually when you walk in, make a statement and walk out, you have something to hide,” Bob Hallman said, referring to the lack of time available for the press and residents to ask questions of the city manager during the meeting.

Joyce Hallman questioned whether High Springs should be operating under a city manager form of government. With the regulations surrounding the city manager government, commissioners have their hands tied, and taxpayers cannot hold them responsible, Joyce said.

Resident Linda Hewlett said she was not surprised by the announcement because of emails she has received from Barnas.

“I think that Mr. Barnas is required to follow City Charter, just as he expected past commissioners to follow the rules and regulations,” Hewlett said.

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