Mayor Peggy Noland is walking around Deerfield Beach today, chances are she's got a big grin on her face. That's because she's close to finishing a task she's been working on for nearly a year: the termination of City Manager Mike Mahaney. (Video here, on Chaz Stevens' Acts of Sedition.]
"In May, when I brought up the [city manager's] evaluation," I was ready then, Noland told me this afternoon. But she didn't have the votes. In particular, Commissioner Bill Ganz was just getting acclimated, and he wanted to give Mahaney a chance.
That chance ended last night, when Ganz made a motion to terminate Mahaney. This afternoon, I talked to Noland about the fireworks at the meeting and the long list of grievances she had against Mahaney.
There was never a honeymoon period between the two. Noland was offended that Mahaney didn't call her to congratulate her after she won election in March 2009. At their initial meeting, there was no breaking the ice. "When I first sat down with him, he was kind of condescending," says Noland. "I said, 'Gee, sorry Mike, but I'm going to be mayor for the next four years.' "
But mostly, the city's mayor and its city manager coexisted in City Hall the way miserable married couples share a home. At last night's meeting, Noland described how he'd close the door of his office the moment she arrived. It was that, or he'd leave City Hall altogether.
Noland says she would notice "little things" that demonstrated, by her reckoning, Mahaney's negligence, like Fourth of July banners that were slow to arrive to light poles. "All I'd have to do is drive into the parking lot of City Hall and I could see the city manager didn't take pride in what he was in charge with," says Noland. "Our parking lot looks like crap."
To Noland's consternation, Mahaney had a habit of parking in spaces reserved for visitors. "Those are for residents who have a quick errand, who want to go in to pay their water bill or whatever," says Noland. One day, she tucked a note under the windshield wiper. It said: "Since you're a visitor, I guess we don't have to pay you."
Her frustrations were boiling all through Christmas recess. She blames Mahaney's poor management for a bathroom on the beach that was locked when it shouldn't have been. The restaurant on the city's pier was closed at an hour in which it was supposed to be open, based on its contract with the city. The change machine was broken, creating havoc for people parking at the beach. The city employee who was supposed to rent umbrellas and lounge chairs hadn't shown up for work. "Where on Earth is my city manager?" Noland says of her reaction that day.
The two argued -- like over the note Noland put on Mahaney's car -- but none was as explosive as the one that occurred in full view of the public at last night's meeting. Mahaney accused Noland of holding a grudge against him based on his having demoted her husband, firefighter Howard Noland, from a union board. Noland shot back, "You're scum."
Asked about Mahaney's allegation, Noland said: "I swear, on my mother's and father's grave, when I got home, I said, 'Howard, when did he demote you?' [At the time that happened] I was enjoying life. That's how trivial it was. That's Howard's life."
For Mahaney to bring that up at a meeting, adds Noland, "that proved how unprofessional he is."
Not that she wants to be anything but a graceful winner in her rivalry with Mahaney. Noland's quick to add, "I don't wish him bad -- at all. I just think he had a hang-up with me."