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Palm Bay mayor calls for city manager’s resignation over COVID-19 communications

City manager says she disagrees with claims

Palm Bay City Manager Lisa Morrell
Palm Bay City Manager Lisa Morrell (Tim Shortt, Florida Today)

PALM BAY, Fla. – Palm Bay Mayor William Capote has requested City Manager Lisa Morrell’s resignation, citing communications during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

In a Monday "no confidence" letter, Capote said it is imperative that Palm Bay's city manager provide information and reports to the City Council and the public during the pandemic.

"Unfortunately, I have found the dissemination of information to the public to be atrocious," Capote wrote.

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“The messaging to the public has been muddled, and you have failed to be sufficiently proactive in communicating with the media and the press to ensure that important information is disseminated to the public in a timely manner," Capote wrote.

“For example, you provided information concerning the closure of City Hall to the public, while simultaneously providing policies to staff for visitors during the same time period,” he wrote.

Monday night, Morrell emailed a response to City Council members and other key Palm Bay administrators.

"I am receipt of the mayor’s letter and considered the request. At this time, I do not agree with the statements," Morrell wrote.

"I, with city staff, have been working tirelessly over this period to prepare staff and the community, in a rapid manner, to provide necessary information during this unprecedented crisis. This is the first notification I have received regarding the perceived lack of communications to the public," she wrote.

“There have been many public city news releases and advisements from state officials, federal agencies, and Brevard County Emergency Management to include dissemination to media outlets, the public, city staff, City Council,” she wrote.

Palm Bay ranks as the Space Coast's most populous city. Quirks with Brevard County's government communications with the public — including frequency and sense of urgency — have raised eyebrows during the new coronavirus pandemic.

Monday, Palm Bay City Hall launched an enhanced “Coronavirus Information and Resources” web page at palmbayflorida.org or pbfl.org/COVID19. Residents can register for electronic COVID-19 news and updates.

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Morrell made a video appearance on the web page, providing safety tips and information on the coronavirus.

Capote wrote a similar "no confidence" letter in April 2017, asking former City Manager Gregg Lynk to resign regarding a salary increase dispute. Lynk did not resign.

Council members fired Lynk shortly after the November 2018 elections, then hired Morrell as his replacement.

In a Monday night Facebook post, Councilman Brian Anderson said he has received many COVID-19 updates from Morrell, including calls on a regular basis regarding information and suggestions on how to get the word out.

"(In my opinion), the time is now to act as leaders and stand together, as no city has been through an event like this before. We continue to move forward and put Palm Bay’s residents first," Anderson wrote.

Tuesday morning, Councilman Jeff Bailey expressed confidence in Morrell's leadership during the COVID-19 event, saying "she continues rise to the challenge and to show she cares."

"The Brevard County Emergency Operations Center is the official informational clearinghouse during a declared local emergency. Mrs. Morrell regularly disseminates information from the EOC daily briefings, as well as from state health officials and our internal responses, via press releases, our website and other platforms," Bailey wrote.

“This is not the time for trivial politics. One doesn’t switch horses midstream during an emergency. I encourage politics to be placed aside and for us all to continue to move forward as a community during these unique and stressful times,” he wrote.

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