After discussing the agenda for next week’s regular monthly meeting, the Mexico Beach City Council erupted into heated conversation over Deborah McLeod’s resignation as City Clerk.
Since the position became available the city received 19 job applications but didn’t feel that the candidates had the necessary experience.
Mayor Al Cathey shared his thoughts on the situation at hand.
“Nothing bothered me more than the resignation of Ms. McLeod,” he said, “Some people think we need an investigation, but I think we need a mirror.”
Cathey questioned why McLeod, an employee of seven years who had been through many council changes would suddenly resign citing, “harassment and bullying” as the reason.
He worried about how these actions would look to anyone interviewing for the vacant position.
He proposed a question to the members of the council, and asked, “How do we want to run our community? What’s our style?”
He went on to speak about Group Four councilmember Tanya Castro’s interactions with the former city clerk.
“Her demeanor was cold and cruel. Castro’s style is to micro-manage and micro-criticize and micro-chastise. That’s not my style,” Cathey said.
Cathey felt that McLeod was treated in a “way she didn’t deserve” and told the council and audience that he didn’t feel the solution to finding a new city clerk was to put an ad in the newspaper “and just get another one.”
Castro made several attempts to interrupt Cathey but he continued, citing a letter written by a female candidate that “wants to aid Castro in bringing professionalism back to the city.”
Group Three candidate Mary Blackburn stood up and disputed ever sending any such letter and demanded proof.
Cathey questioned how Castro’s attitude toward McLeod could be considered professional.
“Why are we looking for a new city clerk?” asked Cathey, “We had a good one.”
Cathey proposed approaching McLeod to ask her to reconsider her resignation.
Council members Lanny Howell, Bobby Pollock and Jack Mullen agreed. Castro offered no support for having McLeod reconsider.
“I took an oath to do a job. I ask questions to make sure I have all the information I need in order to govern,” responded Castro.
She stated that her style was “open and transparent” and encouraged the other members of the council to act the same way.
Pollock stated that in her first nine months in office, Castro had done a great job, but shared that she had told him privately that, “Chris [Hubbard] and Debbie ought to be fired for shacking up together.”
Castro responded to the allegations calling them false and sought to understand why McLeod’s concerns weren’t brought to her attention prior to the resignation and confirmed that several other councilmembers knew about them.
As bickering between Pollock and Castro quieted, Cathey hesitantly opened the floor to public comments.
One citizen claimed that Castro had visited her house and made derogatory comments about McLeod.
Another told the council that by not doing anything to stop the alleged harassment they “were treating enemies better than each other.”
Yet another questioned why the meeting was being used as a “let’s pick on Tanya night.”
“It’s a bunch of he said-she said and the city deserves better leadership,” said Castro in her final comment of the night.
Cathey closed the meeting and apologized for “airing the council’s dirty laundry” but felt it was necessary in order to move forward.
Council members decided to share their feelings with McLeod and ask her to reconsider her resignation.
Job applications for the city clerk position would be reviewed at a special meeting at 3 p.m. CT today.