Belleair Beach city manager accuses mayor of creating ‘hostile work environment’

City Manager Lynn Rives, left, leveled a series of accusations against Mayor Joseph Manzo, right, saying he had concerns over Manzo’s “continuing hostility and interference in city operations.”

BELLEAIR BEACH — Tensions between the mayor and city manager boiled over at the Dec. 2 City Council meeting.

Declaring he had “had enough,” City Manager Lynn Rives leveled a series of accusations against Mayor Joseph Manzo, saying he had concerns over Manzo’s “continuing hostility and interference in city operations.” This, Rives said, “has created a hostile work environment.”

In a prepared statement made during the city officials’ comments section at the end of the agenda, Rives made a series of blistering accusations against the mayor, which he said were backed with documentation.

Rives said over the past several months “I have endured accusations, avoidance, harassment and interference” from a member of this council, whom he soon identified as the mayor.

Some incidents Rives said he has documented include Manzo’s “contacting local agencies for the city, making purchases without approval, derogatory comments towards me and other staff, and threats to me and my family.”

“This has negatively affected and diverted staff resources from efficient daily operations,” Rives said.

Rives concluded, “Going forward, I will continue to do my job to the best of my ability and take care of the business of Belleair Beach. However, I cannot allow the hostile work environment and interference in city operations to continue.”

Rives also mentioned “the interference of Ms. (June) VanScoyoc,” chairman of the Park and Recreation Board, who is Manzo’s girlfriend.

“I’ve talked to several of you and told you about this over the last several months, and it’s still continuing,” Rives said. “I feel that the council needs to step up as a group, and going forward, I’m going to listen to the council as a whole, not the council of one.”

Manzo, an attorney, said Rives made a legal accusation.

“I take it quite seriously, and he’s wrong,” Manzo said, “and that’s nothing new.”

Manzo asked City Attorney Fred Reilly to prepare information on the definition of a hostile work environment and to share it with the council.

“Mr. Rives wants to send out (backup) paperwork to people on this council. It will be met with paperwork. I would suggest, in the interest of the holiday season, that he refrain from doing that, because I have paperwork too,” Manzo said.

“My paperwork is about things you haven’t done that you were supposed to do. This council’s job is to oversee what you do,” Manzo said, referring to Rives. “You manage the city, but you work for this council.”

“So, Mr. Rives, I’m going to offer you the olive branch,” Manzo said. “Send out your papers if you will, and they will be met with papers. Or knock it off, and you and I will work together.”

Manzo said, “You and I have tried to work together in the past, and every time I’ve extended that olive branch, I’ve had it rammed up my butt. And I’m getting tired of it.”

Manzo concluded by saying he won’t have his name besmirched “because I’m trying to do well for this town, along with my girlfriend, June. I’m tired of it, and I’m tired of personal attacks. So knock it off.”

Council members are given the opportunity at all meetings to make closing remarks, which are usually inconsequential. This time, each official touched on Rives’ remarks without going into detail. Most had praise for Rives and the job he is doing running the city. Council members also spoke of the need to resolve differences and work together.

Council member Robyn Ache told Rives she appreciates everything he has done for the city.

“I think this council could work better together to make sure that we all get along,” Ache said.

Council Member Marvin Behm said he knows there has been a lot of work done by the city manager and the council, and there are a lot of things that have been neglected for years.

“We can’t do everything at once,” he said. “Let’s try to cut the tension if we can.”

Council Member Dave Gattis said the council has “much more to accomplish” in 2020. “We’re headed in the right direction, but we have some wrinkles to iron out.”

Council Member Jody Shirley said she and Rives are working together on a couple of projects.

“I appreciate the time you spend with me, and I completely support you,” she told Rives. “Any time you need to reach out to me, feel free to. I feel your pain sometimes; so I understand.”

Council member Rita Swope said Rives has done “a tremendous job. Every time I’ve needed your help, you’ve been there, as well as all of our city staff.”

Rives is “a superior tactical guy. He can get this stuff done,” said council member Glenn Gunn. “When it comes to how many balls you can keep in the air at one time, and leveraging his network, I’ve never seen a guy work as smoothly as Lynn Rives. We’re supposed to give (Rives) direction, not micromanage him.”

Earlier in the meeting, during the public comments section of the agenda, former Mayor Rudy Davis called on Manzo to resign. Davis cited the confrontation in the parking lot after last month’s council meeting that occurred between Manzo and a resident couple, Richard Colucci and his wife Barbara. Barbara Colucci is the town clerk of Belleair Shore.

Davis said he had read the police report from the incident following the November council meeting, and “I was appalled at the threats of violence, the profane language used, and the disparaging remarks … This is inexcusable behavior for anyone who represents our city. Therefore, I am asking for the immediate resignation of Mr. Manzo as the mayor of Belleair Beach.”

Manzo’s response to Davis’ call on him to resign was, “No.”