By Mary Hladky
A dispute between the Boca Raton City Council and City Manager Leif Ahnell spilled into public view last month — an incident that was notable because such disagreements are exceedingly rare.
It was fueled by Ahnell’s decision to stop sending daily police department reports to council members. They wanted Ahnell to resume the practice; he resisted.
City residents usually never know when the council has a beef with the city manager. The matter is broached in one-on-one meetings between a council member and Ahnell and is worked out behind the scenes.
But Yvette Drucker, the council’s newest member, breached that unofficial protocol at a March 8 council meeting when she told Ahnell she wanted to continue receiving the reports. She also had made the request in an earlier meeting with him.
Drucker, who was appointed to the council in October 2020 and elected to office the following March, told The Coastal Star that she was “triggered” to speak out at the meeting after two residents of the Dixie Manor public housing complex told the council that they were concerned about safety. Their concerns were sparked by media reports that a Dixie Manor resident had been arrested and charged on Feb. 17 in the March 2021 rape of a 13-year-old girl who was staying in a vacant apartment in the complex. Residents said they were not told about the crime or arrest.
“When it comes to safety and certain things that are happening in our community, I really would like to see that report back in my inbox,” Drucker told Ahnell. “I feel really strongly about it.”
Mayor Scott Singer and council member Monica Mayotte agreed.
“I would like to see that come back in my inbox,” Mayotte said. “We should be in the know.”
Ahnell said he had been providing the “internal operational reports” as a courtesy. “A lot of work goes into preparing that and editing those,” he said. “So I have discontinued those.”
Asked by Singer what he meant, Ahnell said, “I don’t believe I am obligated to provide those to the council on a daily basis.”
“We are requesting that you do so,” Singer said.
“That is a lot of work,” Ahnell said. “With everything else the council requests, I can’t guarantee we are going to continue to provide those.”
“I would encourage you to consider what you might do to facilitate the goal,” Singer said. “We will leave it for your consideration.”
The matter was resolved days later — in private. Drucker said that Ahnell had called and told her that council members not only will get the reports, but they will contain more data, such as on the number of speeding violations.
Very pleased with this outcome, Drucker said she considered the dispute to be a “one-off.”
“I don’t think he knew how important it was to us,” she said.
Ahnell, who has served as city manager since 1999 and is expected to retire in 2024, has been held in high regard by council members for years. He consistently receives superlative performance reviews.
“I am moving on,” Drucker said. “No apologies are necessary.”