Lynn Dannheisser, Surfside’s town attorney since September 2008, vacated her position Tuesday night citing differences with the town’s manager, Roger Carlton, and a feeling that she could no longer adequately carry out her duties.
Carlton said he is aware that while the pace of work has increased, it is the town commission that decides what items get in the monthly agenda. And he said that Dannheisser’s budget was sufficient for her to hire more help.
Commissioners Michelle Kligman and Joe Graubart said they were baffled by her sudden decision.
“I don’t know that this serves our town’s best interests,” Graubart said. “Is it the volume of work? What precipitated this?”
Kligman pressed further by asking “How did this come about?”
Dannheisser, 60, did not wish to publicly discuss the matter but acquiesced “out of respect for the commissioners.” She then suggested they immediately fire her after she made her statement.
She said that she was having difficulty keeping up with the rapid pace of items that come before the commission for approval and are then passed on to her to research and prepare for the commission’s consideration.
“There is no time to ask questions, no time to think. There is a process involved and it takes time. No rational solo attorney can do this,” Dannheisser said. “I cannot function as an attorney and protect the town and protect the residents when my job is disparaged and disrespected.”
Surfside has recently gone through a dramatic expansion, with four new construction projects that include hotels and condos.
Dannheisser cited as an example a statement purportedly made by Carlton before the commission in December that documentation for an upcoming construction project in town had been completed. Dannheisser, who was not at that meeting due to an illness, said Tuesday that the documentation had not been completed at the time.
“I cannot function when untrue statements like that are made,” she said.
Dannheisser also told the commission that there must be some coordination between the town manager and the town attorney. “There is a misalignment between our offices and that needs to be addressed.”
Carlton, who will be retiring in April, fired back, saying that he was being defamed in public and in front of the news media. He also had some words for the commission.
“For months and months, I’ve asked this commission to set priorities. I’ve asked you if you wanted me to go faster or slow the pace down. This commission has not reached a consensus about the pace,” he said. “In fact, it has increased.”
In January 2011, Dannheisser was a top contender for the position of Coral Gables city attorney. She told The Miami Herald that she had applied for the position because the Coral Gables mayor at the time, Don Slesnick, had asked her to apply. In February, she withdrew her name from consideration citing, among other things, her “happy relationship with [Surfside’s] commission and new manager, Roger Carlton.” She also said she looked forward to working at a more rapid clip because of new projects happening in town.
When contacted by The Herald on Wednesday about the letter, Dannheisser said that at the time, there was “lots of catching up do to in town. We needed a manager to bring about quick changes. Roger was the one to do it. I didn’t mind the rapid pace.