Two Anna Maria public works employees were fired Jan. 25 for removing two planks from the Anna Maria City Pier while on duty Jan. 19.
Peter Piir, a 10-year employee of the city, and Taylor Mannhart were dismissed from the public works department by their manager, Dean Jones, for removing planks.
Piir, said Jan. 25 that he and Mannhart pulled out planks to satisfy two plank sponsors.
Piir said he pulled a plank for Denise Raykov, a longtime friend in Holmes Beach, who lost her son Phillip Guttridge, a former city pier restaurant employee, in 2007 to pneumonia.
The plank was purchased by her parents, Bradenton Beach residents Richard and Jeanette Langer, and engraved as a memorial to her son. Piir said she was concerned the plank might be thrown out.
“I went out to look, saw it right away and pried it up,” he said.
Mannhart also removed a plank for an acquaintance, Piir said.
Mannhart declined Jan. 28 to comment.
Piir said that on Jan. 22 Jones called him to ask if he had taken the plank. Piir said he acknowledged he took the plank and told Jones he’d placed it in Raykov’s front yard.
Jones retrieved both Raykov’s plank and the plank taken by Mannhart, according to Piir.
On Jan. 24, Piir said he and Mannhart were asked to meet with Jones, deputy clerk Debbie Haynes and assistant public works manager Kevin Schoedel to answer questions about his actions.
The next day, Piir and Mannhart received termination notices.
Piir’s notice cited misappropriation of city property and exercising poor judgment.
Mannhart’s cited misappropriation of city property, exercising poor judgment and an overall unsatisfactory work record.
“If I knew this would happen I would have asked, but I figured it wasn’t a big deal because it was going to be torn down,” Piir said.
Piir said during the questioning Jan. 24 he was told he had trespassed on the pier, but “it’s not like I was a citizen.” Piir said he and other public works staff routinely worked on the pier.
Mayor Dan Murphy said the city views the pier “as sacred territory.”
“It’s our responsibility to safeguard those planks because we know people have attached sentimental value to the planks,” he said.
Raykov said Jan. 27 that she felt “absolutely terrible” about Piir’s termination.
She said she asked him to retrieve the plank because it had “a big crack along the top,” and she was worried it would be destroyed rather than returned.
Raykov said her father emailed the city asking for the family’s plank to be returned. However, she said she began “hearing different stories,” including the possibility that some planks would be destroyed.
In a letter emailed Jan. 25 to Mayor Dan Murphy and signed by Raykov and her parents, Richard and Jeanette Langer of Bradenton Beach, they asked the city to consider a “less drastic measure” for Piir.
The email said Piir “is a stand up guy.… We don’t think he should be penalized in this manner for trying to do a good deed.”
“Now I’m worried about my plank because without Pete working there, I don’t know where it is,” Raykov said.
Pier planks, sponsors raise ruckus in Anna Maria
Requests for planks from the Anna Maria City Pier are causing a ruckus at Anna Maria City Hall.
More than 25 calls a day have been coming in regarding the planks, Mayor Dan Murphy announced at a city commission meeting Jan. 25.
The calls, the result of the city’s temporary offer allowing sponsors of engraved planks to request retrieval of the planks, overwhelmed city administrators before it ended Jan. 26
“We’re trying to get financials done, run reports and it’s a constant interruption of ‘plank-callers.’ I’m glad the program ends Friday,” Murphy said on a Thursday.
In their Jan. 5 meeting, commissioners approved the mayor’s proposal to allow sponsors to claim planks and to build a memorial fence with the remainder.
Commissioner Doug Copeland thought about 10 percent of plank sponsors might want their planks.
The real number is more than double that, Murphy said.
The engraved planks were offered as a sponsorship by The Islander newspaper in partnership with pier management for the 2010-11 pier centennial celebration.
The influx of plank requests also is complicated by multiple people requesting the same plank.
“The daughter from Seattle and the son from Dallas are arguing over who should get the plank. And then the mother-in-law might call from Virginia and say, ‘hold on,’ don’t give it to either one, I paid for it,” Murphy said, adding that the city has no payment records from the sale of the planks.
The city is allowing claims on a first-come-first-served basis, Murphy said at the meeting.
Murphy said that considering the volume of work created by the planks, a contract employee may be needed to organize and return the planks — a plank administrator, he said.
Copeland said the pier planks appear to have cost the city “a fair amount of money” already, adding that the city should consider implementing an administrative fee for retrieving the sponsor planks.
— Bianca Benedí