Two men fired from the Anna Maria Public Works Department in January were hired back Feb. 22 following the revelation that other city employees also took memorabilia, engraved planks and memorial benches, from the city pier.
Peter Piir and Taylor Mannhart, who were fired Jan. 25 for removing two planks from the Anna Maria City Pier without city permission — although at the behest of plank sponsors — were rehired almost a month after their departure, according to the city’s personnel records.
In letters addressed to Piir and Mannhart, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy explained that Piir had informed him during meetings on Feb. 14 and Feb. 20 that other city employees took memorabilia and a bench from the pier.
In light of the revelations, Murphy wrote, “It is my opinion that you did not understand you were misappropriating city property.”
Piir also alleged a supervisor was in possession of city equipment and another employee used marijuana while on duty.
But Murphy’s letter said no evidence was found to substantiate Piir’s claims.
Murphy said Feb. 23 he had no comment on the decision and reasserted a previous statement that he would not publicly discuss employee records.
On Jan. 19, while on duty, Piir and Mannhart removed engraved planks from the pier at the request of friends who sponsored planks.
The city discovered Jan. 21 that the planks had been removed. After confirming with Piir and Mannhart that they had removed the planks, public works manager Dean Jones retrieved the city property from the sponsors who had requested and received planks.
Jones, assistant manager Kevin Schoedel and deputy clerk Debbie Haynes interviewed Piir and Mannhart Jan. 24 regarding the incidents.
The next day, Piir was fired for misappropriation of city property and exercising poor judgment. Mannhart was fired for misappropriation of city property, exercising poor judgment and an overall unsatisfactory work record.
In response to the firings, former Commissioner Gene Aubry and Anna Maria resident Sandra Rich turned in a petition in early February containing nearly 200 signatures that asked the city to reconsider the action to fire the two men.
Bradenton Beach residents Richard and Jeanette Langer, who had sponsored one of the removed planks, also wrote an email to the city on Piir’s behalf, requesting officials reinstate his employment.
Aubry alluded to the petition and the decision to rehire Piir and Mannhart Feb. 22 in public comments during a city commission meeting. “On behalf of Sandy Rich and myself and 183 citizens, thank you very much,” he said, without expanding.
In September 2017, Hurricane Irma passed through Anna Maria Island, leaving the already-damaged pier “totally destroyed” according to the terms of the city lease. The pier has been closed since September pending a rebuild project. The engraved planks will be removed as part of the rebuild.
The city allowed sponsors to request their plank until Jan. 26. Any remaining engraved planks will be stored by local contractor Frank Agnelli until public works employees can retrieve those planks and build memorial fences at City Pier Park at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, and at the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.
In their letter to the city, the Langers said they had requested Piir retrieve a plank because they were concerned it would be damaged during the scheduled removal and possibly it would be thrown out.