A mayoral appointee who worked as a manager in the fire department after he was replaced as a department head resigned last week amid growing criticism from City Council members, who already stripped funding for his six-figure salary and called for his termination.
Terrance Ashanta-Barker, who served as the city’s emergency preparedness manager after he was removed in March as the head of the Neighborhoods Department, sent a brief resignation letter to the city on Friday. Ashanta-Barker didn’t say why he was stepping down.
David DeCamp, spokesman for the Mayor Alvin Brown, said his resignation became effective on Friday.
“We appreciate Terrance Ashanta-Barker’s service to the city, and we wish him the best going forward,” DeCamp said. DeCamp said Brown wouldn’t comment on the resignation.
Ashanta-Barker couldn’t be reached for comment.
Before he was appointed in 2012, Ashanta-Barker was a managing partner for a law firm in Cincinnati. He attended law school at Florida State University and worked as an attorney in Orlando between 1996 and 2001.
Since his tenure with the city began, some council members said they lost faith in his ability to manage a department. Some complained that he was inaccessible, while others recall times he provided misleading answers to their questions.
More recently, council members have questioned whether he was qualified for his new job in the Emergency Preparedness department, a $130,000-a-year position he received after he was replaced as head of the Neighborhoods Department when the division was reorganized.
Ashanta-Barker’s resume on file with the city lists no experience in the emergency preparedness field.
After learning of his new job in August, the council Finance Committee voted to use the funding for his position to hire six new 911 emergency dispatchers. However, the council lacks the power to terminate specific employees, and Ashanta-Barker kept his job.
In early October, Councilman Matt Schellenberg called for Brown to terminate Ashanta-Barker, saying Fire Chief Martin Senterfitt told him that the department found funding for his position by keeping several vacant positions unfilled.
Schellenberg said his issues with Ashanta-Barker span back to August 2012, when the council Rules committee interviewed him ahead of a vote to confirm his appointment.
Schellenberg asked Ashanta-Barker if he was connected to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Ashanta-Barker answered no.
Schellenberg then asked Ashanta-Barker if his wife had a connection to the South Florida congresswoman, and Ashanta-Barker told the committee he was married to her chief-of-staff, Tracie Pough.
Schellenberg said that was not a good start to his relationship with council.
“I knew the answer before I asked it, and I think if you’re not honest with us right off the bat, I’m not sure how trustworthy he’ll be going forward,” Schellenberg.
Schellenberg said he soon began hearing Ashanta-Barker wasn’t spending much time in City Hall.
Councilman John Crescimbeni said he began noticing Ashanta-Barker wouldn’t show up to council committee meetings, which he said is an important responsibility for department heads.
“I didn’t see him for eight months,” Crescimbeni said. “I think that absence became a glaring problem that you could just not avoid seeing, and I really think that was the beginning of the deterioration between Mr. Barker and council members.”
Council President Clay Yarborough said there were several times when Ashanta-Barker gave the council misleading answers to questions, which “concerned” him.
After his departure from the Neighborhoods Department, Ashanta-Barker received a job in the city’s Emergency Preparedness department.
Despite council’s criticism of that move, Emergency Preparedness Director Steve Woodard defended Ashanta-Barker, saying he had “extensive background” in management that made him a valued addition to the division.
Still, Yarborough said Brown’s administration mishandled the situation.
“I have no ill-will towards Mr. Barker, and I hope he’ll find something that he needs and that is good for him and his situation,” Yarborough said. “I don’t like the way city management handled that, placing someone in a job just to give someone a job. I don’t think that’s the way to do business, and ultimately, that was the mayor’s decision.”
Ashanta-Barker will not receive a severance package, said Alexis Lambert of the Mayor’s Office.
Christopher Hong: (904) 359-4272