BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON LISTENING CAREFULLY — On her last night on the job and her last assignment as Orange City’s clerk, Melani Beringer takes notes of the City Council’s deliberations. Beringer submitted her resignation just hours before the council convened in regular session Feb. 22. Beringer’s letter gave no reasons for leaving, but City Manager Dale Arrington said there were questions about whether the city followed public-notice requirements for the adoption of new ordinances. Beringer became city clerk in 2020.

In a surprise development, Orange City is now looking for a new clerk.

Melani Beringer’s abrupt decision raises questions about why she stepped down. Also, whatever led up to her hasty departure raises questions about the validity of some City Council actions over the past several months.

The bombshell came toward the end of the City Council’s Feb. 22 meeting, when City Attorney William Reischmann announced that Beringer and senior administrative staffers had negotiated a separation, following Beringer’s submittal of a letter of resignation earlier in the day.

“This is a proposal. This is a request,” Reischmann told the council.

Beringer’s request to resign did not appear on the meeting agenda.

“It is with regret that I tender my resignation as City Clerk of Orange City, effective February 22, 2022,” she wrote.

Her letter gave no reasons for wanting to leave the $60,000-per-year post she has held for about a year-and-a-half. Beringer sat silently as the City Council considered her request.

“I really don’t want to talk about it,” she told The Beacon after the meeting was over, when asked why she had resigned.

City Manager Dale Arrington, however, said Beringer had raised questions about steps taken to bring ordinances to the council for action.

“The problem is that a number of our ordinances were not advertised in accordance with state law. We’re going to find the problems and correct them,” Arrington added. “We’re still assessing which ordinances were incorrectly done. Our recent ordinance on redistricting was not properly advertised. We will need to bring it back to council again.”

The redistricting was also supposed to have been completed and submitted to the Volusia County Department of Elections by February so the Elections Office could draw new precinct lines, if necessary.

Arrington said she had spoken with Elections Supervisor Lisa Lewis regarding the delay, and that Lewis had extended the deadline to April 1.

The redistricting ordinance, drafted following the release of refined population data gathered in the 2020 census, set new boundaries for Orange City’s five council districts for the municipal elections of 2022 and the balance of the decade.

“I went to Ms. Beringer and asked her about the process for advertising our ordinances, because I was concerned we may have missed our advertisements,” Arrington told The Beacon. “The Florida Statutes and the city code both require us to advertise the ordinances 10 days prior to adoption on second reading.”

It is unclear how any alleged legal-advertising deficiencies may affect the City Council’s actions. Arrington estimated there may have been “10 or 15 ordinances that were not properly advertised.”

“We have a lot of legal research to do on this issue,” Arrington also said.

In any event, Beringer’s letter included her request for a severance package.

The package, which was ratified by the City Council, provides for payment of her salary through May 20 in a lump sum of $14,479.20 to be paid on March 2. Beringer also is asking for a payment of $2,253.83 for accrued leave, and she will receive city-paid health insurance through March.

The council voted 5-1 to accept Beringer’s resignation and severance request. Council Member Bill O’Connor was the lone objector. Council Member Martin Harper was absent.

“I didn’t object to her resigning. I was voting against the terms,” O’Connor said afterward.

Asked if he had known in advance about Beringer’s resignation, City Council Member Jeff Allebach replied, “Yes, about 5 o’clock.”

Orange City must now begin searching for Beringer’s successor. Until a permanent replacement is hired, Orange City Finance Director Christina Davis will double as city clerk.

The City Council chose Beringer as clerk in 2020, following the retirement of former Clerk Gloria Thomas. Beringer worked for four years as an assistant clerk prior to her appointment to the top position.

The city clerk is the custodian of the city’s official records, including the minutes of the meetings of the city’s elected and appointed boards and committees, as well as the ordinances and resolutions approved by the council. The clerk also handles the election of the mayor and City Council members.

Arrington concluded by pledging her administration has and will continue to make right any procedural failings regarding adoption of Orange City laws and policies.

“The City Council has taken the actions appropriate to handle this situation and is committed to allowing citizens the right and opportunity to voice their opinion on all issues including the ordinances in question. The City is dedicated to being open and transparent with our citizens,” Arrington wrote in a statement released Feb. 23.

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