Pier plank firings reversed

AM pier firings
Peter Piir

ANNA MARIA – Peter Piir and Taylor Mannhart are once again working for the city of Anna Maria.

They returned to work on Friday, Feb. 23, after being reinstated by Mayor Dan Murphy. They were fired on Jan. 25 for removing engraved planks from the Anna Maria City Pier without permission, which was deemed misappropriation of city property.

After being fired, Piir told The Sun he meant no harm and simply wanted to remove a cracked plank that memorialized his friend Denise Raykov’s deceased son, Phil Guttridge. The planks Piir and Mannhart removed are now in the city’s possession.

Disciplinary letters Murphy issued to Piir and Mannhart the day before they returned to work revealed new details that were not available when the firings occurred.

The letter issued to Piir referenced subsequent meetings he and Murphy had on Feb. 14 and 20.

“New information was brought to my attention. Specifically, at some point immediately following the storm (Hurricane Irma), other city employees removed memorabilia and memorial benches from the pier. You had indicated on Feb. 20 that you were aware of this activity but failed to mention it until that meeting,” Murphy’s letter to Piir said.

“During our meeting on Feb. 14, you accused your supervisor (Public Works Manager Dean Jones) of possessing stolen city equipment. As to the matter of theft, these accusations were discussed with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department and subsequently investigated. No evidence was found to substantiate your allegation,” the letter said.

“As to your action on Jan. 19 which led to your discharge, the circumstances of your actions differ somewhat from the new information brought to my attention last week. I would have reached a different conclusion had these new facts been known at that time,” the letter said.

“You knew the commission approved a program to remove and return the planks. You stated that your motivation to remove the plank was a result of your lack of confidence in the contractor to adequately remove planks. You then took it upon yourself to remove the plank even though you did not ask permission from your supervisor to leave your job assignment. In view of the new information received, it is my opinion that you did not understand you were misappropriating city property. As a result, you are being afforded this opportunity to return to the employment of the city,” the letter said.

The disciplinary letter issued to Mannhart also mentioned other city employees removing pier memorabilia and memorial benches.

“Although the circumstances of those events differ from those associated with your actions, it is my belief that I would have reached a different conclusion than discharge had they been known in your situation. In view of this new information received, it is not my opinion that you understood you were intentionally misappropriating city property,” the letter to Mannhart said.

Rehiring responses

During public comment at the Thursday, Feb. 22, City Commission meeting, former Anna Maria Commissioner Gene Aubry referenced the reinstatements and the petitions circulated in support of Piir and Mannhart.

“On behalf of my friend Sandy Rich, myself and 183 citizens all I want to do is say thank you very much for what you’ve done,” Aubry said.

On Friday, Murphy was asked if the petitions played role in his decision to rehire Piir and Mannhart.

“Absolutely not. This was just new information that came up,” he said.

When contacted Sunday, Piir said, “I was happy to get my job back and I really appreciate everyone signing the petition. I’m going to go back and work as hard as I used to.”

“I think it’s great and well-deserved. We appreciate everyone’s concern and input. I am still hoping that I see my plank somewhere sentimental to us, as my son would love it,” Raykov said.

Related coverage

Too severe

Plank removal leads to firings