Fireworks during commission meeting over recent departure of police chief

Lady Lake Police Chief Chris McKinstry

There were fireworks Wednesday night over the recent departure of the police chief in Lady Lake.

Chief of Police Chris McKinstry abruptly resigned last month, prompting many in the community to speculate about what really happened.

The curtain got pulled back a little during Lady Lake Commission’s meeting, postponed from Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Commissioner Dan Vincent led the charge against Town Manager Kris Kollgaard, who admitted a clash of personalities with the former police chief.

Vincent accused Kollgaard of “micromanaging” town employees, including the former chief, a longtime law enforcement professional.

“You’re a very poor manager,” Vincent said to Kollgaard, uncomfortably seated right next to him.

He went so far as to accuse her of lying.

However, Kollgaard stood her ground.

“There were professional differences we could not work out,” she told the commissioners and members of the audience.

Kollgaard said she contacted the five commissioners ahead of a pivotal final meeting with the chief. She described what she said to each of the commissioners.

“Chief and I are having a discussion, it’s going to end one of two ways,” Kollgaard said.

Vincent asked for a vote on Kollgaard’s future, but the town attorney advised the discussion of such a major topic had not been previously properly noticed on an agenda for the public.

Subsequent discussion among the commission showed that Vincent would not have received the votes he would have needed had his motion been allowed to go forward.

Commissioner Ruth Kussard was “surprised” by the sudden very public eruption at the commission meeting.

Kussard cited the town’s charter, which she said gives the power to hire and fire to the town manager.

“Our hands are tied,” Kussard said.

Mayor Jim Richards said he had discussed the matter with both Kollgaard and McKinstry.

“They both are professional employees. They both have done good jobs. Do we know who hired Chris McKinstry? Our town manager,” the mayor said.

The pivotal pronouncement came from Commissioner Paul Hannan, who said the town was bound by its charter. However, he called for the formation of a charter review commission to update the charter, which has remained untouched since 1987.

He admitted the chief’s sudden resignation had caused an uproar.

“In my opinion, he is still highly qualified to be the police chief of Lady Lake,” Hannan said.

Commissioner Tony Holden called for a special commission meeting to discuss Kollgaard’s further employment, management style and the possible re-employment of the former chief.

“It’s time to man up,” Holden said.

That special meeting will be held at 1 p.m. Feb. 4 at Lady Lake Town Hall.

McKinstry was present in the audience, but did not speak.