Three employees have been demoted in the City of Sarasota, following the revelation one of them may have improperly influenced a recommendation for his son-in-law get a $100,000 public art contract for State Street Parking Garage.

Parking director Mark Lyons must take a 10-percent payment cut and be moved from a general manager position to a manager post. Lyons has also been barred from participating in any procurement process for the city for the next six moths. In addition, David Smith, previously a general manager in Neighborhood and Development Services, will now be a manager and receive a 7-percent cut in pay, and Clifford Smith will receive be demoted from senior planner to planner and also have his salary cut by 7 percent. 

All three men had previously been on paid administrative leave. David Smith and Clifford Smith both reported back to work today, while Lyons returns to work on Tuesday. Employees have 10 days to appeal the decision to the city manager.

The city has yet to award a contract for public art for the State Street garage; the Sarasota City Commission will consider options for the contract at a meeting on June 5. By that point, two new city commissioners will be sworn in.

The Public Art Committee on April 12 recommended commissioners award a contract to Mark Krucke, Lyons’ son-in-law, to create murals and installations in the garage. Board members later said they were unaware of the relationship between the parking manager and the artist, one of five finalists considered for the contract. Lyons during the Public Art Committee meeting was asked to discuss maintenance issues related to the potential art after the committee narrowed choices down to Krucke and a bid from Michael Parker and Richie Brasil. In responding, Lyons raised upkeep issues about the Parker-Brasil proposal without disclosing his relationship to Krucke. David Smith and Clifford Smith both work as liaisons to the Public Art Committee but did not make the board aware of the relationship.

City spokeswoman Jan Thornburg says city officials will now develop a conflict-of-interest provision within the city code of ethics that addresses conflicts relating to public art contracts, a void in regulations before now. All city employees will also now have to go through regular ethics training.