Bottom line up front. I am resigning. In my
opinion, last night we witnessed an epic display of Good Old Boy politics that
Satellite Beach has been infamous for for many years. Some in the city
will take exception to this notion of the outside perception of Satellite
Beach’s politics, but I believe it to be true. Last night’s display proves
why many outside of our city (as well as many residents) perceive the city’s
politics in such a light.
My written words will not do the meeting justice.
Please review last night’s meeting at http://www.youtube.com/user/CityofSatelliteBeach
witness the action for yourself and make your own decisions. It is clear
to me the newly reelected former city leaders are on a well-planned,
synchronized and rapid attack effort to curtail immediate-past council’s efforts
toward efficiency, transparency and accountability. If the video is not on
the site, call the city until it is.
What is most
frustrating to me is my lack of ability to stop any of this regression.
Last night demonstrated that common sense, procedural actions and vigorous
debate did, and will do, nothing to stop it. In fact, a review of coming
agenda items suggests it will only accelerate. The shoe is definitely back
on both “left” feet. The people voted it so, and so it will remain.
consequences, and Satellite Beach is experiencing the same thing our nation is
experiencing post-election. I sense many adverse things on our
horizon. I have my own “predictions list”...let’s see how many come true
(including the new city manager).
While many herald
the return to the old way of doing business (including, I believe, most if not
all of the city’s employees), I fear for our city’s future…including the long
term jobs, benefits and retirements of the very employees who support the
regression. Short term comfort via status quo may very well lead to long
term catastrophe via status quo. “Be careful what you wish for” comes to
mind. I hope for our city’s sake I am wrong, and that the recently elected
members and their supporters are correct.
Here’s a little
of what occurred regarding each agenda item.
1. Discuss/take action on “Council 2012”
a. Elect a Vice Mayor. Mr. Brimer won
b. Appoint a voting delegate and alternate delegate to the
Space Coast League of Cities. Catino—primary. City manager--
c. Appoint board liaisons. Catino—Beautification,
Library. Brimer—Code Enforcement, Samsons Island. Gott—Comprehensive
Planning, Retirement. Denan—Planning and Zoning. Billman—Board of
d. Appoint South Beaches representative.
e. Appoint CRA Board Chairman and Vice Chairman. I
did not think it appropriate for Council to make a decision on behalf of the CRA
Board, especially since the board includes two at-large citizens. City
attorney said it was appropriate, and the Mayor and Vice Mayor were appointed to
the respective positions…so much for the concept of separation between council
and the CRA that the immediate-past council worked so hard to establish to
mitigate conflicts of interest.
2. Update on Special Events Coordinator activities.
Lots of good things going on. As a member of the immediate-past council
who put this concept into place, I am happy with its progress toward promoting
our community via large public events.
3. Ordinance 1064: reducing side yard setback requirements
for docks from 20 feet to 10 feet (First Reading). Sent back to staff to
look at options as there were multiple issues with the ordinance’s potential
4. Discuss/take action on Councilwoman’s Gott’s proposed
new Council Policies and Procedures. Numerous changes are proposed, but major
a. Sec II. B. Council members will no longer be able to
contact “outside entities” for guidance or legal interpretations after votes are
made. After much discussion (again, see youtube for complete flavor), it
was determined the wording would be reviewed by the city attorney to ensure
there were no Whistleblower or First Amendment issues before it is
approved. Though other members didn’t think so, I felt it limits council
members’ abilities to question decisions, and makes doing so punishable in
a punitive and vindictive way.
It also suggests to me that council believes it is a power
onto itself, controlling the flow of information as it deems best for the
citizens, versus being accountable to the electorate. Additionally, to me,
it also supports a “we will not tolerate dissent” mindset of council…indicative
more of a Duma than a duly elected body in the United States.
To the notion of “discrediting the city,” the
pertinent question: is it more “discrediting” for a member to NOT ask a question
and allow the city to violate a statute, or to allow the member to ask the
question, thereby potentially saving the city from discrediting itself via a
violation? Imagine the savings in city stature if a member would have
asked outside questions of past CRA expenditures over the many years they were
occurring, rather than having citizens finally do so on their own, causing an
adverse outside focus on the city.
b. Sec III, C. Council members will no longer be able to
attend meetings via electronic means while away on business trips. Watch
the youtube video to see if you agree that all three new members believed this a
good idea, and though they initially claimed it was not directed at my status,
they all eventually spoke to the fact I should have known I was going to be away
a lot during my campaign and therefore I should not have run.
They said I should show a “sense of duty” to the city by
being physically present at meetings. I countered that I demonstrate my
sense of duty by making the extra effort to be present at meetings while away on
business, working my hectic schedule on the road to accommodate time changes and
meeting lengths in order to serve the city.
Additionally (and most importantly), I pointed out that by
negating the ability to use electronic media to attend meetings while on
business trips, council was denying the opportunity of ANY business professional
to EVER serve the city. Given that such people tend to internalize
efficiency and organization, they would be mitigating the positive impact such
people could have on the city.
After multiple citizens stood to speak against the effort
(with counter speakers, as well), the three members decided to “grandfather” me
into the rule. I objected on grounds it wasn’t about me or my situation,
but rather about the ability of future business people to serve the city.
They decided the policy will stand with the “grandfathering” statement
added. I do NOT view this as a “victory” in any sense…this is a distinct
loss for the city over the long term.
5. Discuss/take action on Councilwoman Gott’s request to
disband the Citizen’s Advisory Panel for Efficient Government (CAPEG) and cancel
study to determine whether the dog park needs to be staffed at its current
6. Discuss/take action on Councilwoman Gott’s request to
disband the Blue Ribbon Financial/Budget Committee (FYI…this was already
accomplished by prior council on 4 Apr 2012). No action after I pointed
out the previous vote had already occurred.
7. Discuss interviews for permanent city manager. It
was agreed the current list of candidates was problematic. The city
attorney allowed that the 180 day requirement to name a permanent city manager
was not, after all this time, applicable in our case since the past city manager
had not been fired but had decided to retire. The long term impact of this
decision is so great, it was agreed we should take the time to use a
professional service to conduct a nation-wide search. In retrospect, I
believe this search is a delaying tactic for the individual the controlling
members already have in mind…someone they can control.
While the agenda item was supposed to limit the discussion
to the interview process, it rapidly devolved into what (in my opinion) was a
well-planned ambush of Ms Samuelson, the interim city manager—with no pushback
from the mayor to reign in the not-on-the-agenda effort. In what seemingly
was a coordinated effort between the newly elected former leaders and the police
chief (the discussion flowed in way too coordinated a fashion, in my
opinion), Ms Gott moved to immediately put Ms Samuelson on leave pending the end
of her contract and appoint the chief as acting city manager.
Gott publically chastised Ms Samuelson for non-specific “personnel issues" that
had never been brought to council or that she had never before expressed.
When I asked Ms Gott if she had discussed her concerns with Ms Samuelson in
private before the meeting, she said she hadn’t.
Samuelson professionally and eloquently addressed Ms. Gott’s out-of-the-blue
accusations and removal effort. You may find it enlightening (and entertaining)
and a good representation of why many folks believe what they do about our
pointed out multiple violations by Ms Gott of the very council procedures she
had rewritten, and that we had just completed reviewing in item 4 above,
including a councilmember speaking directly with a city employee on
governmental matters (Ms. Gott admitted she had pre-discussed this effort with
the police chief). I do not hold the chief responsible for Ms. Gott’s
successful effort, as he has his job to worry about.
the discussion, Ms. Gott said something about Mr. Higginson’s council
replacement actions. I asked about political payback being the basis of
her comment, which she denied.
Gott dropped her bomb shell at 11:50 pm, after an already very long meeting with
most citizens having (smartly) left for their beds. The meeting ended at
approximately 12:30 am.
As an example of
the nature of our city’s politics, please pay attention in the video to Ms. Gott
verbally chastising a long-time resident when he made a remark about our
debt. She made a flurry of accusations against the notion of the city’s
debt, and chastised the citizen and others for continually bringing it up.
Mr. Catino allowed this activity to continue until I spoke to correct her
position by quoting from our last audit. As I started to read from the
audit report that I keep in my notebook, Mr. Catino summarily shut the
became very apparent to me after experiencing last night’s meeting that current
council will not allow the continuation of efficiency, transparency or
accountability in our city government. We are rapidly regressing to prior
status quo and—in my mind--that should frighten every citizen and
my opinion, we are a community of Good Old Boy politics, high taxes, bloated
payroll, and over-promised employee retirement and benefits. I suspect we
are also a community of personal political payback, but only time will tell on
am sorry to all of my supporters, but I cannot be part of a body that is rolling
back the advances and hard work that citizens, staff and council have done—and
all that has been accomplished-- over this past year. My voice has no
impact, my thoughts no regard. I am resigning effective today (letter
am also resigning in protest of the way the interim city manager's termination
was handled, as well as my perception of the mayor's failure to properly run
meetings from the dais. Life is too short to bang my head against the wall
of inefficiency and status quo while missing the good things in life like time
with family and friends. If the former wasn’t so, missing the latter would
be easier to do.
have too many other professional and family responsibilities to spend so much
time and effort in what will always be a failed attempt to govern efficiently
via accountability and transparency.
has been my privilege and honor to serve every citizen in the best way I know
how. If I have made you uncomfortable, or distressed you in some way, by
things I have said or done in the pursuit of efficiency, transparency and
accountability, please know I did not do so out of personal animus…it was merely
a result of policy differences. Good, well-intentioned people can
aggressively disagree on policy…and we have! If I have been supported by
you, please accept my heartfelt thanks and be mindful that your fiscally
conservative mindset does not currently rule the day in this city…but that
doesn’t mean it won’t eventually.
bless this wonderful town and all of its citizens. I wish EACH and EVERY
one of you well.
Satellite Beach City
Government is Best Which Governs Least" Thomas Paine
Note to citizens: please do not share this email, or any
other interaction between yourself and me, with any other council member. Doing
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