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Re: [rlccef] FW: Post Meeting Notes and Resignation

From: user 9.
Sent on: Friday, December 7, 2012 10:57 AM
Thanks Scott.  I have my eye on a Gulch!

Connected by Motorola

Scott Cuthbert <[address removed]> wrote:

No prosecution of past corruption only breeds new (and more of the same old) corruption! Only the people THAT DO NOT BOTHER TO INFORM THEMSELVES OF THE ISSUES AND THAN VOTE ARE TO BLAME!
Apparently, ignorance breeds ignorance and apathy breeds apathy.
How can we defend ourselves from this problem?
Godspeed in your new endeavors, Greg Billman. Where are you moving to. We may wish to follow. Scott C.

From: [address removed] [mailto:[address removed]] On Behalf Of Bob White
Sent: Thursday, December 06,[masked]:40 PM
To: [address removed]
Subject: [rlccef] FW: Post Meeting Notes and Resignation

Very troubling news. Greg did an outstanding job for the citizens of Satellite Beach. His service to his community will be sorely missed.

From: [address removed]
Subject: Post Meeting Notes and Resignation
Date: Thu, 6 Dec[masked]:47:47 -0700

Fellow Citizens:
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  to 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.   
Elections have 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” issues:
a. Elect a Vice Mayor.  Mr. Brimer won 3-1.
b. Appoint a voting delegate and alternate delegate to the Space Coast League of Cities.  Catino—primary.  City manager-- alternate.
c. Appoint board liaisons.  Catino—Beautification, Library.  Brimer—Code Enforcement, Samsons Island. Gott—Comprehensive Planning, Retirement. Denan—Planning and Zoning.  Billman—Board of  Adjustment, Recreation.
d. Appoint South Beaches representative.   Gott.
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 unintended consequences.
4. Discuss/take action on Councilwoman’s Gott’s proposed new Council Policies and Procedures. Numerous changes are proposed, but major ones include:
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 level.   Passed.
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.   
Ms. 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.  
Ms. 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 city’s politics. 
I 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.  
During 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.
Ms. 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 conversation down.
It 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 employee. 
In 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 that score. 
I 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 attached).   
I 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. 
I 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.
It 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.
God bless this wonderful town and all of its citizens.  I wish EACH and EVERY one of you well.  
Gregg Billman
Satellite Beach City Councilman
"That Government is Best Which Governs Least" Thomas Paine

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