Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
May 20, 2015 2:30 p.m.

To the dismay of his supporters and relief of his detractors, Fernandina Beach City Manager Joe Gerrity announced his decision to resign from his position at the beginning of the May 19, 2015 Regular Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission.

DSCN4808

After being recognized by Mayor Ed Boner, Gerrity began his remarks with a background story in which he discussed advice he had received from management and recruiter friends before applying for the job of city manager three years ago. He reported that everyone he asked had said that it would be very difficult to move into an administrative position in a city where he had once held elected office. “And, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to go ahead anyway,” Gerrity said with a grin. He became more serous and added, “But I did make a pledge to myself that if ever things became all about me, it would be time for me to think about doing something else. And that, combined with what happened here two weeks ago … I spoke to the Mayor last week and told him I thought it was time for me to look elsewhere, do something else. He asked me if I would stay until the end of the year, and I said, no, I won’t. I want to be gone before the election; I don’t want to be a political football, and I don’t think this community needs to go through that.”

Gerrity said he was willing to stay until October 2, to get the city through the FY2015/16 budget approval process and to complete department head appraisals that are due at the end of the year. “But I just think this is in the best interests of the city right now. I’m not angry; I’m not upset. I certainly don’t appreciate the way things happened two weeks ago, but local government isn’t always pretty. I’m here to serve the city. We need to heal; we don’t need to be fractious about anything anymore. I certainly hope that we can start to heal and move forward.”

Commissioner Pat Gass immediately moved to place Gerrity’s resignation on the agenda as an emergency item. Poynter asked, “Is that necessary?” City Attorney Tammi Bach reminded commissioners that it would take a 4/5ths vote to place it on the agenda as an emergency item for discussion or action.

Gerrity jumped in and said, “I’m not interested in that. With all due respect, Commissioner [Gass], regardless of how the vote comes out, my last day will be October 2.”

Gass said she understood, and Gerrity continued, “I do not want to put the FBCC in an awkward position. I’m not interested in putting the community in an awkward position. I’ve had a sense for some time that it is time to move on and think about something different.”

Gass said that she would just like each commissioner to “make plain their stance, for or against, but get off the fence, so we’ll know where everybody is coming from and where everybody is going.”

Vice Mayor Johnny Miller seconded her motion.

Mayor Ed Boner said that during his private meeting with Gerrity, he had discussed how with the departure of every city manager there is a political component. He said that for a manager to be effective he needs to generally have the sense of support from five commissioners. “Otherwise, it undermines [the city manager’s] ability to do the job.” Boner said. He added that through their entire conversation, Gerrity expressed his concern for the community and how to make the correct transition.

Commissioner Robin Lentz said that she did not agree with Gass’ reasoning for her motion, since Gerrity has resigned. But she did want the FBCC to discuss related matters such as the search process, how much longer Gerrity would serve, etc. Bach said that under an emergency vote, the FBCC could add Lentz’ issues to the agenda or add those items to the next Regular Meeting agenda. Poynter asked, “So if it doesn’t get on the agenda tonight, what we are saying is that we are accepting his resignation and at the next meeting there will be discussion on how we move forward, issues with time frames, interim city manager, etc.?” Bach said, that if that was the will of the commission, that’s what would happen.

Gass still wanted to pursue her motion. Poynter said, “We don’t need an item on the agenda to accept [Gerrity’s] resignation.” The city attorney agreed, and Gerrity added that it could be accepted by consensus. Both Gass and Miller wanted to proceed with a vote on Gass’ motion, which they agreed could include plans for the future. The motion failed on a 2-3 vote with only Gass and Miller voting in favor.

DSCN4810Following the vote, Miller agreed with Mayor Boner, citing a similar private conversation with Gerrity. He said that he told Gerrity that he did not support his decision to resign. Miller said that he believed it would be in the city’s best interest for him to stay on. “What I find unfortunate,” he said, “ is that two commissioners [Lentz and Poynter] decided they could not work with him; they don’t like the way the ship is being driven.” Miller said that what they characterized as “dragging of the feet” he believed to be a conservative approach to spending money, and issues in the Fire Department. “Members of the commission have given up on him, and he understands that.”

Miller expressed concern that Boner’s confidence in Gerrity’s ability to do the job seemed to be swayed by the lack of confidence expressed by Lentz and Poynter. “Instead of dealing with the person you’ve got, we’re just going to get rid of him and move forward. Here we go again.” He expressed concern that potential applicants would be hesitant to apply for the position if they watched the previous meeting during which Lentz and Poynter laid out their performance issues with the city manager. “I would not want to walk into that situation if I were a potential city manager,” Miller said. “I would recommend however that we bring in a professional person—like [an ICMA] ranger—and that we take his recommendations seriously.” He said that if the previous commission had done so, the city might not be in the position of losing another city manager now.

“Hopefully, we don’t have anyone preconceived for this job when it goes forward; I don’t think we do.” Miller said that he has been called naïve, and cited some things he had been told about Gerrity’s actions and goals as a city commissioner. He said some people had questioned Gerrity’s motives and goals based upon personal associations. “I wasn’t here for that, and I don’t care about that,” Miller said. “I care about what has happened since I’ve been here,” he said, citing emails praising Gerrity for improvements at the airport. “I’m completely convinced that this gentleman has acted in the best interests of the city, he has had no need to accomplish something because he felt he had someone to please.”

Miller ended his comments by directing the city attorney to look into drafting a City Charter amendment that would require a 4/5ths vote to hire a city manager, attorney and clerk. He expressed his hope that such a change would allow managers to stay longer than 3 years. He concluded his remarks by thanking and praising Gerrity. “I thank you for the things you’ve done for this city as both a city commissioner and a city manager. Thank you, sir.”

The audience responded to Miller’s remarks with applause.

Gerrity said, “I don’t know if I said this earlier, but I am not a member of ICMA—the International City and County Managers Association–but I do try to live up to their standards and codes of conduct. Quite frankly, one of their ‘rules’ is that if you have lost the support of two commissioners, it’s time to move on. I feel very strongly about that. Again, I’m not angry, I’m not upset. I just want what’s best for the city. I’ve been told, ‘You need to fight, you need to do this or that.’ I don’t want to sit up here with two commissioners who don’t want me. That’s not a personal thing, it’s just a professional thing. It’s for the betterment of you other three, too. We all need to work together on some of these things and not be divided. If removing me from the equation makes things a little less divisive, I’m going to do that. I don’t think it’s going to make a difference, but I’m going to try.”

Boner said he agreed with Gerrity, adding that a split commission caused local lobbying efforts directed toward commissioners to intensify, undermining the manager’s ability to do his job.

poynter2Poynter said, “For me, it’s very simple. I believe the city can do better in moving forward. There is nothing personal.” He questioned some of Miller’s statements about alleged motives behind Gerrity’s actions. He said he had never heard any of those claims. “I’m just simply sitting here as a commissioner trying to move things forward and looking at the speed at which we are going. I think we can do better. That’s it—there’s no other motive in it. I believe I have worked with Joe to try to get things going. This is not uncommon for city managers to jump around. … New people get elected, different ideas come in. That’s how Joe got here. [Work] life expectancy for a city manager is 3-4 years.”

Miller clarified his remarks to Poynter. He said that the short tenure of city managers was news to him. He said that even though he disagreed with Poynter and Lentz on Gerrity’s performance, he said that the commission needed to move forward as a team and that he looked forward to working with them in hiring a new city manager “we can all agree on.”

bonerBoner said that while he did not agree with Poynter and Lentz, he agreed that it is difficult to move forward without full support. He said he looked for the least adversarial way to solve the problem in the best interests of the city.

Commissioner Robin Lentz reiterated her personal like of Gerrity despite professional reservations. She said that based upon her private conversation with Gerrity, she knew he chose to resign to avoid a prolonged public conversation. She told Gerrity that she appreciated his professionalism.

Gerrity thanked her and said, “Once again, this city is my home, and we need to do the best we can.”

Public Comment

Six of the 11 speakers during Public Input used the opportunity to thank and praise City Manager Joe Gerrity’s accomplishments with an emphasis on airport improvements. Speakers said that under Gerrity’s leadership, the airport is in better condition and running better than it ever has. Gerrity thanked the speakers, indicating that he spent only a few hours a week there, but that the airport Operations Manager Bobby Kozakoff deserved most of the credit for improved services and operations.

City manager and commissioner reports

Toward the end of the 3.5-hour meeting and under his report, Gerrity addressed some of the criticisms that Lentz and Poynter had directed toward him during the previous meeting. He said that while they had questioned his tenacity in getting things done, he reminded them that some of the larger problems involved dealing with other entities, such as the railroad, where the city had to abide by their rules. He stressed successful annexations of The Palms and Gateway complexes, which he said resulted from a careful approach that covered all the city’s legal bases, along with the enforcement of an annexation agreement with Baptist Nassau.

He took issue with Poynter’s criticism of the city’s permit process, claiming that the Community Development Department and the Building Department have turned around during the past three years and that there are many testimonials to that effect. He did admit that criticism about the lengthy time to complete the Broome Street parking lot was justified.

lentz3Commissioner Robin Lentz responded that her reason for speaking at the last meeting about her unhappiness with the city manager’s performance was to “begin and honest conversation” in the Sunshine among commissioners. She also used the opportunity to refute allegations of Sunshine Law violations that have appeared on social media, saying that other than deciding who would speak first, she and Poynter had not discussed their mutual concerns privately The city attorney had assured her that the discussion between her and Poynter which was on procedure only did not violate Sunshine Law.

Commissioner Tim Poynter thanked Gerrity for his service and wished him luck in future endeavors. He said that he has always known that Gerrity loves the city as we all love the city.

Retired FB Fire Captain Tommy Spicer (file photo)
Retired FB Fire Captain Tommy Spicer (file photo)

Commissioner Pat Gass, who had been absent for discussion at the previous meeting due to the death of a family member, delivered fifteen minutes of prepared remarks. She began by saying, “Robin, the elephant in the room is not pink; it’s fire engine red.” Gass proceeded to delve into details of the Fire Department problems. She detailed retired city fire captain Tommy Spicer’s personal issues with department leadership, tracing them back to 2009 and issues with his retirement plan. She said that because department leadership, supported by Gerrity, had made a decision that ran counter to Spicer’s request regarding converting leave, Spicer filed a grievance and did not prevail. She said that following this event, firefighter exit interviews became negative and issues never before raised were cited as problems in the department. “It would appear,” she said, “that Mr. Spicer does not react well to change, nor does he like being told ‘no.’”

Gass said that contrary to what many have been told, the turnover rate among firefighters has been less under Chief Jason Higginbotham and Deputy Chief Fino Murallo than under previous chiefs. She said that many surrounding fire departments offer jobs with higher salaries and benefits. “Money is usually the number one reason for changing jobs,” she said.

Gass1Gass went on to recount numerous upgrades and improvements to department equipment and training that Higginbotham and Murallo had instituted. “It appears to me,” she said, “that Jason Higginbotham and Fino Murallo care deeply for their department, employees and community. They have provided a higher standard of professionalism than this community has ever witnessed. For their tireless efforts, one retired firefighter and a handful of faithful followers have made their lives hell. The morale of the Fire Department is probably not nearly as good as it could be, and letting a few employees go might be called for. But I don’t think Higginbotham and Murallo are the ones who ought to be on the chopping block.”

Former Fire Chief Jason Higginbotham (file photo)
Former Fire Chief Jason Higginbotham (file photo)

“If you’re wondering where Tommy Spicer was through all the labor committee meetings, equipment updates and training, I’ll tell you. For the most part, he was absent. As it turned out, Mr. Spicer needed all his sick leave. He used it all, if not most, on FMLA [Family Medical Leave Act] during the 3-4 months before he retired. When he was present, he was helping out with assertions like ‘We did this long ago without procedures and we don’t need them now.’   Mr. Spicer suggested or let us believe that no training had been provided to the department, when the truth is he called in sick to avoid necessary training and even encouraged rebellion [among other firefighters]. I’m only sorry that Tommy Spicer couldn’t have retired earlier and missed all the updates and modernization of the Fire Department. … We wouldn’t have been in this made-up mess in the first place. Certainly receiving 101 percent of your base salary would soothe the wound from such change and being told no. But alas, he still protests.” Gass became emotional as she added, “It’s been heartbreaking to watch Jason Higginbotham and Fino Murallo drug through the dirt. It’s been equally as heartbreaking the see the fine reputation of our firefighting department soiled with all these false accusations.”

Deputy Fire Chief Fino Murallo (file photo)
Deputy Fire Chief Fino Murallo (file photo)

Gass went on to commend Gerrity for keeping Higginbotham and Murallo “at the helm of the Fire Department.”

Gass moved on to discuss criticism leveled at the last meeting by Lentz and Poynter. She said that there is a 70 percent chance that the city will never have a Quiet Zone along Front Street, and that is just fine with most of the population. “If you don’t like railroad tracks and all that comes with them, then don’t build next to them,” she said. She said that if the cost of building a Quiet Zone would not kill the project, then the liability issues should.

She turned toward Commissioner Poynter. “Mr. Poynter,” she said, “the city manager works for all of us, not just you. He does what 3 out of 5 commissioners direct him to do. Being rude, stomping your feet and pointing your finger does not mean 3 out of 5 commissioners are in agreement. We never directed the city manager to come up with a job description for airport manager; nor should we. That would be a violation of Chapter 10 of the Charter.”

She then addressed Commissioner Lentz. “Miss Lentz,” she said, “I understand that you would like to see government move more quickly. When I first took office I, too, was uncomfortable with the speed at which things got done. But I found it is in the best interests of the people if things move slowly. No matter who is the city manager, government moves slowly and it is supposed to. … “If you are thinking about the Forward Fernandina plan, which by the way nobody thought was a bad plan, just improperly financed—that’s all within the Community Redevelopment Area and everyone will have to wait until the money is available. … Forward Fernandina is coming, but not next week.” She also expressed concerns over the wisdom of opening the Alachua Street rail crossing.

“Just because we had a goals workshop and set priorities does not mean that the city manager has his marching orders and the Commission will simply check in later. If we want it done we need to find out how much it will cost, check to see if it is feasible and most importantly: find a funding source. In the case of borrowing money, be prepared as in the case of Forward Fernandina to explain to the taxpayers that you aren’t going to ask their opinion about it. Just tell them that you know best and you are not raising their taxes, just raising the franchise fee by the cost of a cup of coffee. At Starbucks. Every day.”

“Joe Gerrity is doing a fine job. Just think what he could do if we all worked together as a team. She went on to suggest a refresher course on city government and the charter as a way to help.”

Gass apologized for missing the last meeting but said that at least her absence avoided “a Gass explosion” and gave her time to get her thoughts together.

Neither commissioners nor the city manager responded to Gass’ comments.

Opinion

Demonstrating both class and grace in the eyes of this reporter, Gerrity sidestepped what could have been a divisive issue in furtherance of what he characterized as the best interests of the city. When I expressed that to him following the meeting, he reinforced his love for the city and his belief that the time has come to move on.

Suanne Thamm 4Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

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Carol Ann Atwood
Carol Ann Atwood (@guest_35687)
7 years ago

great, in depth article by Susnne, the brightest mind on Amelia Island!

T Shafer
T Shafer (@guest_35688)
7 years ago

Thank you to the Observer for your thorough reporting.

A few observations regarding some of the information share in last night’s meeting.

• “make plain their stance, for or against, but get off the fence, so we’ll know where everybody is coming from and where everybody is going.”
o I believe Commissioners Lentz, Poynter and Boner made plain their stances in the previous meeting, only Commissioner Miller was dismayed.

• “I would recommend however that we bring in a professional person—like [an ICMA] ranger—and that we take his recommendations seriously.” He said that if the previous commission had done so, the city might not be in the position of losing another city manager now.
o Commissioner Miller, admittedly, does not know the history. The previous commission did hire an expert. They recommended against a local. They recommended to have a certified city manager. They recommended 20 people. Joe Gerrity was nowhere on the list. Surprisingly, supported by Commissioner Gass and two others, the Commission chose Gerrity. A local. A non-certified city manager.

• turnover rate among firefighters has been less under Chief Jason Higginbotham and Deputy Chief Fino Murallo than under previous chiefs. She said that many surrounding fire departments offer jobs with higher salaries and benefits. “Money is usually the number one reason for changing jobs,”
o Leadership, especially in an organization such as Fire Departments, and morale are equally important. I doubt many public servants are in it for the money. Many care deeply for the communities in which they serve.

• tireless efforts, one retired firefighter and a handful of faithful followers have made their lives hell.

o Commissioner Gass has publicly and personally rallied for Higginbotham and Murallo, personal friends, clouding her ability to objectively look at the issues with the FD. Perhaps when the Marley lawsuit is settled the facts will be less disputed.

• morale of the Fire Department is probably not nearly as good as it could be, and letting a few employees go might be called for.
o Surely Commissioner Gass does not feel Higginbotham and Murallo are vulnerable. Not when they are so clearly her victims. Which employees in FD does Commissioner Gass feel should “be on the chopping block”. Perhaps it is those have taken public position.

• But I don’t think Higginbotham and Murallo are the ones who ought to be on the chopping block.” It’s been heartbreaking to watch Jason Higginbotham and Fino Murallo drug through the dirt. It’s been equally as heartbreaking the see the fine reputation of our firefighting department soiled with all these false accusations.”
o Perhaps it is those who have feared retaliation the most that should be the targets in Commissioner Gass’ eyes. Nice job of the bully turning this around on the real victims.

• Gass went on to commend Gerrity for keeping Higginbotham and Murallo “at the helm of the Fire Department.”
o Bravo, Mr. Gerrity. Your mistake in promoting an unqualified person to the position of Chief so that he could learn the job….good job, old chap! Then your change, that effectively changed nothing, keeping Higginbotham at the same pay, and rank in the absence of the Chief, continues to perpetuate the very issue you created to begin with. Perhaps this is the kind of work that would warrant Commissioners Gass, Miller and Boner to give the city manager a 4% increase.

• “If you don’t like railroad tracks and all that comes with them, then don’t build next to them,”
o If I recall Commissioner Gass’ Facebook page, she berated, now Commissioner, Poynter for a similar comment.

• Being rude, stomping your feet and pointing your finger does not mean 3 out of 5 commissioners are in agreement.
o Commissioner Gass may have something here. Being rude, stomping your feet and pointing your finger is not effective when asking a fellow Commissioner if she is calling another elected official a liar. Or when berating Friends of the Library leaders about change orders. Or demanding to know why an advisory board applicant has not become a citizen.

• If we want it done we need to find out how much it will cost, check to see if it is feasible and most importantly: find a funding source.
o Perhaps the civic lesson needed is for Commissioner Gass to understand the role and the responsibilities of the city manager.

• Just think what he could do if we all worked together as a team.
o Wouldn’t it be great if we could be the change we wish to see? It starts at home, Commissioner Gass. Hard to be a team of one.

Co Editor
Editor
Co Editor(@co-editor-2)
7 years ago
Reply to  T Shafer

Pat Gass was not on the commission when Joe Gerrity was hired.

Dr. Gary Hass
Dr. Gary Hass (@guest_35792)
7 years ago
Reply to  Co Editor

I have lived in Fernandina Beach for 32 years and have never seen so much hatred and vitriol over someone else having an opinion. Many comments to this site seem to be always negative. We will never agree on every issue. Many people in this city go about their daily lives with many more problems than a new park or a new sidewalk, which cost one man his job. Not too important, unless you are that one man.

If there are problems in the fire department get the parties involved to sit down and work them out. I realize much is delayed due the pending law suit.
Stop the constant bickering and cheap shots.

Mr. Gerrity resigned. I don’t like the way he was criticized in public. A simple motion and vote would have caused less animosity among everyone involved. Don’t look a man in the eye and say it is not personal and say you don’t trust him. How can it not be personal. I hope everyone learned from that display. Quit kicking the dead horse.

Many people I know do not want borrowed money funding the park and rail crossing. Their opinion is lost in all this turmoil. Put the issue of the park and its funding on the November ballot and get a real opinion on the subject. What have you got to lose? A park? A rail crossing?

Please stop the constant turmoil. Sit down and communicate. Use pronouns like ” we ” instead of
“I” once in awhile. This was once a much more friendly town.

Mike Oxard
Mike Oxard (@guest_35927)
7 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Gary Hass

We have lived in Fernandina for 39 years, and we have never seen so much hatred and turmoil in the fire depertment. We decided to do extensive public record requests to try and find what was truly happening with that department. What we found is an extensive cover up of massive issues by the City Manager. Fire Department employees tried to sit down and discuss their problems, whether it be during one of the investigations, an exit interview, one on one meetings with HR, or at a sit down luncheon with the CM. What we believe caused the city manager his job was his lack of handling the issues he was presented. He might be one of the most narcissistic men-with the exception of Deputy Chief Murralo-I’ve ever met. If you read about the allegations brought forward by the firefighters, they were all dismissed by the CM as fictitious events, causing the firefighters to not have trust in him. When he was finally held accountable by HR, he decided to shut Ms. Marley up by simply terminating her employeement. From what I’ve read in regards to the issues that were brought forward by City Employees to Ms. Marley, that’s going to be one heck of a lawsuit the city is most certain to lose.

You’re right, this was once a more friendly town. It was also a place where we trusted one another. We had people in positions of influence who had integrity, and honesty. Perhaps this is a step towards us having people like that again.

T Shafer
T Shafer (@guest_36293)
7 years ago
Reply to  Co Editor

Thank you for the correction.

Dvid Olson
Dvid Olson (@guest_35989)
7 years ago
Reply to  T Shafer

Thank you Mr Shafer for your explanation and analysis of those issues.

Adam Kaufman
Adam Kaufman(@adkresolvecomcast-net)
7 years ago

A Thank You and a Caffeine High:
I would like to second all those who have expressed their appreciation and thank Joe Gerrity for the grace with which he navigated what could have become roiled waters at last night’s meeting. His civility and conduct at a very difficult time for him is to be commended.
In the remarks that were prepared for her presentation at the end of the meeting, Commissioner Gass alluded to Forward Fernandina and the cost of a Starbucks coffee every day (it was unclear whether it was Venti or Grande). Notwithstanding the free WiFi, the cost of a Starbucks coffee every day for a week can be expensive. While I cannot speak to the accuracy of her other remarks her “coffee and franchise fee” rant has only limited connection to the discussions in July 2011. True, the cost of a cup of coffee was referenced. The reference was this as printed in the News-Leader:
“The F2 Strategic Plan’s components, as currently configured, require the expenditure of $7,000,000 over at least a five year period…The proposed debt issuance in support of the plan utilizing a bank loan for 20 years would require an approximate $571,000 per year of principle and interest payment. A $571,000 per year investment in the vitality of Fernandina Beach represents an average of 19.5 cents per taxpayer per day given the City’s approximately 8,000 taxpayers. That is $1.37 per week, less than the price of a medium coffee at Seattle Coffee on Centre Street…..”
Of course, the decision by the Commission to use the franchise fee was an effort to more equitably spread the cost so that not only property owners would bear the burden.
Sometimes the fish get bigger with the telling of the tale.

Ross Gass
Ross Gass (@guest_35698)
7 years ago

I appreciate the efforts made by the Observer to report the important events of this city, however, as evidenced by Mr. Kaufman’s remark and fish take comparison, an lack of context and incomplete quote can really change the purpose of a point.
It would seem that (my mother) Comissioner Gass misremembered the comparison as cited by Mr Kaufman. However, Miss Thamm left off the last sentence of her remarks:
“A franchise fee is just another phrase for taxation except it has a negative effect on those least able to pay and the voters do not have to agree for the commission to put franchise fee in place or to raise them”
It seems to me, given the entire quote, the important thing was not the price of coffee at Starbucks but rather that franchise fees are a way for the City govt to raise taxes without the oversight of citizens in the same way as if it were properly named a tax. And, sure it spreads out the number of people paying, but it negatively affects those who are least able to pay.

Chett Lyncker
Chett Lyncker (@guest_35756)
7 years ago
Reply to  Ross Gass

Mr. Gass,

Once again Commissoner Gass has not only suggested that “a few” firefighters need to be let go but also portrayed Retired Captain Spicer as an evil mastermind, that uses his powers to influence those of us that have stood against the wrongdoing that we have witnessed! I find this personally offensive to myself and my fellow public servants, we are educated professionals and are not made to do anything against our will be anyone! Also, this is the second time she has spoken publicly about terminating public servants, I believe the last time was in November at FBCC meeting. If Commissioner Gass is so sure that we, the rank and file, are to blame for everything, then why wouldn’t she support a 3rd party investigation or even a public forum where issues could be discussed and debated? Once again, I ask your opinion on these matters of ethics since you don’t seem to touch on them.
Respectfully,
Chett Lyncker

mikespino
mikespino (@guest_36070)
7 years ago
Reply to  Ross Gass

Mr. Gass, you failed to mention that although the tea party city commissioners returned the Forward Fernandina funding they did not rescind the franchise fee increase. They shifted the franchise fee increase from capital to operating. This sleight of hand went unnoticed by most taxpayers but they effectively raised taxes for the city’s operating budget. If the tea party commissioners were truly fiscally conservative they would have rolled back the franchise fee. So you may complain that the F2 commissioners raised taxes without a vote but I would argue that the tea party commissioners did exactly same thing.

Ross Gass
Ross Gass (@guest_36154)
7 years ago
Reply to  mikespino

Mr Spino, if you’re referring to the agenda item from this meeting regarding impact fees, (My mother) Commissioner Gass attempted to reveal that the moving of those funds was a shell game and not the correct way to do business. If the money wasn’t used for its intended purpose, it should have been returned, not moved to another account to make it more easily spendable.
And if you’re refering to the franchise fees to pay for the unreturned portion of the FF money, that money and the money already spent had to be paid for or there would be a budget shortfall. resulting in more acrimonious debate and an eventual milage increase.

Ross Gass
Ross Gass (@guest_36155)
7 years ago
Reply to  Ross Gass

essentially it was the best resolution of a bad situation.

mikespino
mikespino (@guest_36233)
7 years ago
Reply to  Ross Gass

Mr. Gass, but the commission kept in place the franchise fee in excess of the amount needed to pay debt service. They did not roll back the franchise fee to only the amount necessary for debt service. They basically raised taxes for operating purposes.

Ross Gass
Ross Gass (@guest_36239)
7 years ago
Reply to  mikespino

Wouldn’t lowering the amount of debt + keeping the franchise fees the same = less money paid to service the debt? Won’t the franchise fees be eliminated once the debt is repaid?
Wouldn’t the poynter plan refinance the debt to pay for the waterfront (all at once instead of in stages) and extend the fees from 15 to 35 years?

mikespino
mikespino (@guest_36370)
7 years ago

Mr. Gass, The franchise fee was set to pay debt service according to the debt payment schedule. When the borrowed amount for F2 was reduced the franchise fee should have been re-set (i.e. lowered) to the amount needed to pay the debt service according to the debt service schedule for the new debt service amount. The Commission kept the full the franchise fee and the funds raised in excess of the amount needed for debt service were put into the operating budget. Bottom line, the tea party commission raised operating taxes.

Ross Gass
Ross Gass (@guest_36385)
7 years ago
Reply to  mikespino

Mr. Spino.
The money being returned on a loan does not entitle the borrower to reset the terms of the loan. Loan terms are agreed on in the beginning, like how the interest is to be paid first and principle last, and remain in place through the life of loan. The result of the prepayment is to shorten the life of the loan which saves money on interest, but the payments have to remain the same.
Sure, the commissioners could have gotten different loan terms like you seem to think was pertinent. But that would require refinancing the loan and spending additional money for fees, closing costs, etc.
Also, if you insist on using “tea party” as a pejorative, someone might take to calling you a “libtard” or some other derisive term as a quid pro quo. So, bottom line, let’s keep it civil and polite, sir.

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