Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 24, 2019 – 11:00 a.m.

At their June 18, 2019 Regular Meeting the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) unanimously approved on Second and Final Reading Ordinance 2019-11, amending the Land Development Code specific to advisory board attendance requirements.  The change eliminated subjectivity in excusing absences from regular board meetings.

Henceforth, board members will be automatically removed from their position without action from the FBCC following a third absence from regular meetings in any calendar year.  This applies to all boards except the Planning Advisory Board.

Commissioners agreed that three absences — regardless of the reason — has the potential to seriously jeopardize the work of the city.  Commissioners receive complaints from citizens when their cases or projects are delayed because advisory boards cannot produce quorums at regular, advertised meetings.  In some instances, this results in financial losses to the affected citizens and businesses.

Originally commissioners had debated whether absences for medical reasons should be considered differently, but Commissioner Chip Ross, who is a medical doctor, offered the amendment to apply the rule to three vacancies for any reason, whether consecutive or not.  He suggested that three vacancies constituted a quarter of the annual meetings.  “Three strikes and you’re out,” he said.

Vice Mayor Len Kreger agreed with Ross, citing the need to move forward with city business.  “If someone has volunteered to serve on a [board] that meets 12 times a year and they are absent a quarter of the time, they really should not be on that [board].”

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Joe L Blanchard
Joe L Blanchard (@guest_55292)
3 years ago

I applaud the decisive and logical action taken by the City Commission involving volunteer board member absenteeism. I hope this same policy is enforced for paid City Commissioners. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_55293)
3 years ago

Not sure it has been an issued, but absenteeism by commissioner is covered in the City Charter, Section 20:
Sec. 20. – Same—Vacating seat of member for unexcused absence of specified duration.
Absence from four consecutive regular meetings of the commission shall operate to vacate the seat of a member, unless such absence is excused by the commission by resolution setting forth the fact of such excuse duly entered upon the journal.

Seems reasonable as that represent two consecutive months of meeting.

Joe L Blanchard
Joe L Blanchard (@guest_55294)
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lott

Very reasonable EXCEPT for the out. The City Commission can excuse any absenteeism but that option is not available to board members. I remember when a City Commissioner attended the meeting via telephone and I have no problem with that, but things happen that are unforeseeable and those instances need to have flexibility.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_55299)
3 years ago

Understand there are different criteria but to get an waiver requires a resolution and majority vote of the other commissioners. The other boards generally are dealing with one and done issues whereas the CC is often dealing with issues requiring two or more separate votes.
Personally, I think allowing a commissioner to participate by telephone is a bit of a slippery slope. If there are speakers on an issue with visual aids that are not available to the remote commissioner, that is a problem to me. Certainly should not be permitted in a quasi-judicial hearing unless there is full video capability of any exhibits presented not in the commissioner’s packet.

Betsie Huben
Betsie Huben (@guest_55303)
3 years ago

“This applies to all boards except the Planning Advisory Board.” Why is this the case for such a critical board during such critical times in our city?

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