City Backtracks on Resolution to Revamp Golf Course Advisory Board Duties

By Mike Lednovich

The Fernandina Beach city administration promised to work hand-in-hand with its Golf Course Advisory Committee on revising the group’s mission following last week’s embarrassing city commission meeting where a resolution to revise the group’s focus was on the agenda. At that meeting, the city admitted it had failed to notify committee members that the significant changes were going to be put forward for a vote.

“It feels like a violation of trust that you can’t work with a group of people assigned to these positions,” committee member Lynn Sikorski said. “It seems to me (the city) was hoping it would be pushed through without discussion of the players here.”

The proposed resolution before the commission on Dec. 5 would have greatly narrowed the scope of the Golf Course Advisory Committee’s responsibilities.

“I take responsibility for that. The buck stops with me,” City Manager Ty Ross told committee members at their Wednesday meeting. “Having not attended any of your previous meetings I wasn’t aware of the possible resistance to change.”

Last September, Golf Course General Manager David DeMay told the committee its sole mission was to make recommendations to the city commission. DeMay told the group it had gone “off the rails” in discussing golf course operations and topics not related to making recommendations to the commission.

DeMay told the committee the proposed resolution was “more of a clerical cleanup. We are trying to be more consistent with the (other) enterprise funds (the airport and marina).”

Committee Chairman John Pelican was highly critical of the proposed resolution.

“I think things like this (resolution) are written to protect when things are going poorly,” Pelican said. “It (the resolution) makes it sound like the board is supposed to be a public relations arm of the golf course. When should the problems be brought up, if there are any?”

Pelican asked DeMay, “What if the general manager were the problem, what would be the proper behavior of the board trying to be helpful in that regard?”

“I’m not sure how to correct that, I’ve never been in that situation,” DeMay answered.

Ross stepped up and told the committee that the revisions involved three big steps.

“The first important step is to reveal the idea,” Ross said. “David said to me ‘I’d like to run it (the golf course) like a business instead of another government division.'”

Ross said of the plan, “I’ll come back to you next month after you’ve had a chance to chew on it and would like some deliberation on smoothing out the rules across the three entities so they are somewhat more consistent.”

Ross said step three would be the committee’s recommendations on proposed changes to the commission.

One sticking point of the proposed resolution raised by committee member James Rauschenberger was a provision that recommendations to the commission would be made through the golf course general manager. He said both the airport and marina advisory groups make their recommendations directly to the commission.

“Is there a reason that difference is there, rather than report directly to the city commission, Dave (DeMay) is our filter?” Rauschenberger asked.

“I think hasty is probably the word (for this draft). There’s room for improvement in the draft document before it’s voted on by this board and by the city commission,” Ross said.

Rauschenberger also noted the proposed changes said the board would “positively advocate,” as language not included in the resolutions of the airport and marina boards.

Of that comment, Pelican said he loved advocating for the golf course, but what happens when problems arise that need to be addressed?

Pelican began the meeting with an overview of the Dec. 5 city commission meeting. Earlier that day he said he received a phone call notifying him that the proposed Golf Course Advisory Board resolution was on that day’s agenda. He said he quickly read the resolution, made some hurried notes, and went to city hall. He said he told the commission that no members of the board had been asked about the resolution or were told that it was on the agenda.

The city commission delayed considering the resolution until next year.

The Golf Course Advisory Committee will review the proposed changes at its meeting in January.