By April L. Bogle
William Bailey, a friend of Fernandina Beach City Commissioner David Sturges, sent a text pressuring Commissioner James Antun to vote to terminate City Manager Dale Martin the day before the commission was to vote on Martin’s future.
“A 4-1 vote is much better for you from the many constituents who supported the campaign. With a 3-2 vote, you will face an uphill battle and even more voices who will pepper you since you may be the lone conservative to vote against the ouster,” Bailey wrote Feb. 20. “Remember those voices who came out of the woodwork AFTER the election? There will be more… a 3-2 vote is more damaging than what’s on the surface. I plan to be there tomorrow for this important vote.”
Neither Antun nor Bailey could be reached for comment. Antun is one of two new commissioners elected in the Dec. 13, 2022, runoff. Early in his service with the group of conservative commissioners, Antun emerged as one who is not afraid to disagree with the rest of that group if he thinks he should. The Sunshine Laws require commissioners to air their deliberations in public. The use of go-betweens is one way politicians have been known to get around the law.
Sturges led the charge to get rid of Martin, making what appeared to be a surprise motion at the Feb. 7 commission meeting to terminate him. Commissioner Darron Ayscue seconded the motion, but the commission voted 3-2 (Sturges and Ayscue dissenting) to postpone the termination vote until the Feb. 21 meeting. At that meeting, the commission voted 3-2 to terminate (Antun and Commissioner Chip Ross dissenting).
Sturges graduated from Fernandina Beach High School with Bailey in 1991 and the two remain friends, taking ski vacations with a group of high school friends and their families, as seen in Facebook posts.
Bailey’s LinkedIn profile lists him as a “seasoned channel and partner marketing professional” who currently works for Gigamon, a global data monitoring vendor based in Santa Clara, Calif. Sturges “helped with the home inspection” when Bailey purchased a home in Fernandina Beach in 2021, according to a Facebook post by Jim Dunnam, another high school contact who provided Bailey’s mortgage through First Security Mortgage Services. Sturges’ high school friend Todd Ericksen, a bartender at Brett’s Waterway Café and a realtor who shares an office building with Sturges’ construction company, served as the realtor in the purchase, according to Dunnam’s Facebook post.