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.
One wonders how this publication is privy to actually see texts from Dr Antun’s phone unless you are printing here-say from an unnamed source? Even so there is nothing wrong with the text itself as I’m sure many City residents voted for the Dr. with hopes that he would vote to remove the former City Manager. I for one understand that as a newly elected Commissioner, Dr. Antun probably felt he didn’t have enough time to decide whether or not termination was merited. As a long time friend of Commissioner Sturges I can say with certainty there was no pre-discussion of the vote or breaking of Sunshine laws in my conversations with him. I was told by Sturges before the vote that he had no idea how anyone else was going to vote and for this publication to insinuate and besmirch the character of our Vice Mayor is a new low. Maybe this paper would better serve its readers by focusing on the many issues at hand instead of insinuating breaking of Sunshine Laws without evidence.
Jason, text messages to commissioners are public record.
The article insinuates without any proof that Commissioner Sturges directed someone to contact another Commissioner on his behalf. That makes the article a hit piece and.not news.
Jason Collins, public records are public records. I’m glad people are asking for public records requests so things like this are in the community arena. The fact is that neither Anton or Asycue had been in office long enough to work with the City Manager in any substantial manner. This was a drastic decision for the City and I admire Commissioner Anton for being able to step back and try to deal with this situation in a professional manner- especially while under the kind of threatening messaging he was evidently receiving. Kudos to Commissioner Anton.
Think you only need suspicion or good circumstantial/perceived action to open an investigation. Yes, there is insinuation. And that can lead to all kinds of theory or nonsense. Only way to get to the truth is for a formal investigation. The commission under the guise of transparency have called for an audit of the city books. So why, if we’re quick to launch that audit, can’t a formal investigation be requested to investigate sunshine violation. I mean if we want transparency, let’s open the doors. And then maybe it can put this to rest.
Conspiracy is an issue. A criminal issue. Tell your story to a jury, under oath.
Good ol’ boy network at its best! Does not look good for Fernandina’s future.
I’m still trying to see where the man was pressured.
Pretty clear – Second paragraph “A 4-1 vote is much better for you from the constituents”.. Is Mr. Bailey planning to rally the “voices” he refers to? Interesting stuff…
Is this a newspaper or just a gossip rag? April Bogle? Really? The same person who complained the FB city council leaders were majority conservative? Why do you publish this trash, which is merely innuendo? I don’t have a dog in this fight in the least. I could care less. But I can recognize claptrap when I see it.
From what I know of Commissioner Anton, he speaks his own mind! I’ve never heard him backdown or be afraid of stating his thoughts.
Fernandina Beach is a very small town and most people who work and live here know each other. Nothing shocking about that.
Thank you, April Bogle, for bringing this info to light. I look forward to more reporting on unethical, and perhaps illegal, practices infiltrating our city.