Overdrinking Tips City Manager Into a Bicycle Wreck

Ty Ross

By Mike Lednovich

Fernandina Beach’s new city manager, Ty Ross, said he was alcohol-impaired riding his bicycle on Oct. 29 when he crashed into the pavement and eventually had to be driven home by a city police officer.

Ross had been on the job as the city manager for just 13 days when police were summoned at 7:36 p.m. to a report of “a young man with a bicycle laying in the grass rolling around” near the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and 14th Street, according to the Fernandina Beach Police incident report.

Approximately 20 minutes later, Officer Colby Sears reported giving Ross a ride to a house he is renting.

In an email apology sent Thursday to the “esteemed residents of Fernandina Beach,” Ross stated:

“I am writing to you today with a heavy heart, filled with sincere remorse and regret for my actions on the evening of October 29th. As your City Manager, I hold myself to the highest standards of conduct, and my behavior that night fell far short of those standards.

“Around 7 PM on Oct. 29th, I had a bicycle accident on Atlantic Avenue. I fell pretty hard and messed up my bike. The accident bent up the handlebars and scratched up the paint job. I also hurt my wrist but sustained no permanent damage. Bad day obviously. The police responded to a call for aid and gave me a ride home. This probably would not have happened had I not had too many drinks downtown that afternoon.

“The whole thing was scary because I wasn’t wearing a helmet, and I could have been injured badly. Fortunately, I wasn’t. The only lasting injury is to my pride, as I am deeply embarrassed.

“I humbly ask for your forgiveness and understanding. I am committed to earning back your trust and serving our community with the integrity and responsibility that you deserve.”

Fernandina Police Chief Jeffrey Tambasco said there were no witnesses to Ross riding the bicycle nor of him crashing to the ground.

Under Florida law, a person would be considered to be riding a bike under the influence of alcohol if their blood alcohol level is 0.08 or more. The penalty for conviction of a DUI bicycle charge is a fine between $500 and $1,000, and up to six months in jail.

“Technically, since he (Ross) was on the ground when the officer arrived and not on the bicycle, there was no proof of a crime, so no breathalyzer test was administered,” Tambasco said. “The injuries sustained were not severe, so paramedics were not called to the scene. The incident was captured on the officer’s body camera.”

Ross did not respond to an email from the Observer asking for details of the incident and how he planned to proceed going forward.

The city’s employee handbook states the following:

“The city’s reputation for integrity and excellence requires careful observance of the spirit and letter of all applicable laws and regulations, as well as a scrupulous regard for the highest standards of conduct and personal integrity.

“The continued success of the city is dependent upon the trust of its citizens and City staff is dedicated to preserving that trust. Employees, whether on or off duty, owe a duty to the City and its citizens to act in a way that will merit the continued trust and confidence of the public.”

The handbook goes on to say, “Disregarding or failing to comply with this standard of ethics and conduct could lead to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”

City commissioners were waiting for more details about the incident before passing judgement on Ross’ behavior.

“I was made aware late last evening of a bicycle accident that occurred a month ago that involved the city manager. While having no more details than has already been reported in the media, I urge understanding and caution against a rush to judgment. As I am sure more details of the accident will be reported in the coming days, it would be inappropriate to comment on any potential action that could be taken by the commission,” said Commissioner Darron Ayscue.

Commissioner Chip Ross said “Apparently the police officer who responded to the call was wearing a body camera and the footage has not been released by the city. I am reserving comment until I personally review the video.”

Mayor Bradley Bean, Vice Mayor David Sturges and Commissioner James Antun did not respond to requests for comment.

25 Comments
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angeldoccie2003@yahoo.com
Noble Member
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2 months ago

This decision will affect all decisions going forward in regard to employee discipline

Ben Martin
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Ben Martin(@ben-martin)
2 months ago

“Everyone needs to get drunk now or then or else they get snotty about it.”

memaguire@aol.com
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2 months ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Wrecked their bike and driven home by police included as ‘snotty’?

memaguire@aol.com
Active Member
[email protected](@memaguireaol-com)
2 months ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Why was the city manager’s name redacted from the report? How did the FO learn about the city manager’s involvement? If it was an anonymous source, then it makes journalistic sense to say so.

memaguire@aol.com
Active Member
[email protected](@memaguireaol-com)
2 months ago

Somewhere in Flagler Beach there’s someone too classy, smart and sophisticated to think this unfortunate situation was worth even a chuckle.

memaguire@aol.com
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2 months ago

The negatives can’t all be from Mr. Sturges, can they? Consider that Dale Martin was never driven home by authorities after YEARS on the job, let alone 13 days.

ggarner
Noble Member
ggarner(@ggarner)
2 months ago

I am new to this site but am familiar with its content. I disagree with you entirely. It’s only normal to support someone you personally like but using the press to glorify Dale Martin so you can pretend that he was professionally ethical and unjustly fired is nothing short of misinformation and wishful thinking. So let him chuckle. It does not change the facts that supported the Commissioner’s decision to terminate him. Ty Ross is not perfect and erred in judgment but has assumed responsibility for his actions and apologized to the citizens. Has Dale Martin done that? No.

AlexandraLajoux
Member
AlexandraLajoux(@alexandralajoux)
2 months ago

By all reports Ty Ross has been doing an excellent job as City Manager. The focus of the City Commission should be his professional performance – not a minor event that occurred on his personal time. Jesus once challenged in Jerusalem: “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” He knew that no one would – and no one should here in Fernandina Beach either.

memaguire@aol.com
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[email protected](@memaguireaol-com)
2 months ago

You’d be right. But if his professional portfolio had said he was driven home by police after an admitted drunken bike wreck, as described by this report, he wouldn’t have even been shortlisted for the city’s top leadership position.

angeldoccie2003@yahoo.com
Noble Member
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2 months ago

In public positions as well as in other positions there is such a thing as “code of ethics”. This is not about casting the first stone. It most assuredly about behaviors when in a public office.

Betsie Huben
Noble Member
Betsie Huben(@betsie-huben)
2 months ago

Others were run out on a rail for similar. I would be sad to discover that we are now a city with a two-tiered application of local laws regarding public intoxication and operating a vehicle under the influence.

Last edited 2 months ago by Betsie Huben
PattyM
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PattyM(@pattym)
2 months ago

To quote a Paul Newman movie, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” (Cool Hand Luke, 1967). Once the police were involved, the city manager should have immediately communicated with all city commissioners and been forthcoming with what happened. He chose not to, and that speaks to his character and his lack of honesty and integrity. As we all know, oftentimes the coverup is worse than the crime. He made poor choices all around and although alcohol impaired his judgement the afternoon and evening of the bike incident, when he was of sound mind the next day, he should have immediately notified the city commissioners with a major mea culpa. He chose not to and that is poor judgement and exhibiting deceptive behavior. He apologized only after the incident came to light. He should be appropriately disciplined – perhaps suspension without pay for two weeks. I’m not familiar with the city’s progressive discipline policy but he should be held accountable. The responding officer should have treated Mr. Ross consistent with requirements for any other citizen in that situation and not given any preferential treatment. You cannot be faulted for consistency, but you certainly can be faulted for giving preferential treatment.

KT22mike
Active Member
KT22mike(@kt22mike)
2 months ago

The biggest crime here is the failure to wear a helmet. That is unforgiveable.

rocknrobin12@gmail.com
Noble Member
[email protected](@rocknrobin12gmail-com)
2 months ago

Oh brother
Just another day in the city by a CiC

WaynesBit
Noble Member
WaynesBit(@waynesbit)
2 months ago

Do you guys miss Dale Martin yet?
Thank god I live in Yulee.

Alex Wood
Active Member
Alex Wood(@alex-wood)
2 months ago

Free rides from the police and no accountability?. Getting my tires pumped up.
Ty needs to get out ahead of this one fast.

Last edited 2 months ago by Alex Wood
Skonberg
Active Member
Skonberg(@skonberg)
2 months ago

No breathalyzer administered because he was on the ground and not on the bicycle so there was no proof of a crime committed? There are so many things wrong about that where do we even start?

TAK
Active Member
TAK(@tak)
2 months ago

The CM probably thought he was making a good decision by drinking & biking especially if okay to do in TN. That’s understandable. That being said, why did he not notify the commissioners (his new bosses) and just be upfront and honest and say he didn’t know he couldn’t do that here? Trying to bury an incident that occurs two weeks into a new job reeks of integrity issues. This happened at a busy intersection at 7:30pm and a week before the time change. If it took 20 minutes between the call & the time police showed up not to mention however long the police were with him at the scene, that’s a lot of time for people driving, running, walking or biking by so not quite sure the thinking in trying to keep this quiet.

Betsie Huben
Noble Member
Betsie Huben(@betsie-huben)
2 months ago

And can somebody please explain to me why we are using the term “overdrinking”? It’s a euphemism and clearly seems to be designed to minimize all of this mess.

memaguire@aol.com
Active Member
[email protected](@memaguireaol-com)
2 months ago
Reply to  Betsie Huben

It seems like the police chief has some questions that need to be addressed. Was the chief involved in the decision to redact the CM’s name and keep this quiet for a month? Did the on-scene officer call HQ for a supervisor and if so, what was the chain of decision making? Was the city attorney consulted? Who knew what and when?

Paula M
Noble Member
Paula M(@paula-m)
2 months ago

I hope he uses better judgement in his job as City Manager than he did when he decided to ride his bike home after having too much to drink and not to wear a helmet.

angeldoccie2003@yahoo.com
Noble Member
[email protected](@angeldoccie2003yahoo-com)
2 months ago

If you are going to drink to the point of being drunk, walk home.

J.Elmwood
Active Member
J.Elmwood(@j-elmwood)
2 months ago

June 21 2022, County Commissioner Aaron Bell arrested by FBPD for a DUI. Deputy chief Tambasco releases a statement to Jacksonville news outlets before Bell was even booked. Google it.
June 27, 2022, video footage of Bell’s arrest made public and he can be heard asking for a ride home and being told that’s not how it works. Google it.
October 16, 2023, Ross starts as new city manager.
October 19, 2023, Tambasco made permanent chief by Ross after acting in role for a year (reminder that city commissioners were advised in commission meeting December 2022 by prior city manager majority of FBPD officers did not want him as chief).
October 29, 2023, incident with Ross.
November 30, 2023, news about the incident has spread around town but not released by Tambasco but on local social media. At least 2 city commissioners have said in these reports they had no idea about the Ross incident.
The Newsleader ran an article about Tambasco after he was hired as deputy chief that included a link to a 10 page write up of Tambasco by Kissimmee PD in 2019 about his failures as a leader. If Tambasco tried to bury the Ross incident, did we really expect otherwise?

ggarner
Noble Member
ggarner(@ggarner)
2 months ago
Reply to  J.Elmwood

Google what? Your first two statements offer no real source. And even if we do “google,” we can not be sure the information provided with a Google search is accurate. Then we have to consider the media source that publishes the story. That’s not so accurate either, because the media often reeks of subjectivity. In your comment, you talk about a Commission meeting in December, 2022. Could you give us an exact date? Please be more specific; the information you have provided in your comment is too vague and seemingly inaccurate. At the very least, it is questionable.

Dan L.
Member
Dan L.(@dan-l)
2 months ago

7:30 pm at night. Did he have lights on?