Fernandina Beach Mayor Bradley Bean, who works for Rayonier Advanced Materials (RYAM), skirted with conflict of interest when he objected to a request to have Rayonier make a presentation regarding its plans to build a bioethanol plant at its current facility.
During the closing minutes of Tuesday’s city commission meeting, Commissioner Chip Ross asked for commission consensus to have RYAM make a presentation about the proposed bioethanol facility.
“I believe they’ll (RYAM) will be going through the normal process so I don’t think we need to give any direction (to them),” Bean said. “Why are you going to ask this one particular business to make a presentation?”
Ross said according to RYAM’s application the company plans to produce 7.5 million gallons of ethanol in the city.
“They’ve (RYAM) put in an air quality permit and they’ve asked for public comment,” Ross said. “I think it’s totally appropriate to ask them what they’re putting into our city. They’re also putting it in a 100-year flood plain. They’re also putting over 1,000 more ethanol trucks on the road. How is that going to affect the community?”
Commissioner James Antun supported Ross’ suggestion.
Vice Mayor David Sturges then suggested the matter be tabled and referred to City Manager Ty Ross.
“You need to talk about this in your own meeting (with the city manager),” Bean told Ross.
Ross explained that he had already asked the city manager about the RYAM presentation and was told he needed a city commission consensus to move forward.
“Listen, I don’t hear that. There are plenty of public comments with the state, there’s so many meetings with public comment, why would we add one more to the city,” Bean said.
Ross told Bean, “I’ll just point out that you work for this company and it’s inappropriate, what you’re saying right now.”
Bean, Sturges and Commissioner Darron Asycue did not voice support for the proposal.
But that didn’t end the friction between Bean and Ross.
About 10 minutes later in his closing comments, Bean took a final shot at Ross.
“I want to end this with just a response to Commissioner Ross. I’ve been sitting here thinking about this. I know the mill has actually invited Commissioner Ross to go before and visit the mill and take a tour. And Commissioner Ross did not come on that day,” Bean said. “So I want to put that out there in the public and give that response to everybody.”
Ross immediately shot back “I want to respond to that and I’ve never been invited (to RYAM) and I don’t know why you did that. It was unnecessary.”