A second ethics complaint has been filed against Fernandina Beach Vice Mayor David Sturges with the Florida Commission on Ethics.
The most recent complaint follows an ethics complaint filed against Sturges last March.
As with the first complaint, the newly filed ethics complaint was revealed by the Nov. 21 agenda published this week. One agenda item is a resolution authorizing City Attorney Tammi Bach to work with the city’s claims administrator to appear on behalf of and defend Sturges before the Commission on Ethics over a complaint filed on Oct. 18, 2023. Sturges is once again asking that the city pay his legal bills.
The complaint itself, and all ethics commission proceedings and records relating to the complaint, are confidential unless Sturges wishes to disclose them.
As the owner of a residential building contracting company and owner of numerous properties in the city and county, Sturges has a pattern of failing to recuse himself from voting on issues that could benefit him.
He voted to lower storm-water/wastewater capacity fees charged to builders despite a city consultant telling the city commission that the fees needed to be raised by a significant amount.
Sturges voted to ignore the city’s Land Development Code and allow the construction of townhouses on property that, under the code prohibited the building of townhomes. The city is currently facing a lawsuit over that decision.
He also voted to lower various building permit fees, which his company is required to pay on projects, for the 2023-24 city budget year.
Currently, Sturges is pushing the Planning Advisory Board to rewrite sections of the Land Development Code that would remove restrictions and allow for the division of underlying property lots, a move that would significantly increase density in numerous neighborhoods. Sturges also wants the words “flood plain” removed from a formula that determines the number of units that can be built on a parcel. Again, such a revision would allow for greater density.
Sturges claims the changes to the Land Development Code would not benefit him.
City Charter Section 31 requires that the prosecution and defense of litigation involving the city be authorized by the city commission.
The March 6 Sturges ethics investigation likely involved Sturges participating and voting on issues impacting Brett’s Waterway Cafe.
City Attorney Bach has cautioned Sturges in the past on his comments and votes in the debate over the closure of Brett’s Waterway Café because Sturges failed to disclose a conflict of interest when the Brett’s matter first was discussed and voted on by the city commission in 2020. Sturges has a business partner who also is employed by Brett’s.
After City Attorney Bach told him that he had a conflict of interest in the Brett’s matter, Sturges has since recused himself on Brett’s votes. The ethics complaint came to light when the city commission’s April 18 agenda was made public and the city commission subsequently voted to pay his legal bills.