By Mike Lednovich
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Fernandina Beach Vice Mayor David Sturges called out two ethics complaints filed against him as a group of disgruntled individuals running a “smear campaign.”
The State Commission on Ethics has exonerated Sturges of an ethics complaint filed last March that said he had a conflict of interest when voting on issues regarding Brett’s Waterway Cafe and that he acted improperly in the firing of then-City Manager Dale Martin. The Ethics Commission has not issued a determination on a second ethics complaint against Sturges filed last October.
Pointing to a local newspaper headline at the conclusion of the city commission meeting, Sturges read a statement declaring that, “Facts are not subject to interpretation. They exist whether they are ignored.”
Sturges said the facts regarding his friendship with Todd Ericksen, who runs a local real estate company and works as a bartender at Brett’s, have never changed. Sturges and Ericksen co-own an office building on Beech Street. Ericksen has also been Sturges’ real estate agent on numerous property transactions.
“The facts here have never changed. They have just been ignored because they are not convenient to a false narrative some are trying to push,” Sturges said.
He said he has no interest in whether Ericksen is employed by Brett’s or not. “I’m not affected in any way financially,” Sturges said.
“The State Ethics Commission thoroughly investigated whether I voted on matters which resulted in special gain to a business associate of mine. They found no evidence of any ethics violations because the facts, including those that were ignored in this political attack, clearly and defiantly show that no violations occurred.”
Sturges said his focus has remained on “making the best decisions” regarding issues on the waterfront.
The first ethics complaint was filed by Faith Ross, who currently serves on the city’s Board of Adjustment. She is the wife of City Commissioner Chip Ross.
In the Jan. 10 issue of the local newspaper, Sturges was quoted as stating, “It is my full belief that Chip (Ross) put this whole thing together. It’s my opinion that he wrote it (the complaint) and had her sign it. It’s silly to think that a sitting commissioner’s spouse would file a complaint. If I were to have a legitimate complaint against another official, I would handle it myself and not cower in the shadows – and certainly not involve my wife.”
Just before Sturges made his remarks, Commissioner Ross addressed what Sturges had put forward as facts regarding Faith Ross.
“I did not write either one of those complaints (against Sturges). I did not ask or encourage anyone to file a complaint on my behalf. I’m capable of doing that myself if I chose to do so,” Ross said. “I don’t know who filed the second complaint.”