By Mike Lednovich
Fernandina Beach Police Chief Jeff Tambasco has asked the State Attorney to review his department’s handling of the Oct. 29 alcohol-related bicycle accident involving City Manager Ty Ross.
The accident happened just 10 days after Ross had appointed Tambasco as police chief and Ross was just two weeks into the job as city manager.
Ross admitted at last Tuesday’s city commission meeting that he had too much to drink when he attempted to ride his bicycle home and crashed in the dark near the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and 14th Street.
Witnesses summoned police and when an officer arrived, Ross was sitting next to his bicycle on the front lawn of a house. He was incoherent when asked questions, according to police video of the incident. Shortly after learning that Ross was the city manager, police officers provided him a ride home and told him if he ever needed help again they would provide him with transportation to his house. Ross was not given a sobriety test and no charges were filed.
Ross did not report the incident to city commissioners. Ross issued an apology only after the Observer made a public records request on Nov. 28. Ross spoke about getting professional help for stress related issues at last Tuesday’s city commission meeting.
The city commission has set Dec. 19 for a special meeting to discuss what disciplinary measures should be taken in the aftermath of disclosure of the city manager’s conduct.
Tambasco has issued a press release stating:
“On October 29, 2023, at 7:36PM, the Fernandina Beach Police Department responded to a call for service advising that a “young man with a bicycle was lying in the grass, rolling around.” Upon arrival, the officer encountered an adult male sitting in the grass with a bicycle lying next to him. Through conversation, it was discovered that he is the City Manager for the City of Fernandina Beach, Ty Ross.
“The officer evaluated the scene and determined no reportable criminal charges. In keeping with the Fernandina Beach Police Department’s culture of compassion, the officer gave Mr. Ross a ride home.
“I was contacted that night after the incident was resolved. I immediately called the Deputy Chief, who instructed the on-duty supervisor to review the body worn camera footage for compliance with the Fernandina Beach Police Department’s policies and potential criminal charges. Upon review, it was determined our policies were followed and no criminal charges were warranted.
“The Fernandina Beach Police Department is a professional organization driven by core values of partnership, integrity, and respect. We pride ourselves on our reputation for kindness, compassion, and being a helpful part of our community. The officer called to the scene did exactly what I would expect, and exactly what happens on a regular basis for citizens in similar situations.
“I have spoken with the State Attorney’s Office and requested an independent review of this incident.”
Several speakers at the city commission meeting questioned the police department’s actions the night of Ross’ accident, claiming the city manager had been given “special treatment” because of his position with the city.