City Friendship Questioned as Developer Seeks Change

By Mike Lednovich

Vice Mayor David Sturges’ friendship with a Fernandina Beach developer, who is seeking annexation into the city that would allow more density on his property, was called into question at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting.

Roger Todd Bates is listed on the Pllumi Investments LLC annexation application to the city, seeking to have just under an acre currently in the county be annexed by the city. If approved, Pllumi Investments LLC would be able to build two additional houses on the property for a total of six houses under city zoning, exceeding the limit of just four homes under county zoning.

Bates’ cell phone and email address are listed on Pllumi Investments city application under property “owner of record.”

The property at 766 Kenneth Court was discussed on first reading by the city commission for voluntary annexation, zoning map assignment and future land map assignment. No votes were taken on first reading. The property consists of three 100-foot lots.

At the beginning of the discussion, City Attorney Tammi Bach asked commissioners to disclose any ex parte communications regarding the annexation and zoning. Ex parte communication refers to any communication or contact between a commissioner and an affected party. Sturges did not state he met with Bates.

During public comment on the property, Fernandina Beach resident Taina Christner sought an explanation on ex parte contact with commissioners.

“Let’s say one of the commissioners was friends with one of the developers and didn’t disclose that relationship, would that be a violation of the ex parte communications, Ms. Bach?” Christner asked.

Bach responded, “It doesn’t matter if they’re friends. And there’s no voting tonight. Friends don’t count in voting conflicts.”

Bach told commissioners that if they have questions regarding voting on matters that involve a friend they should ask her for an opinion.

Christner then asked, “Would Mr. Sturges like to disclose any information about a relationship he has with Mr. Bates?”

She was immediately cut off by Mayor Bradley Bean who said, “This is not appropriate, this is not a hearing or anything like that. This is a non-voting item and this is not something that is supposed to be asked about that.”

At the meeting, Bates told Bean his name was Roger Todd Bates.

Christner told the Observer she knew nothing about a Sturges-Bates friendship until someone texted her a photo during the meeting. The photo was reportedly of Sturges and Bates having dinner at the Boat House Restaurant in Fernandina Beach. She said the text claimed the two men have been long time friends.

According to public records, Bates is listed with addresses in Fernandina Beach, Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

Contacted by phone, Bates was irritated when asked by the Observer about his friendship with Sturges.

“I’m not going to talk to you about this. I know what you’re trying to do, you’re trying to make us look bad,” Bates told the Observer. “Yes, I’ve had dinners with Vice Mayor Sturges.”

Bates would not disclose the length or nature of his friendship with Sturges.

Bates said the issue of his friendship with Sturges was brought up at the city commission meeting.

“Why are you asking me about this again?” Bates said. “I’m also friends with Darron (Ayscue), James (Antun), Mayor Bean and Commissioner Ross.”

Bates would not discuss his real estate holdings and said he wanted to contact someone he knew and then he would speak with the Observer with further comment. He did not call back.

“I met him (Bates) at the property about annexation and I’ve said hello to him at commission meetings,” Ross said. “But socially, no we’re not friends.”

Commissioner Antun said, “Mr. Bates and I have met a handful of times in the capacity of my obligations as a city commissioner when he has had an agenda item to discuss. We are certainly cordial acquaintances in this sense, but I believe it would be a stretch to say we are personal friends in any other way.”

Mayor Bean and Commissioner Ross said they had met with Bates regarding the annexation request. The other commissioners also said they met with the developer, but did not identify Bates by name.

Bean and Commissioner Ayscue did not reply to the Observer regarding Bates’ claim that they were friends.

“I met with the applicant for 20 or 30 minutes and I met with the affected party for about 20 or 30 minutes. That’s the only communication I’ve had,” Sturges said at the commission meeting about his ex parte activities. Sturges did not identify the person who had applied.

Sturges also did not comment to the Observer regarding his friendship with Bates. Instead, he texted a 2020 political cartoon published on a local right-wing blog lampooning two city commissioners’ property use.

Discussion of the annexation and rezoning lasted for almost three hours.

Several homeowners on Kenneth Court spoke in opposition to the annexation on the grounds that the added density would destroy the character of their neighborhood. Their property lots are 100 feet, compared to the 50-foot lot size required by the city.

The annexation will be voted on by the city commission at a second reading of the three ordinances.

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Navy_vet45
Member
Navy_vet45(@navy_vet45)
17 days ago

Why anyone would ever run for city commissioner in Fernandina is beyond me….between the biased local media and fellow commissioners wives I am sure its hell…..

ThatGuy
Active Member
ThatGuy(@thatguy)
17 days ago
Reply to  Navy_vet45

Indeed

John M. Drew
John M. Drew(@john-m-drew)
17 days ago

I am a friend of Vice Mayor David Sturges. 
I have known David my entire life – from early childhood, to working on his Eagle Scout project to his election as an Honorable Commissioner. I can attest that I know David Sturges’ character and it is beyond both reproach and contestation. 

(This is the stand alone sentence I’m directly addressing.) The writer stated, “Sturges did not state he met with Bates.”

While reading this article, I highly doubted that David wouldn’t have 
disclosed that he had communication with the applicant, Mr. Bates. 

So I took it upon myself to watch the meeting. I encourage all the readers to go watch the city video for themselves – Section 7.1 starting at 1:39:18. (Link below)
Vice Mayor Sturges clearly disclosed that he spent between 20-30 minutes with both the applicant as well as the affected party. 
Every single commissioner stated that they had communication with the applicant. 

Publishing that David did not disclose his communication is a willful disregard of the truth – especially when the false witness was the basis for this article. In court, under oath – this is called perjury. 

This is exactly why the American people have lost so much respect for and question the information claiming to be “news” that we receive. 

I am requesting that a retraction be made immediately and published with the same intensity as the defamatory and erroneous statements made in this “story.” 

https://fernandinabeachfl.new.swagit.com/videos/296654 (https://fernandinabeachfl.new.swagit.com/videos/296654)

ThatGuy
Active Member
ThatGuy(@thatguy)
17 days ago

Mike

You have once again demonstrated an estranged relationship with the truth. Perhaps you should make efforts to reconcile.

vannezastubbs
Member
vannezastubbs(@vannezastubbs)
17 days ago

As the affected party I want to clarify that Sturges and I did not have a pre-arranged meeting on Saturday February 3, 2024. It was by my own curiosity that I approached him on that date when I saw a logo pick up Truck with Sturges and Sturges parked on the driveway at Todd Bates property in question. I wanted to see if it was in fact City Commissioner Sturges or an employee. As I approached the property, Todd Bates pulled up and asked if he could help me with something. I stated I recognized the Sturges truck and knew he was a city commissioner and I wanted to see what he was doing here and to talk to him. Sturges went on to tell me that this is already happening on Old Amelia Road and that eventually all septic tank owners will be forced to connect To sewer lines. He stated there are agreements already in place and it’s a done deal. The developer mentioned that he will be forced to retain the water on his property [retention pond] and I responded that, that is the right thing to do. Sturges then stated, “ yeah but he didn’t use to have.” My kiddos were calling me back to the house so I had to jet. I do not know what agreement Sturges was referring to. Sturges stated he met with the applicant for 20-30 minutes. True. But he did not state he had dinner with Todd Bates at Boat House last July. Both meetings should have been disclosed and defined clearly. What were they discussing at the boat house and does the applicant have other cases with the city under a different LLC? I don’t know Sturges from Adam, and I’m not a city resident, I can only tell my experience. I would like some clarity on that meeting and why he chose not to disclose it.

ThatGuy
Active Member
ThatGuy(@thatguy)
17 days ago
Reply to  vannezastubbs

By statute, in quasi-judicial hearings, ex-parte communications need to be disclosed. These one-on-one meetings are a good way to understand the scope of a project and also gain perspective with other positions. A casual conversation not pertaining to the application or that pre-dates the application are not applicable as ex-parte communication. Personal and professional relationships are not prohibited, as we are guaranteed the right to freely associate with whomever we choose as citizens of this country.
Making a feeble attempt to draw some sort of correlation between a casual public encounter at a local establishment and an application for annexation is a stretch.
Making an accusation with facts to support it borders on libel. If you have evidence to prove wrongdoing then present it, the fact is you don’t have it (because it doesn’t exist) or you would have presented it Tuesday.

Some free advice, if you want to help your case focus on the facts of the matter and not wild assertions by a wannabe journalist and some
creeper stalking people at restaurants.

vannezastubbs
Member
vannezastubbs(@vannezastubbs)
16 days ago
Reply to  ThatGuy

I never made an attempt to draw a correlation between the annexation case and the alleged encounter at the boat house. I simply asked why it was not disclosed and shared what other questions have crossed my mind upon hearing this information. I’m allowed to ask questions if I don’t know the answer. It’s the only way to learn right? You have given me an explanation of why not every meeting is considered ex parte and it’s my responsibility to further research. This is all news to me and raises my curiosity as I try to understand time line of events and sift through all the alleged events according to this article. I did not get to finish my conversation with Sturges regarding septic tanks and any agreements already in place regarding them. I presume it’s regarding having to hook up to near by sewer lines. If I did not make that clear, it should be clear now. But like I stated, I don’t know what agreement he is talking about. If anybody knows of any agreements regarding septic tanks I would like to know the details for my understanding as I am a septic tank user and trying to stay informed. Thank you for your discussion who ever you are.

skerry
Member
skerry(@skerry)
17 days ago

I listened in vain throughout the long city commission meeting on the Kenneth Ct. annexation for even one city commissioner to address why Vanezza Stubbs had been denied the right to speak as an affected party. It never happened. I waited for even 1 commissioner to ask their city attorney why Ms. Stubbs had been denied the right to speak and then “granted” the right just 5 hours before the deadline on Friday to submit her evidence. Did the city code change over the course of the day, or was there just an arbitrary unjustified opinion of one? 
This is in my opinion is the core problem in our government – no accountability. 
I listened to intimidating remarks made by commissioners as to why this annexation should be approved, or else something far worse or more dense could come in. 
I listened to the mayor, in effect, advocate passage of this annexation by saying that all this talk about annexation bringing in more development was not true. Really? 
Then I listened in amazement as a commissioner made the unbelievable statement that these ethics complaints have got to stop! Really? Is this city commission now putting their authority above that of the State of Florida’s? The filing of ethics violations are part of our rights as citizens, just as is freedom of speech. The Board of Ethics investigates to see if there has been a violation and if not, the charge is dropped. Why would anyone be afraid to have an investigation, unless they had something to hide? The ethics complaints will stop when the ethics violations stop.
It is time for elected officials to hold those who answer to them and serve at their pleasure to hold them accountable for their actions. To not do so is simply not being accountable themselves to those who elected them as public servants.

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

It’s interesting that anyone connected to Florida Psychological Associates and/or or their owners would ask for a retraction about anything when the state wanted to know how the company spent several 100 thousand dollars of taxpayer money. Was that ever explained?

georgiacambell40
Member
georgiacambell40(@georgiacambell40)
15 days ago
pawleys_sc
Active Member
pawleys_sc(@pawleys_sc)
15 days ago

What a big soap opera. Congratulations to the majority of the current commission for taking a quaint, clean town and turning it into Peyton Place on steroids. Your mayor needs to go because he is a big part of the problem.

Albert Pike
Member
Albert Pike(@albert-pike)
14 days ago

I am relatively new to the area, 3 years, can anyone explain lednovich’s obsession with David Sturgess?

Navy_vet45
Member
Navy_vet45(@navy_vet45)
13 days ago
Reply to  Albert Pike

He is very obsessed….lost his reelection and has been slightly bitter ever sense….It has become painfully obvious….

Last edited 13 days ago by Navy_vet45
Albert Pike
Member
Albert Pike(@albert-pike)
12 days ago
Reply to  Navy_vet45

Wonder why he doesn’t direct some of his venom to mr. antun since he was the one who defeated him.

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