Nassau County Board Chairman addresses lawsuits

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Nassau County Commission
Submitted by Justin Taylor, Chairman
July 17, 2019 5:18 p.m.

Editor’s Note:  The following letter was received by Cindy Jackson, reporter for the Fernandina Observer. It was written on July 17, and signed by Justin M Taylor, Chairman.

There has been a lot of talk lately about this Board that calls into question our integrity. We have a lot of positive things to talk about – Long-term planning as it relates to growth, establishing a multi-year-budget, addressing the workforce housing issue, working toward a recreation masterplan, and so much more. All of that good work goes unnoticed when someone alleges any type impropriety.

It’s no secret that we are currently involved in a lawsuit with Raydient. After recent mediation, it was determined by the mediator that we are at impasse. The only individuals who know what transpired are those who were there. The week following mediation, Raydient amended their lawsuit to include text messages that they insinuate violate Florida’s Sunshine Law. All Elected Officials in Florida are required to complete 4 hours of ethics training with a strong focus on the Sunshine Law. Violation of the Sunshine Law comes when one Commissioner explicitly tells another how he or she will vote at a future meeting and the other Commissioner replies. I am not asking for you to take my word for it – Anyone can simply contact the Florida Division on Ethics for the law.

While the frustrations of this Board were shown when these messages were release, there is not one violation of the sunshine law. Keep in mind, as a commissioner, we are allowed to send messages to staff giving our thoughts, opinions, and direction, which was also shown in these messages when no other commissioners were on the text string.

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What I do not want anyone to forget is that during the 2018 legislative session, the Board of County Commissioners worked hard to defend what we felt was a violation of an agreement between two entities. We worked hard to ensure that the promises made to the taxpayers in this great county would be honored. That is the crux of all of this.

Also worth noting, one of the suits filed by Raydient was against our current County Manager/Attorney Mike Mullin. On Monday of this week, a motion was made at a court hearing by Mr. Mullin’s attorney to dismiss the case and the Judge granted the motion with leave to amend. The Judge also recommended that all cases should go to one mediator for all parties involved to participate.

In February of this year, I asked the Board to allow me the opportunity to meet with representatives from the Stewardship District in an effort to resolve some of these issues. After some back and forth that I addressed at a meeting on March 13th, the Court ordered both parties to Mediation. In June, representatives were present for mediation and the mediator concluded that we were at impasse.

County staff and members of this Board have exerted a lot of time and energy on an issue that I believe can be resolved. At the end of the day, we as a Board must think about the future of this County which we so greatly represent. This Board stands by our commitment to protect the interest of the citizens and I am asking the other side to please do the same.

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I am ready to move forward and once again attempt to sit down with a representative from the Stewardship District and Raydient. Before we can find a solution, we must first be able to communicate effectively. I am optimistic and I ask my fellow board members to please, allow myself, our outside counsel Greg Stewart, and the Assistant County Manager Taco Pope to meet with the Chairman of the Stewardship District, a representative from Raydient, and their respective counsel in this Board room. If approved, I am asking staff to send a formal letter to the respective representatives on my behalf and to notice this meeting to the public.

Justin M. Taylor

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2 Responses to Nassau County Board Chairman addresses lawsuits

  1. Scott Golding says:

    I think Mr. Taylor is counting on people not having read the lawsuit amendment. This letter totally ignores the meat of that document’s allegations, leaving most of them unanswered. Either he never actually read the document, or he’s just trying to steer attention from the rest of what it has to say.

    Also, a 4-hour course on Sunshine Law? Last I saw, the Government in the Sunshine manual is two volumes about four inches thick. I can only assume a four hour course doesn’t make you an expert, and reading the amended complaint, it doesn’t look like the county attorney is giving them good advice, either. Best of luck with that defense.

  2. Michelle Haddock says:

    Sounds like Chairman Taylor has compromised his integrity for political purposes and now wants to cover up the truth at the expense of the tax payers. The court records are online. Look for yourself. The texts are between Commissioners Taylor, Edwards & Leeper. Apparently the 4 hours of training didn’t help Chairman Taylor – The Sunshine law is not only telling another Commissioner how you will vote. It applies to any discussion of county business that could foreseeably go to the Board for a vote in the future. The ENCPA is county business that regularly goes to the Board for a vote and should not be discussed by Commissioners outside of the public. As the attorney, Mullin knows the law and knows the texts are violations which is why he refused to release them when they were requested in the Public Records Request. If there was no concern, he would have released them when asked. Instead, the county has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees with no end in sight to cover up this mess. Take responsibility for what has occurred in the past and end this embarrassing and costly dispute. When you find yourself in a hole, QUIT DIGGING!!!!

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