Why I got fired for being a volunteer? – An opinion

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An opinion submitted by Doug Bailey

I have been on the Fernandina Beach Golf Course Advisory Board for the past seven years. As of January 7th in a “special workshop” of the Fernandina Beach City Commissioners, our board was disbanded by a unanimous vote by the commissioners at this meeting. I was shocked and asked myself why? Usually when one gets fired someone in charge sits down to explain the short comings as to why you are being replaced. Since that did not happen I asked myself, could it be the recession or additional health care costs? Wait, that can’t be it, we work for free as volunteers. So I continued to ponder my missteps as a volunteer. Maybe I should have attended more commission meetings? Arrive there early to hang around the proverbial water cooler, you know tell a few jokes, tell our commissioners how much cooler they are than the prior commissioners. So that may have been one misstep?

Then I thought, I was not accommodating enough to the City Manager when he attended our meetings at City Hall (city charter states we report to him). So in retrospect, maybe should we have had some drinks and snacks for him to make it a more enjoyable process? But wait, he never attended one of our meetings. Although he would walk by the door of our meeting room on his way to his office, he never stopped in to say hello.

Doug Bailey 2 crop
Doug Bailey gives presentation before city commissioners

So I continue to ponder the reason? I recall speaking at one FBCC meeting regarding an issue concerning the golf course for my allotted three minutes for public comment. By the way, after several requests, I was never allowed to be on the FBCC agenda (other than a workshop) to represent the GCAB under the current regime. After I spoke, I left the meeting and watched the rest of the commission meeting from home.

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At the end of the meeting, during “Commissioners Comments” Commissioners Corbett and Pelican stated they had never heard from our board before and did not know who the members were. I was just there speaking on behalf of the board. Was my presentation so weak they could not remember my comments? In looking at this from an outsider’s observation, maybe I should take a Toastmaster course or maybe a Zig Ziglar class to better my public speaking?

So now there is a new “Greens Committee Board” being formed (and I understand some of the recruitment is being done in bars and restaurants by Mr. Corbett.) Did I make a mistake by not hanging out at the local watering holes to become one of Corbett’s pals? The purpose of the change in the board was to change its mission to allow the new committee to operate out of Sunshine Law so they could collaborate between meetings on projects. That was the intent of Mr. Corbett’s plan to dissolve the current GCAC.

PrintIn the past, one person was taking on the task and reporting their findings or results at the next scheduled meeting. Playing forward, at the last commission meeting Tammi Bach, our city attorney stated this new board that Mr. Corbett plans to form will also be subjected to Sunshine Laws. Well, this accomplished a lot and they’re right back to where they were before! Great planning and research.

Each time our defunct board comes up for conversation, Ms. Pelican comments that the GCAC would only meet every two to three months. To set the record straight, prior to Casper Management taking over the golf course our board met every other month. Once Casper took over management in late 2010 we met every month to help insure a good transition of management. In the middle of 2012 our board made the decision to meet every other month due to a lack of issues concerning the running of the golf course. Late 2012 the course conditions went south fast, in early 2013 we started to meet monthly again with the exception of one meeting cancellation due to lack of a quorum. I really should have known this was coming because in our December meeting we had candidates applying to fill board vacancies. I was informed by city staff that the city manager had taken the board appointments off the agenda the first of the year. So no one knew about this until the Friday prior to the meeting?

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In closing I would like to say Commissioners Miller, Boner, and Gass have been sympathetic to the treatment of the board. Now with all this free time, I guess I will spend my time volunteering for the new candidates running for upcoming City Commission seats in November.

Doug Bailey CropEditor’s Note:  Doug Bailey is an avid golfer and for the past seven years has served on the Golf Course Advisory Board and chaired the board.  His business,  Southern States Insurance Agency, Inc., is located on Centre Street in historic downtown Fernandina.

 

February 12, 2014 7:35 p.m.

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6 Responses to Why I got fired for being a volunteer? – An opinion

  1. Jane B. Paige says:

    I was on the GCAB for 3 years, we were not treated right at the end. We met once a month, we talked to the manager/maintenance of the Billy Casper group each month. We were there to advise or recommend, all the City Commissioners had access to our recordings and/or minutes. Not once did the City Manager sit in our meeting or at least said “hi” as he went by our meeting room. We were treated very unfairly.
    Jayne Paige

  2. Randy McGee says:

    And ya’all never got kissed first…

    So typical of a government designed for self interest.

    Personal agendas, favors, deals..that is what is going on here.

    Sorta like the Spoils System…

    For those who are not familiar, look it up on wikipedia.

    Those who have will take from those who don’t, whether they need it or not.

  3. tony crawford says:

    There is a right way and a wrong way to deal with people. When you volunteer for anything you don’t do it for the “thanks and accolades.” You volunteer to make something better. A volunteer has little to gain except the hope of changing something for the better or doing a service to their community.
    Should a committee or, any volunteer group, that is helping to solve problems within the city be falling short of the expectations of those who originally formed that committee, it becomes a matter of good management to correct the situation. Good management would dictate that the committee be told of their precise short falls. There should be a re-evaluation of the goals, and new goals set, and a time line established to meet those goals. This form of communication is only fair to those who are volunteering their time and effort. Should that committee then fall short of those goals, then and only then should changes take place. It is management 101.
    I know I speak for many when I say a heartfelt thank you to all who took their personal time to serve on this committee.
    A situation where you spent 7 years of your time trying to improve something within our city and then be replaced without the re evaluation and goal procedure does little more than make the next person somewhat skeptical, if not downright unwilling to put forth their time and effort.
    I would hope that the City reaches out to each of those members both privately and publicly to show the thanks and appreciation which should be afforded them. I would also hope this would be a lesson on better communication between all.

  4. Richard Cain says:

    I’m a bit puzzled as to why three commissioners are singled out for somewhat kind remarks (they were “sympathetic”) in the editorial when the vote to disband was unanimous. I think there’s some political agenda going on here. But if the committee member thinks/feels he was poorly treated that is very unfortunate.

    The real problem here is that the golf course continues to bleed money and will for the foreseeable future by virtually everyone’s projection. Although I’ve seen the course referred to as a “City Treasure” … in my experience … treasures don’t bleed you dry. The vast majority of residents have never used the course … and never will. Perhaps instead of having golfers advise the city on golf course operations … in which they have a vested interest … some non-golfers should be weighing in … people that have strictly the city’s best interests at heart. Operating this golf course … unsuccessfully … is a distraction from the City’s more important business and a diversion of scarce resources.

  5. Jim Powers says:

    As one of the recently retired Golf Course Advisory Board members (12/31/13), I would like to add a few comments. (If I had stayed around a couple more weeks, I too would have been summarily “fired” like the rest of the board.)

    First, I agree wholeheartedly with Doug Bailey’s opinion piece and Jayne Paige’s comment. We all served together (Doug for 7 years, me for 6, and Jayne for 3) and we all tried to accomplish positive things not only for the golf course but for the City as a whole.

    Second, Richard Cain stated that non-golfers who have the City’s best interests at heart should/could/might be good members of the board. I agree. But, someone has to be interested enough and qualified enough to fill that role, including taking the time to understand the issues in some depth. During my tenure, no such non-golfer stepped forward and applied to be on the board. So, where are they? Someone with my 35 years of strategic analysis and planning experience would definitely be an additional asset (but good luck to them in getting the current Commission to listen or even read what they put forward!) I cannot assume a non-golfer would be acceptable on Commissioner Corbett’s new committee, especially if his/her interests are really to serve the City rather than to serve that specific commissioner(s) political agenda. Is there a political agenda involved in the creation of this new greens committee? As far as I can ascertain, the answer unfortunately is yes.

    Third, the gof course “continuing to bleed money” is a phrase we hear a lot. Let me explain. The root of that “problem” is based upon the debt incurred by building the clubhouse and installing the new irrigation system some years ago, not in the current ongoing operation of the course. That cash flow issue could be easily resolved by raising the fees two or three dollars. So far, the powers-that-be, now and as well as in the past, have not been willing to make that move. No, it is not an intractable problem, unless you choose to make it one. You can up the fees a small amount and have no “money” problem at all, including servicing the debt.

    Fourth: While at it, I will address another aspect that is not well understood. Casper’s contract is to manage all aspects of the course, including staffing, operation, maintenance, advertising, promotion, etc. using City money. For that they are paid a fee of $86,000 a year. Nothing more, no matter what you hear.

    I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter further with anyone who is interested. My email address is listed below.

    Jim Powers
    [email protected].

  6. Richard Cain says:

    There you have it … first of all they won’t raise the fees to cover the current cash flow shortage. But the idea that the “debt” has nothing to do with the bleeding of money is incorrect. It was for the golf course. When you borrow money … for any aspect of the golf course … the servicing of that debt is a golf course expense. You borrow money to fix up the course, buy new equipment, put a new roof on the clubhouse, etc. … that’s a golf course expense. And you should plan for your revenue to cover it. If it doesn’t … then the golf course is BLEEDING MONEY. It’s not a cliche. It’s accounting.

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