Residents of Fernandina Beach will soon be hammered with tax increases, but City Manager Dale Martin thinks he can lull local tax payers into a state of indifference with a series of incomprehensible weekly media columns. Meanwhile his sidekick and self-appointed city spokesperson, City Commissioner Chip Ross, continues his litigious rampage.
While Martin’s penned sleight-of-hand is an attempt to dupe residents into a state of stupefied apathy, sociopathic gasbag Commissioner Ross, notorious for leaving a trail of law suits in his wake wherever he goes, reached into his quiver to fire a legal salvo at the Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA).
First let’s take a look at Ross. His efforts are a desperate attempt to force a private firm, Worldwide Terminals Fernandina, to cough up its financial records. Worldwide, which is contracted by OHPA to operate the port, says its financial records are confidential and releasing them would damage it competitively.
Ross filed his 150-page suit as a private citizen without a lawyer. The City has apparently distanced itself from Ross’s legal antics and his suit is not tied to Ross’s and the city’s claim that OHPA owes it some $50,000 annually under some previous agreement. That issue is still pending as far as I know.
The motive for the current Ross suit is a mystery.
The court just recently issued a Writ of Mandamus supporting Ross’s demand for the documents which will probably cause the company to appeal.
Danny Fullwood, Chairman of the OHPA Commission, says he has no idea why Ross wants Worldwide’s financial records. “I don’t know how he expects to benefit from this,” says Fullwood, who speculates that it may just be a nuisance suit.
Ross owns a home near the port on the north end of Amelia Island. “He doesn’t like the port and would like to see it shut down,” adds Fullwood. He compared Ross to the guy who buys a house at the end of an airport runway then demands the airport be shut down because of the noise.
The deep-water port has generated significant economic benefit to the state and Nassau County businesses and residents for decades and has been in operation since long before the American Revolutionary War. It’s a special-purpose government district created by the Florida legislature in 1941.
Since Ross filed the suit without a lawyer, he has few if any legal expenses, but the port has to pay legal fees to defend itself. If Ross loses the case he will be responsible for court costs.
As for Martin’s word jumbles, area watchdog group Common Sense compared the City Manager’s muddled weekly columns to the actions of a sleight-of-hand magician masking his intentions to raise property taxes in the 2021-2022 Budget Cycle.
Martin’s articles are an unintelligible mishmash of gibberish guaranteed to have readers dozing off after the first paragraph. When tax payers eventually express shock at their upcoming tax increases he can retort with: “Wait a minute, I explained it all in a series of articles.”
Or he can do what he did the last time residents came forward to complain about their rising property taxes, pull up their public record assessments and publicly read aloud the amount they paid. It was an unforgiveable attempt at public intimidation that should have spelled the end of his tenure right then.
“In his weekly articles, Martin moved his hands all over the table to distract residents from his intentions,” says Jack Knocke, a Common Sense founder and one of its spokespeople.
The City of Fernandina Beach is desperate for cash because it lives far beyond its means by continuously adding staff, facilities, vehicles, and more under City Manager Martin’s direction.
In a message to Common Sense members recently Knocke offered an explanation for Martin’s obviating tactics explaining how it would make sense for the Fernandina Beach city government to operate at last year’s total revenue budget.
Knocke emphasized that operating at last year’s revenues is called the Rollback Rate, a lower millage rate if property values rise. “This is the rate that generates exactly the same total dollars for the city as they got from taxpayers last year,” says Knocke.
However, Knocke says that both Martin and Commissioner Ross like to call the rollback rate a tax decrease. “This is not the case as Florida law states that anything above the rollback rate is a tax increase,” adds Knocke.
“Last year, Martin pulled another sleight-of-hand, “ recalls Knocke. “He was forced by the City Commission to only get revenues totaling Rollback Rate Plus Inflation — roughly a 6% increase. Then he robbed the reserves to maintain his desired higher level of spending. He grabbed over $2 million from reserves to support his higher spending. Last year, Martin increased staff even with decreased state shared revenues. Adding full time staff along with benefits and pension expenses is VERY expensive.”
For example, Martin assumed he could fix the financial mess at the city-owned golf course by spending $500,000 on Top Tracer which has been a massive financial disaster so far. “It was his idea and the City Commission approved it,” said Knocke.
What the city got for their tax money at the golf course is a bar without a bartender, booze, bathrooms, or food. Usage is abysmal. Rates at $40 an hour are as out of sight as golfers. Potential players can’t use it after the 6 pm prime time because there was no advance planning since they failed to realize they were building it in an FAA flight path thereby impacting air travel with their lights.
Martin also uses auditors as an excuse for his mismanagement and bad decision making. Auditors determine if books are stated accurately. They are not business managers and should not be cited for justifying or driving business decisions such as the golf course.
“City Manager Dale Martin has been bringing increased spending and taxing budgets to the commission for years,” concludes Knocke. “He has created a bloated government that is not sustainable for our small community. Our City Commissioners need to change direction now.”
For those who haven’t been paying attention following are a few examples of how this pompous narcissist has attempted to ruin people’s lives with his numerous legal actions.
One of the most despicable local examples in Ross’s lengthy legal history took place in 2017 when one of his suits drove John and Teresa Sauer, and their special needs son, John Jr., out of their Fernandina home forcing them to take shelter in a local hotel, costing them thousands of dollars.
The Sauer family bought a house at 205 Broome Street in Fernandina Beach’s historical district in February 2015 and spent between $80-90,000 renovating it, only to have the financial roof cave in on them thanks to Ross. Until the suit was settled the Sauers were denied a certificate of occupancy.
The suit also cost city tax payers $10,000, the cost of the city’s $5,000 insurance deductible in each on the cases he brought. Ross didn’t care and said so in a letter to the editor in the News-Leader.
Ross says he filed the actions to contest whether amendments to the City’s Comprehensive Plan in June 2017 were in compliance with Florida Statute. And the Sauer family was in his way….well, too bad!
The court didn’t agree with Ross. Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk found that Ross’s challenges were based upon “inaccurate contentions”, that he “presented no relevant acceptable data or analysis which contradicted” that action and that he “did not prove” that the City’s action was in violation of Florida Law.
In this space on November 3, 2017, I wrote that a variety of news outlets reported how Ross’s behavior and legal actions upended the tranquility and lives of many in Ross’s former Solomon’s Island, Maryland community
Charles Donnelly, an attorney for the Solomon’s Island Tiki Bar was quoted in an April 19, 2012, Southern Maryland Weekly Galvert Gazette article headlined “Local wins give Tiki Bar much to celebrate” saying that his client (Tiki Bar) “spent between $300,000 and $500,000 on attorneys, architects and legal fees over the years defending itself from Ross.”
Other area media reported about Ross’s activities in his former residence including one in the Washington Post by J. Freedom du Lac, the Post’s general assignment news editor, headlined: “At the famed Tiki Bar in Southern Maryland, it’s the doctor vs. the drinkers.”
Sean Rice of The BayNet.com authored another one about Ross on September 22, 2006, headlined “Prominent Tiki Bar Foe Charged with Intoxicated Endangerment.”
According to these Maryland and Washington D.C. news reports Ross tried to strip a local bar in his former residence of its liquor license and had legal charges brought against him. The entire, very bizarre report of Ross’s activities can be found by going to: http://www.thebaynet.com/articles/0906/prominent-tiki-bar-foe-charged-with-intoxicated-endangerment.html. The Washington Post article can be read in the May 28, 2011 Washington Post (At the famed Tiki Bar in Southern Maryland, it’s the … – Washington Post ).
Speaking Of Commissioner Ross: Maybe the best way to make abrasive Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Chip Ross go away is to isolate and ignore him. That way the city can get some work accomplished and lower the decibel level at the same time.
Commissioners Bradley Bean and David Sturges got that ball rolling last Tuesday when they initiated a 4-1 vote by the Commission to abandon legal efforts to acquire by eminent domain what is known as the O’Steen – Simmons property along the Amelia Riverfront. Ross was the only one voting to confiscate the property.
Mayor Mike Lednovich and Commissioner Len Kreger agreed leaving Ross as the lone holdout wanting to waste time and tax money using legal efforts to snatch private property from unwilling sellers.
“It was great to see Bean and Sturgis not follow the recommendation of Martin and Bach,” says Common Sense’s Jack Knocke. “The amazing backstory is that Martin and Bach stated that they agreed to accept the latest appraisal a few months back in arbitration because the appraisal was coming from one of the top firms in Florida.”
Knocke says that when the appraisal came back at $2.3 Million – well above the city’s $830,000 appraisal – Martin and Bach recommended that the City Commission reject it tossing the effort into the court system. Bach also recommended sending the appraisal to a state oversight board to call out the appraiser, reports Knocke.
“Why would she think that she knows more about property appraisal than the best in the state?” asks Knocke. “Why would she ask the commission to reject the appraisal that a few weeks earlier she agreed to accept due to the reputation of the appraiser?”
Fortunately, the cooler heads of Bean and Sturgis prevailed.
How much has this debacle cost the city’s tax payers Mr. Martin? Ms. Bach?
However, its editorial “Lawsuit seeks documents that should already be public” in the Wednesday June 16 edition baffles me. It takes the side of rogue Commissioner Chip Ross and his individual suit against OHPA for Worldwide Terminals financial records. The piece was written by the paper’s editorial board which the masthead says consists of Bryan and Publisher Foy Maloy.
The editorial makes no mention the fact that the city is not requesting these records and doesn’t ask why it and other Commissioners aren’t involved. The reason that Ross is requesting the records as a private citizen are vague. Why? And the editorial makes no mention of the OHPA Commission’s opinion except to praise Commissioner Miriam Hill, who regularly expresses opposition to her fellow commissioners. The editorial also doesn’t mention Ross’s habitual practice of filing lawsuits, a compulsion he appears to have adopted as a hobby.
The editorial suggested OHPA fire its private contractor, Worldwide Terminals, if it doesn’t hand over its financial records, a move that the firm says would give unfair advantage to its competitors.
If the editorial’s objectives were to change minds or convince readers that Ross’s suit has merit it failed.
A Leftist Thinker’s Stinker: Next to the News Leader’s editorial was Ron “Get Off My Lawn You Little Bastards” Sapp’s ongoing editorial buffoonery headlined “New rules take thinking out of classroom.”
Sapp is his own worst enemy, continuously embarrassing himself with irrational blather that most well-adjusted people typically abandon as they grow older. Not Sapp. Just a couple of months ago he identified as a socialist, writing that he was proud to admit it.
Fortunately the retired indoctrinator is no longer polluting the minds of young people at Fernandina Beach High School. I’ve heard from many parents and former students that his classroom propaganda echoed his editorial nonsense which included flagrant assaults on the realities of history.
His latest leftist editorial rage endorses the radicalization of the educational system that embraces Marxist indoctrination rather than learning. His June 16 stream of bilge supports critical race theory and insists this Marxist claptrap be taught in our public schools. He criticized Governor Ron DeSantis for bringing it to a screeching halt.
The Florida Board of Education (BOE) Thursday, June 10, approved a rule initiated by Governor DeSantis that specifies public schools teach American history based on “universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” and bans “critical race theory” from being taught in Florida classrooms.
Critical Race Theory is just a fancy term for simple old-fashioned race hatred, except that instead of targeting blacks, it targets whites for the color of their skin.
“Critical Race Theory teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other. It is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools,” DeSantis tweeted before the BOE vote.
“The woke class wants to teach kids to hate each other, rather than teaching them how to read, but we will not let them bring nonsense ideology into Florida’s schools,” DeSantis continued. “I find it unthinkable that there are other people in positions of leadership in the federal government who believe that we should teach kids to hate our country.”
Sapp disagrees. In his column he encourages the teaching of critical race theory, which is built around the framework of identity-based Marxism, an ideology that unleashed some of the world’s most brutal dictators and darkest times and advocates the overthrow of capitalism. That’s what avowed socialists do.
Instead of critical race theory, what our schools require is the true story of America, that includes the injustices, but places them in the context of the country’s high ideals and our progress toward achieving them.
American parents, fed up with critical race theory indoctrination, are flooding into their local school board meetings in the thousands to demand they reject this Marxist claptrap. National political observer and former educator Joel Ross says: “We are just at the start of the revolt, and it is spreading fast as parents find out what their kids are being told and indoctrinated with.”
Ron Sapp is a lonely and angry voice in the wilderness and his degenerate blather on the editorial page of the News Leader an example of the garbage he spewed at our local high school students.
I encourage the newspaper to continue printing his drivel so its readers can see for themselves the dangers such people pose when they are let loose in a classroom.
Things I Wish I’d Said: “If stupidity was a disability, I know more than a few people who would get monthly checks.” – Anonymous.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Popular piano man John Springer and his drummer sidekick, Rob Taylor, are back. The tuxedo clad Springer and drummer Taylor will be taking requests at the new Marriott hotels on Atlantic, Springhill Suites and the Courtyard, at the site’s Tide Pool Bar and Grill outdoor venue Friday, June 25, 4-7 pm. They are also booked at the American Legion Post 54 at Gum and South 3rd Street, Saturday, July 3, from 6 -9 p.m. Both events are open to the public. The Sean McCarthy Band is hosting a “Booze Cruise,” a $65 per person ticketed event aboard an Amelia River Cruise boat Saturday, July 3, 4-6 pm that includes beer and wine. Call 904/261-9972 for tickets.