Imagine you were just hired by an organization as one of five people selected to sit on their board to make decisions about the direction of this multimillion-dollar enterprise to ensure that it operates efficiently and in the best interests of the people that hired you.
You and your four colleagues will play a major supervisory role, overseeing this complex organization, assess the performance of those reporting to you and wisely and frugally manage your customer’s investments.
Then imagine that even before you walk in the door and take your seat, a senior employee, who reports directly to you, sends a public letter to you, the entire organization, as well as customers, vendors, contractors, and any others that might have the most remote involvement telling you not to cross him. Instead of a warm welcome and an offer to help you adjust, he lays out a set of instructions he says you must follow. In it he tells you – his new boss – what you can and can’t do and implies there will be serious consequences if you ignore his counsel.
In his letter this arrogant insubordinate blowhard proceeds to dictate to you and your peers who you can talk to, who you shouldn’t communicate with, and points to documents he says back up his demands. If you want to know what’s good for you he writes, you’ll only talk to the people he advises you to confer with, one of whom isn’t even an employee. Do what he says or beware this cheeky and arrogant employee implies.
This is exactly what was in Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin’s “City Notes” letter to the two newly elected City Commissioners, Darron Ayscue and James Antun, that appeared on the editorial page of the print News Leader last Friday, December 16, three days following the runoff election.
In his “I’m in charge around here and don’t you forget it!” directive Martin performed a skilled imitation of Mel Brooks’ Governor William J. Le Petomane in “Blazing Saddles.” He exhibited appalling degrees of pretentious superiority and self-absorption by posting his: “And you are now the leaders” set of instructions. As one local citizen told me: “He came off like a teacher instructing new pupils rather than a chief executive welcoming a new board of directors – cheeky and arrogant.”
It’s easy to see why the pompous and bumptious Commissioner Chip Ross and Martin get along so well. These two “harumphers,” who I’m told meet weekly to plot their next moves, are cut from the same cloth.
Martin’s public mandate to Commissioners Antun and Ayscue instructed them to avoid any contact with city staff and deal only with the three employees reporting directly to them: The city manager, the city attorney and city clerk. Has he ever explained that to Commissioner Ross who is on record boasting: “I run this town” ?
He addressed them like naïve bumkins, telling them to read the city charter and familiarize themselves with the city budget. He said only when he passes off his budget recommendation to the Commission does it “become their budget to review and revise as appropriate.” And revise it is exactly what they should do, each armed with a very sharp knife to carve out Martin’s and Ross’s pricey annual wish list. They should start way before the process begins and Martin offers up his wish list. They should demand that department heads look for ways to cut a minimum of at least 10 to 15 percent from their bloated budgets. Both new commissioners ran on a platform of budgetary restraint, and voters will expect them to follow through. Martin and Ross can go pound sand.
Martin encouraged the newly elected duo to meet with local attorney, Arthur “Buddy” Jacobs, who the city contracts as a lobbyist and is not a city employee. Don’t interact with city staff, he says, but he encouraged them to take their cues from a contracted lobbyist. In his list of do’s and don’ts Martin whined that the state has usurped or “preempted” local government authority and implies that Jacobs can introduce them to recently elected folks in Tallahassee that may be helpful in furthering his agenda and skirting state law.
In his set of instructions Martin never once encouraged the two newly elected commissioners to meet with or listen to the voters that elected them, but instead bypass them, run off to Tallahassee, and cry foul on his behalf. I’m sure he has a prepared script for them.
The new commissioners should follow Jacobs to Tallahassee then shake him off and head straight to the offices of new State Senator Clay Yarbrough and State Representative Dean Black on their own. They should ask our two new Republican lawmakers to encourage Florida law enforcement to conduct a city audit to investigate how over the years the city has been unlawfully administering state law to generate supplemental tax revenues to fill the city’s coffers to finance and promote their own personal agendas. At the same time new Mayor Bradley Bean may want to talk to his dad, Aaron, who once served as city mayor and is the newly elected U.S. Congressman from this district, to see if he can persuade him to use his influence to help push an audit along in his hometown.
A court found the city guilty of illegally administering impact fees in two trials over three years. As a result, the city was forced to refund more than $3 million and spend another $1 million for private legal fees. The city, then reinstated those same impact fees under a different name – capacity fees. It’s the same illegal fee structure with a different name that’s still used to extort city residents.
City Attorney Tammi Bach, with the assistance of lobbyist Jacobs has defended this fiscal hanky-panky for years. It’s time to end it.
High on the to-do lists for the two newly elected commissioners, Mayor Bradley Bean, and vice Mayor David Sturges, should be to ignore Martin and hand him his walking papers. It only takes three votes to boot him. Then ask Ms. Bach why she tolerated and endorsed this fiscal fiddling for so long. If her responses don’t hold water, show her the door too.
City Clerk Carolyn Best stands apart from this rogues’ gallery. She may be one of the best, most efficient, competent, and charming employees in city hall history and every effort should be made to hang on to this gracious lady.
City Commission To Do List: On the same editorial page as Martin’s directive, News Leader columnist Steve Nicklas penned an opinion piece that didn’t pull any punches, advising the new conservative majority of four to “clean up the mess left behind by the worst city government in 30 years”
A local financial adviser, who once served as the News Leader’s editor when the New York Times owned the paper, Nicklas knows his stuff. Headlined “A poker hand with four aces and a wild card,” the veteran newsman who arrived here 30 years ago from a Texas newspaper, outlined a series of steps the conservative quartet of Antun, Ayscue, Bean and Sturges can take to right the city’s floundering ship of state. The wild card referred to in the headline is outlier Commissioner Chip Ross, Martin’s lone, gruff, and unpopular ally.
Number one on Nicklas’s list is to review Martin’s six-year job performance. Nicklas pointed to Martins’ excessive spending, the financial messes at the marina and city golf course, and his bloating of staff with the addition of 55 city employees. He pointed a finger at City Attorney Bach as well, citing her “woeful record.”
A city hiring freeze was number 2 on the list along with the appointment of a citizen-advisory committee to help commissioners analyze, dissect, and trim the budget coming in third.
These were followed by the removal of costly and burdensome business regulations and exposing and halting the city’s retaliation against frustrated local business owners who openly complain about the city’s heavy-handed tactics.
As examples Nicklas pointed out Chiropractic clinic owner Antun’s own expensive and confusing experiences with the city as well as local businesses Pozzi Bistro’s losing fight to remain open and Brett’s Waterway Café’s ongoing battle to stay in business, among others.
Former Mayor Mike Lednovich bellowed his off-key and angry anti-business tunes consistently and Nicklas accurately labeled him an embarrassment to the city.
He also suggested coordinating or rolling duplicate city operations into those of the county. For example, why are building permitting fees 5 and 1/2 times higher in the city than the exact same fees in the county?
Steve’s column should be clipped out, laminated, and posted in every city department, as well as in the Commission chambers.
A Journalistic Embarrassment: A News Leader reporter with the fortunate name of Julia Roberts, who unfortunately lacks any reporting skills, blatantly exhibited her lack of talent in a bylined front-page article December 16.
This sad sack scribe apparently attended the same “Close Cover Before Striking School of Journalism and Screen Door Repair” as blind online Observer Editor Mike Phillips.
Headlined “City commission winners and losers speak out” Ms. Roberts’s piece claimed without any supporting data or verification that “….. Antun and Ayscue were supported financially by the local Republican party and touted their party affiliation in campaign literature.” She offered no evidence to back up her assertions, citing nothing but the acrimony spewed by the two indignant and angry losing candidates.
If she had done any fact-checking or made a couple of phone calls she would have easily discovered the two winners were not involved. The campaign mailers were sent out by a Political Action Committee in Tallahassee. The candidates did not write them, initiate them, or pay for them.
The News Leader’s pathetic Brenda Starr wannabe made no attempt to balance her sloppy work. In addition she conveniently ignored the fact that the Fernandina Beach Democrat Club, the local arm of the Democrat party, provided Lednovich and Genese Minshew literature, signs, handouts, etc. and promoted their campaign activities on social media platforms.
The two failed candidates didn’t exit quietly or graciously. They publicly expressed their bitterness and anger in Roberts article probably causing readers to breathe a sigh of relief that these two radical sore losers were soundly rejected and will hopefully never resurface.
California transplant and Black Lives Matter sign-toter Lednovich voiced his animosity in Ms. Roberts’s article curiously blaming his loss on “prejudice, hate, and fear spread among the electorate against the gay community” as well as unsubstantiated accusations of Republican party support of his opponent.
Lednovich failed to appear at the December 20 Commission ceremony to pick up his appreciation plaque and congratulate the new Commissioners. His unmasked wife substituted for him, telling the packed room that the former mayor had tested positive for Covid. A day prior to the Commission meeting the disgruntled and unmasked loser was seen at the Club 14 Fitness Center on South 14th Street and spotted there again the day after the session. He apparently suffered a rare one-day bout of Covid and realized a miraculous recovery.
The normally silent Len Kreger, who served as the commission chambers potted plant the last seven years, stormed out of his last Commission session in a cloud of angst grumping to folks attending the swearing in ceremony of the new Commissioners, mayor, and vice mayor by spouting: “This was the most divisive and nonpartisan race I’ve ever experienced.” The term-limited grouch failed to publicly thank his voters for their previous support, thank the city staff that assisted him over the years, or congratulate the new commissioners. It’s doubtful he’ll be missed as most folks failed to notice he was even there.
Minshew, who lost a 2020 runoff election to Commissioner David Sturges by 38 votes and is now 0 for 2, was even more acrimonious than Lednovich or Kreger furiously hurling verbal sour grapes helter-skelter at a variety of groups she blamed for her defeat.
Minshew, the founder and head of Fernandina Pride, told the News Leader that all the candidates had been cordial and pleasant until November 8. “Then just after Nov. 8, it was like night and day,” she said. “Suddenly the race was all about culture and gender politics. There were angry and hate-filled comments all over social media. People who I had never met or even spoken to suddenly had lots to say about me and about my personal life.”
“The talk was all hate,” she continued. “A local conservative group put out a hate-filled, mean-spirited survey and then got angry when I refused to acknowledge it or their message of hate,” the hostile hot-headed anti-hater hollered.
Her claims of a “hate-filled” survey were directed at the Nassau County Chapter of County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF), a local citizens group that that sent a questionnaire to all City Commission and School Board candidates. Only candidates Minshew and Lednovich refused to respond. They also refused to answer media questions on why they wouldn’t respond. Click here to see the survey and the participating candidates’ answers: Voter Guide for Nassau School Board and Fernandina Council Election- 2022.
Minshew continued her display of ungraciousness by whining that the elections are no longer nonpartisan, and that the City Commission is ”now a majority of outspoken Republicans.” She raged on accusing the new commissioners of being “supported financially by local businesses and associations” without citing a single example.
The majority of voters rejected Minshew’s and Lednovich’s radical visions for their city including Minshew’s stated desire to turn Fernandina into a gay vacation destination.
Attendees at this past Tuesday’s City Commission meeting observed a cheerful, energetic new Mayor Bradley Bean conducting the city’s business efficiently and politely. It was a refreshingly relaxed and professional atmosphere highlighted by a glum Commissioner Chip Ross scowling throughout the proceedings. His isolation has already begun, as two motions he proposed Tuesday were ignored without receiving a second and another totally disregarded.
It was a good day for the citizens of Fernandina Beach and a wonderful start to the Christmas holidays.
Another Island Author: Amelia island’s lengthy list of authors continues to grow as a book by resident Dr. Annie Hurt Yankus hit the market just in time for Christmas.
Titled “Stop Waiting. That Train is not Coming,” the book is a harrowing true-life story of Ms. Yankus’s fight to survive a 37-year marriage to a bi-polar husband she describes as “a true Jekyll and Hyde person.”
The book, which was written from journals she secretly kept during those troubled years, describes how she now believes her ex-husband was both bipolar and chronically depressed. “I was 50 years old when I saw myself drowning and with little hope that he would seek any kind of help,” says the author, who married as a young girl in 1967. She explains how she used her journals to “pour my feelings out to God because I felt crazy. It took me almost 20 years to share parts of my numerous journal writings in a book that I felt comfortable to share.”
She says leaving the marriage after almost 37 years was extremely difficult. She added that she wanted other people to know they are not alone in making major decisions about their marriage and that they may be able to benefit from her experiences. She reveals that a number of readers have shared with her that they or their own relatives have clearly identified with the emotional and mental abuse described in her book.
Her book was edited and printed by Elite Publishers, an independent publisher who prepared it for Kindle and paperback format, and it was accepted for sale on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Stop-Waiting-That-Train-Coming/dp/B0BHVDD9R7
Dr. Yankus graduated with honors from The University of South Florida (BA Ed.), The University of Florida (M. Ed.), and the University of South Carolina (Ed. D). Her educational doctorate is in Elementary School Curriculum and Instruction. In addition to various educational positions, she has also served as mental health specialist for Head Start Programs and on the visiting faculty at the Yale University Child Study Center. She was also an adjunct professor at Charleston Southern University Dept. Of Education. Ironically Annie and her husband, Tom Yankus, were high school sweethearts that went separate paths in life. They unexpectedly met again 42 years later. Annie and Tom, also a life-long school administrator, moved to Amelia Island 12 years ago and married on the beach.