Island Issues

Nassau County And Fernandina Beach United In Their Thuggish Anti-Business Tactics

Nassau County And Fernandina Beach United In Their Thuggish Anti-Business Tactics

Laura DiBella plays a delicate balancing act.

Her job as director of the Nassau County Economic Development Commission (NCEDC) is to persuade companies that pay taxes and hire locals to locate in Nassau County while convincing a group of good ‘ole boy county commissioners not to malign, extort, sue, or attempt to cook the golden geese she has corralled.

Ms. DiBella, who also serves as Fernandina Beach Port director, is an admirable woman who has made considerable career strides in the five years she’s held her current position by contributing significantly to the local economy, community and her employers.

In addition to her duties in Nassau County, Ms. DiBella is also an avid marathon runner and has shelves crammed with trophies from events throughout the U.S. and overseas that testify to her athletic prowess.

Laura DiBella

This dynamic dynamo, who is a popular speaker at just about every civic, legislative and business event hereabouts, was unjustifiably and cowardly slandered by shameless Nassau County Commissioner Pat Edwards, who said in a recently disclosed text message that Ms. DiBella has “the management skills of a pig” for her suggestion that Rayonier and the County come together to try to work out their differences.

This disgraceful, spineless commissioner maligned Ms. DiBella for suggesting in an email message she sent to the county commissioners that it would be in everybody’s best interests if the commissioners made a move to patch up their legal issues with the Rayonier Corporation to minimize the damage being inflicted on the county’s reputation.

In defending Ms. DiBella, a NCEDC Board statement of unanimous support for her reinforced her suggestion saying she “has long maintained that ‘fights’ between local government and corporate citizens do not benefit the greater good: bringing jobs to the community.”

In the NCEDC Board statement issued last Wednesday, NCEDC Chair Roger Rassman said the organization is “‘disappointed’ by the comment and, further, that the organization is “completely behind Ms. DiBella.”

This commission clown’s full text was disclosed in a recently issued 72-page claim by Rayonier that county commissioners violated government sunshine law by meeting privately, in person and through text messages to discuss various ways to “pressure and harm” Rayonier at its 24,000-acre East Nassau residential, commercial and industrial development district centered in Yulee between SR 200/A1A and the state line.

Commissioner Edwards’ next text?

Edwards’ disrespectful text said: “Good morning, in reading Laura’s email I have to ask the question, is her job to support Rayonier/Raydient instead of Nassau County? Why would anyone except a newspaper or paid blogger provide this letter except to strengthen our partners position against us. She has the management skills of a Pig!”

This message among many others was made public when a couple of disgruntled former county employees “squealed” on Edwards and other county commissioners and officials for their surreptitious texting habits.

Edwards’ text message continued saying: “I think she sees the writing on the wall and is hoping that Rayonier will either fund the board (when y’all pull the county funding) or hire her.” he said, “I hope she goes early.”

The NCEDC Board displayed a unanimous and emphatic show of support for their hard-working and slandered executive saying it had “complete confidence for Executive Director Laura DiBella, following an attack on her leadership skills, as revealed in court documents filed Monday.”

The statement said: “County Commissioner Pat Edwards maligned Ms. DiBella early last year in a text message for suggesting that local government meet with Rayonier to settle an on-going dispute over recreation funding within the company’s massive East Nassau development district.”

“In light of recent comments made by some Nassau County elected officials which have been released regarding our Executive Director, Laura DiBella, we as the Board of Directors are disappointed about the attack on her character and leadership,” he said. “We would like to restate our total, complete and unqualified support for Ms. DiBella and her staff. We believe in her tenacity, dedication and invaluable expertise as the Executive Director of NCEDC.”

Mr. Rassman continued, “We remain steadfast in our mission as an organization to produce jobs, generate economic opportunity and improve quality of life for all residents of Nassau County.”

The online Independent newspaper reported that “Fernandina Beach Commissioner Chip Ross, who is one of two city liaisons to the NCEDC, said by phone Wednesday that he supported Ms. DiBella and considered the personal attack by Mr. Edwards unprofessional and unwarranted. The online Fernandina Observer also reported on the commission’s shenanigans.

In his email response to me when I asked him if he wanted to explain his remarks or apologize to Ms. DiBella, Edwards responded saying: “Thank you for contacting me, I have no comment.”

Will he provide a verbal and written public explanation and/or an apology or will he continue to hide under his desk realizing that he tripped over his “good ‘ole boy” tongue with his disgusting personal attack that has probably fried his political bacon?

Ms. DiBella comes out of this ugly fray without a scratch on her and looking even better than ever while the county commissioners and staff are probably working overtime this July 4 weekend trying to figure out how to stem the damage from Ms. DiBella’s defamation and the other incriminating material in Rayonier’s 72-page legal filing.

The local New Leader newspaper naturally didn’t report the attack on Ms. DiBella because its editor was busy editing an article headlined “Some advice from a tree” and City Manager Dale Martin’s babbling weekly column this week about being nice to the city commissioners because they “work hard and are poorly paid.” That newspaper reads like a badly edited church bulletin.


What The Heck Is Going On Here? Meanwhile back at the dysfunctional Fernandina Beach City Hall, former City Commissioner Tim Poynter, a local businessman and entrepreneur who knows a thing or two about establishing successful enterprises hereabouts, was in the process of getting screwed by the city recently. He threw a pail of cold water on the dim city hall bureaucrats because he knows how to get things done around here and can define the word “fairness.”

In a nutshell here’s what happened, and what is currently happening to many others, who are not as astute and knowledgeable about city procedures and local politics as Mr. Poynter. But that’s a story for a future blog.

Tim and his wife, Therese, who own the downtown restaurants Karibo and Timoti’s, are building a miniature golf course on a downtown piece of property they purchased at the corner of Alachua and North 2nd Street. They applied in May 2018 to the city’s permit issuing folks for the required document and offered to pay the $12,000 price tag in advance.

Tim Poynter’s under construction miniature golf course.

The trouble started when the permit process dragged out for almost a year. Tim went back to unclog the system, pay, and retrieve the permit. That was when he was told he needed to ante up an additional $4,000. He was told the additional four grand was because the city’s new fee schedule went into effect on October 1, 2018.

OK, let’s put this in perspective. Suppose you go to a cafeteria, get in line and put a piece of pie labeled $1.00 on your tray. You offer to pay the guy behind the counter, but he says, “nope pay the cashier further down the line.” A few moments later when you get to the cashier she says, that’ll be $1.50. “No,” you say, “the price back there says it’s a buck.” She informs you that between the time you got in line and picked up the pie, they increased the price. At this point you start throwing pies.

Tim calmly and patiently didn’t resort to throwing food.  He appealed the city’s notorious and outrageous anti-business activity to the city’s Board of Adjustments (BOA) and won. He lost time and money and wasted countless hours arguing with tone deaf imbeciles at city hall but eventually prevailed.

How many small business people don’t have Tim’s firsthand knowledge of how the city functions? Or lack the time and resources? Tim was frustrated at times and it still ended up costing him additional money.

Naturally the local News-Leader didn’t report any of this because its publisher, Foy Maloy, has an irrational hatred for Poynter, and because the paper’s coverage mostly consists of bird cage bottoms.

There are at least four or five additional situations like this that I have been told about, and in the coming weeks I will detail how the city is putting the screws to these local business people with its abrasive approach and extortion-like tactics.

So far all I’ve seen from the city is a recent column from City Manager Dale Martin telling us to be nice to the city commissioners because they work hard and are paid very little. What’s next — “Take a city hall bureaucrat to lunch day?”


Things I Wish I’d Said: “Taxing people who didn’t go to college to pay off your student loans is like taxing the homeless to pay off your mortgage.” – anonymous.

“Would even Rep. Eric Swalwell’s mother be foolhardy enough to vote for him?” – Joseph Epstein, essayist and author commenting in the Wall Street Journal, July 1, on the “four wasted hours” he spent watching the two Democrat Party debates last week.


Small Screen Stats: The average daily time consumers spend on mobile devices in minutes has surpassed television, according to the 2019 Internet Trends Report. Last year, they spent 226 minutes on their mobile devices versus 216 minutes for TV. Eighty-eight percent of consumers use a second digital device while watching TV. Source: via Georgia Public Policy Foundation.


Predicting the Future:  Joel Ross is a smart guy. He’s done a lot of stuff — investment banker, financier, CEO, soldier, educator, and more – so I tend to pay attention to what he says in his “Ross Rant” newsletter that is sent to me occasionally by island friend Jess Newbern.

Mr. Ross views the platforms of the current crop of Democratic Presidential candidate’s as pure lunacy and predicts disaster for the U.S. economy if one of them was to get elected. His summary of the Democrat’s collective campaign nonsense that is crawling with identity politics and vote-pandering describes what could result from their destructive contempt for American success and global influence. I agree as I watched four mind-numbing hours of these American grievance-mongers flailing about with scorn for capitalism and entrepreneurship while enthusiastically endorsing the redistribution of wealth. That is when they weren’t endorsing open borders and competing to see who would heap the most taxpayer funded goodies on illegal aliens.

In his periodic thought-provoking and prophetic newsletter Mr. Ross describes the consequences of electing one of these haughty gasbags who lecture us that the Constitution is a white-supremist illegitimate document and that more government and the confiscation of private property and thuggery like Antifa and Black Lives Matter are answers to all social and economic ills.

In his latest newsletter Mr. Ross says  that after reading the recent Gorbachev biography: “Gorbachev His Life and Times” by William Taubman, he wasn’t shocked to hear how the former Soviet leader tried to change the Soviet Union by undoing the exact policies that he’s currently hearing espoused by the Democrat presidential candidates during their two recent debates.

Ross says Gorbachev explains how, when he was leader, the Soviet Union was collapsing in very similar ways to today’s Venezuela, all because of anti-business, anti-profit motive, central run, heavily regulating government. Says Ross: “There was nothing in shops, farm products were rotting in the fields, and people were poor and starving. All as a result of the same policies (Elizabeth) Warren and the others were saying they would put into effect. The juxtaposition was incredible. My take – the only one who has any chance against Trump is (former Maryland congressman John) Delany who was the only one who can spell economics and understands profit motive. I thought it was blatant how MSNBC was highlighting Warren and dismissing Delany. If this is the Dem platform Trump wins by a landslide. There is no way the moderate Dems will support these incredibly bad, historically disproven, policy ideas. If the Dems win the economy will really collapse, and the stock market and dollar will crash. It was scary listening to that.”

As I said Mr. Ross knows what he’s talking about. He began his career in Wall Street as an investment banker in 1965, where he handled public offerings, mergers & acquisitions, founded highly successful investment and advisory firms, was CEO of North American operations for a UK based conglomerate. In addition, he has ownership interests in and a senior management role in credit card processing, wireless building control systems, and military armor companies. Mr. Ross has served as an expert witness in financial cases, was an adjunct professor in the graduate program at the NYU Hotel School. In 1999, he conceived and co-authored with PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Hotel Mortgage Performance Report, a major study of hotel mortgage default rates.  He is a graduate of the Wharton School and served two tours in Vietnam with the US Navy.

Bernie Sanders by comparison never held a fulltime job until he was 40 and that was when he was elected mayor of Burlington, VT. Meanwhile Elizabeth Warren thinks she an Indian chief, Kamala Harris wants to abolish all private insurance companies, Eric Swalwell doesn’t appear to know where he is, Beto O’Rourke is campaigning in Mexico, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, called every cop on his city’s police force racist, and Joe Biden is being Joe Biden. And that’s the cream of this motley crew’s crop. They’re just one cowboy short of the Village People.


Skeet Taylor - 06. Jul, 2019 -

Lot of stuff going on.

Dave Lott - 05. Jul, 2019 -

Spot on in the piece regarding Comm. Edwards and his comments towards Ms. DiBella. On another note, I do think Dale’s piece on acting respectful towards the Commissioners (and everyone else for that matter) was also spot on. I know you go on Facebook so I am sure you have read some of the posts by people that make veiled allegations of bribes and other corruption against the commissioners with words of being “on the take” or “follow the money” simply because they took / are taking a position they don’t like. I say to those folks, put up or shut up, but that is unlikely to happen.
Finally, the comments in the Fernandina Observer article attributed to a city staffer to Tim Poynter of that’s just the way business takes place in the city is a real indictment of a process that clearly needs fixing if that truly is the way it normally is.

Robert Warner - 05. Jul, 2019 -

At least we know a quick and clean way to take your “comments’ to heart. We just do the opposite. Saves time, energy, and research. Still interested in why IBM morphed into Lenovo.

Lee Sherman - 05. Jul, 2019 -

I’d like to see one verified example of one of the Democratic candidates saying anything remotely like: “…the Constitution is a white-supremist illegitimate document and that more government and the confiscation of private property and thuggery like Antifa and Black Lives Matter are answers to all social and economic ills.”
Whatever you may think of these candidates, your statement is pure nonsense.

Pat Keogh - 05. Jul, 2019 -

Allowing Dave a bit of license on the Constitution, did you not think DiBlasio’s observation, unchallenged by the other candidates, that there is plenty of money around it’s just in the wrong hands and Ms Warren’s wealth tax, also unchallenged, had strong strains of private property confiscation? Did you not think that Medicare for all, free college education, education loan forgiveness, dealing with climate change as the top national priority, might suggest bigger government? Does it not seem to you that constantly casting things in terms of identity politics and characterizing our nation and its leaders as racist while remaining silent on the likes of Antifa and Black Lives Matter effectively condones their thuggish behavior? Back on the Constitution. Watching those two nights I saw 20 candidates who viewed the most tolerant nation in the history of the planet not as the Shining City on a Hill but as a gated enclave protecting the rich from its poor, its immigrants and its people of color. Not much of a stretch to believe those folks who espouse that nonsense see fundamental flaws in our Constitutional system of governance.

Art Rox - 05. Jul, 2019 -

Back in the day, the two ruling entities,County Commissioners
and the City Council vied for top
spot on the Dumb and Dumber
contest. The county finally began
to attract better candidates and
ruled the contest for a long time.
Now it seems the county reverted
back to its bad habits and it’s a dead
heat. Neither can get it together.

Joe Murphy - 05. Jul, 2019 -

Great stuff Dave. Maybe we meet again with Jess and thank him for the “Ross Blog”.
Hope you and Linda have a continued Happy 4th. of July.