During the Tuesday, November 18 Fernandina Beach City Commission meeting I thought I had fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole and landed smack in the middle of the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
I attended mainly to hear about the $1.8 million impact fee settlement, which was buried near the tail end of the agenda, but before any agenda items were discussed the commissioners unanimously voted to give City Manager Joe Gerrity and City Attorney Tammi Back salary increases. City Clerk Caroline Best also got a fatter paycheck, even though she hasn’t been in the job for a year and is not certified for her position, but that’s small potatoes compared to what else took place and didn’t take place during the course of this meeting.
Following the gushing accolades spouted by all the commissioners for Gerrity, Bach and Best, the entire trio received a four percent pop in pay. It appears that Moe, Curly and Larry (Commissioners Charlie Corbett, Pat Gass and Sarah Pelican) have been joined by Laurel and Hardy (Commissioners Ed Boner and Johnny Miller) on the commission, and the only thing Gerrity and Bach have to fear from this group is being patronized to death.
Mayor Boner, possibly smelling a big shift coming on the commission with Robin Lentz replacing Ms. Pelican and the December 9 runoff election between incumbent Corbett and challenger Tim Poynter coming up, commended Gerrity for improved employee morale saying: “In the next commission, hopefully he (Gerrity) will still be here.” Hey, Mr. Mayor, apparently you haven’t noticed but the fire department is on fire. The chief and his assistant have been moved far away from the rest of the firefighters because of dissension in the ranks and morale stinks. (See item below “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire”).
Based on their outlandish and fawning comments it’s apparent that this commission reacts to reality like Linda Blair’s character did to holy water in The Exorcist.
Commissioner Pat Gass, apparently scripted by the rampaging and confused voices in her head, said that while some in the community have blamed Bach for the lawsuits, she said it is because of “your ability to outmaneuver our local rogue lawyer and other frivolous lawsuits that citizens of this city have been saved untold thousands of dollars.”
Really? Then explain the $1.8 million dollar settlement, not counting legal fees that will probably move the entire tax payer bill closer to three million dollars and the continuous costly appeals of a losing cause spurred on by Ms. Bach. I wouldn’t hire this woman to notarize a signature.
Later in the meeting Ms. Gass, or one of the more pious voices in her head said, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Amen sister, because If you sit through one of these sessions those words ring true, even though her comment was directed elsewhere.
Oh, following all the pay raise hoopla, the $1.8 million settlement was quickly approved unanimously with not one single word of discussion. “Hey, look over there! Is that a horse pooping on the beach?”
And “Rogue attorney?” Do you mean local lawyer Clinch Kavanaugh Ms. Gass, the attorney who is a thorn in the side of the commission and one of the voices advocating for the tax payers who are repeatedly getting hosed because of bad management on Gerrity’s part, lousy advice from Ms. Bach and a group of commissioners who consider backyard chickens and dogs dining on restaurant patios more important than almost three million dollars of tax payers money being flushed down the toilet? While Ms. Bach shovels our tax money into a bottomless pit of lost cause law suits and into the pockets of out-of-town law firms, Gerrity sits next to her grinning and signing the checks to pay for the chaos he caused.
Gerrity is the same guy who, when he was mayor, initiated and rubber stamped the original impact fee fiasco that Ms. Gass and the rest of the commission now praise Ms. Bach and him for getting settled in a law suit that cost the tax payers millions. As Alice said, it keeps getting “curiouser and curiouser.”
And the hits just keep on coming. Robin Marley, former human resource director for the City, who was recently fired by Gerrity over the ongoing fire fighters’ fiasco, filed a “Complaint and Demand for Jury Trail” against the City of Fernandina Beach. According to the filing, Ms. Marley alleges the city violated the whistle-blower’s Act when retaliation occurred after she voiced concerns over “gross mismanagement, misfeasance, and/or malfeasance to an appropriate government official.”
I’ve been told by observers that this suit is a slam dunk for Ms. Marley. Maybe Ms. Bach and Geritty will get another salary increase after the city loses this one. And Mr. Mayor you may want to pay close attention to this lawsuit so you can hear firsthand all about what you say is “improved morale.”
Following this session and others that included the over-the-top comments about the performances of Gerrity and Bach, the lack of discussion on the $1.8 million settlement, funding of the infamous mystery mud machine, and the commission’s “there’s nothing to see here” attitude toward the calamitous city pensions, which are ranked the worst in the state, among others, I am convinced that trusting our tax dollars to this group is nuts. These people shouldn’t even be allowed to own pets.
Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire: I know firsthand how skilled and no-nonsense the professionals that staff the Fernandina Beach Fire Department are, as I credit the incredible young men that so quickly and professionally responded to my wife’s 911 call following my stroke in August 2013 with saving my life. And that’s why I sincerely hope that all the brouhaha that is currently taking place within the Fire Department will soon be extinguished as any dissension within that organization only serves as a distraction to the fine men and women that staff it, and dissension is not good for morale, and bad morale in an organization as critical as this one, is not good for the community. I’ve seen exit interview comments from former firefighters that include sexual harassment and favoritism claims, read accusations from others in the local paper, heard and read reports on why the chief’s office is moving to the Peck Center away from the firefighting contingent, read conflicting statements online and heard a number of comments on the street, so figure it is about time for City Manager Joe Gerrity to come out with a statement and put all this discord to rest, particularly in light of the fact that he just fired 10-year veteran Human Resource Director Robin Marley for talking “out-of-school” about the hotly rumored situation that has now generated a “whistle blower” lawsuit. So what say you Joe?
The “He Said What?” Department: Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Charlie Corbett, who is running to keep his commission seat against challenger businessman Tim Poynter in the December 9 runoff election, has probably provided those watching in commission chambers and on closed circuit TV more contradictory head scratching comments, unintended laughs and gasps of disbelief than any other elected commissioner on record in recent times. Commissioner Pat Gass is running a close second, but here’s a brief sampling of some of Charlie’s more bizarre comments:
Storm Water Issues: During recent commission meetings Charlie has been claiming that the storm water project is a high priority issue but says the city doesn’t have funds to fix it. Hey, Charlie, funds for waste water programs were in the Forward Fernandina project that you voted to kill. You justified that decision saying “We gave the Forward Fernandina money back because there was nothing to spend it on.”
Main Beach Boardwalk: In his campaign literature and public comments Charlie is proudly taking credit for the new boardwalk at Main Beach, the same boardwalk that during a May 15, 2012 commission meeting he objected to saying: “Can’t see spending money on the boardwalk because sand moves all the time Why would we spend $178,000 on a sand dune?” In a 4-1 vote his was the “No” on proceeding with the project.
Library: Again in his campaigning efforts Charlie is taking credit for the downtown library expansion, another project he opposed. And in a September 4, 2012 meeting when citizen, tax payer, educator and now commissioner-elect Robin Lentz told the commissioners how important the library was to her family and students, Charlie responded saying, “thanks for your unkind comments.”
Sidewalk to Nowhere: You have to give Charlie credit for being loyal, even though that loyalty may be misplaced as in the case of the disputed sidewalk area alongside the Marina Restaurant on Front St. For a number of years Charlie has been a loyal patron of the Marina, parking his blue pickup truck smack on the disputed path, causing pedestrians to stumble around it on their way to the Front St. Salty Pelican. Prior to my weekly “Dave’s World” column being jettisoned by the Fernandina News Leader, Charlie even asked me to print favorable items about the Marina and its owner. And during a recent commission session resolving the issue, Charlie attempted to stop local attorney Clinch Kavanaugh from speaking during his allotted time by shouting out “Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s enough from you, Mr. Kavanaugh” at which point Mayor Ed Boner had to gavel the meeting back to order and plead: “If everyone will pause for just a minute. If everyone will wait until [Kavanaugh] is finished.” That didn’t stop Charlie who once again bellowed out at Kavanaugh, “Hey, that’s enough out of you.” Once again the Mayor had to restore order.
Wasted Money: Beginning in January 2012 Charlie was a vocal and strident opponent of the Forward Fernandina project, a program using borrowed money at a ridiculously low interest rate to make a variety of vital city improvements. He voted eight times in motions against the program (along with Commissioners Sarah Pelican and Jeff Bunch) and with Charlie’s backing the loan was eventually returned to the bank providing city tax payer’s with nothing to show but a “paid in full” receipt and our tax money wasted paying the interest on it.
Stay tuned for more of Charlie’s bloopers.
We Interrupt This Blog For A Very Important Message! Did you know that you can request an absentee ballot from the Nassau County Supervisor of Elections online at http://www.votenassau.com/Voting-How-When-Where/Vote-by-Mail-Info.aspx if you won’t be here to vote in the December 9 City Commission runoff between Tim Poynter and Charlie Corbett? Well, you can, and although there is no early voting schedule you can also complete a mail ballot in person at the Elections Office in the Historic Nassau County Courthouse. And if you want to get your city on the right track, do us all a favor and cast your vote for Mr. Poynter, a local businessman, who has invested his money, energy and countless hours of service to improving the City of Fernandina Beach.
Strange Company To Keep: Just two countries have corporate income tax rates higher than the United States, according to the Tax Foundation’s Business in America Illustrated. They are Chad and the United Arab Emirates.
Things I wish I’d Said: “A word that shuts down thought is ‘access.’ People who fail to meet the standards for anything from college admission to a mortgage loan are often said to have been denied “access” or opportunity.” — Thomas Sowell
A Fowl Wind Blowing: According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, “wind turbines may kill a half a million birds a year.” Wind turbines also kill 600,000 bats annually, primarily through lung hemorrhaging. According to something called the Center for Biological Diversity, the 300,000 mirrors of California’s Ivanpah solar facility will roast an estimated 28,380 birds annually says Deroy Murdock in National Review.
Liar, Liar Pants On Fire! The left is mad as hell because Obamacare architect and MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber violated the Saul Alinsky rule—liars and deceivers should not give speeches revealing their lies and deceit. In case you missed it, Professor Gruber said the White House and its Obamacare bill writers intentionally deceived the public with incomprehensible verbiage in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because as the professor says, “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically — call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever — but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.” The president and his acolytes knew Obamacare wouldn’t sell on its merits, so they hired Professor Gruber to twist the facts and paid him an astronomical SIX MILLION dollars of our tax money to do so. Can the “stupid” American people sue this twit for malfeasance and fraud?
Health Act Unhealthy For Business: What has the Affordable Care Act cost small business workers? $22.6 billion, according to a study by the American Action Forum. ACA regulations and rising premiums have also reduced employment by more than 350,000 jobs, with five states losing more than 20,000 jobs it says.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: David’s Restaurant has again been honored with the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2014 and has recently added several new specials, such as Monday Madness Surf & Turf for $29.95 and Wednesday’s Lobster Feast, featuring a 1 1/4 lb lobster, potatoes, seasonal vegetables & drawn butter, for $29.95. Sunday through Thursday, the upscale restaurant a 5-7 pm happy hour with half off appetizers and cocktails. For additional information go to amelislanddavids.com or call ’em at 904/6094. As chilly weather sets in Nick Hartley who runs the kitchen at Sandy Bottoms is adding homemade soups such as gumbo, chili, creamy tomato and black bean. He is also experimenting with a Muffaletta and I was able to purchase the last one Sunday afternoon and can report that he is getting very, very close to the original ones in New Orleans and I’ll be back for more once they become a menu staple. He makes his own bread for the big round sandwich and it is very authentic to that of its city of origin. If want to order your Thanksgiving Day bird and sides for from one to six folks from GG’s Bistro (formerly Gourmet Gourmet) you need to do so by tomorrow, Saturday, November 22. Call ’em at 904/261-8973. If you’re not attending the Taste of Amelia at the Omni Plantation this evening then stop by Wines by Steve at 4924 First Coast Highway for its weekly wine tasting from 5-7 pm and consider signing up for a fun beach-front event at the American Beach Pelican’s Landing home of Dan Ward and Paul Krom, Saturday, December 6 from 5-7 pm for just 10 bucks. Paul and Dan are also owners of the stately “Paradiso” home on Fletcher whose Neptune statue is still missing an arm and its trident and who police are following up on leads to find the two buffoons who vandalized it, resulting in a $6,000 reward for their arrests. Call 904/557-1506 and tell Steve if you can make it or ask him about other events or any specials he has running. Rumor has it that the annual February Montessori School Chili Cook-Off, traditionally held on 2nd Street North downtown between Centre and Alachua, will be moved to one of the city’s parks, a big mistake I think as downtown merchants love the event and benefit from its residual effect.
Most of the birds that fly into buildings fly into the glass windows reflecting the sky. Maybe instead of moving into a tent, we could just quit washing the windows. In a few years there would be fewer bird losses. Of course on the down side you would have to use more energy lighting the buildings and it would put window washers out of work.
You sure have the impact fee case right. Mr Gerrity and Ms Bach helped use City government to steal from our citizens. Now they get a raise when finally forced to return the funds. Incidentally the cost to citizens is at least $3,535,000. That’s $1.8 M in the settlement plus $735,000 previously refunded. By the time the settlement funds are returned add another $1 M in fees for the three law firms and consultants. If only it had been more the raises would have been higher? Did like the notion of Clinch as a “rogue”. He will use that to advantage with the ladies.
Mr. Scott truer words could not have been spoken. The fire department (firefighter to captain) truly wants and needs good professional leadership which two of the Chiefs do not have. Fernandina Beach Dept (firefighter-captain)is a excellent department with outstanding and highly skilled professionals (Firefighter-Captain) With the present two Chiefs they have demoralized and set the professionalism of the department back several years. What’s truly unfortunate is that the present city manager and city commissioners are well aware of all inquiries/investigations and nothing has been done except to move the Chiefs to Peck Center to hide and get out of sight and mind so the city managers horses can rest.
In my 34 plus years with the fire department I have never seen a department head (Robin Marly) treated as badly as she was. Her integrity has always been above reproach! One final note, commissioner Pat Gass comments to the city manager regarding he should make examples of some firemen by firing them due to circumventing the chain of command. (See city commission meeting 11/18/14) I as well as many citizens of the community found her comments appalling as well as her 4 percent atta boy evaluation given to the charter members. First no one in the fire department circumvented the chain of command. She apparently didn’t do her home work. Second I would encourage her to review city policies, procedures and contracts so she could make factual statements regarding “the chain of command”
Fernandina Beach Fire Department
Which peer-reviewed study? Is that “estimate” based on a worldwide bird population or US birds only? All buildings and “structures” or just power generating facilities?
Hey, Dave, perhaps in the interest of balance you should also point out that an estimated 970 million birds are killed each year by running into buildings, and another 175 million by power lines. We should probably get started demolishing all those dangerous buildings, cut down the power lines and start living in tents. The coal for our stoves could be trucked in down 8th street by diesel burning trucks. Thank goodness there’s no downside to burning fossil fuels.
Or, perhaps we could acknowledge that an intelligent discussion of alternative energy sources is not promoted by troglodyte-like citation of isolated statistics without context. Just sayin”.