Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

“Shut Up And Listen” City Manager Tells New Commissioners While News Leader Columnist Offers Some Practical Advice

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.

“Follow my instructions and we’ll all get along just fine.”

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.

“Be careful who you meet with and talk to fellas.”

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.

“Some issues can be solved with just a simple name change.”

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.

***

“No time to fact check this or I’ll miss the school bus.”

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.

“Lost? Whadaya mean I lost!”

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.”

“Survey? I’ll tell you what you can do with your stinking hate-filled survey!”

“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.

***

Author Annie Yankus

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.

  • Comment (28)
  • It is past due time for the FB City Commissioners to rid the city of this bloated mouthpiece. He is a legend in his own mind but to no one else. In fact he is just the southbound end of a northbound horse. The City Attorney, and Building Inspector Department should be tied to a railcar and shipped off never to return to pull their scams again. Also, good riddance to the BLM Terrorist Supporter and the Pride Queen that the voters sent packing.

      • Don’t you have a blunt to roll Snoop? You know that stuff causes memory loss and paranoia, right? LOL

      • Great one Dave glad the good
        guys won for a change. Sounds
        like the city government is in
        responsible hands and the gas
        bag Martin is one vote from un-
        employment.
        Keep up the fine work as the
        island needs your good work.
        Happy Holidays
        DickTroxel

  • Bet it is a great book as I married an alcohol the second marriage and he immediately signed in at Willingway in Statesboro,Ga …Never drank another drop of alcohol and we had a wonderful few years of marriage

  • Merry Christmas Amelia Island! This is such a wonderful place to live and the holidays only make it beter. I hope everyone has a great new year.

  • Thank you David Scott for sharing wth others Dr. Annie Yankus’ book titled “STOP WAITING! That Train Is Not Coming.” My wife poured out her heart and soul in this publication. Her intent was not just to tell about her life story BUT Annie is hoping to help others dealing with family and friends who may be suffering from some form of mental illness. I certainly do. It is the holiday season and there are individuals we know that do need advice and assistance. Yes, they struggle day-to-day year round. With that said Dr. Annie was a former officer and is currently active with The National Alliance of Mental Illness/Nassau County NAMI. The local crisis number here is 904-206-1756/online naminassauflorida.org also having a local Facebook page. Someone out there you know may need this information for free counseling services. Merry Christmas David and the same to all your readers.

  • I find little value in the majority of the city manager’s columns. I find him snarky, maybe it’s just his personality. Many are self-promoting and occasionally his personal life. I agree with you that the last one was condescending and inappropriate. Does he really believe that he needs to publicly school someone running for elected office. You mentioned impact fees, but don’t forget the annual loans from the utilities fund to the golf course and marina enterprise funds. He has occasionally suggested writing them off. City bondholders would surely take exception. Likely another legal action. The irony is that an ordinance to increase fees for that fund is on the agenda for January 3rd. How many citizens realize that their water bill is subsidizing other mismanaged activities without a repayment plan.

  • We may want to explore the details of Martin’s contract. A dismissal may provide him with a hefty severance. If this is indeed the case, the appropriate next step is to limit his powers of decision-making. Martin must get in step with the new Commissioners, he works for them. Document all his actions.

    • Perhaps in between doing Russian Mudslides with Dave at PJDs, ya’ll should read the City Charter at fbfl.us/DocumentCenter/View/22109/Charter-Clean-Version-110420. I know its not the MAGA way, however, if you don’t like the law work to change it through proper channels rather than suggesting a mini insurrection.

  • Thanks to Matt Hartle for providing the link to the City Charter in his comment. Here is the relevant passage:

    “The City Commission must appoint a City Manager who is the administrative head of the municipal government under the direction and supervision of the City Commission and holds office at the pleasure of the City Commission.”

    Serving “at pleasure” means the City Manager can be fired at any time by the Commission and for whatever reason.

    • Incorrect. Your quoted language means that the City Commission has the sole authority to hire/fire the City Manager without the need for voter approval. That does not mean the City Commision can ignore the employment contract and just fire Mr. Martin without cause or for politically motivated reasons.

      Section 11:

      “(a)… City Commissioners are “public officers” under Ch. 112, Florida Statutes (Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees) and must abide by all of the ethical standards set forth in these statutes.
      (b) Any member of the City Commission ceasing to possess the foregoing qualifications, including violations of Ch. 112, Florida Statutes (state Code of Ethics)…is automatically suspended from office until the City Commission conducts a public hearing and issues a ruling regarding forfeiture of the Commissioner’s seat…”

      The sword cuts both ways and we live in interesting times.

      • “at the pleasure of the City Commission” means just that. The Manager may be dismissed “for cause” or for no stated reason at all.

        Regardless of any conflicting language in his employment contract, the language in the City Charter would likely be deemed superseding if a case were ever taken to court.

        The voters, for better or worse, have no direct control over the decisions of the commissioners. All they can do is (1) state their opinions at commission meetings and (2) attempt to vote the offending commissioner(s) out at a later date.

        The fact that Mr. Martin remains as the City Manager would seem to indicate that he is satisfactorily following the “direction and supervision” of the commissioners. Don’t blame Mr. Martin for doing their bidding. Blame the majority of voters for not electing commissioners who appeal to a vocal minority of the electorate.

  • Dave, I shared your outrage over Martin’s incredibly arrogant, condescending column. Worse yet, he seems clueless about how inappropriate and gauche it was. I was also intending to write about it, but when I heard you were, I knew mine wouldn’t be needed- and I was right. The contrast with Niklas’ excellent article was stunning.

    We are pleased to run your hard-hitting blog in Citizens Journal Florida. Some may not like its bite, but it tells badly-needed truths.

  • Thank You Mr. Scott for once again giving voice to suffering majority in our city. We have the city commission we need, now let’s make sure they go on to straighten this mess out. I have confidence in them!

    • Recognition that one is suffering is the first step to recovery, so good for you for realizing that you are in pain. Mental illness can take several forms (such as Mr. Scott’s schizophrenic delusions) and, rather than just referring to you as “some kind of special idiot”, I support you in your quest to get well again. Merry Xmas and best of luck.

  • Each budget year, I suggest the commissioners ask the city manager to ask his department heads to come in with a budget 10% lower than the previous years spending. The department heads know exactly where the bloated dollars are allocated. If they don’t present the city manager a budget 10% lower then the year before, then their job is no longer dept head! It’s how we budgeted at the firm i used to work for. Why should the city be any different? By the way, my recommendation was never heeded…obviously.

  • Mr. Yankus, I recall Dr. Annie posted comments on Facebook a few years ago that several people felt was offensive and a bit racist. She deleted that post and you came to her defense. Since she is an educator and claims to be a kind, caring and compassionate person despite her apparent is friendship with Mr. Scott, I have two questions. First, does she believe that teaching our children to be tolerant and accepting of the personal choices of others (whether relating to religion, appearance or sexual identity and preferences) is a bad thing? Second, does she feel that teaching children about the full histories of the people that have come together in our country and how systematic racism has affected some in the past and continues to be a problem is a bad thing? In other words, in general, what’s her current position on LGBQT+ and critical race theory? Just wondering.

    • I don’t know what her position is,, but I can easily see where your ideology lies… That of a know it all, know nothing, lemming. Your cliff is the guilt precipice and you want everyone on board as you go blindly over it.

  • It is somewhat obvious that the Fernandina Beach Commissioner-Manager system is not working. The hired City Manager is beholden to the Commission for their job, a precarious position due to the revolving commissioner status and the need to curry favor to maintain their position. A change in governance could be the Mayor-Commissioner system: The mayor is elected separately from the commission, is full-time and paid, with significant administrative and budgetary authority with elected commissioners retaining legislative powers. Meaningful to note that in early 2015, two newly elected commissioners made comments during a May commission meeting suggesting they had lost trust in the then City Manager’s abilities to get things done in a timely manner. That resulted in the City Manager resigning. Maybe history will repeat itself?

    • On this Christmas Day in 2022 we can only pray that history does repeat itself when Donald J. Trump takes back the office that was wrongfully stolen in 2020!

  • The first thing I noted at the reorganization meeting to was to acknowledge the support of the Citizens who supported me, and the support of the staff did congratulate the new Commissioners.

  • It seems we still don’t have stand up people on the City Commission that can make decisions. The problems just seem to go on and on. What’s the point of getting elected if you are just going to let the big problems just continue? Decision makers needed!

  • It seems we still don’t have stand up people on the City Commission that can make decisions. The problems just seem to go on and on. What’s the point of getting elected if you are just going to let the big problems just continue? Decision makers needed! THIS IS NOT A DUPLICATE COMMENT!

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