Island Issues

When Will Fernandina’s Knight in Shining Armor Arrive?

When Will Fernandina’s Knight in Shining Armor Arrive?

The difference between the “smash-and-grab” mobs in major U.S. cities and those committing similar crimes in Fernandina Beach are the thugs performing the mayhem and their tactics.

“Nice little shop ya got here. It’d be awful if something bad happened to it.”

Merchants in Fernandina ranging from one-person operations selling hot dogs to a guy and his wife peddling coffee have been victims of the city’s mob, their businesses now shuttered, and investments vaporized.

Large builders, investors, and developers aren’t immune to the city’s “pay-to-play” scheme. However, unlike smaller business owners, the big guys have deeper pockets to pay the extortion and hire lawyers to fight back. But fighting city hall is expensive.

Just like the thieves in the big city’s smash-and-grab cases businesses hereabouts know the Fernandina city hall crooks — who wear suits instead of hoodies — will keep coming back for more.  Forget law suits as city hall can dip into the large pool of tax dollars collected from local citizens to hire outside lawyers and exhaust the locals’ legal funds.

Many of the big guys hereabouts are too intimidated to speak out, knowing the city hall mob will put pressure on them through accomplices that include code enforcement, building and inspection permitting departments and more.

Fernandina businesses remain quiet because their investments and future profits are dependent on the city’s “bad guys” that are stealing from them. “Do as we say If want to keep doing business hereabouts,” says the city. The Mafia would be proud.

 “She says it’s legal because some guy wrote it on a napkin.”

Some local business owners, who do not want to be identified, have told me they are selling both their businesses and their homes and moving out of town to the county because the city has made it impossible for them to successfully operate here.

Despite losing two previous class action law suits over its “pay-to-play” scheme this blatant lawlessness continues unabated. Why?

There’s currently a massive lawsuit pending against the city by a local developer who has had enough of being fleeced by city crooks and its consigliore Tammi Bach. This one is even broader than the others as it includes building fees. Could this be city consigliore Bach’s backbreaker? How much will it cost local tax payers this time when Bach inevitably hires outside legal counsel to defend her and her city accomplices?

Under pressure from fed-up local activists led by former White House communications official, Glen Stettler, and investor, author and entrepreneur, Pat Keogh, the City reluctantly agreed last February to request the state conduct an audit of the city’s building code and impact fee compliance with state law? But so far not a peep. What’s the status? When will the state forensic auditors arrive?

Even those that campaigned for City Commission seats pledging as part of their platform to crack down on the city’s out-of-control and illegal “impact/capacity fee” protection racket do and say nothing. Why?

An example is Commissioner and Chiropractor James Antun, a business owner who ran for office promising to take a “hands-on” approach to administer the city a much needed adjustment. While running for office he said he suffered the same permitting rigmarole and fees that others have and was running to correct it. However, since being elected he’s been mysteriously silent about the city’s “pay-to-play” scram. Why?

Other than Bach’s accomplice Commissioner Chip Ross, who advocates for this scam, where are the voices of the other commissioners?

Fernandina City Commission mantra.

State law says those fees are supposed to be used to pay for public improvements necessitated by new development. That’s it. Nothing else. The law clearly states the funds can’t be used to pay for maintenance or pay off city debt, or the office Christmas party. But that’s what Fernandina Beach is doing. It ‘s breaking the law. Why isn’t that law enforced?

These fees are collected to provide new services and facilities required because of population growth. But growth in the city is stagnant. The uproar that accompanies any proposed new development in the city, and the overly expensive building fees being assessed, effectively discourages new construction giving the city a well-earned anti-development image.

The city has collected and sits on millions of dollars of impact fees. Since these fees are supposed to support population growth (i.e., new development) and new development is discouraged, how can these funds ever be put to their intended use?

In a Steve Nicklas News Leader column Wednesday, October 25, Jessie Spradley, executive officer of the Northeast Florida Builders Association (NEFBA) concurs saying: “What they (Fernandina Beach) are using the impact fees for is a stretch. By state statue that’s not what impact fees are for.”

Bach overseeing a typical City Commission session.

Twice courts have declared that Fernandina Beach does not comply with state law resulting in suits that raked back $3 million in refunds to local businesses and cost tax payers $1 million in legal costs.

The law requires that unused fees must be returned to those who paid them.

Bach’s only defense for defending the city’s ongoing impact fee extortion racket is a hired consultant’s advice scribbled on a napkin following the last court’s ruling against the city. He recommended to Bach that the city change the name from “impact” to “capacity” fee. And that’s what she did and the extortion continues unabated.

The knight in shining armor in this scenario is in Tallahassee, the horse still in the stable

The business community and residents hereabouts must convince the knight to saddle-up and ride to the rescue.

It’s been said that what’s happening in Fernandina is possibly taking place in small communities across the state. If so, here’s State Attorney General Ashley Moody’s opportunity to ride to the rescue and maybe even become the next governor.

Folks hereabouts can speed that along by contacting Moody by phone, email or by writing her. Her contact information can be obtained at


Lednovich publicly supporting his favorite cause.

“Nothing To See Here Folks”: Former Commissioner Mike “Left Coast” Lednovich,” a make-believe reporter for the online Observer, the city’s propaganda vehicle, and an unapologetic Black Lives Matter supporter, proved again last week what a dim flickering bulb he is, when he wrote: “Mayor Bradley Bean, Vice Mayor David Sturges and Commissioner Darron Ayscue ignored expert advice and voted Tuesday to reduce new user water/wastewater hookup fees by 9%, thus costing the city almost $1 million per year in potential revenue.”

Revenue for local businesses isn’t important to this clueless empty suit. His priority is generating revenue for the city, not tax relief for the tax payers. That’s one of the reasons voters booted him from office the last election. To paraphrase Louisiana U.S. Senator John Kennedy: “When his IQ gets to 75 he ought to sell.”

I expect nothing less from Lednovich, a city embarrassment, who in his spare time unabashedly endorses the Black lives Matter (BLM) crowd of violent liars, extortionists, and haters.

As usual, Commissioner Chip Ross, the other half of this slapstick dark comedy duo, also wants to stick it to the tax payer. Ross has twice sued the city he’s supposed to be representing costing taxpayers thousands of dollars in insurance deductibles.

Ross recently argued that the tax payer’s $1 million could be used to retire $25 million of Utility Department debt. City tax payers are a bank and a nuisance to this odd couple.


Media In Denial: According to the Nassau County Supervisor of Elections office there are almost twice as many registered Republicans in Fernandina Beach than registered Democrats, but you’d never know it by reading the local media.

The letters to the editor and editorial page opinions in the bi-weekly print News Leader newspaper would have readers thinking that its local readers are all feverish Bernie Sanders and Greta Thunberg disciples.

Forget the online Fernandina Observer, it’s beyond salvaging while the fledgling Citizens Journal Florida ( is still attempting to gain momentum as it seeks reporters, and its Publisher George Miller recovers from a severe back injury.

Reading the letters and opinions in the local News Leader people would get the impression that the city is teeming with mindless left-wing banshees. The paper’s lefty editor, Tracy Dishman; a biased reporter with the fortunate name of Julia Roberts; and the screeching left-wing opinion columnists Chuck Oliva and Mark Tomes would have readers thinking that Fernandina Beach is as severely infested as the newspaper’s editorial offices.

The lone voice of reason at the News Leader is veteran 30-year journalist Steve Nicklas, and Dishman makes sure at least one letter a week is printed attacking him and his sentiments. Letters defending him or disputing Oliva or Tomes are rejected or ignored. When I questioned Dishman on why an opinion piece I submitted wasn’t published she sent it back with the word “Marxist” highlighted. She said I was “name-calling” by labeling Oliva a “Marxist,” a term he’d likely embrace. Really Ms. Dishman? Maybe it’s time you stared reading your own paper or pursued another line of work.

When she’s not trying to convince Publisher Foy Maloy to dump Nicklas’s wildly popular column Dishman scratches around like a barnyard hen seeking voices that express her own leftist orthodoxy. In the meantime she surrounds Nicklas’s opinion pieces with insomnia-curing drivel from Council on Aging staffers and a couple of local woman writing about topics ranging from recipes for gravel pizza and tinfoil bread sticks to trick sleeping techniques and the correct use of left-handed knitting needles.

Dishman moos her mindless drivel and the lefty columnists and letter writers follow her into the cow chute feeding her own prejudices back to her.

Voter registration hereabouts indicates that the majority of readers have had it with Dishman’s censorship and partisanship. They prefer media that reflect traditional Western values. It must be a hard sell for the paper’s advertising department attempting to peddle space to local businesses in a newspaper that promotes the city hall extortionists that are shaking them down and endorses values alien to theirs.

A new Gallup poll was released this week showing that distrust in media among Americans has soared to a record high. The News Leader is an example of why.

According to the numbers from the Nassau County Voter office it’s only going to get tougher for the paper’s advertising sales force.

The Voter Registration office’s latest figures record 2,947 Fernandina Beach Democrat voters as of October 19 this year down from 3,485 in November 2020. The office counts 5,070 Republicans down from 5,397 in November 2020. Nassau County is even redder with this October’s count showing more than three times as many Republican voters registered (43,160) as Democrats (12,931).

The numbers reflect Nassau County Supervisor of Elections Janet Adkins successful efforts to clean up the voter registration list purging it of folks who have moved out of the area, died or who changed party affiliation, etc. Democrats will find it more difficult to harvest votes from local cemeteries than they have in the past.


The Observer’s journalism style guides.

Speaking Of Inept, Biased, Lopsided Coverage: It’ no secret that the dreadful online Fernandina Observer is a biased, angry, confused word jumble run by newcomer Mike Phillips, who labels himself  “editor” of  that online mess.

Phillips recently publicly exposed himself as the joke he is when he censored a commentator on his site last week knocking the guy offline saying: ‘”You have been edited or discarded twice for abusive name-calling. You are welcome to continue posting your opinions — but only if you can manage to be civil.’– Mike Phillips, editor.”

Phillips’ response to anything he disagrees with is stupefied indignation.

I’ve read the comments this person wrote, and didn’t see a profane statement or any name calling. Phillips edits out what he doesn’t want his readers to read and doesn’t fit the Observer’s narrative.

Calling Phillips an editor is as extreme as calling his lackey Mike “Left Coast” Lednovich a reporter. They are both laughing stocks with zero credibility. Observer founder Susan Steger should be appalled at what has happened to her creation.

The creative and censored commentator fittingly responded to Phillips’s scolding writing: “They happily let Mark Tomes spew his garbage … no one is allowed to respond to it. And I’m taking careful note of who advertises on here … businesses to be avoided.”

Another regular Observer columnist is unofficial city spokesman City Commissioner Chip Ross, a belligerent blowhard, who bellowed his latest anti-business Luddite harangue October 26 headlined: “Our City Progress: Bigger or Better?”

I notice the handful of advertisers Steger left behind has not grown since Phillips arrival and by now they must be reconsidering where to spend their ad budgets in the future. I’d be delighted to print any comments here from any Observer advertiser that can truthfully testify that the money they spent on an Observer ad was a good investment and generated even one cent of new business.

People like Tracy Dishman, Julia Roberts, Phillips, and Lednovich, are the folks Jimmy Breslin was referring to when he said: “Media, the plural of mediocrity.”


Harrison Waller - 01. Nov, 2023 -

Congratulations to Harry Heineke, Harry Heine, GO F YOURSELF, Wally Harrison, or Ann T. Fah for manipulating the poll. Are you really that concerned/afraid of what the actual results would show?

Harry Heineke - 29. Oct, 2023 -

Too bad their isn’t a gag order for this website and all the xxxxxxx idiots that regurgitate this nonsense.

Harrison Waller - 30. Oct, 2023 -

You can’t even spell you name right, Harry Heine.

Mr. Spell Check - 30. Oct, 2023 -

Or spelling the word “there” vs. ‘their”.
Keep telling us how smart you are.
We promise to be amazed.

Charles Brown - 29. Oct, 2023 -

It is time to put a pause on the photo of Lednovich making an ass of himself parading through the city promoting the terroist group BLM. What an idiot such as him cannot understand is ALL LIVES MATTER. Groups like Antifa, BLM, Hamas, Hezbollah, The Abortion Up To Birth Believers, and the LGBTQAI+/Gender Confused is that they are a small percentage of the population and try to use their tactics to force conformity to the larger masses. The problem in Fernandina Beach Politics is the politicians make promises to get elected but once in office fail to work to fulfill the promises, The four members of the council can put a stop to every issue discussed in this blog if they would choose to do so. The fifth member, Ross, is rotten to the core and will never change. The only resolution to his terroristic mentality is to vote him out of office. But if the remaing council chooses non-action as is the current process then nothing will change.

The Great Pumpkin - 30. Oct, 2023 -

Fortunately, the FAR RIGHT folks like David and the bulk of his readers are actually “a small percentage of the population” registered as Republicans. As evidenced by the things done by DeSantis and the words of David and those readers, those same people “try to use their tactics to force conformity to the larger masses.” Disgusting pigs!

Amanda Borghese - 29. Oct, 2023 -

BRAVO, Dave!! We need champions like YOU to stand up and say it “like it is”! As usual, your way with words always the nail on the head in every instance! I applaud your persistence and ethics. I really believe that the MAJORITY of residents are with you, 100%, and are cheering you on for your admiral strength and pure American patriotism in all areas!
THANK YOU for all you do!!!!

Wally Harrison - 29. Oct, 2023 -

Get an education. Ya’ll is dumber than enyone I ever met k

Robert Steele - 28. Oct, 2023 -

Dave, this is off-topic here, but I know you read these comments: that Greta Thunberg “vegan grenades” video we were puzzling over was, as it turns out, AI-generated – simultaneously funny and disturbing because its content is close enough to the fatuous prattle we’ve all become accustomed to hearing from that deluded child that it just might have been for real.

Ron Barone - 28. Oct, 2023 -

Bach’s backbreaker? Try saying that 3 times fast!
Great commentary, Dave. The Fernandina Fleecing Fellows are still at it! I’m surprised Moody has not jumped on this to show that she is for both the big and little cities, especially if she wants to run for governor, which seems obvious to me.

Richard Troxel - 27. Oct, 2023 -

Since we no longer own any
property in Nassau county or
on Amelia Island I wish to take
a pause and unsubscribe from
your Blog and weekly newsletter. An action I do not
Tuskegee lightly since I have been a reader and participant
for many years. I now find the
constant bickering and hand
wringing a bit old and since I
have no dog in this fight since
my protest writings are hollow
and meaningless. It’s been a
great ride but I have other things to spend time on.
God Bless you Dave keep up the
good work.

George Miller - 27. Oct, 2023 -

Yes, we are seeking reporters for Citizens Journal Florida- 1 paid local news reporter and 2 volunteers. Also seek a commissioned ad salesperson- please contact us at:

Yes, I had a bad back injury, had surgery and am recovering. A mere setback. Our team has continued to publish, although not as much as we’d like.

Citizens Journal’s reason for formation was to create a counterweight to the local secular progressive media.

Paul Perrnne - 28. Oct, 2023 -

Why not Scott David? Same bs? Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery.

Bill Shaffer - 27. Oct, 2023 -

Media well be teh plural of mediocrity, but social media is the way Dave Scott has found to be the path to sanity.

Alex Jones - 27. Oct, 2023 -

Y’all is soulless.

Harry Heine - 27. Oct, 2023 -

Only Donald Trump can save us. Nelson Madella has risen. DONATE NOW before FB is lost forever.

CoCoNUT Harry - 27. Oct, 2023 -

If whoever posted this wants to steal my name, at least spell it correctly or maybe use your OWN name instead. ????

Harrison Waller - 27. Oct, 2023 -

It’s probably “Fred”, not “Fred – the original”.

Fred “the original” - 28. Oct, 2023 -

I concur, Harrison…

Ann T. Fah - 27. Oct, 2023 -

Syrian Lives Matter. Praise Allaha

Mike McClane - 27. Oct, 2023 -

We should remind Ross that the two enterprise funds for Golf & Marina receive loans with no expectation of payment from the Utility Fund courtesy of budgets that he approved. In the past, He and the former City Manager were also proponents of essentially forgive such loans.

Glen Stettler - 27. Oct, 2023 -

Excellent blog today Dave. Now the huddle up starts. The city lawyer will now tell all the commissioners none of this is true. They will hide behind her pants-suit and say, “not me, the lawyer said we’re okay”. Then Ms Bach will tell them she pays someone in Tallahassee to let her know all is on the up and up. Perfect, everyone has someone else to point to, no one is responsible, sound familiar? I really liked the article a few months ago where Ross had the Observer write a column telling us to put up or shut up, classic. This means the smartest guy in the room can’t read. Amazing. Read the first suit, watch the deposition, it’s still on line. The city official admitted the illegal activity while under oath. Does that count commissioners? Read the current suit, it’s almost a cut and paste of the last one, except broader in scope. It’s not like the commissioners don’t know our city attorney fabricates truths, (that’s called something else). She does her job, provides cover for the commission. Notice all the articles and discussions about raising impact fees up to 200%. The cities building official said, out loud, we need the money to pay off debt. Chip Ross said we need to raise impact fees or keep them higher to pay off debt. Here is a big hint from the Florida State statute, that’s illegal. And the law is not ambiguous. To our commissioners who seem to be unable to determine these things without Ms Bach telling them a half truth. Independently read the current suit. The lawyer lays the law out pretty well and it’s a public record. For a quick hint, Florida House Bill 7103 impact fees (2019), “can’t be used to pay existing debt”. With reference to the raise in impact fees, House Bill 377 (2021). This statute has several caveats, no more than 25% – 2 annual increments, in no case more than 50% increase. The question is, why didn’t Tammi Bach inform the city officials and commissioners of these restrictions, or did she? Seems a fair question. The city does have a large debt to pay off a public utility. The utility was purchased for 12 Million more than it was appraised for. All this is also on-line and stated under oath. Why the city did this is another subject and not a very defendable one. Oh, and before one of them says….. “It’s a capacity Fee”, good try it doesn’t work. The State does not authorize any municipality to raise capacity fees, they are considered impact fees. Just my opinion, but it’s time our commissioners stopped and re-read their oath of office. Stop abdicating your moral authority, it’s showing.

Al Macdougall - 27. Oct, 2023 -

The statute, House Bill 337 (not 377) provides a process by which a municipality may bypass the “phase-in limitations” you cite and also allows for service of existing debt under certain conditions.
Has the city met those criteria–fair question.
The recent decision to lower “hook-up” fees is beneficial to business and private citizens.
Initiation of a forensic audit requires evidence of criminal wrongdoing–not hearsay or opinion.

Glen Stettler - 27. Oct, 2023 -

Al, you are correct it is House Bill 337 not 377 of 2021. Thanks for the clarification.
And you are also correct.

The bill states: “as of June 4, 2021, jurisdictions can only increase impact fees once every four years in the following manner:
• No more than 25% – 2 annual increments
• Between 25 and 50% – 4 annual increments
• In no case fore than 50%

A local government interested in surpassing the 50 percent cap would be required to perform a study demonstrating why the increase is justified, host two workshops dedicated to the extraordinary circumstances necessitating the need, and secure the approval of at least two-thirds in a vote of the governing body for the increase”.

To answer your question, no the required justifications have not been met. It would be difficult to accomplish this since they operate with excess capacity. And fees are not to be used as maintenance. The point was, without meeting specific conditions why wasn’t the commission informed of the normal maximum of 50%. I would suggest, this illustrates a pattern of conduct within the city to not manage efforts inside the constraints of State Law. The continuing business approach is to ignore the law until the city is sued. Then drag out the suit until the plaintiff is exhausted of resources. They city uses its tax revenue to exhaust plaintiffs thus discouraging suits. This is my opinion based upon observed events.

To the specifics:
• The fabricated story of bad math on a napkin by the city attorney, in an effort to explain the class action suit, which the city lost. Reference city meeting of 9/6/22 time into the video 2:51. Not hearsay or opinion, a matter of public record.
• The city commission being notified of their activities outside of state law. Reference city meeting held on 07 Feb 23. Not hearsay or opinion, a matter of public record.
• City department manager and city Commissioner advocating to spend impact fees to pay off debt. An intentional action in direct violation of state law. Not hearsay or opinion, a matter of public record within the city regular meeting and reported in the paper.
• An additional law suit with the same allegations as contained within previous suits, and broader. Not hearsay or opinion, a matter of public record.

What I know to be true and much more damning, was not conveyed in the note, and is hearsay. Also, accommodations from several people not to be on the record. Again, to your point, one could argue it’s all hearsay or opinion until the Judge shows up. That’s why creating an auditable trail of evidence is important.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify.

Al Macdougall - 27. Oct, 2023 -

Glen, glad to help–clarity is often in short supply.
As fees have not been increased the matter is somewhat moot.
In addition, Commissioner Ross some time ago alerted the state authorities citing both you and Mr. Keogh–so it seems the matter is now squarely in the state’s jurisdiction to act or not.
Meanwhile, the lawsuits will play out in court or settle–I suspect the latter and the fees remain in effect.

Glen Stettler - 27. Oct, 2023 -

Yes, Chip did contact the state authorities. As have I both prior to Chip contacting them and subsequent to his contact. Chip is predictable. And yes, the city tactic to drag out the suits and exhaust the plaintiff may work out in Ms Bach’s favor …. again. She knows what she is doing to protect the commissioners, not the citizens of the city.

John Bond - 27. Oct, 2023 -

No doubt strong opinion, fact.

Sadly this is how the world and Amelia Island hunts geese and it is not with a straight arrow. By definition it is disturbing yet the norm.

Money corrupts and the big money now in play is just that and it is everywhere now on our gorgeous island. Both GOP and DEM $$$ from all over the northeast, Midwest and of course Georgia lays claim to the mess.

Perhaps best you utilize reverse psychology and admire them for their extensive crookery. Tell them they should gauge everyone deeper and wider.

Note, the beach is still the beach and if none all goes to hell. All the money that made up this mess is in large part corrupt. It is how you climb the tree.

Double or triple yikes!

Patrick J. Keogh - 27. Oct, 2023 -

The thugs just ran Colleen Angel and her Hillbilly Hot Dogs out of Shakedown City on their $10,000 rail of unlawful impact fees. She’s now located in the Free Fernandina (County) portion of S 8th St. at 1949 right outside her Amelia’s Best Barbershop. I know where I’m going for lunch today.

Bill LaPorte - 27. Oct, 2023 -

She refused to play by the rules and to pay her FAIR share. Wouldn’t trust her with my flowing locks or my digestive system.

Harry Heine - 28. Oct, 2023 -

Bill, these folks eat mullet and shun vaccinations so don’t expect them to have any common sense.

Fred “the original” - 28. Oct, 2023 -

What an appropriate name for you… LOL

Al Macdougall - 27. Oct, 2023 -

Yes, the Observer tilts left, but is not the city mouthpiece given the sitting commission–the mouthpiece bit ended with the last election when their darlings lost.
The News Leader’s only real service to the community is coverage of local sports and fishing.
Their “news” is mostly stale by the time the presses roll and commentary is often biased.
They should go to a once-a-week publication and reduce subscription price.

Jen Wanta - 27. Oct, 2023 -

All well said – I’ve written numerous letters to the editor at the Fake News Leader on numerous topics and never had anything published

Why Fool Maloy chooses to chill his subscriber base and ad revenue is a mystery unless he just wants a Marxist propaganda paper