Tuesday, November 19, 2019

St. Johns County Commission fires county administrator. (SAR)

Escorted out of the building at 5 pm under armed guard, the long Reign of Error of St. Johns County Administrator MICHAEL DAVID WANCHICK came to an end today, November 19, 2019, also the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and Vietnam Moratorium march.  St. Johns County has been made safe for democracy.

Thanks to County Commission Chair Jeb Smith, Vice Chair Jeremiah Ray Blocker, and Commissioners Henry Dean, James K. Johns and Paul Waldron for firing MICHAEL DAVID WANCHICK, St. Johns County Administrator, 2007-2019.  Good riddance.

No thanks to the St. Augustine Record, whose pro-WANCHICK, pro-developer, pro-Establishment coverage knows no bounds and is untetehred to truth.  

The Record no longer has an editor, and it shows.  

Even when it had a nominal editor, the Record never covered the Roper report or Wnachick's mistreatment of women.  Even when given evidence from elected officials, the Record neglects its duty to cover government managers' misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, waste, fraud, abuse, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery 

MICHAEL DAVID WANCHICK has been removed as of 5 pm.  He gets severance pay, but then we're done with him. 

I've been calling for his firing for years.  Then in 2017, I read the Roper report about his mistreatment of women, I knew he had to go.  First Commissioners opted not to renew his contract earlier this year.  Then they fired him today.

The tedious tyrant is gone, gone with the wind.

Better days are ahead, with a national search for a new County Administrator.

From the St. Augustine Record:

St. Johns County Commission fires county administrator. 

By Sheldon Gardner
Posted Nov 19, 2019 at 3:40 PM
St. Augustine Record

St. Johns County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to end County Administrator Michael Wanchick’s contract.

The termination was effective at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“The premise for it was lack of confidence,” Commission Chair Jeb Smith said.

Wanchick declined to comment.

The Commission made several motions related to the change.

As a result, St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Hunter Conrad will serve as the interim county administrator. To do that, he’ll have to resign as clerk.

Conrad said in a news release from his office: “I do not take this position lightly and cannot do this alone. Therefore, over the coming weeks, I look forward to meeting with and hearing from individuals and families all across St. Johns County.”

Smith will represent the Commission during the transition.

Commissioners recently criticized Wanchick for his handling of the closure of beach access at Mickler’s Landing Beachfront Park for a private construction project.

The public access point is being used to transport materials to 13 beachfront homes to install geotubes along the beach as a protection against erosion and sea level rise.

It’s a private project paid for by the homeowners, but the county has signed an agreement allowing the construction company to use the parking lot for storage and beach access.

Renovations to the public restroom and shower facilities will also take place during construction.

Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker said during a previous meeting that he wouldn’t have agreed to the project if he’d known about the extent of the closure. The county has since adjusted access to the site.

In an interview with The Record on Tuesday, Blocker, who introduced the motion to terminate Wanchick, said there was a “systematic issue of the staff not following” the Commission’s direction.

“We had several instances, Mickler being the most recent and probably the most public, where we specifically voted and directed staff and what we directed was changed substantially,” Blocker said. “I like Mr. Wanchick, I think he’s a great guy. I think he’s a professional.

“But I don’t know if he just lost his effectiveness over time or staff, because he’s a short timer, maybe wasn’t following his direction. But what was obvious was that what guidance was given was not being followed. He’s the employee we hold accountable for that.”

Commissioners had already been critical of Wanchick.

In May, commissioners decided not to renew Wanchick’s contract and later approved a one-year extension to Jan. 1, 2021.

Wanchick has been the county administrator since June 2007. The current contract, which went into effect in January 2017, lists his base salary as about $213,973.

Because the firing isn’t for misconduct, the county owes Wanchick severance pay, according to his contract.

The contract calls for severance pay of 20 weeks of compensation at the current pay rate, payment for accrued and unused vacation and sick leave and continuing insurance coverage for Wanchick and his family for 20 weeks.

Commissioner Henry Dean said he believes Wanchick has been a good county administrator, including leading the county through the Great Recession.

But other commissioners have raised issues in the past year such as not being kept informed on issues, Dean said.

“All that probably led to a sort of tipping point, I’ll call it, with Commissioner Blocker today,” Dean said.

Dean voted for the termination for the sake of unity and harmony on the board, he said.

– Reporters Stuart Korfhage and Christen Kelley contributed to this report.

Another victory: St. Johns County Commission votes down paid beach parking plan. (SAR)

I am happy that We, the People have been heard and heeded, once again. There was no proper background investigation on Republic Parking, a datum I learned through an Open Records request. Shortly after this item was rejected, Commissioners unanimouslynfired MICHAEL DAVID WANCHICK, County Administrator. It was a great day for democracy.

St. Johns County Commission votes down paid beach parking plan
By Christen Kelley
Posted Nov 19, 2019 at 4:12 PM
St. Augustine Record

The St. Johns County Commission decided to reject plans for paid parking at beach access and boat ramps Tuesday.

The paid parking system has been in the works for years as a way for the county to make some extra revenue to support beach maintenance projects.

Commissioners directed staff to move forward with the plan back in 2018, and in January 2019 they issued a request for proposal to find a company to contract with for parking services.

But in the end, commissioners said they didn’t feel comfortable charging residents to use the beaches. They voted 5-0 to reject the contract.

“I did not vote in favor of this the first time it came around, and the reason is because I had concerns about the burden we are adding to our residents,” Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I think we have other means and other avenues to approach this.”

Under the proposed plan, paid parking would have started March 1, 2020, at 25 different beach and boat ramp access points throughout St. Johns County.

The proposed contract with Republic Parking System included options for an annual pass for either off-beach parking, on-beach access or a combination of the two at the following rates:

Off-Beach Parking Facilities: Daily Pass: $5.00, Annual Pass: $50.00

On-Beach Access: Daily Pass: $10.00, Annual Pass: $75.00

Combined On-Beach & Off-Beach: Annual Pass: $100.00

Boat Ramp Parking Facilities: Daily Pass: $5.00, Annual Pass: $50.00

Commissioners said they wanted to charge only out-of-county visitors for using beach facilities, but staff said it’s more complicated than it sounds.

County attorneys said they would need to make a “rational distinction” between residents and non-residents, and doing so has the potential to impact state and federal funding.

“It’s hard for me, when we start accepting federal funds for [beach] renourishment and state funds for renourishment, it’s a fine line we’re walking here in order to charge people to use the facilities,” Commissioner Paul Waldron said, adding that out-of-county visitors pay taxes as well.

Commissioners said they would like to look into other options first, including a closer look at beach-related expenses and which funds could cover them.

“If St. Johns County needs revenue... I believe that user fees are a rightful means to achieve that goal,” Commissioner Jeb Smith said. “The key to it is, do we need this revenue especially when we have a $15 million surplus? I have a real issue moving forward with something that appears not to be necessary.”

Only one person spoke during public comment during the meeting, simply to thank commissioners for rejecting the plan.

St. Augustine Beach has also been considering a paid beach parking system as a way to bring in extra revenue from tourists, but the City Commission decided to wait until the county had settled on its parking system before implementing one at St. Augustine Beach.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Yovanovitch hearing confirms that Trump is running a thugocracy. (WaPo column, by Paul Waldman)

Winning yet?   DONALD JOHN TRUMP went to the hospital for an unscheduled two hour visit yesterday, November 16, 2019, claiming he was doing part of his annual physical early because he would be busy during election year.  Perhaps it was the spontaneous reaction to truthful testimony.

The Plum Line


Yovanovitch hearing confirms that Trump is running a thugocracy

 (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
(Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Yovanovitch honored her oath. It’s time other officials did the same. (WaPo column by Dana Millbank)

Lots of honest government officials making all good Americans proud. Now we look to our local officials, and thank everyone who is telling truth to power here in St. Augustine, St. Johns County, and the State of Florida.

Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, on Capitol Hill on Friday. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)
Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, on Capitol Hill on Friday. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)