Thursday, September 10, 2015

Melinda Rakoncay Kept Off HARB. Why? (HCN Editorial)

Editorial: Melinda Rakoncay isn’t qualified?  Really?

It is not unusual for the city clerk to be short of volunteers to serve on the various boards and committees appointed by the city commission; and, because they are unpaid positions, members sometimes leave before the expiration of the term and have to be replaced.
Because of those facts, it is also not unusual to learn that a particular unfilled seat had to be advertised more than once before a qualified volunteer presents their application.
What IS unusual is that a well-established resident homeowner, who has served as president of her neighborhood association and interacted with the various boards and departments of city government over the past 35-years, is considered “unqualified” to serve on the city’s Historic Architectural Review Board.
One of the city’s problems, and yes, we have a few, is that certain residents always seem to have their application “on file” for one or more citizen boards.  They serve for three years and are eligible for re-appointment once.
So, Melinda decides that she would like to apply for the seat on the HARB created by the resignation of Jeremy Marquis.
On the application form, the qualification for appointment to the Historic Architectural Review Board as authorized by the City of St Augustine Code Of Ordinances, Chapter 28, Article II, Division 3 and Ordinance 2005-15, Section 28.82(6), reads:
“Persons who have demonstrated special interest, experience or knowledge in history, architecture or related disciplines who do not have a professional degree in any of the fields set forth in this section may be appointed by the city commission when persons with such degrees are not available for appointment, or when such appointment is determined to be in the best interest of the city.”
The advertised closing date for applications for the position was Monday, June 29th.  At that time, Rakoncay was the only applicant and her application should have been presented for consideration to the City Commission on July 13th.  That did not happen.  Instead, when the city clerk got the application, she reviewed it and determined that the applicant, who she is familiar with, did not “have a professional degree in any of the fields set forth in this section” even though the ordinance clearly states that the applicant “may be appointed by the city commission”.
The following day, June 30, 2015, the City re-advertised the position as if no one had applied or that the applicant had been rejected by the city commission — neither of which was true.  Also on that day, another applicant Joseph S. Cronk, co-founder of Cronk Duch Architects, filed his updated application with the clerk.
During the regular commission meeting on Monday July 27th, Joe Cronk was appointed to the HARB seat.  In an e-mail obtained by Historic City News, Jennifer Wolfe notified Cronk of his appointment, and that his first meeting would be August 20, 2015.
Cronk’s application was supported by HARB Vice Chairman, Paul L. Weaver, III and outgoing HARB member, Jeremy Marquis, but Cronk’s application didn’t fit into all the boxes established in the qualifications, either.  Cronk does not live inside the City of St Augustine, although Rakoncay does.  An exception is allowed in the qualifications which reads, “While preference shall be given to current City residents, City Commission may appoint a non-resident upon a finding that such non-resident is uniquely qualified.”  Rakoncay received no such preference.
The City Clerk, Alison Ratkovic, responded to St Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver that in passing over the Rakoncay application, she was doing what “she was told to do”.  “Told by who?” Shaver asked, but that answer never came.  When Historic City News interviewed Ratkovic after the meeting, she told us that it was a slip of the tongue and that she had not been given specific instructions to pass over Rakoncay’s application.
The exchange is available for on-demand viewing in the video section of the city website

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