Tuesday, February 23, 2016

City Board Appointments Lack Rigorous Discussion

Thanks to City of St. Augustine Commissioner Todd Neville for seeking to discuss the merits and demerits of board applicants.

But at the behest of City Commissioner NANCY SIKES-KLINE on February 22, 2016, Commissioners did not discuss the persons who applied for seats on the Historic Architectural Review Board. Pity. SIKES-KLINE, LEAANA FREEMAN and ROXANNE HORVATH then voted by paper ballot to appoint a retired University of Florida lawyer, BARBARA WINGO, to the Historic Architectural Review Board. UF now has two of six votes on HARB: WINGO, who evaded Open Records request as UF's mouthpiece, and MATTHEW ARMSTRONG, Preservation Curator at the Government House Library.

That's undue influence.

When Judge E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. started the Administrative Conference of the United States in the 1960s, he had a rule: one law firm, one member of ACUS. Not two. It's a small town, and it stinks that Commissioners are allowing UF to have excessive influence -- after the DOW PUD debacle when academic poseur-prostitutes endorsed the project without talking to the Planning and Building Director or local residents (only SIKES-KLINE, CIty Manager JOHN REGAN, the developer, DAVID BARTON CORNEAL, and his project manager). UF's contractor, Pat Croce, has breached his contract to run the Colonial Quarter. Now UF has two of six HARB members, without any Commissioner questioning it.

The City's shallow consideration of Board members is akin to a fraternity or sorority blackball, keeping good and decent people from being selected, as with the blacklisting of Melinda Rakoncay and Robert Hall by stealthy City staff members.

There has to be a better way on board appointments. At the City of St. Augustine Beach, applicants speak in a public meeting to Commissioners, introducing themselves and answering questions. "Best practices" -- that's what I suggested after the February 22, 2016 meeting to City Manager John Regzn institute, immediately. Transparency. Balance. Fairness. Now, please.

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