Saturday, April 01, 2017

St. Augustine Beach public comment issue heading back to Commission (SAR)

Disgraced St. Augustine Beach Mayor RICHARD BURTT O'BRIEN lost in court on December 7, 2016 in his effort to win an injunction for "stalking" against government watchdog TOM REYNOLDS.  Undeterred, Republican Lord of All He Surveys RICH O'BRIEN seeks to amend public comment rules to erase criticism.  Wonder why?  Meanwhile, Commission minutes now omit what residents said in public comment.  Wonder why?

Posted March 31, 2017 05:14 am - Updated March 31, 2017 06:00 am
St. Augustine Beach public comment issue heading back to Commission

After getting pushback on their plans to change how public comment is handled, St. Augustine Beach officials will consider the issue afresh — with some tweaks.

The original proposal, crafted by City Attorney Jim Wilson, would have limited public comment to three minutes at a general public comment period and during items requiring a public hearing.

The revised resolution would create an additional public comment period for items on the agenda that don’t require a public hearing.

Other suggestions for handling public comment are expected to be on the table at Monday’s City Commission meeting, such as having a second meeting in a month when they can’t cover all the agenda items at one meeting.

“We suggest the key question concerning the resolution is: Will it help achieve the balance between your need to discuss and make decisions concerning the public’s business, and the public’s right to make comments?” according a memo from City Manager Max Royle Royle, who added in the memo the commission could pass the new standards on Monday on a trial basis.

But it’s unclear whether the matter will be heard Monday as planned.

Wilson said it was his understanding from Royle the issue would be moved. Royle said Wednesday there weren’t any plans to pull the item from the agenda, and that the commission would have to make that call.

St. Augustine Beach Mayor Rich O’Brien said he thinks it’s time to get the changes in place.

“I think I believe public comment is very important. I think getting things done is also important, and we need to make sure it’s a business-type meeting, and I think we need to tighten things up,” he said.

As it stands at the beach, the commission takes public comment on virtually any item that comes up at a meeting.

Commissioner Gary Snodgrass and O’Brien were the only commissioners who supported the original proposal to tighten public comments and make meetings more efficient.

O’Brien said the feedback he’s gotten from people outside of meetings is that they agree with the original proposal, and that “it’s about time.” He added he’s not opposed to making adjustments to the original proposal.

In other business

Commissioners are expected to hash out details of a lawsuit settlement at a shade meeting at 5 p.m. Monday and get public input and vote on the issue at the regular meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.

In a separate issue, the city has responded to allegations that alcohol sales tickets at Beach Blast Off were destroyed in violation of public records requirements and that money was missing from the proceeds. The city’s accounting, described in backup materials, came up with a $1 discrepancy in the sales and cash on hand, according to backup materials for the meeting.

Also, City Clerk Beverly Raddatz found the city’s disposal of the tickets was acceptable because the tickets fall under “Administrative Support Records,” which can be disposed of once their administrative value is lost or until they’ve become obsolete or superseded, according to a memo from Raddatz. The city destroyed the tickets after doing accounting for Beach Blast Off.

Raddatz wrote she checked with a supervisor at the state’s Bureau of Archives and Records Management, who confirmed there was not a violation of public records law.

A response from the State of Florida to The Record, the answer was similar.

Event tickets aren’t directly addressed by general records, but they could fall under administrative support records or transitory messages — required to be kept “until obsolete, superseded, or administrative value is lost” so “the agency could dispose of the records at any time once the records are no longer of use,” according to Meredith Beatrice, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State.

No comments: