Sunday, September 06, 2020

Five Sunshine Violating Secret Meetings, No Workshops, City Managers Want 3% Raises, Tax Increase

St. Augustine. Beach's dysfunctional City Hall is up to its old tricks.  

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said it best, "secrecy is for losers."

In probable violation of the Florida Sunshine law, five individual secret meetings were held between each of five  (5) St. Augustine Beach City Commissioners, City Manager BRUCE MAX ROYLE, Police Chief Robert Hardwick, City Clerk Beverly Raddatz, City Planning and Zoning Director Brian William, IT manager Anthony Johns, Finance Director Patty Douliz, Public Works Director William Tredik-- all  department heads -- from August 31, 2020 to September 2, 2020.  These managers purported to speak for employees,

No employee representative appeared at the meeting,  

The City of St. Augustine Beach has no collective bargaining with any of its employees.  

Before Chief Hardwick was hired, the City's anti-union policies resulted in no contract with police officers for 2.5 years after they voted in a union; with the knee of ROYLE and then. City Attorney GEOFFREY DOBSON on the necks of our police officers, they were falsely told they were forbidden to speak to City Commissioners, a violation of their First Amendment rights.

The illegal, maladroit, manager-requested back-to-back  meetings were held at the request and behest of City Manager MAX ROYLE, through Clerk Beverly Raddatz.


To "avoid embarrassment" in the words of City Attorney LEX MORTON TAYLOR, III in a telephone call with at least one Commissioner.   Make no mistake: the City Attorneys are captive creatures of the City Manager -- they don't give a fig about the residents.  They don't respect Commissioners. 

$6000/month DOUGLASS LAW FIRM was AWOL from the Sunshine violations. 

LEX MORTON TAYLOR, III apparently  did not attend the illegal secret meetings, nor did City Attorney CHARLES DOUGLAS, JR., son of a former Putnam County Sheriff, 

Vice Mayor Kostka said Saturday that the City Manager's five (5) one-on one meetings were a time-waster, unproductive, and illegal, and no substitute for a public workshop to discuss the City's perilous financial position. 

No new information was presented, Vice Mayor Kostka said.  One four (4) hour workshop meeting would have been a better use of staff time and Commissioner questions would have been answered in public.  See Vice Mayor Kostka's backgrounder column, post below, here

The secret budget meetings were, in part, an act of desperation on the part of MAX ROULE.

A manipulative, mendacious cloying, annoying assine attempt in the face of the Trump Coronavrius Depression, an attempt to justify past budget ineptitude?  An ex party lobbying attempt by department heads in favor of immodest pay raises for department heads?

Information Technology director Anthony Johns stated that he had been promised a pay raise.  

By whom?  Not by Commission. 

Money-hungry city division heads have their heads, where?

They offered no comparisons to relevant jurisdictions not giving top managers pay raises, to include similarly situated. cites like Dunedin, Venice, Deerfield Beach, St. George Island, Seaside, Naples, Fernandina, Marco Island and Grayton Beach.

Extravagantly, with seven (7) staff attending five (5) secret meetings of two hours each, wasting 70 hours, the City of St. Augustine Beach   Vice Mayor Kosgka objected to the meetings, which were never discussed by Commission in advance.  Vice Mayor Kostka recalls: " on 8/20 I responded to max (email copy sent to you) about my concern for lack of public input and waste of resources and lack of opportunity to hear other commissioner's concerns. A single meeting would take 4 hours of time, allow for DISCUSSION amongst commissioners as well as public input instead of 5 separate meetings for a total of 10 hours equal to 70 man hours (7 staff participants- Max, Bev, Patty, Bill, Brian, Chief, Anthony)."

St. Augustine Beach Mayor Margaret England told me yesterday that no workshop was needed, because Commissioner questions were answered.  A similar ukase was emitted by text from Commissioner Donald Samora --- his questions were answered (he did not write them down, or the answers, and supposedly neither did anyone else).

In secret. 



It's not about you, it's about the process, which is creepily flawed.  

St. Augustine Beach is not unlike a Third World Country, a rotten borough, where developers are coddled and citizens and journalists are disrespected.

Sadly, St. Augustine Beach Mayor Margaret England, two (2) incurious City Attorneys and other Commissioners never asked Assistant Attorney General Pat Gleason for a legal opinion on the Orange County School Board case that I patiently cited to them. 

Oddly, the St. Augustine Beach City Clerk claims there were no notes or tapes, but she never eve. asked Commissioners before answering.

This response is, at best, facetious.

  • No notes. Why?
  • No audio tapes.  Why?
  • No video tapes.  Why?
  • Questions were asked.  
  • Answers were given.
  • Nobody wrote anything down.

These five (5) secret meetings probably violated Sunshine law, and I informed Commissioners in advance.

They did it anyway.

"I have no notes or recordings from my meetings wi staff," wrote Commissioner Donald Samora.

"I asked my questions. Staff answered them. Nothing compelled me to take any notes.  I'd call you, but am at a family reunion this weekend," Samora texted.

Who does business like that?

  • Organized crime, where there is an oath of omertà.
  • President DONALD JOHN TRUMP, who once reportedly complained to White House counsel Donald McGahan that none of his other lawyers took notes; McGahan replied, "I'm a real lawyer."
  • Corrupt local governments, like our own.

Vice Mayor-Commissioner Maggie Kostka considers the five-back to back budget meetings to have been a waste of time, taking five times as long as a budget workshop would have taken. The back-to-back meetings were "wasteful illegal and a waste of time. The public must be involved in the budget process."

I agree.   

City Manager BRUCE MAX ROYLE wrote a nasty e-mail saying that "the staff" would attend a Commissioner meeting if I attended. That's what we call a "hostile working environment," and I bear ROYLE's scorn as a badge of honor,

During the meetings, City Manager BRUCE MAX ROYLE barely spoke at all.

Questions were asked, answers were given, but no record was kept.

I've asked for a budget workshop, as other cities do.  

The itty-bitty City refuses to provide one.,

In at least one of the secret meetings, with Commissioner Maggie Kostka, half the time was spent on 3% raises for the City Manager (he wants $3700) and other department heads.

All five Commissioners need to step up their game. Enough sloth and torpor.  

  • There was no discussion of alternatives to tax increases,
  • There was little discussion of capital improvement needs.  (Founded in 1565, the beach's sister City of St. Augustine never had a Capital Improvement Plan (C.I.P.) until 2015, after we elected Mayor Nancy Shaver, who helped bring that City Hall into the 21st century, kicking, screaming and whining.) Kudos to Vice Mayor and Commissioner Maggie Kostka for asserting the need for a C.I.P.  (On Saturdayy, St. Augustine Beach Mayor England actually asked me earlier today "What's as C.I.P.?)
  • There was no Zero Based Budgeting.
  • There was an assumption of entitlement to raises on the part of maladroit  managers.
  • There was no discussion of increasing efficiency or impact and zoning fees
  • There was no discussion of the possibility of bond issues at low interest rates to replenish the reserve funds that were depleted, without discussion< during the maladministration of City Manager BRUCE MAX ROYLE. 

Wonder why?  

The problem is the smug, mostly silent and somnambulistic supercilious City Manager, BRUCE MAX ROYLE, who should've been fired years ago for his misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance, including tolerating sexual harassment by former Planninfg and Zoning Manager Gary Larson.

When you're captive of developers, you do what they say.  The last thing that developers care about is long range planning. 

The City of St, Augustine Beach does not have a planner.  It does, however, have a Planning and Zoning Board, which is busily granting hardship exceptions tag the drop of a hat and a City Planning and Building Director who is a developer lapdog, who has refused to answer questions about Embassy Suites favoritism, once yelling at me, "Beat it!", after I asked him questions, as then-Mayor Undine Celeste Pawlowski George had requested.

We look forward to a PZB-City Commission workshop next year, when we might get to ask questions, demand answers and expect democracy.

If St. Augustine Beach can hold public workshops on other topics, there exists NO principled reason why it can't bestir itself to hold a budget workshop, like everyone else

To hell with City Attorney TAYLOR's malfeasant illegal advice about avoiding "embarrassment" by having secret meetings, without requesting a Florida Attorney General Opinion.  

That is contrary to the genius of a free people.  

How gauche and louche, 

Our Florida Sunshine law is the best in the Nation, voted in by 83% of Florida voters (3.8 million votes).  They rejected propaganda from the one-percenters, lobbyists, developers and sly government officials who want government to keep secrets.

"Democracy Dies in Darkness" is the motto of The Washington Post.

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