Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Mosquito Board Asks Governor to Suspend Frequently Absent Mosquito Commissioner
CATHERINE BRANDHORST, Commissioner, Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County missed six (6) of sixteen (16) monthly meetings in less than. two years, without any excuse or explanation -- 37.% of the monthly meetings, which taxpayers pay her $500/month for her attendance and participation. Former owner of a pest control company, BRANDHORST has been elected to AMXD several times, most recently in 2020. In her current term, BRANDHORST has been insouciant to her legal duties to attend meetings and insolent when her colleagues raised concerns about her being AWOL 37.5% of the time.
Last month, the other four Commissioners o the Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County termed Commissioner CATHERINE BRANDHORStT's absences "neglect of duty" and directed their longtime counsel to present the case for suspension from office to Florida Governor RON DeSANTOS for possible termination under Florida's Constitution and laws.
Ms. BRANDHORST has had no response to the July 28, 2022 letter from AMCD lawyer Wayne Flowers to Governor DeSANTIS :
LEWIS LONGMAN WALKER
Attorneys at Law
Julu 28, 2022
Officer ofGovernor Ron DeSantis
400 S. Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Re: Request for Suspension of Commissioner of Anastasia Mosquito Control District
Dear Governor DeSantis:
I write this letter on behalf of the Board of Commissioners ("Board") of the Anastasia Mosquito Control District ("AMCD"). I serve as AMCD's general counsel. AMCD is an independent special district, created by legislative act (Chapter 99-449 Laws of Florida) and further empowered by Chapter 388, Florida Statutes. AMCD provides mosquito control services for all of St. Johns County, Florida.The AMCD Board consists of five Commissioners who are elected at-large, countywide in St. Johns County.
I write concerning one of AMCD's elected Commissioners, Catherine Brandhorst. Commissioner Brandhorst was elected to Seat No. 1 on the Board in November 2020 and assumed that position in January 2021. As will be described further below, Ms. Brandhorst has had numerous unexcused absences from Board meetings since the beginning of her term in January 2021. Consequently, the remaining four Commissioners voted unanimously on July 14, 2022, to request that you exercise your authority under Article IV, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution, and Section 112.511, Florida Statutes, to suspend Ms. Brandhorst from the office of Commissioner of the AMCD. Those provisions of law authorize you to suspend a member of a governing body of special district for, among other things,"neglect of duty."
The AMCD Board meets monthly. It is the position of the four Commissioners who authorized this request that Ms. Brandhorst's repeated, non-excused absences from the regular monthly Board meetings constitutes neglect of duty regarding the office of AMCD Commissioner.
Below is a record of Ms.Brandhorst's attendance at monthly Board neetings since she assumed office in 2021 . Attendance at one Board meeting per month is not an onerous requirement and absence from a monthly meeting by a Commissioner is extremely rare and absence without any notice is non-existent.
Meeting Date Attendance Record
2-11-21 Present but arrived 20 minutes late
6-17-21 Present but arrived late
November No Board meeting
4-14-22 Permitted to attend via phone but not physically present at meeting
6-16-22 Present but arrived 28 minutes late.
In each instance in which Ms. Brandhorst was absent from meetings listed above, there was no prior notification that she would not be present, no request to be permitted to attend a meeting via conference call1, and no post meeting explanation of the absence.
It should be noted that at the April 14, 2022 Board meeting, attended by Ms. Brandhorst via telephone, the Board discussed its concerns about Ms. Brandhorst's unexcused absences, the fact that she continues to receive a paycheck for her service as a Commissioner, but does not attend meetings or otherwise perform her duties as a Commissioner. At that meeting, a motion was made, seconded, and approved by a vote of 3-2 (with Ms. Brandhorst voting against the motion) that upon Ms. Brandhorst's next unexcused absence the Board's attorney would be directed to send a letter to the Governor requesting Ms. Brandhorst's suspension from office. That next unexcused absence occurred on July 14, 2022 and, based on a unanimous vote (4-0) by the Commissioners, the undersigned was directed to send this letter.
To summarize, the Board of Commissioners of the AMCD requests that you suspend Commissioner Brandhorst and that appropriate action be taken thereafter by the Legislature to remove her from her position.
Wayne E. Flowers
1 Board policy permits Commissioners to attend via conference call upon a showing, in advance of the meeting, of "extraordinary circumstances" that will prevent the Commissioner from being physically present at the meeting and where a quorum of Commissioners will be physically present at the meeting.