Editor’s note: We publish this email thread from FB Commissioner Chip Ross in its entirety, less deletions of some private email addresses.
From: “Chip Ross” <[email protected]>
Sent: 5/21/23 3:06 PM
To: Charles George <[email protected]>
Cc: Tammi Bach <[email protected]>, Caroline Best <[email protected]>,Chip Ross <[email protected]>, “[email protected]“<[email protected]> (additional private email cc’s deleted)
Subject: FW: Fernandina Commission Inquiry
If you would forward this e-mail thread to the other City Commissioners for their information, it would be appreciated.
After reading through the referenced statutes and applicable case law, both the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State’s Attorney Office concur with my assessment there was no “criminal activity”, and agree that there is no need for FDLE or SAO to further investigate this matter.[See e-mail thread below]
My recollection is that the current City Commission declined referring this matter to the Florida Auditor General.
It would also be appreciated if you would report at the next City Commission meeting any updates on the current or planned audits of the Impacts Fees and building department.
Chip Ross CommissionerCity of Fernandina Beach
|204 Ash StreetFernandina Beach, Florida 32034|
|(904) 310-3100 | [email protected]www.fbfl.us|
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From: Mead, Josh <[email protected]>
Sent: Friday, May 19, 2023 4:29 PM
To: Chip Ross <[email protected]>
Cc: Tammi Bach <[email protected]>
Subject: FW: Fernandina Commission Inquiry
CAUTION: This email originated from outside the organization. Do not click links or open attachments unless you recognize the sender, were expecting this email, and know the content is safe.
As discussed, see below.
|From: Huband, Christopher <[email protected]>|
Sent: Wednesday, May 17, 2023 5:11 PM
To: Mead, Josh <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: Fernandina Commission Inquiry
|CAUTION: This email originated outside of FDLE. Please use caution when opening attachments, clicking links, or responding to this email.|
Josh, my apologies for the delay.
Having read through the referenced statutes and applicable case law, I concur with your assessment, and I agree that there is no need for FDLE or SAO to further investigate this matter. Even if there were something potentially criminal about the collection and disbursement of the fees, it would be exceedingly difficult to hold any individuals criminally responsible absent evidence that they were intentionally scheming to gain some personal benefit.
As previously discussed, I also agree with the idea of an audit. I would hope an audit would set everything straight—one way or another. Let me know how you would like to respond to the Fernandina Commission.
I’m available all afternoon tomorrow if you would like to discuss this further to make sure we are on the same page.
Sent: Thursday, April 6, 2023 12:52 PM
To: Huband, Christopher <[email protected]>
Cc: Mead, Josh <[email protected]>
Subject: Fernandina Commission Inquiry
As we discussed several weeks ago, you and I both have independently received information from Fernandina Commissioner Chip Ross regarding allegations of illegal collection and disbursement of impact and building fees by and through the city. I have reviewed the information sent, conducted follow up with the city attorney, Tammi Bach, and researched Florida Statutes (F.S.S. 553.80; F.S.S. 163.31801 and F.S.S. 166.222). In none of my efforts did I find specific criminal allegations of a particular person, or receive mention of specific evidence to support such an allegation(s). It appears the city has the authority to levy taxes/fees with some limitation on how to disburse the collected money. On the surface, it seems the city has complied with these requirements; however, even if a specific infraction were identified, this would be more akin to an administrative violation rather than a criminal one.
A proposed remedy mentioned in the many documents I have read, was an potential audit by the Florida Auditor General’s Office. Specifically, it was mentioned that the Auditor General conducts audits to determine if a local government were properly collecting and administering levied fees/taxes. My understanding is that the city alternatively could commission an audit by a private auditing firm; however, in my humble opinion, it would seem the Florida Auditor General would be the most impartial body to conduct such a review. Based on the analysis of the matter above, FDLE will not adopt the case for continued investigation.
I would like to hear your assessment and then respond to the Fernandina Commission together on this matter.
Joshua C Mead, Sr.
Special Agent Supervisor
Jacksonville Regional Operations Center
Organized Crime/Protective Operations Squad