By Dave Scott, 2-17-23
If Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin and City Attorney Tammi Bach are convinced that the city has never violated state statues by charging extortionist-like fees and it has never illegally transferred money from department-to-department in alleged money laundering schemes that violate state statues shouldn’t they welcome the state to ride in and prove that they’re right?
If the two have nothing to hide they should be the first to welcome a forensic audit? If the books are clean then so are they. Right?
A City Commission meeting February 7 delivered the Martin-Bach duo a one-two punch by heeding a second plea by local citizen, Glen Stettler, to request that the state conduct a forensic audit, then unexpectedly agreeing to hear a motion by Commissioner David Sturges to sack City Manager Dale Martin.
Martin was visibly stunned by Commissioner Sturges’s motion. His plea to the Commission following the proposal sounded like an offer of conciliation out of desperation when he asked for the opportunity to “prove to you” that he “can work with this commission,” which he said, “is a whole 180-degree different change than the previous commission. This commission is totally different without Mayor Lednovich, Vice Mayor Kreger and Commissioner Ross controlling the majority of the votes,” admitted a startled Martin.
He added: “This is a transition period, and I will support this city commission.
Wouldn’t Martin’s endorsement of a state audit display the support he now promises?
Also, shouldn’t City Attorney Bach embrace a state audit that the Commission said it will request to investigate the alleged extortionist building department and impact/capacity fee scam?
The feedback I’m getting from folks in the community, who know a lot about these things, say Sturges should move quickly and force a vote to oust Martin ASAP, and the “Group of Four”, which doesn’t include Martin’s pal, the cantankerous Commissioner Chip Ross, should immediately fire a letter off to the governor requesting a forensic audit NOW. The termination issue is on the February 21 agenda.
If Martin’s hiding anything and he knows the state’s attorney general’s green eyeshade-wearing auditing team armed with sharp pencils is headed this way he would probably start cleaning out his desk on his own. City Attorney Bach will probably bump into him in the hall with her cardboard box and office plant, particularly after her absurdly insipid “cocktail napkin” defense of the city’s alleged “criminal enterprise” activities.
Bach defended the city’s previous two lost law suits that resulted in $3 million refunds to locals and $1 million in legal costs over fees that she said were generated by “bad math on a cocktail napkin.”
The four City Commissioners need to immediately fire off a letter to the state with what I presume will be four signatures as it is expected the belligerent Ross will doubtless be a holdout. In my opinion the odds that Martin and Bach would support a state audit that could clear them or condemn their actions are slim and none.
Read All About It Or Maybe Not: Longtime Fernandina News leader and state syndicated columnist Steve Nicklas has consistently and accurately drawn attention to Fernandina’s chaotic city hall mess.
However, on the news side that biweekly’s print reporter, Julia Roberts, is nothing more than an echo chamber of her own prejudices when writing about city government. Either that or she’s a woefully incompetent journalist. Her entire Wednesday, Feb. 15 story was about a sideshow championed by a group of nagging grannies bent on harassing local businessmen for threatening to invest their own money into cleaning up a few dumpy houses. The developers want to build attractive dwellings people would actually clamor to buy and live in, not to mention boost area property values.
The trembling-voiced, fist-shaking grannies argued that the alleged “Tringali” houses are historic because the Tringali family was instrumental in the area’s shrimping industry. They fail to mention that the Tringali family didn’t build the now near dilapidated dwellings. They initially rented then. They are as historic as the crumbling Front Street Atlantic Seafood building that’s rightfully being torn down before it falls over.
Other local news outlets so far focused on Martin. Should he stay or should he go? The February 10 News Leader’s headline was about Commissioner Sturges’ motion to fire him. There wasn’t a single mention of Stettler’s indictment of the City as a “criminal enterprise” and the city attorney being the enabler of that alleged enterprise. Except for the Nicklas column the paper ignored that story.
Not even the shameless sight-impaired online Fernandina Observer, the city’s unofficial PR agency, can possibly justify supporting this doomed duo. Observer pretend reporters and city PR Account Executives Suanne Thamm and Mike Phillips, who never let the facts get in the way of their flimsy defense of shoddy city management, malfeasance, and sloppy legal work, will be hard pressed to defend this steaming mountain of garbage.
George Miller, the editor of the new Citizens Journal Florida also got lost in the weeds with the Tringali nonsense but since that outlet’s site is so difficult to navigate it’s doubtful many saw it. Here it is https://www.citizensjournal.net/confusion-ensues-as-fernandina-tringali-townhome-project-pulled-from-commission-agenda/ If the request for a state forensic audit was buried somewhere in that outlet I couldn’t find it.
Jack Knocke, who headed up the effective “Common Sense” activist group that once provoked citizens to turnout and protest the city’s outrageous fees, came out in support of Martin’s firing in his new role as head of County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF). He also didn’t say a thing about the state audit, which many think is the main event since it would probably accelerate Martin’s and Bach’s dismissal. However, he did list a litany of reasons for Martin’s removal and asked readers to send a note to the City Commissioners if they agreed. Click here to read Knocke’s piece and voice your opinion: https://nam10.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Freps.to%2F%3Fc%3D63ec461b11cc5&data=05%7C01%7Cjknocke%40ccdfusa.com%7C6f606048d73041b3897c08db0fc4df84%7C3bab2bc795644588bc8ea23e6f45e2ad%7C0%7C0%7C638121110470125671%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=JHZKMLQ%2Fj6rLHLMpzXhbhrPHCplbG47PJ7YVgIGVqd0%3D&reserved=0
In addition to the “criminal enterprise” activity cited by Stettler, Martin’s other past actions are indefensible. For example, since he came on board six years ago city staff has grown from 206 to 272 full-time employees – 66 personnel – a 32% increase. The city’s population has grown from 12,550 to 13,364 – just 814 new residents – only a 6% increase. In addition to the marina the city’s money-losing golf course with its huge fiscal fiasco of Top Tracer stands out as a monument to the Martin- Lednovich-Ross financial debacle as does Simmons Park, etc.
Newly elected and alert City Commissioner, Darron Ayscue, made the motion to engage the state. He’s right, citizens want something done NOW!.
I’ve heard that Mayor Bradley Bean offered Martin an opportunity to resign prior to next Tuesday’s Commission session and he refused. If I was betting on the outcome I’d say he’ll be shown the door by a 4-1 vote this coming Tuesday.
Even retired John Mandrick, who earned the infamous nickname “Pay-to-Play” during the “impact fee” era, has turned on Martin. In a recent letter to all city commissioners with the exception of the unpersuadable Ross, he voiced his support for sacking Martin and confirmed citizen Glen Stettler’s accusations of financial malfeasance. Following is the letter he sent:
I highly recommend that you terminate the City Manager’s contract for Management failure and fiscal irresponsibility. The Management failures have been numerous including the selection and replacement of my position in 2020. First he misrepresented a job offer to Mr. Charlie George to take over the Utilities Department then when he was ready to immediately resign he changed his job description. Then he filled my position with an unqualified candidate who had no experience in water or sewer Utility management and does not have a Wastewater or Water Operators license. This decision will cost the City ratepayers millions. Every five years the City is required to obtain a new operating permit from the State of Florida for our Wastewater Plant. This process includes a reuse feasibility study. For the last twenty years reuse has not been economically feasible because no one wants to purchase the wastewater discharge for reuse. This has been a very positive thing since it would cost millions in infrastructure improvements and operational costs to make public reuse available. Unfortunately, the existing Utilities Director has not been directed by the City Manager to keep costs to a minimum. In addition, we currently have a gravity discharge to the Amelia river for 3.5 Mgd which costs us nothing. We should fiercely fight for this as our primary discharge in our upcoming permit. So, due to poor Management our businesses and residents of the City will be subjected to ever increasing utility rates. The City Manager has directed a fiscal shell game with funds from the Utility Department covering other enterprise’s debts for years. Then recommending permanent transfers from the Utilities fund for purposes other than Utilities expenses. This is fraudulent use of rate payers money is shameful if not illegal.
Basically if you look at the last decade for Operational and Maintenance costs for the Utilities Department you will see a drastic change after 2020 due to the City Managers failure to obtain qualified staff. Businesses and residents end up paying for this.
I wish the best for this City and highly recommend you form a Utility advisory board immediately.
John Mandrick, PE
Utilities Director Retired
Assuming that Martin is canned next Tuesday and a state audit finds a systemic, long-term violation of state law as implied by Mandrick’s letter and Stettler’s accusations doesn’t that resolve the issue and the future of Bach and other complicit city officials?
Meanwhile Back At The Marina: Former Marina Advisory Board Chairman Dr. Gerald Decker, says some of the arguments concerning the Fernandina Marina don’t add up, and he should know as he is a very smart guy who earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago.
The wise doctor of numbers says: “On the Sell-The-Marina front the best marina redo option is to downsize it to cut costs but preserve the heritage since waterfront dockage is part of the city’s identity–just like the beaches, pirates, and shrimp.
“Does it need to be commercial?,” he asks. “Not as much as it is now” and he doesn’t agree with Bob Allison’s “mudflat proposal because it requires taxpayers investing yet more millions.”
He says selling it won’t fly either. “The last time this came up City Hall was swamped with protesters. You might as well try to sell the city.”
His solution: “What the city commission should do is direct staff to prepare a plan that eliminates the general fund subsidy within three years and that caps the interim subsidy to, say, $300,000 a year……in effect wind down the taxpayer subsidy as rapidly as possible.”
Is he right or wrong? I have no idea.
I understand that the marina advisory board, which hears concerns of boaters, is at risk of being disbanded due to lack of a quorum. There are currently just three members and four vacancies. Applicants need to be city residents and don’t need to own a boat, just be concerned about keeping boat owners and fishing boat businesses supported and heard. To apply go to fbfl.us.
Alert: Friend, local resident, and accomplished well-respected international author Ken Timmerman sent me the following adding: “You might enjoy this interview that appeared this morning (Thursday, February 16) with Lisa Daftari on her “Foreign Desk” blog. Lisa is a very smart, very saavy, Iranian-American reporter who has become the FoxNews “go-to” person on all things Iran . I have known her for well over twenty years, as she mentions in this interview. We covered everything from the Biden foreign policy disaster in Ukraine, to the Iranian revolution, the sell-off of U.S. military technology to Communist China, and my advice to young reporters. Here’s the link: https://foreigndesknews.com/podcast/and-the-rest-is-history-ken-timmerman/
Timmerman’s 12th book of non-fiction, “And the Rest is History: Tales of Hostages, Arms Dealers, Dirty Tricks, and Spies”, can be ordered from Amazon using this direct link: https://tinyurl.com/2p9b745x
Up! Up! And Away: The Biden administration says that the Chinese sent balloons over America during the Trump presidency, but they were not detected. Really? If they weren’t detected, how do they know they were here? And if they knew it then how come they were unprepared to deal with one they actually saw? Inept is not a strong enough word to describe this administration.
An Untenable Situation: Until the next election this country is between a rock and hard place observes Bill Shuey, an author and pundit in Georgetown, Florida.
“We are in perilous times”, Shuey explains. “Our titular leader is an addled old man who is prone to gaffes, lies, and long-winded, concocted tall tales. In short, Biden is a buffoon who is devoid of leadership abilities. Throw in a motivation for not wanting to irritate the country that helped him attain he and his family’s wealth, and we have an untenable situation.
“Unfortunately, the only recourse, under our form of government would be his removal from office. That is an unacceptable option because of the mental midget that he selected for vice president. What a swell party!”
Wait! What? “We got to take this stuff seriously, as seriously as you are because you have been forced to take it seriously.” – Kamala Harris.
A Profound Observation: One of the most astute political observations delivered recently was from former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley during her announcement this week that she was a candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination when she said: “Today our enemies think that the American era has passed. They’re wrong. America is not past our prime, it’s just that our politicians are past theirs.”
He’s Baaaack! Of the 49 comments in last week’s blog one fourth (12) were from Coleman Langshaw, who had taken a brief hiatus and resurfaced with a hysterical and frantic vengeance.
Based on his remarks there is nothing on earth or above it that he doesn’t claim to be an expert on ranging from Chinese surveillance balloons to small town marinas.
Local grievance monger Langshaw’s dishonesty, rage, and paranoia about Republicans, conservatives and many other topics were on full display last week.
A number of readers take delight in repeatedly provoking him into expanding his sophomoric rantings that only verify that his pointless and malicious assaults are as false as the silliness he spews about this site’s commentators and their opinions. The more they prod him the more ridiculous his comments become. It’s almost a contest to see who can elicit the nuttiest Langshaw response.
Langshaw believes that his strategy of audacity, verbal abuse and strident dismissal of authoritative, historic and verifiable facts are persuasive tactics but only verify his adolescent foolishness. His short-circuited antics are entertaining to those that find it amusing to goad him, but for myself and others he’s becoming tedious, and we wish he’d just shut up and go away.
However, in order to keep readers amused, I’m not asking Langshaw to stop commenting. I’m asking him to limit himself to a minimum of two responses, one stating his objection to whatever topic he finds most objectionable, and one more to defend himself against the onslaught of inevitable criticism that’ll flow as a result. Any comments after two will be eliminated. It’s an honest effort to prevent him from continuing to publicly embarrass himself.
If you haven’t already read one of Langshaw’s lengthy harangues then grab a copy of the Wednesday, February 15 issue of the bi-weekly News Leader and read his offensive Page 5A opinion-editorial and personal attack on Fernandina marina founder and gentleman Bob Allison headlined: “Old marina design: The greatest mud trap in local history”. Mr. Allison’s evenly stated and reasoned account headlined “Why do I care” is presented on News Leader Page A4. Judge for yourself.
New Poll: The last poll posted here asked if the city should sell the marina. “Yes”, said 57%, 49 voters, and “no” said 37 voters or 43%. A new poll asks if the city should terminate City Manager Dale Martin based on currently available public information.
Things I Wish I’d Said: “I almost had a psychic girlfriend, ….but she left me before we met.” –Steven Wright
Republished with the author’s permission. Read The Dave Scott Blog– subscribe Free
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.