By Dave Scott, 7-21-23
The city of Fernandina Beach blatantly extorts its residents and only a handful notice, care, or voice concern.
Those that financially suffer the most due to the strong-arming by the criminal enterprise running the city’s corrupt unelected administration are afraid to speak up because they fear retaliation from the bureaucrats for future projects. They pay up and shut up. It’s comparable to the intimidating dialogue between a business owner and mob enforcer: “Nice little business you got here, it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”
One of those financially victimized by the city’s corrupt scheme is local developer Ron Flick, principal of Compass Corp. He sued the city for $900,000 for excessive fees over building of the Marriott Hotel on Atlantic near Main Beach.
The city, expecting him to pay up and keep his mouth shut, is currently attempting to negotiate a settlement using pricey outside lawyers. Compass meanwhile is working on a housing project on downtown’s north side where its being swarmed by a group of out-of-town and local finger-wagging granny activists. Mr. Flick is being unfairly attacked from all sides. He’s one of the few to fight back.
As tax payers we’re paying for the city’s lame defense. Talk about an awkward and unfair situation for a builder.
Another local small business suffering due to the city’s mob tactics is entrepreneur Colleen Angel, a hard working gal who operates “Amelia’s Best Barber Shop” at 1951 South 8th Street, the Hillbilly Hot Dog eatery, and a tour business. She’s a single mom of two, who is constantly harassed by the city that wants to extract $500 a seat from her at her 401 South 8th St. hot dog joint. They recently charged her $850 just to put up a sign on her building identifying the hot dog business. How many hot dogs and haircuts do you have to sell to pay for that kind of extortion?
Where are our elected officials?
The representatives we voted for to fix these problems sounded good while running for office. But they’re missing in action. Once elected they turned silent and passive, and the graft continues.
Commissioner and Chiropractor James Antun is an example. His motivation for running he said, was the screwing he received from the city when opening his new clinic. He was not shy about voicing his unhappiness then. He was furious over the fees charged and the delays in his new facility. He claimed that was his incentive for seeking elected office. The city needed an adjustment, and he was the candidate to do it he said.
So, what’s up Doc? Since you were elected you’ve fallen silent. You even voted for the more than 200 percent massive capacity fee increase. All the 3-2 votes so far are the Commission versus the two doctors, Antun and outlier Chip Ross. What ever happened to “First do no harm”?
Commissioner Darron Askew is a city firefighter. But since he was elected I haven’t heard him sound a siren, ring a bell, or throw water on the city’s spending spree and outrageous fee structure. Instead Commissioner Askew also voted for the massive capacity fee increase. Why?
Mayor Bradley Bean is an engineer at Rayonier, a profession that involves solving problems and figuring out how to make things work better. He came out of the gate strong but faded in the stretch. It’s not difficult to see that the city is shuffling capacity fee funds and comingling them with others, an unlawful act under state statues. Under state law they are supposed to be held in escrow. Solve that Mr. Bean.
Commissioner David Sturges got the ball rolling to boot spendthrift City Manager Dale Martin. But he also voted for the capacity fee hike. As a builder, why? Get back in the ring, Mr. Sturges, get this done.
This crowd voted to bring in a state auditing team. But since then has anybody heard anything? I haven’t. Has anyone called the state to see what the holdup is?
What I do hear are cries to tear down popular waterfront restaurant Brett’s because Commissioner Chip “Chicken Little” Ross says it will soon collapse into the water; a request for an ugly and pricey solar farm near the airport; another request to move city soccer fields; a plea for a new city hall, new bicycle paths, and more.
Nobody ever addresses the city’s underfunded pension fund. Why not? Why was an unnecessary Simmons Park built and why did we add a million dollar fire station that many said was unnecessary. What about the money pit that is Top Tracer at the public golf course?
The Commission also chatters about the need for a sea wall but never questions how it will work, how high it should be, why water won’t go around it, or how much will it cost tax payers while wishfully hoping the state will pay for it, which it won’t. Why not ask city department heads to cut their annual budgets instead of submitting wish lists for more cash and staff?
The city always needs more new cars, bigger budgets, additional staff members, (the booted Martin added 55 in seven years), and even a pay raise for themselves proposed by interim City Manager Charlie George. What happened to the former candidates that ran on a let’s clean up this capacity/impact fee mess? “Cut capacity fees! WHAT? Heck no! Let’s massively increase them instead.” The bombastic, combative, pompous, spendthrift, gas bag, Commissioner Chip Ross, is grinning ear-to-ear.
City Attorney Tammi Bach, the consigliere of this criminal mob, is the enforcer and city’s mouthpiece, even admitting that the “Impact/Capacity Fee” extortion plan that resulted in her losing costly multi-million dollar law suits, was created by: “a calculation on a napkin scribbled by a consulting firm.”
City Manager, Dale Martin, who spurred spending for additional staff and more shiny new stuff, was fired and an expensive search is on to replace him. The building department head is gone and so are three members of that department that peddled permitting and inspection permits for fees that are five times higher than equivalent fess in the county. But nothing changes. The extortion continues. Nobody downtown explains why
When resident Glenn Stettler succinctly explained the city’s impact/capacity fee malfeasance to the City Commission last September the commissioners listened and did what? NOTHING! They mysteriously went totally stupid, didn’t understand, or thought: “So what?” Not one asked a single question.
After Stettler spoke to the Commission City Attorney Bach responded, blaming an unnamed consultant for the city’s legal woes but never denied that the fees are illegal. “The only reason we lost is because a consultant didn’t do a good job justifying it, calculating fees on a napkin,” she whined. What the hell?
The city spent more than $1 million and three years defending itself and all Ms. Bach can offer in its defense is a consultant scribbling fees on a napkin? http://www.davescottblog.com/bizarre-cocktail-napkin-defense-offered-by-city-consigliere-to-defend-trial-loses-alleged-illegal-impact-capacity-fees/
Not a single Commissioner questioned Ms. Bach’s “napkin” explanation. Not a peep. Zip! Nada! Nothing but blank stares and silence from the five nonplussed elected officials.
Stettler and Pat Keogh, another savvy city critic, have coauthored numerous opinion editorials critical of the city’s “criminal enterprise” system labeling Fernandina “Shakedown City.” Commissioners and residents respond with collective yawns, so it continues.
Longtime Fernandina News leader and state syndicated columnist Steve Nicklas has also consistently and accurately drawn attention to Fernandina’s chaotic city hall mess and last Friday, July 14, authored a column about the current issues headlined: “The high cost of frivolous spending.” Astute resident Ron Barone had a letter on the same page asking why the city doesn’t require department heads to whack 10% off their budgets.
Stettler and Keogh are not a pair of “I have nothing else to do” whiners, but well-informed professionals. Stettler is a retired U.S. Naval officer and former White House staffer, while Keogh is an attorney, successful entrepreneur, investor, and author of several books on finance and investing. He owns several commercial Fernandina Beach properties.
They say the only solution to bring this graft to a halt is state intervention.
Stettler and Keogh cite as an example a case that took place in the western Nassau County town of Callahan more than 20 years ago that resulted in the jailing of a town official and uncovering massive fraud that was conveniently overlooked by elected city officials there because money was pouring into city coffers.
Apparently the city government gal, Bobbi Boone, was in it for personal financial gain. She was arrested, prosecuted, and jailed. But not until the state came to town and investigated how she was earning up to $240,000 a year for her grant writing duties, when the average grant writer earned just $40,000 annually. A persistent resident and business gal, Jeanne Scott, instigated the investigation that discovered the corruption and concluded that the city had no oversight among other issues. A News Leader reporter named Russell Pace wrote a series of articles airing the misconduct. The only reporter questioning today’s Fernandina Beach financial shenanigans is Nicklas. Hey, Editor Tracy Dishman, wake up, there’s a potential award-winning story sitting right in your lap.
I don’t believe that anyone in downtown Fernandina is personally gaining financially from this mess. Nonetheless, what they are doing by co-mingling funds, shifting them from account to account, and charging fees five times higher than the county violates state law and costs tax payers dearly.
Commissioner Ross doesn’t care. He applauds anything that stuffs money in city hall’s pockets. But the other four? Come on guys get on it or explain why you won’t.
IRS Agents You’d Like To See At Your Door: IRS agent Joe Ziegler and his former IRS supervisor, longtime special agent Gary Shapley, are two very impressive men.
A local retired IRS agent who frequently chastises me for my criticisms of the Biden administration regime’s plan to add 87,000 new agents wrote me saying: “I don’t know if you listened today to S/A Shapley and Zeigler’s testimony at the House investigation, but they were terrific, especially Shapley. Ziegler is doing a magnificent job. Cutting the IRS budget for agents in the Criminal Investigation division with these stupendous agents with a moral and patriotic backbone is a nonstarter. Admit that you were wrong, Jessie Watters did today on the Five.”
He suggested I write “…..how these upstanding and remarkably courageous Special Agents who stood up to tremendous pressures and retaliation and yet testified about what they saw as a two tier juridical system. Do not cut money for IRS Criminal investigation!”
I agree, selectively hire more agents like Ziegler and Shapley, but not 87,000 armed agents with authority to break into your home. No thanks.
He’s correct these two men were incredibly persuasive and nothing they said was proven inaccurate by the crazed Democrats on the panel.
The longer I watched the House Committee question these two IRS whistleblower witnesses in the Hunter Biden coverup investigation the more I grew to despise the Democrats.
No matter what the testimony that overwhelmingly displayed favoritism and corruption, the Democrats yelled: “Oh Yeh! What about Donald Trump?”
The only comparison more absurd would have been a German defense during the Nuremberg trials following World War II screaming. “Oh yeh! What about Genghis Kahn?”
These former IRS agents and whistle blowers said the case against Biden should have automatically carried a felony charge under Department of Justice rules. They also noted that the four prosecutors assigned to the case recommended felony charges last August, but Biden ultimately only faced misdemeanor charges.
“In August of 2022, the assigned prosecutors, all four attorneys, agreed to recommend felony and misdemeanor charges for the 2017, ‘18, and ‘19 tax years,” said Ziegler, who paid all his own expenses to appear at the hearing and said his testimony was the most difficult thing he’s ever done since coming out as being gay. “That didn’t happen here, and I am not sure why.”
He said the DOJ tax division policy states that cases “involving individuals who fail to file tax returns or pay a tax, but also commit acts of evasion and obstruction, should also be charged as felonies to avoid inequitable treatment.”
Democrats couldn’t mount direct attacks on the whistleblowers’ credibility, so they accused Republicans of “hypocrisy” for holding the hearing, displaying that they are not rationale or sane, and certainly do not represent the best interests of the American people.
Area pundit Jeff Childers says: “One supposes that, if President Trump had been implicated, the FBI would have immediately raided his homes and confiscated his devices, not to mention getting his publicly available cell location data, for which the government does not need a subpoena. But in Hunter and Joe’s case, the IRS buried the evidence. If it weren’t for double standards, the democrats would have no standards at all.”
After watching their disgraceful behavior how can any patriotic clear thinking American ever justify voting for a Democrat?
Wait! What? The pride crowd tells us that gay people are gay because they were born that way, but transgendered people aren’t the gender they were born even though they WERE born that way. Huh?
Are You A Veteran? If so, the local Cross the Line and Amelia Island Museum of History would like to interview you.
These two organization have partnered for the Veterans History Project, a 20-year national effort that highlights the service and careers of veterans across the country. Each interview will be archived in the Library of Congress.
They are seeking local military veterans who are willing to share their stories. They want to hear from veterans in all branches of service, regardless of whether they served three years or thirty or when. The goal is to interview at least one veteran each month.
If you are interested in being interviewed for the project or know of anyone that would be willing to share their experiences contact the Cross the Line Foundation by e-mailing [email protected] or calling Bill Cimino at (410) 218-4330.
We are losing World War II veterans at a rapid rate and it’s vital to keep their sacrifices alive. Korean, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq, Granada, Afghanistan, and all others will have an opportunity to have their stories told for posterity. For more information go to www.crossthelinefoundation.com or e-mail [email protected].
Huh? “I think the first part of this issue that should be articulated is AI is kind of a fancy thing.” — Vice President Kamala Harris.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: If you literally want to pig out then the place to be next Saturday, July 29, is PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden. My pajama-clad pal will celebrate his birthday with a whole smoked Durarac pig. In addition to sides supplied by those attending, there will be a wet-t-shirt contest with the gender of the contestants undetermined at this time. There will also be Karaoke starting at 5 p.m., beer specials, and day-long raffles. Want to know more? Then go to PJD’s at 12 South 2nd Street and ask Dave as that’s all I could get out of him.
Republished with the author’s permission. Read The Dave Scott Blog– subscribe Free
The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal Florida.