September 19, 2017
The Cedar Key City Commission met on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at 6 pm, in the trailer, the temporary home of Cedar Key City Hall after Hurricane Hermine. Present were: Mayor Heath Davis, Vice-Mayor Sue Colson, and Commissioners Dale Register, Royce Nelson, and Nickie Rucker.
Staff in attendance included: City Attorney Norm Fugate, Police Chief Virgil Sandlin, Fire Chief and Emergency Operations Manager Robert Robinson, Public Works Director Bill Crandley, City Clerk Nicole Gill, Assistant City Clerk Crystal Sharp, and Donna Risker.
Among those in the audience were: Buddy Scoggins, “Coach.” Nolan Freeman, Scott Dennison, Andrew Gude, Michael Hancock, James Custer, Doug Maple, Peggy Herrick, Beth Mizell, Beth Dieveney, Bob and Jeri Treat, and Mandy and Frank Offerle.
TREE ORDINANCE QUESTIONED
Resident Nolan Freeman explained that he recently cut down several leaning trees in anticipation of oncoming storms and the likelihood/possibility that they would fall upon his home. According to the Laws of Cedar Key, because the trees are alive, he must pay a full permit fee per tree. He requested that the commission revisit its tree ordinance to accommodate situations such as his when owners believe that endangered. Freeman also asked that he be charged only $25 per tree, the fee charged for a dead tree, instead of the amount he was charged.
Commissioners asked that Freeman produce an insurance document indicating that he should cut the trees down; then, with that document in hand, the city would leave the matter to the discretion of Police Chief Virgil Sandlin, who operates code enforcement. Freeman said he would return with the suggested documentation.
CEMETERY LIAISON REPORT
Commissioner and Cemetery Liaison Nickie Rucker requested that her cemetery update be postponed.
FLORIDA ELECTIONS COMMITTEE COMPLAINT
A complaint was filed with the Florida Elections Commission alleging that the City of Cedar Key violated Florida’s election laws. Cedar Key residents Scott and Andrea Dennison filed the complaint.
Mayor Heath Davis asked City Attorney Norm Fugate to explain, in abbreviated form, the complaint’s background. Fugate explained that the complaint was initially directed to the five commissioners, City Clerk Nicole Gill, and him, Fugate himself. After the initial complaint was reviewed by the Florida Elections Commission, a second correspondence was sent to the city which addresses only City Clerk Nicole Gill.
Fugate stated his belief that he could not represent Gill as he may be asked to testify, a possible conflict of interest. Fugate stated that the city is obligated to provide legal representation to any city official or city employee in any action that is brought regarding their city service and further advised that the city hire a Tallahassee lawyer, at $200 per hour, to represent Gill.
The August 28 letter from the Florida Elections Commission shows the alleged violations to be:
Section 104.051(2), Florida Statutes: Respondent, the municipal clerk and supervisor of elections for the City of Cedar Key, refused or neglected to perform her duties as prescribed by the election code, when she closed her office on April 27, 2017, so that she and her staff could attend training at the county supervisor of elections office.
Scott Dennison spoke.
- He explained that the Florida Election Commission staff’s advice was to address the complaint to the full seven people possibly responsible in the city hierarchy. Thus, he did so.
- Dennison further explained that he would be pleased to withdraw the complaint if he had an agreement with the city that such a closure would not recur. All he wanted, he said, is for the situation not to recur.
- He explained that he did not wish to have the city expend money on a lawyer, that the situation could be easily and quickly resolved with a discussion and something in writing that he could present to the Florida Elections Commission averring that the closure would not recur.
Mayor Davis responded to Dennison, accusing him of “grandstanding,” using “inaccurate information,” and “fabricating.”
No one denied that City Hall was closed on the day included in the complaint and people were unable to vote there.
Commissioners Dale Register and Royce Nelson and Vice Mayor Sue Colson declared their need to “protect” Gill; no one offered an explanation of what she needed protection from. Commissioner Nickie Rucker voted not to hire the Tallahassee lawyer.
Scott reiterated his desire to withdraw the complaint if the city would draft a letter stating that the city clerk has been instructed that this should never happen again. It would not be an admission of any wrong doing, simply clarifying for the Elections Commission that the city realized that this occurred and that it would not allow it to happen again.
The mayor ended the discussion by saying that “anytime the city does something, it does the best that that it can” and whenever someone is defending the city, “we are going to defend it the best that we can. And that is what we are doing.”
CITY HALL UPDATE
Fire Chief Robert Robinson reported that FEMA’s forward movement processing papers and financing City Hall’s renovation is now stalled with the advent of Hurricane Harvey and additionally Hurricane Irma. While FEMA monies are delayed, the insurance dollars are not and are available. Robinson also reported that the architect has designed a $200,000 building foundation.
The staff is going to recommend that the city proceed with the approved floor plan and repair the building as it sets, not to elevate it at this time. Some new items might have to be eliminated and existing ones repaired. The mitigation process will continue.
Commissioners unanimously decided not to wait for FEMA money to become available and to begin construction with insurance monies now.
UPDATED 2017 – 2018 ORGANIZATIONAL CHART
Commissioners unanimously approved an updated city organizational chart that:
- changes the Public Works Director to a Supervisor and declares no Department Head-ship;
- has the “building official” report directly to the City Clerk;
- has the Public Works Supervisor report to three different individuals: Police Chief Virgil Sandlin, Fire Chief Robert Robinson, and City Clerk Nicole Gill.
USDA GRANT UPDATE AND SUBMISSION
Vice-Mayor Sue Colson explained that a USDA grant is most likely coming to the city for the construction of a bathroom facility identical to the one now in the Cedar Key Marina. The new bathroom would be located the north end of the C Street Bridge where the portable toilet now sits. Commissioners approved Colson moving forward on the project and requested that she bring a project budget to the next meeting.
Commissioners unanimously approved minutes from the September 5, 2017, city commission meeting.
The meeting adjourned at approximately 6:58 pm.