THE PRICE TO RESIDENTS OF THIS COMMISSION
The Beach Beacon’s article, “Ethics Complaints Could End Up Costing Taxpayers” by Wayne Ayers, we think, needs a better title. The REAL story and more correct title should be “MB RESIDENTS AT RISK”.
We say this because Mayor Palladeno and the 3 commissioners – in attendance at the August 9, 2016, Board of Commissioners meeting – voted to offer a blank check to lawyers representing city officials and employees with ethics complaints filed against them with the Florida Ethics Commission.
So, THE CITY OF MADEIRA BEACH IS ON THE HOOK – thanks to the Mayor and Commissioners to:
- pay for legal fees in any amount of money
- pay for legal fees no matter whether the person acted legally or not
- pay for legal fees no matter which attorney they choose
- pay for legal fees no matter whether the attorney charges $200 or $700 per hour.
And, interestingly, Mayor Palladeno said he voted for part of the people but not all – because he himself has an ethics violation being investigated. (The person who filed the complaint against the mayor, announced at the August 9th meeting that the complaint was ruled substantial and is being investigated.)
Can a Commissioner legally vote for only part of a motion but not all, Mr. Trask? We think not.
DEMOCRACY IS COSTLY WHEN IT IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE
There is a MONUMENTAL divide separating the more than 33% of the registered voters of Madeira Beach – from Mayor, Travis Palladeno and City Commissioners and City Manager, Shane Crawford –– which is becoming expensive for residents.
The big divide has occurred because those who are supposed to represent us, specifically, Mayor Palladeno and Commissioners Lister, Hodges and former Commissioner Shontz, plus City Manager Shame Crawford have repeatedly ignored:
- personal appeals, emails, and phone calls from residents
- appeals by individuals at city meetings.
OUR ONLY CHOICE, THE COURTS & ASSOCIATED COSTS
Because elected officials and CIty Manager Crawford have continued to support massive development and will not consider what residents have said they want, residents must seek other avenues to have their voices recognized. The courts are the only place where we can get a fair hearing on these matters.
So, residents have contributed $$$ and will continue to contribute $$$ to support the legal costs to challenge these actions.
Of course, these contributions/donations are over and above what we are paying in taxes, and our taxes will be used by the City to advocate for their positions.
To dates, our lawyers have four complaints, aka, lawsuits:
#1 and # 2 – Comprehensive Plan and Approval of Rezoning & Development Agreements
The outcome of these ‘complaints’ can invalidate city actions regarding the 2014 city comprehensive plan, and void the Commission’s vote to rezone the ‘Holton’ and ‘Karns; development properties.
The basis for these complaints is the city’s failure to properly notify residents of pending issues as specified by Florida statutes.
We have 2 lawsuits in this category and expect to win these when they reach the courts.
#3 – Petition
This complaint is related to the Petition that we circulated for MB voter signatures.
The outcome of this action that we expect is for the courts to require the city Commission to accept the petition and to hold a referendum to allow voters to approve or reject the ‘PD’ zoning. This is what we expected when we submitted the petition, but City Attorney Tom Trask rejected the petition.
#4 – Sunshine Law Violations and Public Records Law Violation
This complaint contains two instances of violation of the Sunshine Law. In addition, there is a complaint for a violation of the Public Records Law – resulting from a refusal to provide of public records. The courts view the refusal to produce public records as very serious, and will hear this case as soon as possible (on “legal time”!).
The outcome of this complaint, which we expect to be successful, will result in (1) invalidating the vote on replacement Commissioner Ghovaee, (2) reversing the vote to pay legal fees for city officials and employees and (3) censure of those who have violated the Sunshine Law: Mayor Palladeno and Commissioners Terry Lister and Nancy Hodges.
To read more about these subjects, read this article => Madeira Beach Legal Woes Continue
Note: We also filed a complaint to declare the March 15 referendum invalid due to allegedly illegal language, but because voters rejected the referendum by a vote of over 2 against to 1 for, the complaint was not needed and was withdrawn.
THE COST OF ETHICS COMPLAINTS – NOT LEGAL SERVICES
Unethical behavior in a group of ‘leaders’ damages any group or community. The price is not just in dollars. But… the question of legal costs was raised by the Commission and is a good question.
- In the history of the CIty of Madeira Beach, the Commission has NEVER approved payment of legal services before complaints were investigated.
- If the complaints are frivolous at City Manager Shane Crawford says, then no legal representation and therefore no costs should be incurred or paid.
- If the complaints are not frivolous, the Commission should not approve in advance a blank check for legal services. And, taxpayers should never be required to pay to defend officials or employees who have engaged in unethical or allegedly illegal activities while associated with the city.
We have heard that ethics complaints based on violations of Florida Statutes are filed against:
- Mayor Palladeno and former Vice-Mayor Pat Shontz
- City Manager Shane Crawford
- Building Department Official Frank De Santis and
- City Manager’s Executive Assistant Cheryl McGrady.
The rumor is that all complaints have been found ‘substantial’, which means credible such that investigation is required.
In 2015, under 50% of all complaints filed with the Florida Ethics Commission were investigated.
We are depending upon the Florida Ethics Commission to help restore balance and ethical behavior to our beloved community’s government.
For an article on a local blog about City Officials Voting to Pay for Ethics Complaints, Click Here =>Share