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09.20.06 -- EDITORIAL/PUBLIC RECORDS: Code Enforcement meeting

EDITORIAL: Code enforcement board meeting breaks down in argument, raises questions concerning Sunshine Law

By CHER PHILLIPS

Some McIntosh meetings just need to be heard.

Tonight's meeting was one of them. Before I write about this -- and I fully intend to write about this -- I want to offer these recordings to McIntosh residents.

First, I have to say something tonight about the nature of public meetings. I don't think I would be able to sleep until I do.

Code enforcement board meetings are held in quasi-judicial format, which is a format that follows all the same freedom of access rules as the rest of Florida's public meetings. I looked it up in the 2006 Sunshine Manual during the meeting.

For this reason, I was surprised when Barbara Fellman, wife of Code Enforcement Board Chairman Harris Fellman, passed around a clipboard asking people to sign in to attend the meeting. I declined to sign, as did some others. Nowhere to my knowledge of the Sunshine Law are residents required to sign in to attend an open meeting. I noticed that missing signatures were noticed by others in the room. When Linda Elwood came in, she said something to Harris Fellman and he asked her to sign in. I couldn't hear her question back to him but from my seat in the audience his reply was, "Just sign it."

I have seen other public boards make mention of who was present at a meeting in their minutes but I have never had my name taken as if I were signing an attendance sheet in a freshman political science class.

I don't know Harris Fellman's intended purpose in forcing people to sign in but the unintended result has a connotation of intimidation. It's the same thing as someone threatening people against signing a petition, or hassling them because they did sign one. It's flagrantly anti-First Amendment.

The action says, "Oh, sure, this meeting is public but we have your names and your addresses."

To further complicate the matter, anyone who wanted to address the board or speak on a matter had to fill out a card beforehand with his or her name, address and whether he or she was for or against an issue. While boards have the rights and the responsibilities of setting rules about public input in public meetings, this crosses a line.

But it doesn't stop on the line. Oh, no. Not in McIntosh. This board took it a step further. Anyone who wanted to address the code enforcement board on an issue they were hearing had to be officially sworn in as if they were testifying in a court of law.

And that, folks, is the tip of the ice burg.

Make sure you don't miss part two where Bill Glass said he threw documents on the floor because he "couldn't wipe his butt with them." This was during an ongoing argument with Mutch in which Fellman stood by Glass demanding that the two of them, in that mood, would give a fair trial to McIntosh residents. And yes, this was an actual trial.

The following are recordings. I encourage you to download them and listen for yourself.

Part 1: (Windows media player, 14 mb, 1 hour in duration)

Hearing of Pedro Molinas -- represented by Attorney Sam Mutch -- to decide if he's complied by tearing down the shed that was on the town's right-of-way.


Part 2: (Windows media player, 7 mb, 28 minutes in duration)

Henderson-Smith -- hearing for code violations. (Great-Wall-of-McIntosh couple) Represented by Sam Mutch, his clients were absent. The meeting broke completely down when Mutch asked Glass and Fellman to recuse themselves because two of his clients had filed code violations against them and a conflict of interest existed. Both board members refused.

Oliver case -- Glass, who'd been repeatedly asked to recuse himself, walked out of the meeting ending it because they no longer had quorum. He and Fellman were arguing over a point and Glass ended it by walking out.


On the topic of lawyer's fees and court costs: the work of the code enforcement board requires not only one attorney, but two. Scott Walker acts as prosecutor against town residents and Eric Gifford works for the board, advising the board on the hearings. There is simply NO way any resident can get a fair trial here when it is in the interest of the town to recoup lawyer's fees. Residents have two choices in front of this board, as it stood tonight, be railroaded or appeal in a real court of law.

Labels: , ,

posted by Cher @ 9:05 PM,

2 Comments:

At   September 23, 2006 11:32 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

wgI was not present at this meeting but it sounds to me that there are not only internal problems between code enforcement board members but also in the manner in which they are handling these matters. I didn't think that a code enforcement meeting was supposed to be held like a murder trial in court. Also, it sounds to me as the people that are involved in these complaints are just fighting and filing complaints amoungst themselves (Henderson's against Fellman and Glass and vice versa & Casey against Fellman and Glass).

Further, I would go to say that it is a select few of these people that are causing the problems for the town. I don't think that there is a good way to stop this but I would suggest that a member such as Bill Glass be asked to resign or removed by the council for his controversial affairs and dealings, as well as his questionable ethics. Moreover, these people work at the PLEASURE OF THE COUNCIL and I don't think that the council is too pleased with these individuals and whats going on. I think it would be appropriate for the council to ask for the removal of Bill Glass, as well, I think that some new, more level headed, ethically sound individuals, without pending controversaries need to apply to be on this citizen board and put all these issues to rest. And the only way for this to be done is through the council, who seems to be doing a good job now.

I think that another issue that should be dealt with is to whether the Board to Adjustment and CEB serve as one board or seperately. I think that they should serve as one board, especially since many are not even familiar with the rolls of these boards.

 
At   September 24, 2006 9:36 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Face it, some of these individuals on boards are simply attempting to make life miserable for certain people in town.By doing so they hope to run them out of town. We all know who this is and who they want out of town. People put up with so much, and then they begin fighting back.......hence the filing of complaints out of self preservation.The Group needs to leave all alone and allow others to live in this town peacefully. Take care of your own property and lives. Get a life...one that doesn't involve directing those of eveyone in town.

 

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Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

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The primary purpose of this blog is to accurately reflect what happens in town public meetings and dispel rumors. I record the meetings and make them available for download. One of the goals of this blog is to offer residents a place to voice opinions. The comments, views and opinions expressed there are not necessarily those of the editor.

 
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