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The Palm Coast City Council’s Arrogance Problem

| November 18, 2012

From left, Council member Bill McGuire, Mayor Jon Netts, Manager Jim Landon, and council members Bill Lewis and Jason DeLorenzo. (© FlaglerLive)

The Palm Coast City Council could use an attitude adjustment.

On Tuesday the council appointed David Ferguson to fill out the term of Frank Meeker, who won election to the county commission. It’s a two-year term. Yet the council made one of its most important decisions in a matter of minutes, without deliberations, and without explaining why Ferguson was the best of 16 candidates, at least not in public. Council members went through the candidates on paper and in person, but all in secret.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive.com flaglerlive First, the council broke the sunshine law when the four council members ranked 16 applicants outside of a public meeting. The short list of four candidates was also prepared outside of a meeting. The council never once discussed those applications. Then, each council member held closed-door interviews with the four remaining candidates, which may or may not be a violation of sunshine, but is most certainly a violation of the public interest and an indication of scorn for public participation.

After the News-Journal noted the sunshine violation, Mayor Jon Netts asked city attorney Bill Reischmann to explain. Reischmann saw no violation, though paradoxically he suggested that to avoid any possibility of muck-up, the council could ratify its decision in open meeting, as if the ratification itself was the issue. Of course it wasn’t. It’s the getting there that was. Naturally, no one on the council objected. It was a well-rehearsed moment, as are most public episodes of Mastermind Theater, the irreality show we take to be the Palm Coast City Council.

It was never known until Jim Landon, the city manager and stage director, announced the rankings of the 16 candidates in a meeting two weeks ago that the rankings had even taken place, or that the finalists would be limited to four. Who had decided that limit? By what criteria? When? Why? Not for us to know, quick, vague council pronouncements at the end of meetings notwithstanding. The top four finalists’ interviews had already been scheduled. So one of two things happened, both equally disturbing and revealing of the council’s maneuvering. Either council members deliberated behind the scenes about the selection process and keeping discussions of the candidates to a minimum, a clear violation of law. Or Landon puppeteered the show, as he routinely does with council business, giving himself more sway than he should have while shielding the council from accountability. Either way, the law, as much as the public, was flouted.

By the time the city attorney blessed the orchestration, you could sense Landon channeling J.P. Morgan, who once sneered: “I don’t know as I want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do. I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do.”

So we have a council willing to spend hours talking about a sidewalk or an electric hook-up but not willing to spend any time publicly discussing the merits of candidates who’ll control one-fifth of the city’s destiny for the next two years. Landon and his council compounded their arrogance by saying simply: That’s the way we’ve done it in the past.

Of course it is. It doesn’t make it justifiable. It underscores the council’s clubbish ways. And it misses the point. This isn’t just a matter of sticking to the spirit of the sunshine law. It’s about vetting candidates openly and reaching a decision by consensus of the council, publicly and defensibly. What we have instead is nothing better than smoke signals from Palm Coast’s college of four cardinals and their pontiff.


The Palm Coast Observer’s Brian McMillan made a good point on WNZF Friday: that there seems to be a trend disfavoring the public will of late in local government, with the Flagler County Commission’s unilateral vote in October to extend a sales tax it didn’t float to voters, fearing the results. But a least there was little secrecy to the decision, and the way the commission conducts its business generally feels more like an open bazaar in Casablanca than the city council’s Find-Your-Kremlin nostalgia.

Let’s not forget Frank Meeker’s decision to stay on the council until November, six months past his decision to resign. Had Meeker resigned when he made his announcement in May, the council could have held a special election concurrently with the primary and general elections held this year, without spending a dime. We would have had an elected council member, as we should. But Meeker, being twice the politician that he is, could not bear to step down from his perch for the democratic good of the city, nor did he see a reason not to play politics with council seats. That, too, is a council tradition. Council member Bill Lewis was appointed in the same undemocratic way, when Alan Peterson resigned his seat to run for the county commission in 2008. Worse: a coin toss eventually sealed his appointment (as it did a previous appointment following Jim Holland’s death). Lewis was unopposed in 2010, so he’s never won a competitive election. (He did run one in 2005, when he lost narrowly to Alan Peterson.)

And very quietly last year, Palm Coast changed its voting schedule to coincide with national elections, which is fine, except that the change gave Mayor Netts and Jason DeLorenzo an extra, unelected year on the council. Take that, suckers.

The Palm Coast City Council this week once again showed its contempt for the public and for the democratic process. Those problems could easily be fixed through the charter, a terribly evasive and clunky document that gives the council too much lawyerly room to game the system. But it really isn’t a charter problem. It’s an attitude problem—the council members’ attitude, and that of a manager with a Donald Trump complex. Those problems don’t get fixed. They get fired.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter.

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42 Responses for “The Palm Coast City Council’s Arrogance Problem”

  1. Magnolia says:

    “Take that, Suckers” ……pretty good description of this council, Flagler Live. Who else but Palm Coast would elect a lobbyist to the council?

    Anything and everything goes here.

  2. Lin says:

    FlaglerLive, just what I was thinking. So many examples of the City Council’s arrogance lately. They have forgotten, if they ever knew, that THEY ARE THE PEOPLE’S REPRESENTATIVES. When the lobbyist spoke to the County Commissioners in favor of the moratorium on the impact fees, who was he representing? As long as we put up with this taxation without representation, we are subject to their arrogance. Next comes another push for a pretty city hall.

  3. Robert Lewis says:

    May I recall, that in a previous thread, Palm Coast City Councilman Bill McGuire stated that “It was cast in secret ballot.”

    This is now the third time I am asking Councilman McGuire to explain why he ranked Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly Members Gregory Hansen (Treasurer) as number 1, and former Supervisor of Elections Candidate Kimble Medley #2. Councilman, please explain to the citizens of Palm Coast your decision. Please explain why you chose PARTY over COMMUNITY?

    Councilman, I am still respectfully awaiting your response. Especially since it is apparent you and other members of City Council have violated the sunshine law and your secret ballot.

    • kmedley says:

      Just an FYI, I resigned my membership from that group.

    • Bob Hamby says:

      You have also have not responded to your being challenged about your statement that you would be critical of Jason DeLorenzo if he had picked a real Estae/developer as his #1 pick. He did! have not seen your response.

    • kmedley says:

      Mr. Lewis –

      Have you met Mr. Hansen? I have and he’s a very knowledgeable man. He’s a former Naval officer and served this country on a ship and stateside in Washington, DC. His experience is vast and diverse and those are two qualifications any city council would be happy to have. There are many intelligent, and accomplished people who are members of the RRR. I disagree with how they implemented their internal politics; but, to offer a blanket denouncement for all is simply wrong, IMO.

  4. dogman says:

    Bill Lewis is the worst of all he needs to go.

  5. Dudley Doright says:

    Great assessment of our Palm Coast government especially Jim Landon. You know I asked some of the wizards about the Red Light Camera capper. Where did the recommendation for placement of the new cameras come from? I am a graduate of Northwestern University’s Traffic Institute and classified as an expert witness, in several States, in traffic accident investigation and reconstruction. I even taught this at the Jaxksonville Police Academy. I would love to see the data used in the placement. Of course, I already know the answer that the Red Light Camera vendor (American Traffic Solutions) handles this with little if any input allowed from the City Council. I also question the competence of City staff in this area. This is always used as a buffer and excuse when Landon gets caught using smoke and mirrors.

    I,like many voters, had hoped for our newest Council Members to put our Mayor and City Manager in checkmate. Has not happen yet although Jason DeLorenzo showed that he has backbone to stand up to Landon.

    • Kanas City Native says:

      Dudley Doright, thank you for your response. I actually was able to obtain the so called “data” they used to substantiate the “need” for the red light cameras. While I do not have your professional background when it comes to highway safety, I am a public health practitioner, hold a Ph.D. and am very familiar with dissecting and analyzing data. Let’s just say the data that Jim Landon provided me (after months of requesting it from Bill Lewis and a heated conversation with the mayor) is rather dismal and a sad excuse for declaring need for these revenue generating cameras. If you would like that data I would be more than happy to email it to you..

  6. tulip says:

    DiLorenzo stands up to Landon when it affects DiLorenzo’s personal agenda and the chamber of commerce.

    The fact that Hansen and Medley are RRA members and were not chosen leads me to believe that the RR club has decided to raise a stink about the selection. Raising a stink is what they do best.

    I do not recall any of these sunshine law accusations coming to light when this appointing procedure was done when Peterson resigned and then Lewis won Peterson’s seat by a coin toss. Of course the RRA club wasn’t here at that time. My question about Lewis is that how come no one ran against him when the next election came around. I find that rather strange, as I think there are more involved and qualified people than he is to be on the council.

    I agree, Meeker should’ve resigned when he announced he was going to run for BOCC.

    I have lived here since Kelton was city manager, saw some good councilmen come on board, saw them leave and new ones added and have seen the council as a whole change slightly for the worse as if they are being “lead” by other interests. JMO

  7. Butch says:

    In the Old days, these weasels would have been “Tared & Feathered”. I can see these wimpys now screaming like little girls.

  8. Will says:

    Magnolia wrote “who else…would elect a lobbyist to the council”.

    Frankly, I think a lot of cities would if they had someone who knew the rules and regulations under which their city runs as well as Mr. DeLorenzo knows ours. Nothing was hidden about his work responsibilities when he ran – and I think the city benefits from his experience. If anything, when he stands up to Mr. Landon, he may not be doing his employer any favors, but he’s doing his job to represent the citizens. I think it’s terrific that we have a younger council member, who works in the city, who has a family with all the joys and responsibilities that come with that in a position of responsibility.

    I wish the Council had, in it’s wisdom, chosen someone younger with deeper roots than they did, though in no way do I mean to disparage Mr. Ferguson, for he may prove to be an excellent council member.

    In my opinion, conflicts of interest don’t arise when people with different skills, backgrounds, connections and employers get together to do the public’s work. It’s when they hide those links that mischief happens. We’re stronger when not everyone marches to the same tune.

  9. Reality Check says:

    Landon thinks he is above any law, he is arrogant and needs an attitude adjustment, the council is by far becoming a senior citizen convention with no eye to the future. This is overall the worst City Council I have ever seen, they are all afraid to make a decision, they need to hire consultants so they do not commit political suicide. Not only do we need a change in our city, we need an age adjustment on the council, if we ever want to see future growth with any meaning then these 4 old attitudes of do nothing or let’s wait and see needs to go. They live in the last generation and see no need for change in the city, we will be either buried in property taxes with that attitude, or a ghost town in the next 10 years, Note to City Council, pull your heads out of your butts and make an educated decision to grow this city, attract new business and for the love of God fire that egomaniac Landon. You all know that business supplements property taxes, and with out that the burden will fall on Palm Coast home owners; sinking property values and no new industry is a recipe for the highest property taxes in history.

  10. PJ says:

    Lets face it we have no rights.

    The politics here in Palm Coast is dis-functional at best on a good day.

    They nothing done for us in a real way. It is all the wizard of OZ effect.

    Until the board mans up and starts to look for a very qualified city manager there will be noting but poorly run departments that run a muck in the ciity of palm coast. Costing us taxpayers money.

    Backdoor dealings that cost us noting but fee after fee.

    I’m not kidding let just give you a few examples so you can open your eyes for yourself.

    The wastepro haz-household pick up fee that cost us more per household and litle to no one use it.

    The red light cameras that cost you a fee because you were stuck in an intersection behind a truck or traffic.

    Code enforcement another prime example of a departmrnt not in sync with the people.

    The city lawyer who does not think there is a sunshine violation??????????? Where did he go to law school? Remind me NOT to hire anyone from that school.

    Lastly an over paid bloated city manager with more power than perhaps God. Yea that’s right I said it God. That is ho serious this is it is insulting to the belief we share dear to our hearts.

    I’m sick of this group and you should be too.

    They all need to go and if this last backdoor violation of the sunshine law does not wake you all up for the next election nothing good will happen until Landon retires and his staff moves on as well………………..

    P.S. Good point Dudley Doright too bad you can’t use your experience to get rid of these red light cameras!

    • John says:

      The problem in Palm Coast is mainly the city charter? It was designed for a kingdom and a kingdom is what we have. If you ask Flagler Country Execs they can tell you the City of Palm Coast answers to no one? The Original member of the Gestapo Regime designed it that way, so they can and do arrogantly force feed the citizens Of Palm Coast. The City Charter needs to be ammended. but the city council must decide to do that? It takes 3 of the 5 City Council members to approve an ammendment to or a change to the City Charter. Bill Mcguire ran his campaign on fiscal responsibility, less government and a personal promise to fight red light cameras? Yet he has voted for almost every additional tax? He has voted FOR red light cameras and he has voted to enlarge the city government and it’s reach?
      Property taxes are up 50% over the last 2 years, Water bills are up 40% in two years, electricity is up around 28% in two years? When does it STOP? A new city charter is the answer, we need to put spending limits on the city, we need to outlaw red lights in the charter, we need to limit tax increases and roll back the taxes to at least 2010 .
      I’ve talked to a number of people over the last few months who have their homes for sale,,all they can and do say is, we’ve had enough, we’re getting out of Palm Coast. Quite a legacy eh Mr. Netts?

  11. Stevie says:

    What does any expect when the last mayor’s race drew a meager 5000 or so votes out of 70000 residents. No one goes to city commission meetings. No one cares about what is going on except for a few. It happens in every city. It happens in out whole nation. The less public out cry there is, the more arrogant they become.

    When the public fills the commission meeting to capacity they great nervous real fast.

    The Nazi’s are here and they are watching you because you let them.

  12. tulip says:

    @ Stevie you are correct that hardly anyone cares or goes to council meetings. Yet these same people complain about what’s going on and do nothing except talk or write about their complaints.

    @Magnolia, perhaps the fact that Mr. Ferguson doesn’t have deep roots in PC, as you stated, but that may also mean that he has a clean slate in regards to “who does what for who” here, has no personal agenda and will be able to make unbiased decisions based on the good of the city. I certainly hope it will be that way.

    • Magnolia says:

      @Tulip, I didn’t make a statement about Mr. Ferguson. Hoping for the best on that one. I just can’t believed we have so many instances of the unelected governing here. Not very bright, people.

      I’d change that law first.

  13. glad fly says:

    stevie got it right. very few people vote in city elections so arrogance reigns supreme. not against the law to be arrogant so keep electing these people and you will keep getting arrogance. i’ve been around the block a time or two and this this the worst of the worst,netts and landon being the very worst. i can’t stomach the meetings on tv.

  14. Magnolia says:

    @Tulip, I didn’t make a statement about Mr. Ferguson. I was referring to the lobbyist for the builders, Mr. DeLorenzo, I believe. Is that not right?

    Are you telling me we now have two? Do the citizens here realize the council is supposed to represent them and not the special interests? What is this…New Jersey????

    Hoping for the best on Mr. Ferguson. I just can’t believed we have so many instances of the unelected governing here. I’d change that law first. Not very bright, people.

    And if we now have two representing other interests, we are screwed.

  15. Lin says:

    PJ, the City Attorney represents the “City Officers” not the Citizens. They are not going to admit they violated the Sunshine law. I guess the Attorney felt they would get away with it.

  16. JL says:

    so what is the Sunshine Law for if cities feel free to ignore it? Are there repercussions if they do go against it? If they violated this law, and it is a law, what can be done to make them atone for their violations? I would be glad to start a petition, see what we can do to have them fined, or whatever is allowable under this law. It’s time our politicians start answering to the people. I didn’t vote for one incumbent this last election (with exception of POTUS) because I’m tired of the same old politics.

    • downinthelab says:

      Yep, me too JL. Sign me up, who could facilitate this?

      I know that you have your hands full Pierre, but this one might be worth getting involved in.

  17. Henry says:

    How pathetics Landon and Netts are. Let’s get them OUT!!!!

  18. tulip says:

    @ Magnolia, I’m Sorry—– I meant to say @ Will about my post re: Mr. Ferguson. I was reading Will’s response to you you. I saw the name Magnolia and by the time I got to the response section, forgot it was Will who wanted someone with deeper roots than Ferguson has. I should have had 2 cups of coffee before posting. (lol)

    • Magnolia says:

      Tulip, how many people do you know who waltz into a new town and are immediately appointed to the council? Think this is accidental? We’ll see.

  19. PJ says:

    Lin,

    sorry you said it perfectly “the city lawyer” enough said. I agree that lawyer is not worried about us……

  20. DWFerg says:

    Interesting commentary, Wait and see …

  21. Reality Check says:

    A huge issue in voting are boiled down to 2 things IMHO, first the candidates are so bad that you think I will vote for the lesser of the two evils, and you still end up voting for evil, why bother. Second is the young people in town usually have to commute to either Jax or Orlando area to get a decent paying job, the polls close at 7pm, rather hard to do when you have a 1 plus hour commute. The bottom line for me is that politics has become such a piss poor example of the American way it means basically nothing in the main stream, until politics is counted as a real job and they are held to the same standards as the private sector nothing will change. When politicians have to live with the same health care plan as most Americans it will get fixed, Obama-care is one of the poorest examples of a fix that there could ever be. You want SSI fixed, take away the fat-cat pension plans that Government has and tell them SSI for you too, watch the fire that gets lit under these people. America has sunken to an all time low, people believe they are entitled to things, wake up you get what you WORK for.

  22. confidential says:

    @Reality Check. I agree with all you write, but one thing and is when you mention entitlements.
    Looks like you call entitlement to SS and Medicare…well not so as we contribute to that fund up front with every single pay check and thru our labor lives, then have the right to collect what is ours at retirement time.
    The problem is that Congress, Senate and Administrations wether GOP or DEM have taken billions from those, our saved funds, to dilapidate in other non compliant uses, as they pleased. for decades. Give us back what was taken away and SS and Medicare are fine.
    Also if you call entitlement to fund education and higher education loans, securing the progressive economic future of our country with educated leaders, instead should be called “educational economic development”.
    Entitlements are the billions exempted in taxes and tax benefits and incentives given to multinational oil and other corporate giants and the wealthy. Entitlements are the ridiculous billions spent in foreign aid.
    Entitlements are the rampant fraud in billions against our Medicare while some Repug elite CEO committing the fraud gets Scott free and unpunished. Those are some shameful entitlements to be done away with… Entitlements are what the fat cats we elect for DC government get in pay, retirement plans and health insurance while denying those services to us the tax payers. Reduce those to the same levels that our workers receive and lets watch some of them lobbying

    • Reality Check says:

      I agree on most, but when the SSI act was initiated it was not to be an annuity pension plan for Americans, most have gotten far more out than ever contributed in. Even if you add the company match and the interest over the years based on some one who has collected over 10 years has gotten more than put in. It was a great idea at the time Roosevelt instituted it, but the age to collect was 62; care to guess what the average age of death was then? You got it 62. SSI was slated to be a boost to those that needed help, not a hand out, SSI is welfare and became a savings account and then an ATM for the Federal Government. Like I said reform will not come as long as politicians do not fall under the same umbrella as 90% of Americans, most Senators and congressmen are millionaires that will collect a hefty pension and full medical coverage forever. When they take that away and give them SSI and Medicare we will undoubtedly see reform that works

      As for foreign aide and corporate hand outs, please the government is so corrupt it is not even worth mentioning, one word that should sum up how corrupt it is “Lobbyist” how can this be a profession? How can it be legal? Only in the government is this behavior not only tolerated but okay!!!!

  23. Anon says:

    The Town Council has a number of its meetings set for the day. Some are set for the evening. Unless one is employed in such a manner that they have a lot of flexibility the average working Joe can’t begin to consider running for the Town Council.

    The city of Deltona has its meetings scheduled in the evenings as does Ormond Beach.

    The meeting schedule is an effective way to exclude certain segments of the population. Was it by design or did it just happen? And who determines the schedule of meetings.

    Let me guess. Would it be someone who is arrogant?

  24. wsh302@msn.com says:

    everyone who made a comment needs to attend the city council meeting and take the podium. i had been to a few and if i had to count the citizens there on one hand i would still have fingers left for more. in numbers we are more powerful.

  25. JL says:

    Changing the meeting time is simple. I know many towns that only hold their meetings in the evenings. I think it’s time for a drastic change in Palm Coast. If we want this town to survive, we need to have it run by the “next generation”. This is no longer the N.Y. Retirement Club.

    • Lin says:

      We’ve been to the council and spoken and also written to all members. We can do more GOOD if we do not let us be divided and conquered. To let the age of a person negate their voice doesn’t help — and as far as I can see, the youngest of the council members doesn’t represent my voice.

  26. E. C. H. says:

    If a resident or business owner is caught lying in a council meeting, the council has a legal mandate to press charges, don’t they?

    Then Jim Landon has probably cooked his own goose many times over.

    Council members are required by law to play by the rules they have been entrusted to keep.

  27. tulip says:

    I wonder if all this hullabaloo would’ve been raised if an RR member had been appointed to the council? Probably not. I read in today’s NJ that Dennis McDonald , an RR member is perpetuating the issue. He is a member of the RR group that finds it very okay to deprive people of their right to vote by “closing” a race. Who is he to squawk and whine about how unfairly a council person was chosen?

  28. PJ says:

    The City rather hold the meetings during the day becuse this where Landon can get agendas put through witouth citizens complaints. Landon will not allow the the meetings to go to the evening format.

    None of the City Council members have the nerve to go against Landon and even ask for evening meetings.
    I thought we had some folks (DeLorenzo?) that were newly elected that would get changes done but sadly all they did was get in line to the slaughterhouse……………..another do nothing council……………

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      PJ, while its two monthly workshops are held in the morning, the Palm Coast City Council, like the Flagler County Commission, devotes one of its two monthly business meetings to an evening start time; all meetings are televised and archived, and all workshops are webcast live and archived, though the quality of the recording can use vast improvements. While there are issues with the council, access to meetings is not one of them.

  29. Anon says:

    @Pierre Tristam
    True.
    However, if one who holds a “traditional” 9-5 job wishes to run for the town council they can’t.
    Or they can but won’t be able to attend a majority of the meetings.

  30. Drew says:

    I wish I could find someone who voted P.C. to become a city,of unelected,officials,It seems to me like they just moved on in like a hostile takeover

  31. Raul Troche says:

    Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you compass sea
    and land to make one proselyte,and when he is made, you make him twice the child of hell than yourselves. Jesus Christ, Mathew 23:15

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