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Palm Coast’s Landon Digs In Heels Against Elections Supervisor “Demands” For Early Voting Arrangement

| August 15, 2013

The Palm Coast Community Center is among the more heavily used polling--and electioneering--locations in the county, but it's at the center of a conflict between the Supervisor of Elections and the Palm Coast City Manager over the use and cost of a room during early voting days in 2014. (© FlaglerLive)

The Palm Coast Community Center is among the more heavily used polling–and electioneering–locations in the county, but it’s at the center of a conflict between the Supervisor of Elections and the Palm Coast City Manager over the use and cost of a room during early voting days in 2014. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon is digging his heels against Flagler County Election Supervisor Kimberle Weeks’ “demand” that the city turn over its larger room at the Palm Coast Community Center, or her request that the city not charge the supervisor’s office for use of the center. Hearing the issue Tuesday, the city council is letting Landon proceed on his terms: the council will not cede the larger room, and it will let the administration charge the supervisor for any staff hours outside the normal work day.

“Are you looking for council input on this?” Mayor Jon Netts asked Landon.

“You can provide input but you’re talking about managing our community center,” Landon replied, making it clear he was not keen on the council interfering with his administrative decisions.

He summarized the situation as he saw it, and as he had in a midnight memo to council members earlier that morning. He downplayed the matter of the city charging the supervisor, saying “that’s not really what the issue is for us.” And he criticized Dennis McDonald, a resident who’s been a thorn in the council’s side, for sending a “misleading” email to members about the issue, which Landon derisively termed “another typical McDonald.”

“As the makers of policy for this City we the Citizens do not expect to pay twice with Our tax $$ for a need that is one of the most basic rights as Americans, The Right To Vote !” McDonald wrote four council members, to the exclusion of Netts, the morning of Aug. 12. “We the Citizens of Palm Coast will not have Our City charge it’s [sic.] residents to Vote!”

The style is overwrought, as McDonald can be. He criticizes the council, and particularly Landon, at almost every council meeting, often making either baseless or poorly sourced accusations. But there is nothing inaccurate or “misleading” about his note: if the city will let the supervisor use the community center for the 13 days of early voting in the 2014 primary and general elections, it will charge the supervisor’s office. It would do so even though the county’s public library on Belle Terre and Palm Coast Parkway, where early voting has always been held, has never charged the supervisor’s office for use of a room there.

Palm Coast has never charged the supervisor for use of the community center on Election Day itself, nor does it propose to, but that’s not the issue either McDonald or the supervisor is raising. A new early voting location is. McDonald’s email is not the issue, either, though Landon made it so; Weeks has been trading emails with the city clerk and the recreation director over the matter.

But McDonald’s email doesn’t tell the whole story, and could be interpreted as misleading because of what he omits: Weeks’ own intransigence about the room she wants to use.

The larger room at the community center is set up for council meetings with the city’s television transmission equipment. It’s also roomy, for a relatively large audience. And it’s used by innumerable other groups. The council could theoretically hold its meetings elsewhere for the duration of the early voting period, but it could not televise the meetings. Netts doesn’t want that disruption. The community center has another room available. Weeks has used that smaller room in the past on Election Day, though the larger room has also been used previously (as was the case with Palm Coast’s last municipal election and the recent school board tax referendum).

Why not reserve the smaller room?

“The small room is too small as voters and poll workers have complained, and prefer the larger room,” Weeks said in an email this morning. “We would have more room in the larger room to set up more voting booths, and the larger makes voting more convenient for voters.  We have not paid for the use of any room (large or small) at the Palm Coast Community Center.  As voter registration increases, as it has over the past several years, more room is needed to accommodate the voters.  We cannot predetermine how many people are going to vote on election day, and we cannot predetermine how many people are going to vote early or how many people are going to vote in an election at all, but we must be prepared to serve all voters at all times; we do try to make voting as convenient as possible.  This location is centered around our largest polling places and we would expect that the voters would appreciate and take advantage of the opportunity to early vote at this location.”

Weeks said she also doesn’t want to move voters from room to room at each election, or “day by day of early voting.”

“I want to maintain as much consistency as possible, and feel by proving an extensive notice that the city would be able to accommodate,” Weeks said. “I cannot offer early voting at a site for one election and not another.  Moving sites and rooms creates confusion.”

Weeks can be combative and aggravatingly persistent, as was the case in the early part of her first term. But she has been much less aggressive and more accommodating in recent years. Landon was inaccurate—and himself misleading—when he claimed, in his memo to council members, that Weeks had found his recreation director’s response “unacceptable.” Weeks had merely questioned who she should direct her inquiries to, because she’d written Virginia nSmith, the city clerk, and received a response from Luanne Santangelo, the parks director.

“Who exactly is it that I need to work with as far as securing this room at this location for voting?” Weeks asked Smith in an Aug. 12 email. “It may be that I need to meet with someone personally or that I need to bring the matter before the City Commissioners as I don’t have funds budgeted to pay for the use of the room at this location for the dates needed, and we have some details that need to be clearly understood and agreed upon.”

There was no mention of an “unacceptable” proposal, though she made her preferences clear without as yet ruling out a different arrangement. Weeks is set to appear before the city council on Sept. 3.

During the discussion on Tuesday, Landon said the supervisor should be charged for use of the city facility just like anyone else. He said if the city wanted to make an exception for her, it could make an exception for anyone, though numerous worthy non-profits with good causes ask for free use of the room, and are turned down. Neither Landon nor council members made a distinction between such groups, who represent particular concerns and interests, and early voting, designed to accommodate a very large segment of the population. (Some 40 percent of votes were cast in early voting in the last general election.)

Landon was adamant against letting the supervisor use a room without paying, though theamount in question is a matter of a few hundred dollars.


“If you do that, only Palm Coast residents are going to pay for that election cost, because that’s the only reason they’d be there is for the election,” Landon said.

“But the only people that are early voting probably are going to be Palm Coast residents,” Netts said. “In other words I doubt anybody from Bunnell is going to early-vote in Palm Coast.”

“From an equity standpoint,” Landon said, “what we’re saying is that the total cost of that election should go into the budget for the election, and then all the entities that are on the ballot, she divvies it up. That’s the way we’d normally do these types of things.”

Actually, at the moment, given that the county library does not charge for early voting days, and that mostly Palm Coast residents vote there (since Flagler Beach residents travel straight across State Road 100 to the Bunnell early voting location), the county is subsidizing Palm Coast voters, free of charge. So is the supervisor’s office and its staff, which remains open late on early voting days, and where some Palm Coast voters go to vote early. If the supervisor were to bill all jurisdictions for her early voting costs, she would actually be splitting only Palm Coast’s facilities cost.

Landon called it “ironic” that the supervisor would still be charging the city for the election. But that was an incomplete—if not misleading—claim. “The City has been charged only for actual election expenses for their elections like all other municipalities,” Weeks said. “My budget doesn’t contain funds for their elections.  Currently the City would be responsible for ballots costs should additional ballot pages be required due to their election.”

Two council seats are up for election in 2014. The city moved its elections to coincide with even-year cycles, and other elections, in order to save money. It would have been spending far more money had it held on to odd-year cycles, as it would have essentially had to continue paying for its own, exclusive elections.

Council members were mostly muted during the discussion. Jason DeLorenzo alone spoke against charging the supervisor, though Netts at least appeared willing to dispense with the fee as well. Both were clearly in support of more early voting locations, but they stopped short of giving Landon any direction different than he was giving the council.

“We cans schedule this and make it work, she just needs to work with us versus demanding that we give up whatever she wants,” Landon said. “I think we’re going to be able to work it out but she’s going to have to be reasonable about the spaces we have and the uses we have out there.”

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20 Responses for “Palm Coast’s Landon Digs In Heels Against Elections Supervisor “Demands” For Early Voting Arrangement”

  1. Shocked, I tell you... says:

    Talk about a snit! Mr. Landon, “esteeeeeeeeemeemed” council members, do you realize that we already PAY for this building in our taxes? Why should we have to pay again to vote?

    I’ll bet that Mr. McDonald pays his taxes, too. Let me join him in being a “thorn in the side of the council” on this one.

    We pay YOU to work for US. What’s wrong with this picture?

  2. Billy says:

    What goes around comes around!

  3. I say says:

    Landon wants to charge Weeks and dictate to her what room she will get. Why is Landon now wanting to charge Weeks when she hasn’t been charged before? Sounds to me Landon is the bully, and the Council needs to remind Landon that he works for them. What should be done is what the people want. I hope the meeting room is packed on September 3rd at 6:30 to show support for Weeks to allow her to best serve us voters.

  4. confidential says:

    Why we the tax payers should pay twice for the right to use in government business as an government election is, our community center in the proper sized room as the one mentioned to be allowed is too small.
    Since when Mr. Landon is an expert SOE also, defining how much room we, the voters, need in a precint?
    Collaborate and allow at no charge SOE Weeks to use the large room on the community center for the voters. Many elderly reside in the east side of I95 and why do they have to travel west in PC Parkallie for the early voting? Don’t start pointing fingers and false accusations against a good and honest constitutional official SOE just nickeling and diming, because looks pathetic.
    What about we stop tax subsidizing by thousands and thousands Kemper sports instead.

  5. Florida Native says:

    Note to Landon: You’re history dude. Pack your sh**.

  6. joe says:

    I would pay to vote, and I can tell you who i’m NOT voting for, time to clean out the crooks in this county….

  7. BW says:

    Voting has to get paid for, and good for Mr. Landon in insisting that it does when using City property.

  8. Jerry says:

    I’d be embarrassed to tell anyone that I live in Palm Coast for three reasons.

    1.The City doesn’t want to cooperate with the local County and Cities.
    Example A: Palm Coast wouldn’t contribute to restoration of Flagler Pier.
    Example B: Palm Coast won’t allow free use of a Community Center for early voting.

    2. Red Light Cameras that drive away business and potential Home Buyers or Renters.

    3. Being bullied by Code Enforcement and the Permit Office.

  9. DisgustedinPC says:

    Palm Coast is out of control! These people sitting in these positions need to realize who put them there!! Voting is a right given to every citizen and it is the communities responsibility to make accessible for every voter. I work the elections and I can tell you this, the small room is workable but inconvenient for some. The larger room is much more inviting and accessible. Many voters commented on how nice it was. As a poll worker it was great to not be crowded!! But that is not the issue. Kimberlee really goes out on a limb to make sure everyone who wants to vote has that opportunity. The library is great as is the government building. But many complain about the line at the library and the driving distance! Why not make it easier for people to vote? Charge? Just proves to me that all these board members think about is money!!! I thought they were elected and given these positions to work the betterment of the community and its citizens. Palm Coast is just ridiculous when it comes to charging for every little thing!! Red light cameras with shortened yellow light time, what a scam. These people need to get their heads out of their hinneys!

  10. Random Citizen says:

    DOES JIM LANDON REALLY EXHIBIT THE HEART OF A CIVIL SERVANT TO YOU?

    Real Estate Consultant, Michael Barr, made a good point when he said you have to learn when and how to “grovel” with the city. He should know, he’s done business with them. But grovel? Really? Are we in Tehran?

    Jim Landon has gotten away with so much abuse that he believes that if you don’t kiss his ring just the right way, he’ll create any issue he wants just to stick it to you and everyone else you know. His ego has been disturbed so he’s ignoring his fiduciary responsibilities and trying to exercise abusive power and control over Weeks and voters. He’s an immature child. It’s pay-back.

    Can’t someone just fire the man finally?

    • Robert says:

      @Random Citizen

      The town manager is one of the short comings of the style of government in Palm Coast.
      The citizens would be better served with a strong mayor government. One, who is elected by the people, serves two years and is paid a reasonable salary.

      The town manager is selected by the town council.
      The town manager’s salary is determined by the town council.
      The town manager serves at the pleasure of the town council.
      The town manager answers only to the town council.

      The concept of being accountable to the citizens is not a factor in this equation.
      Whoever voted for this style of government got what they voted for.

      • Random Citizen says:

        @ Robert

        Do you happen to know how many signed petitions it takes to initiate a vote for changing back to a mayor government?

    • Anonymous says:

      well said.

  11. kmedley says:

    According to SOE Weeks, “We cannot predetermine how many people are going to vote on election day, and we cannot predetermine how many people are going to vote early or how many people are going to vote in an election at all, but we must be prepared to serve all voters at all times; we do try to make voting as convenient as possible. This location is centered around our largest polling places and we would expect that the voters would appreciate and take advantage of the opportunity to early vote at this location.”

    The Supervisor’s office maintains voting records for each election. One report, known as the Statement of Votes Cast chronicles the total votes cast per election and further categorizes the votes per precinct and method of voting i.e., Polling, Absentee, Un-scanned, Provisional, and Early Voting. The SOE also records Voter Registration statistics each month and provides a total per precinct. Early Voting stats are also maintained. Using all of these reports, it is quite easy to discern and budget for an approximate Early Voting turnout.

    SOE Weeks states the PC Community center is central to “our largest polling places”. According to the Voter Registration Count as of 7/31/2013, the top ten populated precincts are: VFW Post 8696, Shepherd of the Coast Lutheran Church, First Baptist Church of Bunnell, Palm Coast Community Center, Belle Terre Elementary, Flagler County Public Library, Adult Education Center (A1A), Flagler County Schools Bldg. (Hwy 100), Flagler Beach City Community Room, and Buddy Taylor Middle. Of these, the VFW, the Community Center, and the Adult Education Center are in close proximity to the PC Community Center with regards to Early Voting. Other precincts that might use the center for Early Voting are Grand Haven, and Old Kings Elementary. The others are west of I-95 and may be closer in proximity to the Library or SOE’s office for Early Voting purposes.

    The most recent School Board election yielded a turnout out similar to a primary election as total turnout was 20.95%. The numbers for Early Voting were 2659, 4%. In 2010, the numbers were 3069, 4.77%. The numbers for the separate precincts for Early Voting were:

    VFW: 374 (2012) and 430 (2010)
    PCC Center: 211 (2012) and 89 (2010)
    Adult Ed: 76 (2012) and 148 (2010)
    Grand Haven: 128 (2012) and 97 (2010)
    Old Kings: 39 (2012) and 79 (2010)

    According to SOE Weeks’ 2013-2014 Proposed Budget, 3 Early Voting Sites for a Primary Election, historically realizing between a 20% to 25% total voter turnout, will require:

    22 Early Voting Staff, 11 days of operation, 9 hours a day, $9.00 per hour per staff.

    A total of $19,602 has been allocated to accommodate an Early Voting turnout between 2500 and 3200 voters. That’s a per vote cost of $6.12 to $7.84.

    One Early Voting staff member will realize $891 for the 11 day period and will be paid for attending poll worker training class. Presuming two sites are staffed at 7 each and one with 8, the SOE will pay $6237.00 for the staffing at one site.

    A precinct clerk will receive, on average, $175.00 for Election Day. An assistant clerk receives $160.00; a book inspector, ballot box person, and deputy will each receive almost $130.00. The SOE paid a total of $18,947.42 for poll workers on Election Day for the June 7th School Board Referendum Election.

    Churches used as polling locations, charge a fee of $100.00 for Election Day. If one were to be used as an Early Voting site, the fee would be $1100.00 (11 days of Early Voting). The City seeks a fee of $507.43 ($427.50 + 7% tax, +$50.00 deposit). That is less than $50.00 per day. Given the re-directing of activities that are normally scheduled for the Community Center for an 11 day period, and the numbers for turnout for Early Voting, the smaller room that has been used in the past without any fee, would make more sense. Also, according to the statues, “the sites must be geographically located so as to provide all voters in the county an equal opportunity to cast a ballot, insofar as is practicable”. Designating two Early Voting sites in Palm Coast will most certainly make voting more convenient for a select area; but folks along the east coast and those in the western part of the county will still drive quite a distance to take advantage of Early Voting.

    I have lived in Florida all of my life. I well remember the days before Early Voting and the easing of the use of an absentee ballot. I stood in long lines to vote which often meant leaving for work an hour earlier in order to get through the line. I also remember polling locations were few and far between. The “right to vote” is a topic for many discussions. The U.S. Constitution does not specifically enshrine a person’s “right to vote”. It has been amended in order to demonstrate that people cannot be denied the vote. The qualification method is left to the States. Nowhere is it required that voting be made so convenient that taxpayers are asked to pay for Early Voting sites not geographically beneficial to all voters and unnecessary by virtue of the historic numbers. Even if the fee is waived, make no mistake, the taxpayers will pay for this added unnecessary site.

  12. Charles Gardner says:

    Time for a beer summit.

  13. tom jack says:

    Herr landon know he only has to keep 3 members of the council happy to keep his job. He doesn’t give a damn about the residents of Palm Coast or what they think of him. Time for this man to GO.

  14. joe says:

    The only way to stop the madness is through your right to vote, get out there and vote these egotistical flim flammers out of office, it is up to you the voter to send the message!!!!!

  15. Fred says:

    Because Landon isn’t elected he must feel he isn’t accountable to the tax payers. The Supervisor of Elections is in charge to know what is needed to conduct elections and the city should show respect and support her.

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