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Flagler Beach Wrangle: Commissioner Settle Demands Apology. Mealy’s Reply: Hell No.

| July 19, 2010

Flagler Beach commissioners Steve Settle and Jane Mealy

Commissioner Hatfield and Commissioner McCoy. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach City Commissioner Steve Settle is angry. He’s angry at fellow-commissioner Jane Mealy in particular for publicly charging that, as Settle sees it, other commissioners—including Settle—are in breach of the city charter, a charge that Settle says could be grounds for forfeiting office.

At the end of the July 9 city commission meeting, Mealy blistered the commission for “doing things that are above and beyond what a role of a commissioner should be,” including meddling with the administration, piling up work on staff and causing the commission itself to become “very fragmented.” Mealy singled out Settle for criticism over what she termed as his habit of challenging the administration publicly. “It makes it sound like you have no trust in the staff of this town,” Mealy told him. She asked for a commission workshop on the matter to work things out. The commission agreed.

That’s not where it ended.

Settle, the same evening, wrote a fuming letter to Mayor Alice Baker. The one-page letter, which was not cc’d to fellow-commissioners and may itself be a violation of the state Sunshine Law (if it elicits responses either from the mayor or commissioners before the commission’s next public meeting, on July 22), is replete with language even stronger than that used by Mealy. He wants Mealy either to substantiate what she claimed or that she apologizes in writing.

Referring to Mealy’s claim that commissioners are “ordering the city manager or staff around,” Settle wrote that he “cannot, and will not” allow those allegations “to stand before the public, causing irreparable harm, without substantiation.” He did not explain what irreparable harm was being done anymore than Mealy had explained how the fragmentation of the commission was harming the city.

Watch Jane Mealy’s Speech and Settle’s Response
(Courtesy of PCMA-TV)

Settle went on: “I am therefore demanding, in writing, the immediate delivery of an official city document: (1) fully substantiating these charges, or (2) containing a formal apology, signed by Commissioner Mealy.”

Mealy’s answer, when asked about the letter by a reporter: “Hell no. I have nothing to apologize for.”

Settle doesn’t just want substantiation or an apology. He wants the city to put its weight behind what would be nothing short of a witch hunt: “Further,” Settle wrote, “if these unsubstantiated, hurtful allegations came to Commissioner Mealy  through any third party(s), I demand that each such party be identified so that it can be clearly demonstrated to the public that these third parties are also incapable of substantiating these allegations to the degree supporting such damaging public utterances.”

Settle then puts Mealy’s honesty in question, calling it “an unconscionable act to falsely charge any elected official with the breach of their sacred oath of office.” He ends the letter by “strongly” suggesting that “it is in the city’s best interests to fully resolve this matter immediately.” On that count, Mealy and Settle agree: they want the matter resolved, which is why Mealy called for a workshop, though the two diverge over the substance of the matter.

Baker had no idea why Settle sent her the letter. “It’s not up to me to tell her to apologize on this,” Baker said, noting that her position is ceremonial: she signs documents and sits with the commission, but doesn’t vote. She does, however, speak her mind: “Our commission is not fragmented,” Baker said today in a phone interview. “We have a very good commission and we have accomplished a lot of projects, and we all get along very well. We agree and we disagree but in the end we do have good results.”

The city commission will be discussing Mealy’s request for a workshop, and presumably setting a date and time, toward the end of the July 22 meeting, which begins at 5:30 at city hall.

The city is not on strong grounds when it comes to sticking by the letter of the charter, however. The charter also requires the city manager to live in the city. Bernie Murphy has been city manager since 2006. He lives in Ormond Beach. To get around the requirement, the commission stuck the word “interim” next to Murphy’s title and let it stand there all those years. Murphy’s tenure ends on Sept. 30, and the process of replacing him is adding to the commission’s various pressures, such as severe budget constraints

Murphy had the letter copied and circulated to every member of the city commission, though not posted publicly. According to the state’s open-record and open meetings law, members of an elected board may not exchange information by mail, or email, or by phone, outside the public eye. All their exchanges must be public. One member of a commission may circulate a report to other commissioners on a matter that may be coming before the commission. Circulating such a report would not be a violation of the Sunshine Law—as long as other commissioners do not comment on the report with each other, in writing or verbally, because the law forbids written reports or correspondence to be used as a substitute to the open-meetings law.

The letter from Settle to Baker is not a report, but a request for action directly related to a matter before the commission. Settle did not circulate it among other members of the commission. The administration, wisely, did. As of this morning (July 19), the administration said no exchanges had been received, at least not through the administration.

Settle and Drew Smith, the city’s attorney (who is contracted through Smith’s firm, Maitlan-based Shepard, Smith & Cassady), had not replied to messages requesting comment by the time this story was posted. Settle, in fact, was out of town today.

In the course of reporting this story FlaglerLive was told that the commission had directed the administration not to release Smith’s phone number at his law firm—also a violation of open-record laws. Smith’s phone number is 407/622-1772. His email address at the law firm is

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9 Responses for “Flagler Beach Wrangle: Commissioner Settle Demands Apology. Mealy’s Reply: Hell No.”

  1. Jim Guines says:

    I feel sorry for the members of the Flagler Beach Commission. I recall serving on the school board when it was the political body that fought with the help of a poor superintendent who fed the fuel for the fighting. I am sure my friends on the board at the time must recall such meetings. There is hope, but you got to wrok through it, Sure makes you feel bad to be a part of it,

  2. elaygee says:

    Are all the commissioners 5 year olds in old people’s bodies?

  3. Charlie says:

    The more I read about a Commissioner saying “don’t meddle with the administration”, the more I understand, just why government doesn’t understand, the real world of profitable or at least breakeven operations. Just HOW does a City manager or County administrator, understand, what really needs to be done and to what specifications, without upfront guidance and ongoing review. To say that the Manager or Administrator, always makes the right decision(s) , says you don’t need a commission to vote on the project. But, if the Commission and administration would sit down at the start of the year, outline the projects, and ask for feedback and progress makes sense. To call this “meddling” is the sign of a confused , and irritating person, not representing the residents. Boo to Jane..Do you “meddle” in your own household budget? I’ll bet you do. Spend no more than you make, borrow when you really have to, and stop buying when you need to cut back..?

  4. elaygee says:

    Sorry Charlie, you’re the one who is confused and maybe old fashioned, like buggy whip era old fashioned. We hire professionals and give them budgets and policies to follow. If they follow the policies and stay within ther budgets then the politicians should butt out. The politicians role is to approve a budget and the policies and only if one or the other (or both) are exceeded should they be involved in management at all.

  5. Pierre Tristam says:

    elaygee, calling Charlie old fashioned is like calling an old bottle of Chateau Lafite old. It may be right in the most technical sense, but it misses the more essential point.

  6. Charlie says:

    I maybe old fashion, but as you are perhaps aware, neither the County nor the City has reviewed, their individual present budgets, to determine exactly just where they are in YTD spending, and it has been over 6 months, since their new year started. Last year, in Palm Coast,, when the City manager proposed his new budget, even though he was under budget, by $200,000, in 3 or 4 categories, he still used the budgetted not the actual, year to date figure to start with. That’s just not good enough for residents, to have to give them more money, if they didn’t use or need it. The old mentality of “use it or lose it” is why we are were we are now. I also don’t accept, if the Commission hires someone they are the right person. a 3-2 vote isn’t the right person. The average life of a City/County manager is 5 years, before they move on. I know from rubbing elbows with the 2 in Flagler, that the job is more than one person can shoulder, and a revised organization, within each would produce better ,long term results. If you want to call something old fashion, start with the way it is now. It works well in an up economy because money is readily avaialble. But when you have to conserve or cut back, they know not how to do it. … Anyone can manage growth, but managing downturns is tricky. Are you happy with just throwing money at today’s problems? Do you like the results to date? If your answers are both NO, then try the old fashioned way. Don’t spend what you don’t got. Yes, I am old.

  7. notasenior says:

    Come now children – behave

  8. Strling09 says:

    Well this is the result of one commissioner going beyond his duties of an elected official by listening to a group of disgruntle people because they could not get their way. Steve Settle is not involved in this and as far as I am concerned is doing his job and knows more about government with his record of employment. I still don’t understand why you would want to be in constant termoil which is what this group always liked to keep stirring things up for and everyone infighting among themselves. SO RON VATH all you have to do is just do your job which is coming to an end in November and you can thank your group of friends that filled your head full of BULL. Talk to your pals and maybe they will vote for you. Proud of Jane for bringing this up but not involving Setlles.

  9. AACHMED says:

    Dont we have enough problems in this City without our elected officials acting like children? We moved our Family from Port Orange to Flagler Beach for a more Laid Back, Comfortable Place to Live. That Dream is Turning into a Nightmare! Let us give you a few Reasons: Our Neighbors Rent their 3 bedroom,2 Bath House out on a Weekly basis.There have been as Many as 16 people renting the Home at one Time and they are up All day and All Night,we call it Animal House! Just non stop Partying! Thats the House to the right of us. The House to the Left of us has A Very Large RV Parked in the Yard, with an Electric Cord from the House Powering it. Its not hard to miss once you drive past the Large Kenworth Tractor Parked Along side it! Then there is the Trash Stench, it seems the Renters Just Put Trash out , not Knowing or Caring when Trash pickup is Scheduled for our Area! Speaking of Trash we have an Elderly Woman who Digs through our Recycle Bins, Removing Tin Cans,We also have placed a few Large Metal items such as our old Washer\Dryer, contacted the City to pick them up, but someone took them before the city got there? When we spoke to the PublicWorks Director he stated the City gets Paid for the Metal So Im wondering why we let people go around “SCAVIGING”, thats Lost city Revenue and We dont want people picking through our Trash as they are Doing now!! In Closing we would like to Say to one paticular Commisioner, Get Your Head out of Your A_ _, Your Time is all but over! You and your Defunct in law need to move to a new town, but what comes around Goes around, Dont go away MAD Ron, Just Go AWAY!!

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