Last Updated: June 30, 7:42 a.m.
Doug Courtney, 67, is one of six candidates in the July 27 special election for Palm Coast mayor. The election was required by charter following the unexpected resignation of Milissa Holland in mid-May, less than a year into her second term. The candidates who filed to run, all of them paying the $1,140 qualifying fee, are: David Alfin, Kathy Austrino, Carol Bacha, Courtney, Alan Lowe and Cornelia Manfre.
All but Austrino have run for office before, though none successfully. The mayoral term will run until 2024. This is a non-partisan, at-large election. That means all registered voters in Palm Coast–and only Palm Coast–regardless of party or non-party affiliation–Democrats, Republicans, independents and others–may cast a ballot for Palm Coast mayor. But this being a special election, there will not be a runoff. The winner needs only to have one more vote than the candidate next in line. Theoretically, the winner could garner as little as 17 percent of the vote, with the rest of the field splitting the balance.
The mayor is paid $11,400 a year. Like the four council members, the mayor also gets a $1,200 car allowance and a $910 communication allowance each year, so in sum the mayor’s total pay is $13,510.
FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all candidates, with the understanding that additional questions might be tailored to candidates individually and some follow-up questions may be asked, with all exchanges conducted by email and on the record. All candidates with the exception of Lowe agreed to participate. Lowe had initially said he would do so as well. He then did not answer a follow-up email to confirm.
The Live Interview’s aim is to elicit as much candor and transparency as possible. We have asked candidates to refrain from making campaign speeches or make lists of accomplishments. We have also asked candidates to reasonably document any claim or accusation. Undocumented claims are edited out. Answers are also edited for redundancy, relevance and, where possible, accuracy. If a candidate does not answer a question or appears to be evading a question, that’s noted.
But it’s ultimately up to the reader to judge the quality and sincerity of a candidate’s answers.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Comparison with previous mayors
- Coucil dynamics
- Mayoral power
- Continuity or change
- Commercial vehicles
- Next city manager
- Rap sheet
Place and Date of Birth: Bowling Green, Ohio, June 24, 1954.
Current job: Database Research and Development/Retiree.
Party Affiliation: Democratic.
Financial Disclosures: Form 1.
Net worth: “Unknown really. Never really figured it out. Enough to make me and the missus happy.”
Resume: He referred us to his website.
The 2021 Special Election for Palm Coast Mayor
1. Palm Coast has had just three mayors, the last two, Jon Netts and Milissa Holland, accounting for 14 of the city’s 21-year history. We assume that with your interest in being mayor, you are familiar with Netts’s and Holland’s years as mayor and their legacy. Tell us how you would compare yourself to them, and whether you see your mayorship as a break from that legacy or as a continuation of it, understanding of course that you’re your own person. Put another way: would Palm Coast residents see your mayoral style in a recognizable light, or would they discover in you someone quite different—radically different?—from your predecessors?
Quite familiar actually. Also familiar with James Canfield, the first mayor. I believe residents would see familiarity with previous mayors in some of my actions, but quite a break in others. I view the mayorship in practical terms as did Mr. Netts. What I mean by that is: take care of our roads regularly, swales repaired, bridges maintained, garbage picked up. Plus, we have to keep a conservative budget. We are stewards of the citizens’ money. It is not our private credit card. Yet, we must dream and promote Palm Coast if we are to successfully grow. Like Ms. Holland I would search out new ideas, reach for new projects and be willing to invest the funds to see completion. But unlike both of them, I believe more in the sense of community. Roads yes, but also local parks. Big ideas, but more city involvement in community projects. In short, I have a streak of practicality, mixed with large dreams, and a need for strong community. Boring a bit, aint’ it?
You have a brief time to make your mark. Can you cite a couple of those “new ideas” in which you’d be willing to invest? Has the city not been involved in “community projects” in the last few years of the Netts-Holland tenures? You don’t see the reinventions of the Community Center (at a cost of $8 million) and Holland Park (at a cost of $10 million) as “involvement in community projects”? What, beyond such projects, would you propose by way of a community project during your term?
The term “community projects” is vague and covers too many venues. However, when I use the term I am more inclined to use it as it relates to neighborhoods within the city. Yes, the Netts-Holland tenures did include large grand investments for the community in specific locations. Investments the city did need. But those investments require travel by the whole community to a specific site to engender their use. A brief look at the road patterns developed by ITT and adopted by subsequent developers show individual neighborhoods defined not only by name but by a limited series of exits and entrances to those neighborhoods. For instance Parkview Dr. off of Belle Terre is a semi-circular road that provides the only entrance and exit to that portion of the P section. It is it’s own neighborhood within our overall community. The city has multitudes of these sections. What I would like to propose is investment within these sections, these neighborhoods, of parks and amenities such as basketball courts, playgrounds, meeting areas that would be closer to the people that would use them. These facilities would require a bike or a walk, not a car, to attain their use. Something that would bring more ‘community’ to the neighborhood, more sense of belonging. It would also potentially cost much less and take less time to produce than the $18 million spent on 2 facilities for the whole city.
I would like to expand beyond one swimming pool on the west side and one community center on the east side. After all we are a city of 100,000 working toward 200,000. One type of these facilities for the whole city is inadequate at best. But those are long term projects and grand investments which would take a bit longer than the brief time available in this term.
2. Of Flagler County’s five major government boards (the cities, the county and the school board) the Palm Coast City Council right now is the most splintered, the most unpredictable—not in a constructive way, but a loose-cannon sort of way—and the most prone to doubletakes, to put it gently. First, give us your impression of council dynamics. Second, tell us how you as mayor intend to bring consensus, and whether your aim is to work primarily toward a majority of three, or toward the consensus of the entire board.
Is the council splintered and unpredictable or leaderless? Do we have too many leaders and not enough servants? Outside looking in, it seems you are correct. My impression of council is we have strong personalities with determined objectives that probably should have had them run for Mayor or applied for the City Manager position. They wish, by sheer force of will, to have their arguments accepted and positions ingrained as policy. And why not? They ran and got elected on their positions. But continued dissension only leads to gridlock. Nothing gets done for the citizens. Consensus is great when you can get it. Majority works when you cannot. The object is to do the job, not stroke the ideology. How do you do that? Many ways, but one is to find the core idea the majority can build upon. Then go from there. Not easy, but doable if one listens.
Just to clarify: you’re not suggesting that council members should be servants in any way, or that there is in any way other than strictly procedural (as in the chairing of meetings) a master-servant dynamic between the mayor and council members, are you? All five are elected to be leaders, are they not? As a means of explaining how you would have channeled the council’s strong personalities toward consensus, what would have been the core idea you’d have presented in–for example–the recent council discussion about supporting the county on its proposed sales tax increase, which the council voted down?
I do believe you are aware of the servant-leadership model of management. So the two ideas are not exclusive and can exist in the same plane of existence. We are elected representatives of the citizens of Palm Coast, as such we serve them. But we are also, hopefully, elected because our thoughts, actions, and skills have given the citizens a sense that we can, do, and will lead. We are willing to make the hard decisions and accept the consequences of those decisions.
In response to your exploratory example question for clarity. (I must, for transparency, note I have read your article about the subject before answering the question related to the recent sales tax increase.) The core idea I would have presented is what is the benefit or detriment to the city and its citizens in support of the tax increase? I personally believed even before reading your article that the tax increase was a poorly planned, poorly executed attempt to gain funding on the part of the county. I don’t believe in creating new taxes for our citizens unless the need is required or justified. Personal animosities aside about its creation, would this tax increase be in the best interest of the city? In the alterative, could we not gain benefits to our city, our citizens, without embracing a new sales tax? Would the benefits we would gain be a need or a want on the part of the city? Finally, if we as a council, found the benefits are needed and justified, even though poorly presented, are we as a city getting our fair share? Once those questions were asked, answered, and debated by council would I ask as mayor, for a vote on support or denial.
3. What is in a mayor’s power, and what isn’t? What is your understanding of when and how, if ever, you may direct or in any way exercise any authority over administrative staff other than the city manager and the city attorney? How would you deal with a problem, perceived or real, regarding a city employee, a manager (not the city manager) or a director?
Well, the mayor’s powers are pretty well defined in article IV section four of the city charter. As well they should be. When the city was formed the framers were particularly insistent that this would be a City Manager form of government. The framers did not want amateurs dealing with the day-to-day operations of a city that was expected to grow to 400,000 residents. Under this form of government, the mayor may not direct nor exercise any authority over any city personnel, period. It’s the law. Just what it is. A perceived or real problem with a city employee is directed to the city manager. What can the mayor do? Talk, negotiate, influence, discuss and bring together council for the purposes of providing guidance, through budgets and resolution, to the city manager as to how we wish the city to move forward.
4. You will have a somewhat abbreviated term of a little over three years, coming in—as all candidates in this election do—without prior experience in office, which will steepen your learning curve. What three specific goals, in that shorter time span, do you think you can realistically achieve as mayor before the next election.
First goal is hiring a city manager. Really, besides setting a budget, that is often the most important task for a mayor and city council. Second is reset the city’s thinking about our responsibilities. Everybody wants the next big thing. But we have to take care of what we have while building the next big thing. Streets, swales, and neighborhoods have to have a prime place in our thinking. It is where we live and work. The third goal would be a re- evaluation of where we are going. We are getting big. We are no longer a toddler in development terms. We can be a large influencer in the county and region. We have to step up or we will be figuratively taken apart. Two large hospitals, and Mednex. What’s next? Do we know? Do we have plans for Next? Or are we just taking what is given us?
But are those practical responsibilities–streets, swales, neighborhoods–not being met? The administration appears to be fulfilling those responsibilities routinely. Do you see it differently? The final part of your answer is difficult to grasp for specifics: what do you mean by being a “large influencer” (influence what? in relation to whom?) and what do you mean by stepping up? In other words, beyond diagnostics, what are your specific proposals?
Seems a fine walk from asking what goal I would pursue to a discontent with the administration. My point was that we need to ensure what we have is primary and maintained. The departments that have to meet those duties must be properly funded and supported to ensure strong capabilities to resolve issues quickly. While new goals are important they shouldn’t take primary precedence over the day to day. It seems we are spending way too much time on new ideas or expansion. We need first to take care of what we have.
Influencer, as in an entity that defines or influences the actions of others. Derived from the recent actions of individuals on social media that influence or affect the purchase decisions of others. Palm Coast is getting big. Its mere size and population provides, through purchasing power and voting population, the ability to influence the direction the county or region may take on multiple issues including environment.
Stepping up, as to actually engaging in what is best for Palm Coast and its citizens. Be willing to not only put forth a new idea or solution to regional or county problems, but working to their resolution.
Understanding those two concepts allows our city to a stronger degree to control our future and its direction. That idea, understanding these concepts, is a specific proposal. We as a city have to understand our own abilities to exert our strength in defining our future. We have to grow beyond being led, from trying to survive to being a leader, regionally as well as in the county. And no, I do not perceive we are at that level yet.
If you are searching for an actual physical goal with measurable results in a transactional concept, the goal I would like to accomplish is the senior center and a department dedicated to senior care.
5. Former Mayor Milissa Holland had a direct imprint on bringing about the Town Center Innovation District and Arts District and luring the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University to Town Center. Assuming you agree—you may tell us if you do not, and explain why—what are your intentions either in fostering or retrenching from these initiatives, and what will you, as mayor, leave us as imprints of similar consequence?
Now springs the objects of discontent. They were brought here, but now what? Understanding from news media, such as yours, is there is some issue as to what is being brought to us. Nothing is finished. The ideas are good, but the paperwork has to be done correctly. I like the idea of an Innovation District, but what are the details. An arts district is great, but are we building the theatre? I like these ideas. The objective is to formalize the intent and create the product. I see many discussions ahead on who, what, when and how much. But they are important. They can bring jobs and identity to the city. What can I leave with similar consequence? Didn’t I just answer a question that said I didn’t have time left in this term to provide consequence? Well, if I can provide consequence, I would like to provide a center for senior citizens, not just an attachment to a community center, but a senior center. I would also hope to provide more neighborhood parks and centers for all Palm Coast citizens.
Impact fees might underwrite the cost of neighborhood parks, but not a senior center, which would cost several million dollars. How do you propose to fund one?
Florida is filled with senior citizens. It has been for years if not decades or centuries. As a result the state has one of the most extensive grant programs in existence for senior citizens. In addition funds and assistance can be requested through various legislative channels, including the State Senate, State House, and the Governor’s mansion. Funding in other counties has also been achieved through private donations and grants. St. Johns Senior Center was built using those venues. To fund the center we have to determine to create one, then begin the process of accessing those venues.
Note: The Players Championship Community Senior Center in St. Johns County, a $1.7 million project when proposed in 2005, received a $300,000 grant from the PGA Tour for naming rights and a $100,000 donation from a senior couple for interior decoration. Impact fees accounted for the balance.
6. Three initiatives have drawn considerable attention: Palm Coast Connect, the expansion of the tennis center, and the relaxation of commercial vehicle rules in residential parkways. The first two are in the books, but could see revisions with a different council. The third is in the proposal stage. Tell us your [position on each: would you vote to continue with PCC and the expansion of the tennis center? Would you vote for or against relaxing the commercial-vehicle rule, say, to allow one such vehicle with uncovered commercial lettering be parked in a driveway?
I have issue with Palm Coast Connect. Not the concept. The concept is good and needed in a city this size and growing. My issue is its platform. The platform it is built upon is what is called an Enterprise platform. They are created for large businesses of thousands of employees usually stationed worldwide. They create these platforms using ‘best practices’ evolved from the corporations they service. The idea is these platforms can then be used in other venues by switching in and out components such as Customer Service or Human Resources based upon need. I believe we are overbuilt and paying for the honor. We need to look at this.
When do we end our expansion of the tennis center? Are we using Palm Coast funds to satisfy a private goal for a select few? Sometimes it feels we are being led down a path to build this fantastic stadium with public funds without public input. Tampa Bay Rays would love that deal. I have no objection to more expansion if Palm Coast citizens want more expansion. Let’s put it to a public vote. Then if the citizens agree, we can assign funds, put together an oversight committee and incorporate the rules for any expansion.
When the commercial vehicle rules were created the concept of people working from home was a unique concept. After the pandemic, it is not a concept. It is a reality. We, as a city, have to accept that result. But we don’t have to accept dump trucks in the driveway and 18-wheeler cabs in the swales. I find it ludicrous that my neighbor has to go out and put a tarp over his van each night just because he drives it home. Heck the tarp is uglier than the van and sign. We can make an ordinance that controls both. That is what council is supposed to do.
Would you scrap and replace Palm Coast Connect with a cheaper alternative?
Cheaper or more inexpensive? There is a difference. I would need to know more about the platform. Is it built on proprietary software? Do we have rights to the software? Is the data stored in an online database that we have access? Is the data, if not, available to us? Is the data secure from use by other vendors? It is quite possible to have a much better system, with more security for citizen and city information, and pay demonstrably less for the opportunity. With these answers and more, we could as a city, replace, or scrap, or build, or build upon the current Palm Coast Connect. I would be willing to do any of those possibilities if it was beneficial to the city.
7. If you’re elected, you will be responsible with your four colleagues for hiring the next city manager. Looking back at the sort of city and county managers there’s been in Flagler over the past five years or so—Jim Landon, Matt Morton, Larry Newsom, William Whitson, Alvin Jackson, Craig Coffey, Jerry Cameron (and what a boys’ club it’s been)—which of them do you think reflect the temperament and managerial style that most closely aligns with what you’re looking for? How do you define that style in your words?
Well, none of them actually. I wouldn’t have voted to hire any of them. I liked Stan Denison. [Editor’s note: Stanley Denison, who died in 2006, was briefly the interim manager when Palm Coast was incorporated, and was followed by Dick Kelton.] Truth be told I am looking for a little diversity in City Hall. Denise Bevan is quite a breath of fresh air. I want to ensure she gets a complete and thorough evaluation when we sit down to hire. The managerial style I look for encompasses the understanding that council/manager discussions can be contentious. But the manager has to remain professional in business as well as personal pronouncements. We are all here, ultimately to do the best for the citizens. The manager has to know his/her facts and present them in such a way the best decision can be reached. I do not like managers that obstruct, hide, or discourage information that may not support their position. I have run into that more than once and it has cost in terms of trust, funds and benefits for the city and its residents. As for style? There is no one word. Truthful, professional, active, informed, educated, compassionate are the parts of the style which I seek.
8. Apartment housing in Palm Coast: Too much? Too little? What would you do about it? By what criteria other than zoning would you approve or reject apartment complexes? Would you approve raising the density and height of multi-family, or apartment, structures in select areas of the city zoned for the purpose? Same question regarding residential construction (too little? Too much?), keeping the following graph in mind, which shows the highest number of monthly permits for single-family and duplex homes in Palm Coast since August 2005:
You know we have a comprehensive plan, don’t you? Surprising many don’t. A lot of these issues have been discussed, chewed upon, dissected, and debated. The results have been, with public approval, placed in the city’s plan. As plotted by ITT and improved upon by subsequent iterations of government we are expected to grow to a population of over 400,000 residents. That is what we planned on. The growth we are experiencing in housing and residential is not beyond what was projected. Right now, the growth of apartments is obvious. Five years ago, you couldn’t find an apartment or apartment complex. Is the growth too much? By what criteria? By what was planned? I’m for working within the guidelines developed and continuously improved upon for our city development. Those that have been approved by our citizens. I am against raising the height limits within our city. We need not seek to be another Miami or Miami Beach. Our charm is in that we can actually see the sky. Higher density? Prove it works for the benefit of the city and its citizens. The same criteria apply for residential housing. If we as citizens want to change our city’s plans for the future, then let’s meet and begin the planning. I am aware that issues arise that require deviations from the plan. No plan is perfect. The criteria I would use beyond zoning to make any changes would be to ensure the best interest of the city, its citizens and how the change would fit into the future we want.
ITT’s plan reverts back to the late 1960s, early 1970s, when the projection was actually for 600,000 Palm Coast residents–a city the size of Baltimore. Let’s set aside the discussion about the comprehensive plan (which most residents in fact do not know about nor show much interest in, based on the dearth of public interest at hearings that approve the plan) and apply your approach as stated in the answer below: “absolutist positions preclude the truth that things change.” Considering your interest in preserving Palm Coast’s charm, do you support the trajectory of development toward a city the size of Baltimore, or , if 400,000 is the criteria, a city the size of Tampa, Cleveland or Minneapolis? How is charm and a city that large compatible?
Or Jacksonville, I believe. Whether I support the trajectory or not the growth, based on current indicators, apparently will happen. Unless there is some heretofore unknown interruption. Therefore, that is a moot point. Preserving charm then becomes a priority. Savannah attempted it with zoning restrictions and designated parks. It worked for a while until new generations came along and new developers. But until such time the charm of the city remained. But the idea was so embedded that later generations worked and are working to keep or rebuild the charm. So charm and a city that large can be accomplished. On this end we have to build the foundation through our actions and deeds that future citizens and councils would embrace to keep that charm long after we have left this mortal coil. It is doubtful we shall live to see such a large population in Palm Coast. Hopefully the future will find a response to those things that detract from charm in a large city. In the meantime we should work to ensure the future has that choice.
9. At the June 8 Palm Coast City Council workshop, Councilman Ed Danko said: “I will not be voting for any tax increase. I expect our taxes to be the same. So that’s going to mean a millage rate rollback. That’s the only thing I’m going to vote for.” His statement prefaces budget season, so the city administration had not yet had a chance to present its budget numbers or any evidence, and the statement precludes so much as accounting for new revenue from new construction. Do you agree with the statement as an a priori position? Is it responsible as a matter of governance? The county is seeking to increase the small-county sales surtax by half a percent, which would double Palm Coast’s current revenue of around $3.3 million from that tax. The county is seeking palm Coast’s support for that increase. Would you support or oppose it?
An absolutist position on any concept is great political theater. However, absolutist positions preclude the truth that things change. Nothing remains the same. We don’t know from year to year the exact growth or shrinkage of our tax base. We can speculate. Adjust our thoughts. Prepare. But until we are given the facts we don’t know. Who knew last year at the beginning of the pandemic the growth we would have in housing and housing prices this year? You can’t effectively govern based on a budget or property tax rate set in 2000, 2005, or even 2015, in the year 2021. We just aren’t the same city. Needs and a lot of unfunded mandates are sent down by state and federal governments. We have to look at what we have, what is needed, and where we want to be each and every year and set the budget accordingly. I enjoy a good tax decrease. Who doesn’t? I Can embrace one whenever I can. But when we decrease taxes for a political ideal where do we cut? Our police protection? Our fire protection? The building and zoning department? These are real decisions that must be made and real lives that will be affected.
I don’t know enough about the county’s effort to increase the small-county sales surtax. Who does it affect? Are there restrictions on how the new revenue can be used? Why are we raising the surtax? Is it needed or wanted? Makes a difference. I generally do not support tax increases just for the sake of a tax increase. Show the need and that you have exhausted all other venues. Then I would consider entertaining the option.
10. Palm Coast relies on the sheriff for policing. Is there anything you would change about the contract? Do you favor an independent police department for the city, now or in the near future? After the city manager in July 2019 challenged Sheriff Rick Staly’s request for additional deputies in Palm Coast that year, calling the request “nebulous,” the sheriff commissioned a University of North Florida study that by one measure found last June that Flagler would need 70 more deputies by 2025. The sheriff has said that even if 70 is unattainable, a sizeable addition to the ranks would be necessary in Palm Coast and the county even as crime is at a historic low. Do you agree? If so, how would you fund the additional deputies, especially if you take a no-tax approach? What would you cut to fund what would cost well over $100,000 per deputy per year?
Believe it or not, when the city was founded, we had less than 25,000 citizens. City council at that time believed and many concurred that developing a separate police force was irresponsible and wasteful. Council expected the decision to develop a separate police force should be decided by future councils and citizens. The idea to constantly keep the Sheriff’s department as the primary law enforcement was never embraced. Now comes the question as to when we should develop our own police force. I don’t want to impugn the Sheriff’s office. Sheriff Rick Staly and his deputies have been doing an admirable job. There is no question as to their abilities. But, in the beginning, when sharing deputies with the county we contracted for less than a dozen dedicated officers. Those officers, while dedicated to Palm Coast, were also required to service the county as well. Now the Sheriff wants to add 70 officers to what we already contract. So, is 50, 75, or 100 dedicated Palm Coast officers now enough to say we should be responsible for our own law enforcement? Sheriff Staly is by law Flagler County’s sheriff, not a Palm Coast Chief of Police dedicated only to Palm Coast. It is Palm Coast’s Council that bears the responsibility for our citizens’ safety. Not the Sheriff. We cannot delegate the responsibility, nor contract it out. The argument against our own police department has always been the cost of development. Especially the capital costs. But if the Sheriff believes he needs an additional $7 million dollars for protective services, how much more would it cost to create our own department? Then we could keep our deputies dedicated only to Palm Coast, not subject to Flagler County at large. Palm Coast has grown up. Maybe we have also grown beyond sharing these services. At the very least Palm Coast has to have more input into where, when, and how our protective services will be implemented in the city. Where precinct houses are built, how many offices, what type of services, are the responsibility of the city. They should be looked at through the lens of what is best for the city. I am not advocating a separate department, but with the increased personnel and costs I am advocating for the discussion. How do we pay for new services? Council first needs to decide what services they wish to pay. We as a city are beyond just contracting and writing a check.
11. Would you agree to a rainbow flag-raising ceremony on city grounds on par with, say, those for the Portuguese or Filipino flags? What would you do as mayor to ensure inclusion and diversity—not only of the LGBTQ community, but of all groups, equally?
The LGBTQ community is a legal, responsible part of our city regardless of personal opinions. Raising a Portuguese or Philippine flag is not the same as raising a rainbow flag. What I as the mayor or any mayor should do to ensure inclusion is to embrace it. I have rarely been in a community as diverse as this one. Something like 42 different nationalities live amongst us. Different cultures, different sets of ideas, different beliefs! We can literally walk around the block to get a world education. Let’s pray at our varied services, lets participate in our various festivals, and let’s dance when the joy takes you.
If LGBTQ representatives asked the city to conduct a rainbow flag-raising during Pride Month, would you oppose it? Why not, as many other cities do, raise the flag during Pride Month regardless?
As a gesture in support of a segment of our city in the way that we would offer to any other city organization or group? I am not opposed. If council wants it lets do it. Don’t think as mayor I would have the authority to unilaterally raise a flag.
My character, temperament and foibles are for others to judge and define. They are subjective measures. What one sees as a foible, another sees as a virtue. What I can say though is that if written, I would hope my obituary would say he cared and he tried. He cared for the family, friends, and people around him. He tried to be a good friend, neighbor, and father. That he knew the measure of an individual was in the character of that individual, not the material wealth accumulated. He hoped he left the life of others a little bit better for his being there.
13. Have you ever been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor anywhere in Flagler, Florida or the United States (other than a speeding ticket), or faced a civil action other than a divorce, but including bankruptcies, or faced any investigative or disciplinary action through a professional board such as the bar, a medical board or real estate ethics and other such professional supervisory boards? If so, please explain in detail, including cases where charges or claims did not lead to conviction or disciplinary action.
Never been charged with a felony or misdemeanor in Flagler or the United States. As defined, I have never faced a civil action either. Neither have I faced investigative or disciplinary action through a professional board or supervisory board.
You say “as defined,” you never faced a civil action. That seems to be a dissembling answer in light of the fact that the question is very broad, excluding only divorces, and that numerous civil actions bearing your name as defendant are in Flagler County civil court, going back to 2006–several small and other claims, an eviction, and another claims judgment against you as recent as June 2021. Why not tell us about those? And how do these multiple claims cases reflect on your ability to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars?
To clarify, in context civil action means ‘an action that creates harm to another person’. My response was “As defined, I have never faced a civil action, either.” In truth I have not faced a civil action that was engaged because I caused harm to another person. So the response was true and did not dissemble. I gave my response based on the parameters and the interpretation you created and allowed. If you wished to know about the claims in civil court you should have asked directly. For specificity I refer to these claims now as civil suits and answer thusly.
I have no idea of which civil suits you are referring. Early civil suits often related to my father’s estate. There were many, unfortunately for me. It was a contentious issue over seven states, involved numerous parties, five siblings, a step-mother and lasted over 2 decades. Often the suits were attempts by others to force their solutions and each subsequently were dismissed in final resolution. Not my family’s finest hours. The only eviction suit I ever was a party was years ago and involved my signature on a lease for a local organization so they could maintain an office. I had left the organization years prior and assumed my name had been removed from the lease documents as the lease had been subsequently renewed after my exit. The organization defaulted without my knowledge. The owner sought me as the original lessor. I met with the owner and resolved the issue for me and the organization. The recent claim you reference is a result of a years long effort to resolve and settle an issue related to my wife’s health. The claimant required legal oversight to confirm the settlement offer and engaged the courts to do so. I have provided requested documents through the courts and am awaiting final disposition.
I doubt any of these actions has any bearing on my ability to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. I had no control over my father’s estate. I was not the executor nor the attorney. My wife’s health issue and the subsequent financial problems, are a fact of providence as well as a husbands honored obligation. Nor are they anything I would discuss in this venue. The eviction had nothing to do with my stewardship. When presented with the issue I resolved it.
It seems presumptuous to imply I wouldn’t tell the citizens about these suits if they related to the office of mayor or the carrying out of its duties. It offers up a sense that I am attempting to obfuscate my background. While not a subject of honor, revelation of these suits is also a moment of awkwardness and often very personal. It provides an insight into personal family issues, including health issues, that we have had and some we are now facing. We, my wife specifically, do not seek sympathy. It is what it is. The mayor of Palm Coast is a very public position. I accept that. So does my wife. But not all aspects of a personal life are for public domain. These aspects, we believe, fall into this category.
The question was simple and direct, and applies to any civil actions other than divorce. Personal or not, civil actions, liens, default judgments in matters of debt and so on, are matters of public record and public interest regarding your abilities to oversee a public agency and its budget. The follow-up question was asked after a mere look at your docket in Flagler County Circuit Court, and your answer still appears less than complete: we are looking, for example, at a 2019 default final judgment against you regarding a credit card, amounting to $6,700, and another from a bank in the amount of $7,768, also from 2019. There are other items of concern. You’re welcome to elaborate. Is your financial soundness of no relevance to your qualifications as mayor?
It seems to me you are implying my financial soundness is in question. That is far from the truth. A debt owed is not a condition of fiscal jeopardy. As previously stated the default judgements are a result of my wife’s health issues and her debts, not mine. The cost of care over 10 months until diagnosis and treatment took a heavy toll financially. Our situation is one of tens of thousands that play out yearly in the United States. It is not unique. I took on her debts because she was and is no longer capable of handling financial interactions. She is also no longer capable of working to resolve any debts. Morally I believe that is what a husband should do and part of the vows he takes. I could not think of leaving her to deal with these issues. Her diagnosis is a part of nature, not through any fault of her own.
The judgements are a result of efforts on the part of debtors to use legal means to inspect every avenue of our finances. They are not an indicator of being unable to handle debt. Quite the contrary. We have offered to provide the information without legal recourse. But the debtors lawyers insisted on legal protections offered through judgements to ensure complete and legal compliance. We don’t object because we obtain the same protections in that the results are final. We do not have to suffer questions as to our veracity. We do not dispute the debts. We are working to resolve them. We have been working to resolve them for a number of years now. But the terms and conditions offered by the debtors have not been acceptable or useful and we refused. To say they wish to take advantage of the situation to increase the revenue on the debt would be an understatement. I do not wish to move to an unsound financial condition to attempt to resolve an issue only for a debtors benefit. When the debtors have completed their efforts to search every financial avenue, I am confident we will finally make a reasonable resolution to the issue. None of these debts place us in fiscal jeopardy. They are a bill to be paid. How they are paid, the cost of payment and the manner in which they are paid are definitely up for debate.
In my original reply I stated that these issues are not a subject of honor. Revelation of these suits is also a moment of awkwardness and often very personal. But they have no detrimental relevance on my qualifications as mayor or my abilities to oversee a public agency or its budget. If anything they prove that I will take the responsibility and not shirk it. I will not avoid paying legitimate debt. I will also not allow opportunists to enhance their position to the detriment of our citizens. I will not pay more than is owed. I also know how to negotiate and when to do so. I know when I am being overcharged and know how to stand up to it. All of these attributes are necessary in anyone that oversees a public budget and something we should want in a mayor.