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Bunnell and Flagler Beach Angrily Denounce Enterprise Flagler’s Secretive “Done Deal”

| June 9, 2011

Armando Martinez took a risk with his blood pressure as he addressed the Flagler Beach City Commission tonight. (FlaglerLive)

In an unprecedented appearance before the Flagler Beach City Commission, Armando Martinez, the Bunnell city manager, angrily denounced Enterprise Flagler, the public-private economic development organization, for holding a closed meeting last week, voting to restructure the organization and boot out Flagler Beach and Bunnell. Martinez asked Flagler Beach to join Bunnell, Beverly Beach and Marineland in what he called a “coalition of cities” to counter Enterprise Flagler’s move.

Last week Enterprise Flagler President David Otatti led a meeting of Enterprise Flagler’s executive board. The closed door meeting excluded numerous members of the organization. Even the chamber of commerce was not at the table. Mick Cuthbertson, who represented Bunnell, was told he could not vote. So was Jane Mealy, who represented Flagler Beach. The rest voted unanimously to accept Ottati’s restructuring plan, which cuts the membership of Enterprise Flagler in half and gives Palm Coast and the county three appointments to the new board each, while six remaining seats would be filled by private-sector representatives.

Ottati told the people in the room not to speak of the plan until it is revealed at the next county-wide economic development summit—the sixth since January—scheduled for May 15. That summit may be in doubt, as the plan, despite attempts to keep it confidential, has unraveled a series of angry reactions, Martinez’s being one of them—and the Flagler Beach City Commission’s following on its heels.

That unraveling also risks derailing almost six months of work, much of it time-consuming, some of it costly to taxpayers, all of it presumably critical to the county’s and its cities’ struggle to move Flagler out of its economic anemia.

“Hold on to your seats because I think what I’m going to share with you is probably going to raise your blood pressure a little bit,” Martinez, who was recently hospitalized with when his blood pressure spiked, said. “What I liked about the summit was that what you heard, at least the message that I continuously said and I heard from many of you is that we need to work together and only by working together as different communities will we be able to move forward. As a result of that I was under the belief that many communities were going to work together to common goals and to try to rectify or revamp how we’re dealing with economic development.” Martinez was referring to the most common refrain of the economic development summits to date: that governments, agencies and the private sector had to work in unison.

Martinez then summarized the substance of Enterprise Flagler meeting. “We were basically told that if we want to be on that board we’d have to approach the county and ask them to please make us one of their selections,” he said. “That is counterproductive and will not work. Unless we as communities stand together and all cities have a seat at the table, and are allowed to give representation for economic development, we’re just going to be competing against each other. We need to have one common goal, and we need to have one common plan.”

The coalition of cities would formally write a request to Enterprise Flagler to reverse its exclusionary vote. Failing that, the coalition would appear before the Flagler County Commission to make its case there. It’s not clear what either would achieve.

Martinez then excoriated Otatti’s methods. “This came out of left field. It felt like a torpedo. Who made this decision? And I was told the president of Enterprise Flagler—a generous, brave man, I think he’s a very smart man. I don’t know if politically he thought of the ramifications of his decisions, but the bottom line is he said different community leaders and different elected officials were consulted before he made this decision. I can tell you no one in the city of Bunnell was consulted. I don’t know if anybody on this board if anybody was consulted”—he was pointing to the Flagler Beach commissioners—“the city manager from the city of Bunnell wasn’t consulted, the person assigned to the board wasn’t consulted. And this is not about causing division. This is about forcing unity.”

Ottati is on vacation in Latin America until next week.

The Flagler Beach City Commission, with some reserve from Commissioner Steve Settle—he wanted more information about Enterprise F;lagler’s “end game”—embraced Martinez’s offer. Commissioner Jane Mealy was still smarting from her own experience at the Enterprise Flagler meeting last week.

“When I got to the meeting I was handed an agenda, and I was listed as an ex-officio member,” she said. “Now I had been to at least three years or more of those meetings. I have voted every time there was a vote. I was never told I was an ex-officio member. The other day I stopped at Enterprise Flagler and asked for a copy of the bylaws. There is no such thing as an ex-officio member. So I was forbidden from voting at that meeting. They did let me speak. They didn’t like anything I had to say because I was trying to stick up for basically the same remarks that Mr. Martinez just made. It was clear it was a done deal before the meeting started. When the chairman of the board started to speak, he said this was considered a closed meeting, and that no one was to say anything when they got out of there.”

Mealy added:  “The whole way it was handled was very poor, and was clearly directed at getting certain people more powers than other people.”

“Was the meeting advertised?” Flagler Beach Mayor Alice Baker asked Mealy.


“And there elected officials there?”


“It stinks,” Baker said.

John Feind, the chairman of the city commission, was just as critical.

“It’s certainly disappointing to have gone to 2, 3, 4 summit meetings where the emphasis was on team-building and team play and on and on and on, and now to see that we really are not part of the team. I don’t think that’s right,” Feind said.  “We may not have a lot to offer as far as development, but we certainly offer a tremendous quality of life to the whole county, to Palm Coast and Bunnell, so I think that this really is not the right direction for them to take, and I can’t understand what would lead them to think it’s a good idea to exclude the smaller cities.”

Martinez criticized Enterprise Flagler’s lack of transparency and its method—a common criticism of the agency, which has been bedeviled with sloppy management and serious issues with transparency.

But  Martinez’s unexpected pitch to the Flagler Beach City Commission tonight was not without its problems: “By the way I am here with the consensus of my board and I am speaking on behalf of the city of Bunnell, OK?” Martinez said.

No, he wasn’t: The Bunnell City Commission hasn’t met since the Enterprise Flagler meeting. It could not have delegated its city manager to represent it, let alone convey a “consensus” it never reached in an open meeting. Had that consensus been reached without a meeting, it would be a violation of the state’s open meeting law.

Martinez, after his presentation, was asked about that consensus. He said he spoke with each of his commissioners individually to gain that consensus. Martinez said he was not polling the commissioners.

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19 Responses for “Bunnell and Flagler Beach Angrily Denounce Enterprise Flagler’s Secretive “Done Deal””

  1. Gator says:

    .the total disgust I’m feeling with all of this is overwhelming….

  2. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Thank God I says! We’re well out of it.

    Jane. Calm down. There are still any number of meetings that you can waste your time and our money attending. Keep the faith. You won’t have to spend one moment not in the public eye, although you might want to take up crocheting for that happy day when you are finally sent packing from our city hall.

  3. Rick says:

    Martinez and Cuthbertson poll the Bunnell comissioners all the time before taking action. How else would the Bunnell City Commission understand how they should vote and how the staff report should be prepared. These two don’t actually have professional recommendations, they are just two more politicians acting in the role of a bureacrat and both are just upset because their own “private economic development deal” didn’t work out as was planned in a separte closed door meeting.

    Flagler County and Palm Coast should just continue to move forward. Getting “buy-in” from small cities may sound nice in theory but these small cities are snake pits and will prevent the County from making real progress. Sure, it would have been nice for the decision to restructure the organization to have been given more notice but tipping off these places would have resulted in a political stalemate. At the end of the day, action on economic development needs to be taken. Let’s stop spending our tax dollars on more facilitiation.

    Good Move! Let’s get to work!

  4. Larry says:

    Interesting article. I agree it is time to move on. Heck, the recession will be over and we will be in another boom by the time action is taken in this County.

  5. palmcoaster says:

    Lawabiding I happen to see your comment very shortsighted. City of Flagler Beach along with Palm Coast and probably Bunnell too, were originally opposed to any increase of any of our taxes to fund “any economic development promoted and to be managed by Enterprise Flagler”. County Chamber, County Commissioners and Enterprise Flagler, of course, were cheering for and additional increase in our sales tax to fund their new ED blunder under the “Einstein minded findings of the “consultant” (here we go again county morons at the helm) at a rate if you remember, of over $1,200/hour.
    Now after this uncovered close doors meeting called by Enterprise Chair Mr. Ottati were is said they added 3 positions to each county commission and Palm Coast, I am concerned that being PC Mayor Jon Netts in that Enterprise Board, they have convinced the City officials to go ahead and raise our sales tax or whatever tax in mind, to fund another EF charade. Am I right or wrong Mr Netts?
    For Enterprise to shut off Jane Mealy and the Bunnell’s representative, sure tells us some kind of change in the issue of raising taxes or not, to fund Enterprise board games . Probably thanks to Jane Mealy being present we learned of this and sure we should appreciate her and Martinez this time, for keeping us informed other than attacking them. For Commissioner Mealy to be present in that meeting on her time, there is not cost to us taxpayers, not being there represented or taking away their right to speak on it, is what will en up costing us. “Keep them ignorant and conquer them”, something that has been taking place around here most the time.
    I am for sure getting more increasingly suspicious of the manipulations of some moronic county commissioners all the time hiring highly priced consultants, on our depleted pockets, to resolve nothing and the intentions of County Manager Coffey ordering to put lids (to our firefighters statements) on the release of information, as well as promoting close doors back room deals, geared always to…. raise our taxes.. Where do we live now in the USAR?
    Rick and Larry are you Chamber and or Enterprise beneficiaries as per your pro “more taxes rhetoric”.
    Bunnell economic development didn’t work..? so Enterprise and Co. won’t either! Every darn time economic development is manipulated means “tax payers to fund the failed job creation of some very much accommodated and locally connected corporation beneficiary only and probably some graft grabbers as well” Example, Centex Palm Harbor fiasco, Ginn super hangar on the airport, Cakes across the Airport, PD Data, Walmart 6.5 million welcome infraestructure on nowempty parcels and at least the 5 million if not more on the CRA of wealthy owner developer of Town Center…who is that Landmark? Maaan so many hands in our (tax payers funds) cookie jar that is hard to keep track. Most times being county commisioners and or Palm Coast council the originators of these fiascos.

  6. The Piranha says:

    Rick, you hit the nail on the head! I haven’t seen Martinez this mad since the Murray’s got arrested. The last three paragraphs tell more about why Enterprise Flagler needs to trim the fat in order for Flagler County to move forward.

  7. Larry says:

    Palmcoaster, you have it all wrong. In well over a million dollar economic development budget, these cities are contributing about $5000 combined. Palm Coast and the County have contributed $350k each. I don’t believe for the level of contribution these small cities are making that it is worth having to deal with the antics of 10 more politicians. These cities are contributing “small potatos” compared to the rest of the members. Why give them a seat at the table to do more political posturing and funnell monies throgh their own closed door deals?

    Also, Flagler Beach has been against raising taxes to fund economic development but Bunnell has been for it. If you think abou it, this makes complete sense because Flagler Beach is unlikely to directly benefit from a new company relocation since they have limited land area to accomodate a new company. The higher taxes provide no real benefits. Bunnell, of course, is salivating over the thought that it will have a seat at the table. They have lots of land to locate a company in their woods. For pennies to everyone else dollar, Bunnell may be able to steer a company to their city. This is just politics as usual. It is time to cut the slack and move on.

  8. FlaglerResident says:

    The true colors of this elite private club who abuses the use of our public funds now shines. To eliminate the other cities from the participation of Enterprise Flagler is against all common sense. As a resident of Flagler Beach my tax dollars support the majority of Enterprise Flagler’s expenses and now Flagler Beach doesn’t get to representation? This is not a private/public partnership but a publicly funded organization with private members who do not act in the best interest of our community. Bruce Paige, who lives in Flagler Beach and Sam Cline, who lives in City of Bunnell, each board members of Enterprise Flagler, MUST BE APPALLED! These men of high character certainly could not support such an inconsiderate move in their own community.

    Enterprise Flagler must go! Nothing good has come from the experience and I refuse to put forward any further tax dollars to support it. Let’s review, Palm Coast Data, Cakes Across America, Ginn, Capt, Microhose, and Enterprise Flagler; all failed attempts at economic growth. Are we really willing to increase their war chest through the raising of our taxes so they can create greater failures with our tax dollars or is it time to wise up, streamline government, build upon our existing assets, and become content with what we have. Less is more! City of Palm Coast should be commended for its in-house efforts to improve its economic development presence of which none has included an increase in taxes. Flagler County follow suit, you don’t need anymore tax dollars and certainly not for Enterprise Flagler,

    Enterprise Flager you are out of control, residents of Flagler Beach, Bunnell, Beverly Beach, Marine Land, your tax dollars support this pathetic unprofessional organization, STOP!! You no longer are included in the economic development strategy. You just wasted 5 months of your time attending an economic development summit for your community.

    In conclusion, this irresponsible decision proves that Enterprise Flagler is not worthy of being the economic development engine of our community. Should all those cities now excluded withhold any further tax dollars for the support of Enterprise Flagler it will fail from lack of funding. How short sided is Enterprise Flagler that they don’t even understand where they get their funding.

    Concerned Business Thinker

  9. Kendall says:

    Will the residents of the ousted cities still have their property taxes applied toward Enterprise Flagler? They should not. Personally I think they should be pleased to be freed from the EF albatross.

  10. palmcoaster says:

    Larry, I do not have it all wrong. I disagree. Flagler Beach and also Palm Coast were against raising taxes for new FE blunders and their administrators handsome pays. Unless for what just transpired Netts and Landon changed their minds now. Better do not even think about raising our sales tax for this, on a county with over 16.5% unemployment and neighboring counties with even lower sales taxes currently as we speak. I agree here with Flagler Resident. Other than wasting big money in lavish consultants and hundreds of hours in useless meetings, why instead don’t all seat at the computer and phones and search for small business that can be lured here like we were, settle by paying their own way like we did and hire workers as we had done? Reward any soul in any entity or business with a 1,000 per job they create when they locate and convince a new small business to open doors in this county.
    We all know someone with a business, were we came from and all those retired professionals residing among us bet know even more. Get them involved, invite them to give ideas. Should not all be about sprinkling around our hard earned tax dollars specially in nowadays pathetic economy.
    Also to Mr.Martinez better watch that blood pressure. Not use to loose your life over these issues no matter how frustrating.

  11. FlaglerResident says:

    Kendall, I am so very disappointed to report to you that YES, a portion of everyone’s tax dollars goes to support the $300,000 plus/minus funding of this disappointing organization called Enterprise Flagler, regardless of where you live. YES, your tax dollars would continue to support Enterprise Flagler even if you live somewhere that is no longer represented by Enterprise Flagler. YES, this organization is requesting we raise taxes and give them $6,000,000 plus for future economic development and YES, should the position of Enterprise Flagler remain, then you will be contributing to this $6,000,000 war chest of irresponsibility. And YES, If you live in a city that doesn’t get Enterprise Flagler representation you will support them anyway.

    The short sided nature of a decision to eliminate Beverly Beach, Bunnell, Marine Land, and Flagler Beach from a warranted seat at Enterprise Flagler is repulsive. Every person in this county pays a portion of their taxes to support Enterprise Flagler. The majority of its funding is PUBLIC and they would not exist if it were not for the public funding. To eliminate those tax payers representation in their community should be against the law. As such, we must take a stand! If we are not going to get proper representation with our tax dollars then we must eliminate further contributions to Enterprise Flagler and keep those valuable dollars in our communities whom have no voice!

    Enterprise Flagler must operate and function in the open with the same dynamics as our Tourist Development Dollars or close it down! There is nothing private about an organization funded in majority by the tax payers of this community. SPREAD THE WORD – No more Enterprise Flagler, no tax increases!

    Concerned Business Thinker

  12. Rick Robinson says:

    If tax dollars are used, representation is a must. What is the Florida Sunshine Law supposed to prevent? Yes, that is right … just this very thing. Apparently, the good of the organization is the good of the few. Oh, ya, Enterprise Flagler is not under any “sunshine.” They are not a government enity. United we stand, but not when it comes to development. Let the division begin … I mean continue in this county.

  13. palmcoaster says:

    Flagler county, Flager Chamber and EF ar all after raising at least our sales tax in this county to fullfil the 6,000.000 wished by FE for “economic development” Agreed with our Thinker above.

  14. FlaglerResident says:

    Enterprise Flagler is the driving force behind raising our taxes for future economic development. This is the same un-organization that just sent a clear message to the community whom they were in support of and which cities they were not. This organization utilizes our tax proceeds to fund the majority of its operation but does not share its budget with the public nor does it have an open door policy where the public can participate in its ideas or planning. Let me be clear, without our public funding the organization does not exist. Any entity so dependent upon our public funds in my mind is a public entity and should be held to the same standards of a public entity.

    This is the same organization that started as a private entity and couldn’t make it without begging the city and county for contributions to its cause. This is the same entity which use to support our local businesses and defend them against wrongful government activities. This all changed the day they took in public funding, that is the day they sent a clear message to the local business community that they can no longer represent them in controversial governmental business affecting issues. That was the day they quit preaching government reform and responsibility and began promoting tax increases for economic development, they kowtowed down to the city and county in fear of losing public funding. That was the day they quit representing our local business community and in return the local business community contributions to the organization declined.

    The reality is, this organization is run by private individual volunteers whom are not economic experts or credible economic developers. These are the same volunteers that no matter how noble their intent are asking the tax payers of our community to participate in a 6 million dollar investment in our economy and at the same time fire the members of its board of the representing cities in a quite secret meeting. Who in the hell wants to invest their hard earned money to give it to a private organization that operates in dark! Who in their right mind would build a credible business model around such foolishness. If you want results you have to hire the professional people to run credible economic development strategies.
    NO ONE associated with Enterprise Flagler has these credentials yet we allow them to represent us and develop tax burdening programs without credible accountability. This has to stop and the public has to get involved now before our leadership agrees to support a tax increase for an unproven economic plan developed by local volunteers with no credible background in economic development.

    What is even more alarming to me is that Enterprise Flagler, nor the County (the driving forces behind the economic summit) have engaged the services of a non-bias economic professional to determine whether we are even in need of an economic stimulus program (job buying program supported by your tax dollars). In the business world, I would not hire a banker or a developer or a county/city counsel member to determine the most efficient methods to increase the production output of my trinkets. Why in the hell are we hiring the same to direct us in economic development. The budget they have is adequate for the hiring of a professional economic developer and a staff necessary to pitch deals to the few interest we have. With the city of Palm Coast’s recent efforts to take charge of the economic concerns in house without raising taxes why do they continue to give our tax money to Enterprise Flagler. They don’t need them.

    My further research shows that MOST economic enterprise engines are not public/private partnerships but an integral part of the local government. Who wants to invest in government? Have you ever invested in government and got a return? That is exactly what Enterprise Flagler is asking you to do, to the tune of $6 million dollars. If you raise our taxes isn’t that counter productive in the ability to encourage people to move here? Lower taxes, less governmental interference, the better the private sector will do. Enterprise Flagler, if you really want to raise capital then be responsible and lobby our government to reduce impact fees, reduce permitting fees, cut overspending, and find your economic dollars from within. Oh yeah, this could stop your public funding. We don’t have anymore money to give to this floundering group of private volunteers regardless of their good intentions. They are not qualified.

    My suggestion, create an economic board made up of one member of each city counsel/county board member. These persons are voted in from their fellow members. Each city/county counsel then votes in one public person at large. These individuals must be resume driven interest and not a friend of a friend of a friend. This board then uses the proceeds that Enterprise Flagler currently receives and hires one professional economic strategist with a credible lengthy resume of accomplishments and a staff of two. The commitment of the city/county member is a great responsibility and an honor. His or her award to this board is the most responsible charge on their agenda. This board is given the credibility to make any decisions within their budget. Any decisions beyond the budget would require a 3/5 vote of the city/county counsels. This board meets every other week and its budget and its operation is as clear as the TDC (tourist development counsels) model, in the open. Or, get rid of it!

    No where in my research have I found where a community has raised taxes to fund economic development. Not to mention, if the past is a reflection of the future, and it usually is, investment in economic development in our community will not pay the dividends that a reduction in our tax base and stream lining our government will. We need to learn to be content with what we have and promote our existing assets. This doesn’t cost a great deal of money and will produce credible results. Government tells us we have to grow so that we can afford government. Its time to tell government this model is not consistent with the vision of this community. We must live within our means.

    Send your commissioners and council persons a clear message, “No more funding of Enterprise Flagler and No tax increases” for future economic funding!

    Concerned Business Thinker

  15. Joe says:

    It seems like the only time you ever hear about Enterprise Flagler is either when they are begging for tax dollars or losing taxpayers money on one of thier secret deals with a secret code named secret company who always end up relocating somewhere else!

  16. palmcoaster says:

    Thinker could not have it outlined any better!
    Our local resident tax payers better start going to these government meetings and lobby “against closed meetings to decide investments of public funds” and against any waste of our taxes proposed by the “who is who” greed driven in this county. Our elected one’s better watch what they do as every so often we can replace them. And were is the Tea Party complaining about it now? Maybe their silence is do to the fact that they will not raise a hand against private big business interest no matter what? They only bash unions, public workers and the poor?

  17. SAW says:

    If you truly want to save tax payer money and get our county back on track, don’t give any support, or funding of these many tax money grabbers/spenders etc. which continue coming out of the woodwork to blow your money on their poorly thought out schemes.

    We don’t need the Enterprise Flagler, the chamber, CRA, scenic highway or any of the other multitude of groups finding more ways to waste our money on things we don’t want .

    This is all about these busy bodies making names and positions for themselves, at your expense. We the tax payers need to keep it simple, at present, the more groups that become involved, the more of our tax money get’s wasted.

    Things were much better before these meddlers arrived, and started to direct our county, since we must pay taxes, let the county and the cities say how that money is spent we do not need sub-groups doing it ?

    If this was done, you would have more accountability and could then hold your commissioners feet to the fire on election day for the poor choices made, far too many hands are currently in the pot.

  18. FlaglerResident says:

    Never before have I been so concerned for the future of this community. Please take the time, copy these credible comments from all whom have participated in this communication and forward to the elected officials, tea party members, school board members, and administrators. The message has to be delivered. These are critical times with no time to waste. The economic summit is nearing its end and the question of raising taxes for an unproven, unprofessional economic plan will be asked of the committee. The answer is no tax increases, reform of Enterprise[rise Flagler to be administered at the direction of our elected officials, whom already represent our community, or NO MORE ENTERPRISE FLAGLER!

    The foundation of our community is solid. We need only get back to the roots of our community and invest in our existing assets to pull us through these hard times. Our people are strong and innovative and survivors. The undermining of the community to create further division amongst the cities and county by Enterprise Flagler is irresponsible and destructive. We can no longer stand for such incompetence. Shame on any Flagler County Commissioner or City of Palm Coast Official in support of tearing down the bridges that brought the leaders of this community together in a serious time of need.

    Please attend the Economic Summit meeting of June 15th, 2011 at the Ag Center as this will be an unprecedented event. You will see the true colors of your elected officials in action.

    Concerned Business Thinker

  19. Paul says:

    This is no different then the Flagler county’s inept Sheriff’s Department and their ignorance of the law.
    I had my camera confiscated and was made to delete pictures out on the inter-coastal waterway pathways because someone complained I took a picture of her as she rode her bike by. First of all I did not even have a picture of that person but was still made to delete non intrusive pictures of the waterway and the sidewalk and the trees because there was a woman on rollerskates 200 feet away. There is no right of privacy in a public place. I reported this to both flagler live and to the FCSO to no avail. If an individual is ignorant of a law we are punished anyway but if the sheriff’s department is ignorant and belittles and harasses and I am made to delete public photo’s from my camera… where is the justice….
    I have had several incidences with the inept at best Flagler county Sheriff’s department and once was ensured that I would be given a apology, did the overweight officer ever do that , NO!!!
    Flagler County and their Sheriff’s department do what they want with no repercussions. I am taking witnesses next time and will see and only the female picture was made to be deleted. So the FCSO not only was wrong in their actions but also was discriminatory in their enforcement of a non law… pathetic at best. I contacted them about it and as usually they do nothing.

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