David Ferguson, a 60-year-old business consultant and self-described “political rookie,” is the newest member of the Palm Coast City Council. The council appointed Ferguson Tuesday morning to fill out the two years remaining in Frank Meeker’s term, ensuring that the panel will remain an all-male fraternity until at least 2014. Meeker resigned to run for the Flagler County Commission, a race he won last week.
Ferguson, a long-time resident of Jacksonville with part-time attachment to Palm coast for a decade, and full-time residency in the city since 2010, said he would focus on economic development and education–including his own–as he learned the scope of his new job (which pays just under $10,000 a year). “I would like to serve the community to keep it beautiful and,” he wrote in his application letter, “at the same time provide for sound economic growth, broaden the commercial tax base, and establish a mechanism to attract investment in high-tech industries through research and education initiatives.”
Ferguson was one of four finalists, who included Norman Mugford, the chairman of the Palm Coast Code Enforcement Board, Lynette Callender, an attorney, and Robert Uhl, a retired engineer. They were the final four from a list of 16 applicants. The appointment process was quick, relative to the council’s previous, drawn-out experiences involving appointments: In 2008, ballot after ballot preserved a tie between the final two contenders vying to replace Alan Peterson. The deadlock was broken with a coin toss. That wasn’t necessary today, with the entire appointment process taking a matter of minutes, and council members never once discussing their interviews with the candidates, or why they had chosen Ferguson.
The decision was quick, but nevertheless clouded in controversy.
The council, according to Jon Kaney, general counsel for the nonprofit First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee, violated the state’s Sunshine law when it ranked the 16 candidates out of public view earlier this month, and outside of a meeting. “When they create a ranking of the candidates without having a meeting to do that, I believe that ranking them is an official action that must be taken in a sunshine meeting,” Kaney told the News-Journal’s Frank Fernandez on Monday.
Starting the council meeting on Tuesday, Bill Rieschmann, the city’s attorney, defended the council’s decision to conduct the rankings outside of a meeting, saying no violation occurred because it amounted to little more than council members doing their homework and turning in their results to the city clerk, who then tabulated the results into final rankings. “What the fuss is about is that there wasn’t some formal process in the public to winnow down the 16 applicants to the four.”
The “fuss,” however, may also reflect recurring impressions that transparency isn’t always the council’s priority: nothing would have prevented the council from doing what other local governments do routinely—and that the council itself does in such circumstances–when they rank appointments to various boards and committees. They do so in meetings, in the open. The process rarely takes much time and on occasion provokes discussions that shed light on the elected officials’ decisions, all of which the council avoided when it chose to do its rankings behind closed doors.
Tuesday morning, council members also individually interviewed each of the four candidates, for half an hour each—again, behind closed doors, again in contrast with–for example–the Flagler County Commission, which holds similar job interviews in the open, even when they involve one commissioner and one candidate. Kaney said in the News-Journal article that the one-on-one interviews were not a violation of the sunshine law, but T. Wayne Bailey, a political science professor at Stetson University, differed, telling Fernandez that the burden of proof “is on the side of the government to demonstrate that there is a reasonable presumption for not having a transparent interview.”
To “cure” any perception of a mis-step, the council went through the motions of accepting and voting on the rankings in today’s meeting.
The four candidates sat in the audience, doing their best to project a calm demeanor as the council fidgeted with the minutiae of its winnowing process. A first round of rankings eliminated Uhl and sent Ferguson to the final, with Mugford and Callender tied. Mugford won that tie. The council then gave Ferguson three votes, ending the process. He was briefly applauded.
Angela Smith says
JUST what the Council needed…..another old, white MALE. (And FYI, I’m an “old, white” WOMAN.)
At least 25% of us escaped from the industrial North.
If you love industry, move up NORTH and leave us alone.
Don’t bring industry down here!!!!!!
Then PC should not have any schools and make it clear that they do not want families here!! Otherwise it is imperative that we have some good industries here with high paying jobs so that we can attract and keep good families in the area. Retail & restaurant jobs just don’t cut it!
Deep South says
I believe the concern is not bringing a Hi Tech or light industry to Palm Coast, but having the work force that has the education and skills to fulfill those positions. Flagler County and Palm Coast have had the opportunity to bring in at least 3 major companies to this area in the last 10years, only to have them dismiss us because we did not have a qualified labor force. According to U.S. Labor Dept., the service industry ( restaurants, retail, and hotel ) is the least qualified jobs a person can have. This speaks for Flagler County and Palm Coast. We need to attract more highly educated young men and women to Palm Coast and start a professional labor force.
Reality Check says
And how would you attract them with no jobs to come too? its a catch 22
Good luck Mr. Ferguson, hopefully you can do something positive like attracting business into this city.
Congratulations Mr. Ferguson.
Robert Lewis says
That is an interesting statement made by Mr.Kaney. Our council possibily violated the sunshine law by their secret ballot. If anyone remembers the last related story, I asked Councilman McGuire to explain his votes for Gregory Hansen – Treasurer of the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly. I was told its “a secret ballot”.
Councilman McGuire, Sir, can you please explain your vote ? The sunshine law applies to you too sir. Can you please clarify?
DWFerg (David Ferguson) says
Congratulations to all those who applied for this position. I value your initiative and will reach out to many of you for your input as we go Forward in trying to preserve all the good of Palm Coast while trying to make it even Better for All the people of this fine city.
It is my goal to represent ALL the People of District 2, with all my strength and energy. All people, both reasonable, and yes, even most of the seemingly unreasonable people. Not promising much except for my best efforts to contribute to the economic GROWTH and hopefully ,meaningful Jobs for our up and coming generation in the Flagler County school system. . Obviously, Palm Coast was not built in two years, and it will take several years to show Marked Progress in that regard. Sincerely,from the most unlikely candidate to be appointed to the City Council in Palm Coast. In the future, I would like to expand these kinds of dialogues /discourse beyond the pages of any bias or agenda as may be expressed in certain web site blogs! All the best Palm Coasters, and wish me luck.
Congrats Mr. Ferguson. Just, please don’t be a “yes” person to Landon. And better yet, get him out of there and get someone more competent and at half the salary. Remember, you represent the people of Palm Coast!!!
Your thoughts may be a bit optimistic.
The Town Councilors selected someone in their mould, something like birds of a feather will congregate.
La Wanda Blackwood says
Congratulations Mr. Ferguson!
I had an opportunity in meeting and sitting with you this past Tuesday night.
I appreciated your wit, humor and how you can relate and listen to folks from all walks of life.
I am confident that Palm Coast made the correct decision by appointing you and allowing you to be at the helms of a beautiful city that will continue to flourish.
I look forward to meeting with you again as we continue our conversation about Natural Gas.
With God’s Blessings,
La Wanda Blackwood:)
Is there any provision for recall of a city council member who isn’t up to the job, or do we have to wait for the next election – now four years away I think for a couple of council members.
To align with federal elections, the city adopted 5 year terms for a few people last year, and 3 for others. I think Mr. Ferguson is filling Mr. Meeker’s unexpired term. Terms will be for 4 years in the future.
” I would like to expand these kinds of dialogues /discourse beyond the pages of any bias or agenda as may be expressed in certain web site blogs! ”
On behalf of our favorite local news blog, may I say, “OUCH!”
No need to speak on our behalf emile. If David is hoping to alienate those segments of local media where he’s been spending quite a bit of time educating us about his biases, he’s doing an excellent job.
Two years can help or hurt. The press keeps things honest.
Reality Check says
Maybe we could find a corpse next time, the old people on this council now are a disgrace, people get out and vote next time. If you sit around and let the as is you will never see change in Palm Coast. I am middle aged and it is not a dig on seigniors, but for the love of God is it a request to over 68-70 to be on the council? Come on people vote them all out next time get some fresh ideas and have a council that will take of the Band-Aids and cure the cities ill’s instead of sitting around thinking of how to fix it, or better yet hiring consultants for mega dollars to do the job we voted them in to do.
All these people that complain about who is on the council or BOCC. Why don’t some of you younger people that live in the required district run for office?
Good luck you are going to need it.
I hope that however your efforts of change go, they make improvements to this current group of politicans because they need it.