Ending months of wrangles with the city, Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks said she will conduct Palm Coast’s municipal election this year after all. Weeks said she submit an agreement to the city formalizing the process.
But she did not tell the city as much. Weeks, underlining her sometimes cabalistic approach to addressing—or resolving—issues, took to the pages of the Palm Coast Observer to pen a caustic OpEd on Tuesday, essentially coloring her concession in whitish knighthood: “The city has never conducted its own election, and my concern is.” Weeks wrote, if city officials “can’t follow the simple laws and rules to modify their city charter without issues being raised, how in the world would they ever be able to conduct an election that the voters could have confidence of being honest and fair? There’s no doubt if the city conducted its own election that the mayor and City Council would remain silent if issues were raised, and the city attorney and city manager would, without fail, do all that they could to convince the citizens everything was just fine, even if it wasn’t.”
In other words, only Weeks can save Palm Coast from itself. After devoting the first two-thirds of the piece to lambasting top official in the administration and every council member while summarizing her intentions, she portrayed herself as taxpayers’ and the electoral process’ last protection.
Palm Coast welcomed the breakthrough, though not without its attorney raising a verbal eyebrow as he announced the matter at a city council meeting Tuesday evening.
“While the city has not heard anything directly from the supervisor in response to our most recent communications, both verbal and in writing, we did become aware just this afternoon that the supervisor chose to communicate to the city through a letter to the editor in one of our local medias,”Bill Reischmann said, summing up her intention to submit an agreement. “If this is indeed the case, and as I’ve indicated, we’ve not heard—I’ve never heard from the supervisor, she’s never communicated with me—so if this is indeed the case, we are very pleased and look forward to working with her office, and look forward to her cooperation and preparation of the necessary documentation so our city clerk and the supervisor’s office can agree that she will be working to supervise, which is her responsibility, the elections that are in 2014.”
Weeks’s 1,400-word piece was a clever way for Weeks to save face and perhaps regain the initiative after a damaging few months in which she appeared to be unreasonably digging her heels against the counsel of every official attorney queried on the matter, including the county and city attorneys, and the attorney at the state Division of Elections. She was doing so on what was, at heart, an arcane issue only she had raised concerns about—the scheduling of the 2011 referendum in which the city changed its election cycle to even-numbered years.
There’s no question that Palm Coast’s city administration, under the ignoring eye of its occasionally somnolent city council, flubbed the finer points of that election, but not its essence. Scrivener’s mistakes were made in the rewriting of ordinances and the charter pertaining to the vote, and some wording in both city ordinances and the charter was never correctly updated until Weeks herself pointed it out.
“The issues I raised as supervisor of elections apparently were valid, otherwise the city would not have addressed them by adopting ordinances in late January 2014,” Weeks wrote in her OpEd. No one, including council members or the city manager and attorney, questioned whether the issues were valid: they swiftly set to work addressing the issues and resolving them.
But Weeks saw nefarious intent where there was mere negligence, and pressed her case on that account. “The need to adopt ordinances should have been a big red flag for the city’s elected officials because if their employees (city manager and city attorney) were properly doing their job in 2011, there would not have been any issues to raise that required attention and the need to adopt ordinances,” she wrote. “Because the ‘big red flag’ existed, the city should have cooperated with me by requesting the formal opinion as I requested to protect the taxpayers’ pocket book against any challenges.”
Last year Weeks had successfully fought off the city’s attempt to charge her for weekend and after-hour use of the Palm Coast Community Center during early voting—an attempt to wring money out of the supervisor that made the city look petty and out of touch. But in that case, too, Weeks pressed a broader battle, demanding to use the large council chamber at the center throughout the voting period, even when the council is scheduled to meet, though a separate, smaller room was being made available for voting. After much dueling over several Weeks, the supervisor gave in and accepted the smaller room when necessary.
The same pattern of making the case for a justifiable issue, then devolving into impetuous opposition, tainted Weeks’s contentions about the 2011 vote.
Weeks has been demanding that the city seek an opinion from the state attorney general’s office to certify that the way the city went about resolving the issue was proper—and to ostensibly ensure against a lawsuit from a voter down the line, which Weeks says could expose the city to damaging costs.
The city is not worried. Only the city can seek that attorney general’s opinion. But city officials have not seen the need to do so.
For several months Weeks appeared ready not to supervise Palm Coast’s municipal elections this year. That would have forced Palm Coast to supervise its own. It would have also created mind-boggling confusion for voters, because separate precincts would have had to be set up for simultaneous elections—those supervised by Weeks, for all other elections on the ballot (from governor to school board to county commission and so on), and those set up by the city for the two council seats up for election.
The city attorney’s comments at the council meeting Tuesday evening were prompted as much by the supervisor’s piece in the Observer as by a threat by Dennis McDonald, the government critic and county commission candidate, to seek a writ of mandamus to compel the city to seek an attorney general’s opinion. But McDonald misinterpreted the way such orders can be handed down: while such orders are extraordinarily rare—and almost unheard of in matters involving city business—they may be issued regarding specific duties that a government must perform but isn’t performing.
No such thing has taken place in this election matter: the seeking of an opinion from the attorney general’s office has not only been deemed unnecessary by lawyers involved in the case. It is also entirely at the city’s discretion. Nothing in state law, in city ordinances or in the city charter requires the city to obtain such an opinion, and nothing is left of the matter that compels it, except the words of Weeks and McDonald.
Both Weeks and McDonald also made spurious claims against “local media,” alleging, in McDonald’s words, that city officials were “feeding” their line to media, or, in Weeks’s words, trying to “spin this story in the media over the past couple of months to take the focus off of them and place the focus on me.” None of Weeks’s or McDonald’s claims would have been known beyond the council chambers had local media not given them ample play.
Glad when this issue is finally resolved and we have the reassurance that our City Elections will be properly managed as should be, by our SOE!!
Good work Mrs. Weeks to secure that our city elections do not go to waste with a potential challenge and if so, the blame will not fall on you!
Remember like yesterday when you so rightfully and on behalf of all of us taxpayers, argued with the School Board against holding a very expensive “referendum for additional tax” special election, why not wait till the next local or general election and even offer them the less expensive idea of a by mail only ballot, to which the School Board openly refused…and what was the outcome..? The referendum tax was voted NO and the tax payers footed the wasted 80,000 plus cost. SOE Weeks was correct then as much as she is right now!
Sounds like its time for the city of Palm Coast to find a more competient city manager and city attorney. These two men obviousy have no regard as to how our tax dollars are spent. If they have been paid any monies to deal with this matter over the past several months, they shoukd be paying it back-they were already paid in 2011 to do the job. You do a fine job Kimberle, and I now dont fear that the city would conduct our city election, and what the outcome could be. Thank you Kimberle for the great job you do. We voters do pay attention, thats why you won re-election in 2012 by more votes than anyone else on the ballot.
Dennis McDonald says
FlaglerLive: So it’s better to sit back rather than be pro active with Taxpayers $$ and get an opinion from our AG. All of the these other attorneys have NO weight. I know your definitely not a fan of Bondi but she is the big dog on the porch and We put her there.
Reicshman stated last night that it was the Council’s “discretion” whether to seek an opinion. So there We have it the Mayor and Council decided not to seek the AG’s help. We will remember this November !
The idea of having an election run by Landon/Netts must scare the hell out of most PC residents. Everyone should play the meeting from last night and watch the new grads of the Citizens Academy learn what was going on with our $5,000,000 on Bull Dog Dr. THAT WE DO NOT OWN. They let the “boys” have it.
Before you sound off on the Writ of Mandamus I would do more research. It’s very possible. Since when is anything legal for sure !
Opinions from the New PC.
What scares me, Dennis, is a “new PC” with you in any part of it’s leadership. You are exactly what we do not need for a solid future of our town. You are very similar to Ms. Weeks in that you both like to simply complain but bring no vision or solutions. Under Ms. Weeks’ leadership in the election office over the last 5 years we have seen nothing but continual decline voter turnout which opens the door wide to leadership being chosen by special interest groups such as your group. We do not need another who simply wants to use a local leadership position to carry out personal grudges with tax payer dollars.
It is interesting you use the word “pro-active” yet you do not criticize Ms. Weeks for waiting 2 years to bring up what she claims to be an issue that is very obvious. Why didn’t she bring it up in 2011? Why would she wait until now? It’s obvious that it’s to play out drama and get her dose of attention in the local press that she so desperately desires moreso than actually improving and promoting voting Flagler County. Very similar to your behavior.
We need leaders. We have enough complainers, Dennis. You have done a great job of branding yourself to be the latter. But, then again, the people voted in poor leadership with Ms. Weeks twice so I guess you have yourself a real shot this time.
Steve Wolfe says
Thank you FL for covering the meeting.
I think that there would have been no harm in checking with the State Attorney General, and it would have cost NOTHING to get the State AG’s opinion on the matter as an extra layer of protection as urged by Kimberly Weeks. The AG’s opinion would certainly carry more weight than the City Attorney’s or a locally drawn ordinance, and offer more assurance to the taxpayers, the ultimate defendant in any potential election lawsuit. Throughout this elections turf battle, I felt that the City Council, City Manager, and City Attorney were being contentious for personal, rather than professional reasons. Are they jealous that the SOE received more votes than any of them? What is the big deal about asking the AG for a FREE EXPERT opinion on behalf of the TAXPAYERS? Who are these guys serving anyway, US, or their own petty predilections?
I want my elected officials to show respect for ALL citizens, including the servants that WE ELECT. Kimberly Weeks represents US, and I feel that contempt for her is contempt for me. I hope that our elected public servants don’t take their positions for granted. Their frequent foibles are taking a toll on their credibility.
Sounds like the SOE finally had enough of the citys bullying. Glad she is willing to do our city election—I dont trust the city to walk my dog let alone manage my election. Pierre gave the city credit when credit wasnt due (must be a smudge) by stating the city acted quickly to resolve issues….I dont consider taking 4 months to adopt ordinances as very quick. The ordinances have no value if that isnt the proper way to resolve the matter and if confirmation was obtained to confirm the city violated the law by placing the charter amendment on the wrong election ballot. What was the city scared of that they didnt get the formal opinion—the truth!
I think the City should tell her “thank you, but no thank you”. Then they should run this election themselves as well as all other City elections going forward. This would allow Ms. Weeks more time to play the high school drama game. Running elections takes a lot of time away from sending emails to the press about people she doesn’t like.
It scares me teribly to think of the city running an election for all these people in Palm Coast when they have such a difficult time conducting day to day business. The people voted they didnt want a new city hall and the city did it anyway. This proves these city officials do what they want whether its right or not. The Supervisor of Elections does a good job and should do our elections. I trust her, I dont trust the city.
Here’s the interesting part of your comment . . . you are claiming the City does a “poor job” which infers that the leadership is poor. And you claim that the SOE is doing a “good job”. Elections allows the people to select their leaders . . . but we have had nothing but continual declines in voter turnout and historic lows in turnout under Kimberle Weeks. How do explain that and who is to take blame for that? How can anyone expect better local leadership when less than 20% of the registered voters are turning out and an SOE who refuses to address the problem of community engagement and effectively promoting voting?
I think it’s pretty obvious that we have a lot of people who like to place blame in the wrong place. Kimberle Weeks has not been a good SOE and shouldn’t even be in that position. She is a big part of the problem and not the solution. Until voting is fixed, leadership will not be fixed. Dennis McDonald can criticize Mayor Netts for the result with a small voter turnout but the bottom line is that voter turnout was the problem yet he doesn’t criticize the SOE who 100% blew the communications and marketing and wrecked that election.
The problem isn’t the City . . . the problem is sitting in that SOE Office at the County.
Perhaps you can put your negative energy into something positive and do something about improving voter turnout yourself. It’s not the supervisor’s fault if the voters don’t vote-its the voters responsibility. Our supervisor does a fine job, and everyone I talk to agrees. She is always trying to do something for us voters.
I did a lot of footwork in the last election, The problem i saw with the low turnout was the feeling that people had that the Mayor, City Manager and Attorny were so crooked that voting was nothing more than a waste of time. Its a sad thing when the city populace sees their own leaders as Crooks who ignore the will of the people. but thats what is happening , as evidenced with the Red Light Cameras. The overwhelming majority of people are against them, but for some reason they keep multiplying? The vast majority of citizens are against a new City Hall but the plans go ahead anyway? Building sidewalks to nowhere, planting flowers and new trees at a major cost while raising tax rates 100% over the past few years seems to be what this city Government is all about.
Carol Mikola says
Kimberle Weeks wrote to another attorney in Tallahassee in January because she had no confidence in either the city attorney, the county attorney or the Florida division of elections who all said that the manner in which Palm Coast changed its charter was proper and legal. The reason that Ms. Weeks changed her mind and is going to conduct the Palm Coast elections this year, is because her attorney in Tallahassee agreed with the opinions of the Palm Coast Attorney, the Flagler County Attorney and the Florida division of elections. It seems that she is unable to admit that she was mistaken especially given all the publicity about the issue.
I’ll quote a brief section of Ms. Weeks attorney’s letter…”The Fl. Attorney General, in AGO 78-62, has indicated that a special election…for a charter amendment…may be legally held on the same date fixed for a general or primary election”. “…you can proceed forward based on the City’s position.”
To have written her “caustic op-ed” as you termed it, knowing that she was wrong about the entire issue was really a terrible thing to do to people who were simply trying to do their job and as she now knows, actually did their job. She owes the attorneys, the Palm Coast mayor and council, the city manager and all of the Palm Coast community an apology.
The Supervisor is looking out for us and I appreciate that. It gives me confidence to know we have such a dedicated supervisor conducting our elections. The City should work with the supervisor and get the free opinion for our protection. The city is going to feel like idiots if they get sued.