Go Along to Get Along

Hank in reply to your recent post:

freedomInfo4Today there is a entrenched mindset in city hall that it is OK to continue to have secret 1 on 1 meetings with and amongst council members because someone found a loop-hole in the Florida Sunshine Law and find no reason not to exploit it 

As you know Florida Legislators in their infinite wisdom knew there would be times that the local governing body’s would need to meet in private to discuss sensitive issues (i.e pending litigation; labor negotiations etc. ) thus provided for those type meetings (aka Shade meeting ) within the provisions of the Sunshine Law.  The legislators clearly codified the parameters for said meetings. But unfortunately there are always some amongst us that will find & pursue loop-holes in our laws.
I am sure that most of our council feels a little guilty about skirting around this law with these secret meetings but they go along to get along.  But there are others at city hall that have a mindset that conducting business in full view of the public is a real pain-in-the-ass.  They have a arrogant view that the average citizen is just too stupid to understand all the complex issues of government operations and should be kept in the dark.  Only they know whats best for us.
As a prime example of this arrogance, look too the City Managers email files. For years, up till the past few months the managers email communications (excluding sensitive items) were available for review by the public (with excellent spam filters) .  But recently spam filters were disabled and little or no real communications to and from the manager remains, just mostly spam.  He is either not doing any work or he has an alternate secret means of communication.  So much for transparency in Port Orange city hall.
Covert government business will continue at Port Orange city hall until at least 3 councilman stand up and say “Enough Is Enough

hank4Recently on POGTV, a video of former Mayor Jim Ward was shown. Mr. Ward gave a presentation at the Port Orange Library and reminisced about the old days in Port Orange and his experiences when he was Mayor of Port Orange. In the presentation he mentioned how nice News-Journal reporter John Wisnewski had been to Port Orange.  I remember when I started attending city council meetings in 1994 or thereafter I wondered who the gentleman was seated at a table up on the dais. I learned he was John Wisnewski reporting the city council meetings for the News-Journal.
Mr Ward told about when there had been an FBI investigation of the city of Port Orange government, Wisnewski did not report the investigation until it was concluded and no criminal action was taken.  Also, the reporter had come to Mayor Ward in those years to tell him that something had to be done about a city council member who was rumored to have been taking some kind of financial bribes for his actions as a city council.  The mayor met with the city councilman the following day, confronted him with what was known, and the council man resigned.
Mr. Ward commented that John Wisnewski never wrote about the allegations thus saving the city from embarrassment.
I wonder if Mayor Allen Green misses the good old days when with team players,  embarrassments could be hidden from the public.  It appears to me that some elected officials can’t seem to come to terms that the political environment has changed and today’s citizens clamor for transparency.  I deserve the right to remind Mayor Green that back around 2008 when the political climate in the nation was changing, and that it would catch up with what seemed to me previously rehearsed city council meetings, with little information providing background for decisions made being provided to the citizens watching the city council meetings.  And boy oh boy, has that citizen/political climate hit the Port Orange City Council.  I suggested that the way city council meetings were being conducted without reasons stated for certain decisions, that suspicions and speculations would arise with the perception of nefarious back room dealings taking place.  I stated that I would be asking hard questions of the city council to explore some speculations.  Council man Steindorfer at the next city council meeting stated that he would not answer any questions from the man in Port Orange Images, and Mayor Green said he had some words for “him” which he could not state in public.  Did they not prove my point?
I don’t think Mayor Green and the people who fly around him have come to terms with the new climate in the political arena and Port Orange.  Although permitted, there are still one on one meetings with city councilmen after a request had been publicly put before the city council, but because of problems with the proposal or request the city council has not immediately voted on the issue, and sensing their request was in danger of being denied, said applicants appeal to the city council people, one on one, behind closed doors.  Providing new information to a city councilman is not in itself a bad thing, but since the request has already been made public at a city council meeting,  in the present political climate it would be better to provide new information to the city councilman publicly in a city council meeting.  If the by chance the applicant wants to make promises to a city councilman, let the applicant do it in public, if you get the gist of my suspicion.
Not too long ago, the Grand Master Developer of the Riverwalk Project, who represents private enterprises which have gobbled up the golden prime section of the river front, summoned city council people to meet in his office, on a one to one basis, to discuss problems in land ownership of the future Riverwalk.  I am not sure which council men went to LaCour’s office for that meeting, but I do remember to my gratification that Councilman Ford refused to meet one on one with Mr. LaCour in LaCour’s office.
So the battle still endures.  The fight of elected politicians to skirt transparency, or should it be written the right of elected politicians to skirt transparency.  I am amused with some explanations which declare that there will be a meeting involving a governmental agency and another party and although the details of the meeting will not be disclosed to the public, this meeting can not be portrayed as a secret meeting, and the governmental agency is being transparent about such meeting or meetings.  Indeed!  Two governmental agencies recently met behind closed doors to discuss the issue of 1.3 million dollars owed to taxpayers in the City of Port Orange and no details of that meeting were made known to the public, except that the 1.3 million dollars owed would not be paid to the city of Port Orange.  Score one for non transparency.
And so it goes.  Mayor Green, Port Orange has really changed since you were born in the city, hasn’t it.  I bet you miss the old times when team players saved the city from embarrassments. Did I not warn you that a new political climate would probably come to Port Orange?  I do not mind telling you, I told you so.  I bet you have some more words for me that you can not say in public.  386 852 3178.
Hank Springer

4 thoughts on “Go Along to Get Along

  • June 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    This exchange needs to go on the manager’s read log.
    Thank you Hank and Pat for your untiring efforts on behalf of clean transparent open government in Port Orange.
    I hope taxpayers here know what a resource you gentlemen are to us all. I am so grateful to you both.
    Dianne Templeton Gardner

  • June 21, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    The city manager regularly directs staff that he has a direct interface with to send all information to him via Robin Fenwick or Shannon Lewis. We know that his emails are not placed on the read file in real time but are reviewed and then censored or edited as necessary. Especially now with all the high profile activity transpiring like internal investigations, directorial resignations, and management dismissals all related to internal and external investigations. The bodies drop after the fact but there is nothing on Kisela’s emails but invites to FCCMA luncheons and a bunch of fluff.
    If anyone within the organization has the audacity to communicate with him directly and transparently utilizing his city email, they will have a target on their backs and be lucky to retain their jobs. That is because in order to have any communication with the city manager, you must be willing to partner with him in his orchestrated obfuscation and willing to lie or at least circumvent reasonable transparency to our city officials, especially councilman Bob Ford.
    My strong advise to the council is to have a meticulous exit interview with each one of his present and inevitable scape goats and you will probably be shocked at what you find out.

  • June 21, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Yes, Porphyry I know exactly what you are saying. Every other employee of the City of Port Orange is held to open and transparent email except the city manager. Furthermore employees that are under certain scrutiny and understand how to go into the properties of there computers will see that there are shortcuts to all their drives and files that are linked to specific employees that can access, view, change, manipulate, and delete their files. This has been tested and verified by certain employees, and after backing their files up on an external hard drive they have seen files and saved emails disappear that certain members of upper management want to disappear because they are evidence of their malfeasance. Smart employees will regularly back up all of their important files on an external drive because you may need a file or email to exonerate yourself from a scapegoating situation down the road. During the Parker Shelley debacle about the time Tony Marino retired many of the emails on the server appeared to disappear into cyberspace as if they never existed. Fortunately there are a number of honest employees that have prudently archived much of those deleted public records. There are a number of honest employees that have discussed amongst themselves that email deletions and file hijacking is occurring presently, especially email strings that tell the story of certain upper managerial malfeasance. Like in the recent attempts to doctor agenda items to conceal the truth, all the lying to certain councilmen, and the obfuscation of the read file, this regimes utter disregard for transparency may even extend to manipulation of city records through doctoring the city’s computer servers.

    • June 21, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      When I was there I had E-Mails disappear that were critical of stupid management actions and decisions. I got the target on my back. I didn’t know that I was on the list of potential problem employees that were having there Emails monitored and tampered with until someone showed me. before I left I made copies of my memos and E-Mails. I didn’t play the game. I openly expressed myself as an employee and a citizen.
      I’m unemployed. After 41 years in the utilities business I spent the last 20 + years dealing with incompetent managerial jackasses. It is very difficult and stressful working under those conditions. I was already working with a medical disability and the job was literally killing me.
      I feel bad for the people that are still there working under this management. Even though I can’t physically work any more my brain still works. I know a lot about the inside BS that goes on and I know how to fix many of the problems that we have in city operations.


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