Dear Manager Harden, Mayor Green, Councilmen Ford, Burnette, Stiltner and Vice Mayor Bastian:
We have just had an instance where a noticed meeting has been held, in fact two, one on Thursday and one on Friday, the so called Visioning Sessions, facilitated by Marilyn Crotty, without any audio record being made so taxpayers who could not attend could know what was said and by whom.
These were noticed meetings where our elected officials were deciding how to spend taxpayer dollars. And where they were making comments that would indicate to voters how these elected officials view their duties, our city’s priorities, the proper function of our local government, personal biases and philosophies, positions on fiscal responsibility, citizen participation, etc.
This “no audio record” has become an issue again for me because once again there are rumors that either you Manager Harden or even some on council stated or implied at one or both of these meetings that they would like to see the so called “Citizen Activists” silenced or their effects minimized. These allegations may be correct, partially correct or absolutely untrue.
As you well remember, similar allegations were made about you that resulted from a FCCMA meeting held in CC chambers where no recording was done. While that was not a noticed meeting, it still was happening on the taxpayer’s nickel on public property. And those allegations created questions. Questions you were forced to respond to with no audio or video backup to prove what was really said.
Now, once again we have a scenario where taxpayers have no way to really know what was said, who said it, how it was phrased or nuanced. And it has been implied that what was said was directed at specific citizens who I believe are lawfully engaged in pursuing their first amendment rights and rights as a taxpayer to inquire as to how well or badly their tax dollars are being spent.
So to stop this rumor/innuendo mill and to be fair to all, I would ask that from now on all noticed meetings have an audio recording so that everyone can hear what was said for themselves and draw their own inferences. Surely this provides inclusion not just the taxpayer who may not be able to attend due to work/family constraints but protection for anyone speaking at these meetings: elected officials, staff, the public and the City Manager.
Dianne Templeton Gardner
There are some who are saying quietly, that their great wisdom and love of the community has led them to conclude that secret meetings between councilmen are what is needed to get things done, and they need to do so in private BECAUSE there are some things that it just would not be smart to be saying in public ….. even though these things are for the good of City residents in their judgment.
What such advocates are really wanting are backroom deals free from the glare of sunshine, where votes are bought and sold for a price that never becomes clear.
County Councilman Josh Wagner did all of Volusia a great service in exposing the sleazy underbelly of such back room dealing when he ‘publically ‘ announced that his vote to ban beach driving in the core area was for sale along with the price demanded.
The Port Orange Council should have no designs on secret dealings, AND I would ask each and every one of them to never agree to another meeting where provisions for audio and video recording is not present.
Holding a Council workshop meeting starting at noon this past Wednesday, to which no member of the public was able to attend, absent audio and video recording, which the Manager instructed not take place, was an insult to all city residents. Who said what and in what spirit and tone has been lost to us forever. I am pleased to your report of Councilman Ford’s predictably strong 1st amendment defense in response to any suggestions of stifling the criticism of citizen activists. I would be even more pleased if that exchange had been recorded.
I would hope Council will take this opportunity, to consider Wednesday’s meeting and the implication of Josh Wagner’s ‘public’ vote sale had that offering occurred in private, to reaffirm their commitment to open and transparent government in Port Orange.
for responsible government – 2016