The community development district for Julington Creek Plantation has had its share of critics over the past few months; those complaints have been mounting, and tempers have escalated beyond mere fault-finding and nit-picking to flat out accusations of corruption.
In an oversized postcard, received by Historic City News this morning, an unincorporated group, calling themselves “JCP Residents for CDD Accountability”, has obtained a high quality, printed condemnation of three members of the elected Board of Supervisors. The group was not found in fictitious name or corporation records at the office of the Secretary of State, it is not listed in the phone book, does not have a business license, nor do they list an address or telephone number on the mailing piece — except the names, neighborhoods and telephone numbers of each of the elected officials on the current Board.
We interviewed St Johns County Supervisor of Elections, Vicky Oakes, today to see if she knew anything about the identity of the mailer or the group apparently distributing the mailing piece, and she told Historic City News editor Michael Gold that she did not.
According to Oakes, without knowing the identity of the person, or persons, who produced the postcard and mailed it, she couldn’t speculate on whether or not they constituted an “electioneering communications organization”. She doesn’t believe the postcard would qualify as an “electioneering communication” because they do not ask for money. Although they clearly are accusing three members if the Board of malfeasance, misfeasance, and non-feasance, they do not specifically call for election of other candidates to those seats; nor, do they call specifically for removal of the existing Board members.
Holding public figures accountable to the public, which the group’s name indicates may be their purpose; is, of course, your right as a citizen. Historic City News legal counsel advises that, even though the First Amendment gives citizens the right to express themselves, it does not offer any protection for defamatory acts — which, without malice, are sometimes hard to establish, especially when you are talking about public figures.
That said; let’s take a look at the main allegations contained in the mailer:
“The General Manager lied about having a Bachelor’s degree and lied about saving taxpayer money. Nonetheless, the board rewarded him with a $15,000 illegal bonus and a $22,000 raise, then attempted to cover it up by changing the job description.”
“Savings from a bond refinance was spent on salary increases and bonuses. The board publicized savings even though the budget increased from the previous year.”
“Kannatt, Klein and Jacob plan to enter the CDD into a long-term employment contract with the General Manager which includes an egregious severance package in an attempt to block future boards from acting responsibly with tax-payer money.”
“The CDD created a tennis internship for Cathy Klein’s son. The CDD hired Pat Jacob’s son. It is not surprising that 25% of the CDD staff are family and friends.”
“The CDD continues to pay the tennis instructor an outrageous $160,000 per year.”
“The CDD budget is larger than the budget of the entire St Johns County Parks and Recreation Department, but has one-sixth the amenities.”
“The CDD funds adult parties and alcohol consumption with tax-payer money.”
The mailed postcard also charges that “Cathy Klein’s brother-in-law made $150,000 dollars refinancing the CDD bonds.” It goes on to say “Nina Kannatt’s business associate was hired as CDD Events Director out of 23 qualified applicants” and “CDD staff helped run Pat Jacob’s election campaign. After the election, Pat Jacob’s voted to give raises to the CDD staff.”
Finally, the group is calling specific attention to the tax that is levied against residents within the boundaries of the community development district for Julington Creek Plantation. They provide graphs that indicate the cost has virtually doubled — largely because of increased costs of administration and salaries; not operating expenses and bond payments.
Community Development Districts are a creature of state law (1980), created with the original intent to finance the construction of real estate development infrastructure. These cost deferments are funded through bonds which are to be paid off by the district’s taxpayers over a period of time. A primary responsibility, of the CDD Board of Supervisors is to manage paying off these bonds. State law says that in the public interest, the CDD should not “outlive its usefulness”.
Photo credits: © 2014 Historic City News contributed photograph