In the last budget meeting, City officials announced their intention to cut funding pursuant to a contract made in February 2009 with former commissioner and Mayor George Gardner to write and distribute a periodic newsletter on behalf of the Department of Public Affairs.
During the time that Gardner was in office, he started “The Report” as an independent communiqué for his friends and political supporters.
In 2002 and again in 2004, Gardner was elected Mayor of St. Augustine.
Gardner decided to run again in 2006; however, he ran against Peter Romano for commissioner — not against Joe Boles for mayor. That decision made it possible for current mayor, Joe Boles, to be elected.
With roles reversed for the next two years, there was speculation that Gardner would challenge Boles for mayor in 2008. To the surprise of some who were familiar with the arrangement, Gardner laid-out of the race in November — Mayor Boles was re-elected; against two other candidates.
Boles began his last term in January 2009; he now earns $19,691.92 each year. He will have to run again next year if he wants to remain in office; because, the Mayor’s seat is a two-year seat.
Because he did not challenge Boles, Gardner left his St. Augustine City Commission seat in January 2009 earning $14,768.94 a year. He signed his new $15,000.00 a year “St. Augustine Report” contract with the City just a few weeks later in February.
Historic City News obtained a copy of the contract with the former mayor in order to understand its terms. The agreement says, “Payment for $1,250 will be made to the contractor after the first of each month and within 15 days after receipt of an invoice indicating the number of issues published in the month, the date of distribution of each issue, and the total number of recipients of each issue.”
Gardner told Historic City News, in an e-mail received earlier this week, publication of “The Report” is his “continuing effort to bring all elements of our community together”. Even though the City is cutting funding for the publication, Gardner intends to continue its publication at his own expense. “My decision was not based on conflict,” Gardner said. “Conflict makes good news copy, but not much progress.”
The contract does have a provision that landed Gardner squarely in a position that has become uncomfortable for him. The contract says, “Prior to the publication of each issue, the contractor will secure written approval of the contents from the Public Affairs Director.”
Gardner told us, “Tuesday night, I was with the city manager at a neighborhood meeting discussing ways to keep Lincolnville’s Galimore Center open — after the county drops its support at the end of the month.”
City Manager John Regan, who Gardner says he respects, believes the City should take the county payoff and not continue operating the Galimore pool in the future. Gardner sees things differently.
There are some more issues that Gardner says warrant “brick-bats” for the administration at City Hall — “like previous development efforts in 450th commemoration planning and the decision to close the Colonial Spanish Quarter”.
Since Gardner holds different views than his “publisher” in certain cases, he told us, “I couldn’t be expected to criticize shortfalls; however, as an independent publication, I can.”
Gardner does not see everything at City Hall as “broken”, he said. “Both the City Manager and I expect his administration to receive “bouquets” for good decisions.” Gardner pointed out that it was John Regan, while serving as the City’s Chief Operating Officer, “who perfected community outreach and public workshops on major programs and projects”.
Of Regan — Gardner said, “We respect each other’s passion for keeping our community in the loop in our government’s decision-making process.”
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer