Audit of 450th contracts return to City Commission agenda

During the last meeting of the St Augustine City Commission, Historic City News reported a controversial display of emotion from one commissioner that triggered a piling-on by the remaining commissioners against the city’s mayor, Nancy Shaver.

When the mayor suggested that an independent audit be performed to confirm that private vendors are in compliance with the terms and conditions of millions of dollars in taxpayer funded contracts related to the city’s 450th Commemoration, Commissioner Leanna Freeman flew into a hysterical rage and stormed out of the public meeting.

The mayor said that she has observed irregularities in purchasing and management of 450th contracts solicited by Dana Ste. Claire that don’t exist with bids and purchases negotiated in all the other city departments. Mayor Shaver pointed out that as she walked neighborhoods around the city during her campaign, a common, recurring concern of residents was what they saw as a lack of accountability and transparency when it came to the last four-year spending spree in the name of the “450th”.

Everyone seems to acknowledge that mistakes have been made when it comes to the 450th commemoration. Much of that criticism is focused on former mayor Joe Boles who, after eight-years in office, was defeated by Mayor Shaver in November. But, when Mayor Shaver said that she wanted an audit to establish exactly what mistakes have occurred and what corrective action is necessary, so that this commission won’t be further embarrassed, Vice Mayor Roxanne Horvath and Commissioner Freeman reacted immediately saying that neither of them is embarrassed.

Commissioner Todd Neville, who is a certified public accountant by profession, surprised some when he said he didn’t see the point of an audit at this time, after the fact. He offered that he would be satisfied to know that policies are corrected so that going forward there won’t be any more causes for concern. If his suggestion is followed, in essence he will be exonerating any former contractors, staff, or elected officials, who may have acted inappropriately before we even know the extent of those improprieties.

When Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline shared her experience as a new commissioner who came into office in the middle of a hot neighborhood controversy concerning a local skate park, created by a previous commission, she recalled that those commissioners apologized — drawing groans from Neville and Freeman who told her she had nothing to apologize for.

St Augustine Record reporter Sheldon Gardner wrote that the city manager does not intend to move forward with an audit. However, according to the agenda for Monday night’s city commission meeting, item 14 on the regular agenda reads:

“Discussion of 450th contract compliance. This agenda item, placed by Mayor Shaver, is to have a discussion on contractual policy review and compliance for 450th contracts. Items for discussion include, but are not limited to, resources (cost & time) to conduct such a review.”

If you plan to attend or would like to voice your opinion, the Regular Meeting of the St. Augustine City Commission will be held Monday, March 23rd, at 5:00 p.m. in the Alcazar Room of City Hall located at 75 King Street in St Augustine.

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