Historic City News readers often complain in comments about how elected members of St Augustine’s city commission and its appointed boards are ill prepared to discuss agenda items; having frequently not done their homework before the meeting. This continues despite improvements by city staff who have enhanced the availability, quality and completeness of copies of each Monday night’s agenda and backup material.
Mayor Nancy Shaver tells Historic City News editor Michael Gold that she wants everyone engaged in the successful implementation of the city’s latest mobility initiatives.
“Frankly, I’ve been asked some tough questions from residents so, in the absence of the city manager, I alerted assistant city manager, Tim Burchfield, to the topics so that everyone could be prepared to discuss them at tonight’s meeting,” Shaver explained. “I was very disappointed to learn that our consultant had a last minute change of plans and was not able to attend or provide a substitute from the company who could provide some meaningful responses.”
Instead, Public Works Director Martha Graham approached the podium to read a few brief remarks, surprisingly lacking in any degree of specificity given the scope of work submitted by Littlejohn Engineering Associates when they were first engaged for this project.
Shaver says we’re about 30% of the way through the tasks contracted for in PHASE I; however, when she’s asked to see any of the “deliverables”, some of which were supposed to be presented to the public during the Monday evening meeting or before, they aren’t available. Littlejohn has already blown through about half of the first $108,000 installment that, theoretically, would be fully earned by August or September.
Although documents aren’t really necessary for the kind of Teaberry Shuffle we’ve grown to expect from commissioners in St Augustine who waste a lot of their discussion time patting themselves and their cronies on the back, heaping often unjustified praise on one another, Monday night being no exception.
When the mayor started firing specific performance questions at Martha Graham, questions that commanded specific answers and responses the mayor was fully prepared to evaluate, the mood of the three-blind-mice was stunned. Shaver raised questions about the work done so far on the mobility plan, as well as conflicts of interest with appointments to the Mobility Advisory Task Force by City Manager John Regan. One of those controversial appointments is Commissioner Todd Neville’s wife, Heather.
Obviously hearing the material for the first time, or at least for the first time that he paid any attention to it, Commissioner Neville asked, “Where are you reading that from?” The mayor pointed to the written scope of work provided by the consultant and spreadsheet breaking down the expense estimates by category and expected completion dates. “You haven’t put any of that on the agenda,” Neville objected. “I’m not prepared to discuss those items,” he said.
This criticism from the man who is notorious for meeting over lunch with one or two key staff members, like the city attorney, or city manager; then, bringing those personal agenda items up, unannounced, during “commissioner comments” — the very last item of business for the night.
Mayor Shaver says her key question is where we are on this project. She asked where the project plan is, and for a list of hours burned, as well as which tasks have been completed. She also said there’s a gap in reaching out to neighborhood associations for the mobility project and that she is concerned about how we are going to move forward in a way that is transparent to everyone in the city who is paying for this.
Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline is obviously rattled by Shaver’s questions and her own inability to find a copy of the scope of work and other Littlejohn documents. “Did you make copies of the contracts for us?” Sikes-Kline askes, her voice cracking with frustration. “You provided this information to the city manager before tonight’s meeting?” The mayor calmly replied, “Yes I did, and Commissioner Neville, this presentation and discussion is on the agenda for tonight.”