Ordinance will govern removal from city boards

The City of St Augustine has approved, on a 4-to-1 vote with Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline dissenting, Ordinance 2018-11; a new ordinance that frames the way members of volunteer boards, commissions, and committees, can be removed from those bodies.

The most recent need for such an ordinance was the federal indictment of St Augustine Planning and Zoning Board vice chairman, Deltra Lynette Long.  City Attorney Isabelle Lopez relied on Florida statutes for guidance; however, the new ordinance would have been enough to accomplish the removal.

At the Monday night meeting, Historic City News learned that various specific boards have limited language regarding removal of members under limited circumstances — some have none.

At the July 9, 2018 city commission meeting, Lopez was given direction to draft one, holistic ordinance to address the appointments and removals of citizen board members; providing for consistent removal procedures across all boards, with or without cause.  The ordinance creates “at will” board membership for city boards.

To accomplish approval of this new ordinance, it was necessary to repeal Section 28-85 and to amend Sections 2-52, 2-191, 2-211, 28-57, and 28-58 of the City Code.

The City recently amended Section 2-03 to provide that the “regulation of public ethics shall be as required pursuant to Florida law.” Therefore, the separate provisions regarding conflict of interest were removed.

Highlights of the new amendment:

  • Changes to Section 2-52:  Deletes a provision that provides an automatic forfeiture for a violation of the Conflict of Interest provision for any board member.
  • Changes to Section 2-191:  Provides that all board members serve at the pleasure of the City Commission and may be removed by a majority vote of the Commission without cause. Provides a notice requirement and a right for the member to be heard. Removes the word “bureau” as we have no city bureaus. Removes a provision that automatically vacates a seat for a member who misses three consecutive meetings.
  • Changes to Section 2-211:  Deletes a provision to automatically vacate a Code Enforcement Board member’s office after two unexcused absences in three successive meetings.
  • Changes to Section 28-57:  Deletes a provision that provides an automatic dismissal for a violation of the Conflict of Interest provision for a member of the Planning and Zoning Board.
  • Changes to Section 28-58:  Repeals a provision that automatically considers a Planning and Zoning Board member to have resigned a seat if the member has two unexcused absences in 3 successive meetings.
  • Changes to Section 2-211:  Repeals the ordinance that automatically considers a member of the Historical Architectural Review Board to have resigned a seat if the member has two unexcused absences in 3 successive meetings.

Long was charged with one-count of theft of government funds and one-count of false claims against the government.  She is facing a maximum sentence of five-years in federal prison on the theft count, and up to ten-years on the false claims count, if convicted. The indictment also notifies Long that the United States intends to forfeit over $10,000, which is alleged to be traceable to proceeds of the offense.  An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has violated one or more of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.