Martino: Flagrant Disregard for the Rights to Open Government

On February 12th the Palm Beach Post published a letter from a former Palm Beach Gardens resident, Mr. Gary Alexander, who now lives in Ibis Golf & Country Club in West Palm Beach. From my perspective his letter struck at the heart of what is wrong with the government that the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens is perpetrating on the Gardens residents. That wrong is a flagrant disregard for the rights of the public to open government.

Mr. Alexander desired information on the Avenir project that he was, and is, rightfully entitled to. He did the right thing. He requested to review the pertaining documentation at the City Hall. According to the article, apparently, there was no City employee available to watch over Mr. Alexander as he reviewed the documents. If there had been an employee available to babysit him “the hourly fee could be $43 on up, depending on who was free. No one was free, so no review was possible”. This is an all too familiar, but feckless attempt, at open government.

This arrogance toward the public’s right to information is a continuing saga of betrayal of the trust bestowed to Gardens City Council members upon their election. It is my opinion, that this City Council continuously deprives the public of the thought processes, discussions, and policy directions that they employ in their decision-making process as required by the Sunshine Law. Whatever the issue, how the City Council members determine their vote seems to be a mystery.

I ask the City Council to solve the following mystery votes at a regular City Council meeting…

* As the “baseball stadium fiasco” became a deepening mystery that the City Council claimed to know nothing about, the City Manager was flitting around the USA and Canada from Houston, to Arizona, and to Toronto, coercing baseball teams to come to a spring training baseball stadium in Palm Beach Gardens. Money was spent to hire a Public Relations firm, with close ties to one of the baseball teams promoting the Gardens site, to sell the baseball stadium to the residents. Money and time was spent for presentation materials at various public and private meetings. Where did these monies come from and who authorized these monies to be spent? Who selected the site? There are so many unanswered questions about the secretive process this “baseball stadium fiasco” tracked. City Council members claim to know nothing about anything. Why? Who does? And on and on the mystery goes…

* Mystery! The Palm Beach Gardens Municipal Golf Course is mysteriously renamed to Sandhill Crane Golf Course and the City Council knew nothing. If they don’t, who does?

* The City Council voted to move the Avenir project on the road to approval at a Quasi-Judicial Public Hearing after the Mayor announced a mysterious 485 reduction in housing units which was never discussed in the public hearing or any other public forum. At the hearing the City Council did not acknowledge the density reduction or question the process or ask how or when did this happen. Thus, I am asking the City Council when and where the mysterious density reduction discussions were held, what was the content of the discussions, and who where the mysterious participants.

* A City Park is named after a sitting City Council member but no vote by the City Council at an advertised City meeting was held. How, when and where was this mysterious decision made, and by who, and why?

It’s time for the City Council to answer these lingering questions and solve these mysteries, publicly.

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