Martino: Erosion of Council-Manager Form of Government

From my perspective, the August 4th Palm Beach Gardens City Council meeting further emphasized my concerns about the deterioration of the Council-Manager form of government in Palm Beach Gardens. On exhibit was the City Council members’ usual lack of questioning, discussion, and thought sharing among themselves and with the public concerning the agenda items.

On display, once again, at the August 4th meeting was the shabby treatment of the rightful concerns raised by the Shady Lakes residents concerning their perception of the damage being done to their quality of life. This modes’ operandi has become a staple of the Palm Beach Gardens City Council. The Council all too often has chosen to stiffen its neck to concerns rightfully raised by its constituents. It avoids conversation about resident concerns and allows the administration to often debase them. The City Council has become tone deaf and devoid of compassion and understanding. It is one thing to defend a policy position but when the defense becomes contemptuous a hostile environment is often the result.

The lack of serious conversation and discussion among the City Council members concerning August 4th agenda items is a matter of grave concern. The absence of serious discussion, conversation and thought sharing among the City Council members has become business as usual for them. It deprives the public of its right to information and it has been going on for too long. The advertised August meeting had 16 items for approval on the consent agenda, many of which could and should have had had a word or two of conversation by the Council so the Public could better understand the City Council’s willing consent. The Public Hearing portion of the agenda contained 3 items. Yes, there was little in the way of comment by the Public, but there was even less to none in the way of comments and or questions from the Council members. All that the public attendees heard were the developers’ explanations which were blessed by the staff, and followed by the comment “Staff recommends approval”. Then the compliant City Council approved favorable motions with its usual tag along 5 to 0 votes.

To describe the current practice of governing by the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens as a Council-Manager form of government is dubious at best. In my opinion, the current practice of governing has become and is Administrative driven, led by non-elected bureaucrats. The City of Palm Beach Gardens government is no longer led by the City Council, the persons elected and entrusted to do so. This erosion of the public’s right to control its government is not incipient but has been maturing for a decade or more. This subjugation of the representative rights of the public to bureaucrats, whether accidental or calculated, is shameful and needs correction.

Carl Woods Takes His Seat on the City Council

The ‘new’ Council was finally complete, 5 months after the Municipal Elections. Council Member Woods, while sworn in a couple of weeks ago, formally took the Oath of Office at the beginning of the meeting and made a short, heartfelt and humorous statement.

EMS Division Chief James Ippolito described, and others spoke about the City, first in Palm Beach County, receiving the American Heart Association 2016 Mission Lifeline EMS Gold Award. Kudos to Fire/Rescue.

All Public Hearings/Resolutions and the Consent Agenda passed 5:0, with discussion on two Consent Items:

  • Resolution 60, 2016, approving the crossing agreement with the City, FEC and All Aboard Florida (AAF), was described by the City Attorney. Changes to the existing agreement primarily was caused by the addition of AAF, and the construction/maintenance entailed by the addition of a 2nd track.
  • Resident Vito DeFrancesco expressed concern with wording in the Settlement Agreement Alexander V. The City of Palm Beach Gardens, Et. Al.,  which sounded like the agreement was not being publicly recorded and thus avoiding Freedom of Information requests. City Attorney Lohman replied that the entire text of the settlement was in the City’s records (and in the agenda details) and that the wording of the phrase which concerned Mr. DeFrancesco, was commonly used to mean that private suits are not recorded with the County Clerk.**
August 4, 2016

Comments from the Public resulted in the most discussion:

  • Sid Dinerstein, of the Palm Beach County Term Limits Committee, and initiator of the lawsuit challenging David Levy’s eligibility for office, challenged the new Council to resolve and take two votes that night:
    1) Get the people’s money back from the City Attorney for the Term Limits lawsuit
    2) Start paying for the Inspector General
    City Manager Ferris replied, during his report, that the City Attorney acted at the behest of the City. He did not address the IG Lawsuit. Nor did the Council pursue either subject later in the meeting.
  • Cynthia Medley, raised an issue regarding construction of the new City Park. Her property is adjacent to the park and construction has made lights fall in her kitchen, construction seems to be happening on the weekend as well.
  • Shady Lakes was the topic for Kathy Beamer and Jeff Hiscock. Ms. Beamer stated that the construction contract for the 3 parts of the project was issued in November, 2015 – several months before the plans were approved, and that her FOIA requests went unanswered on the contract. She also pointed out that each of the 3 portions of the project came in under $2 million, which is the point at which a project must go out for public bid. Was that to avoid public scrutiny? Beamer also asked once again that the 117th project be completed before starting Shady Lakes, and re-assess. Mr. Hiscock also added, ‘why the rush?’ – delay the Shady Lakes construction until next year and re-visit the vote when the new council is seated. (Note – 3 seats are up for election in the March 2017 Municipal Election). The subject resulted in immediate responses from Mayor Tinsley, Mr. Ferris and Mr. Lohman – each pointing out different aspects of the project including:
    • Fire/Rescue need for second entry
    • Shady Lakes tied into agreement for 117th with School Board
    • Traffic reassessment still resulted in need for the Shady Lakes component
    • Access to the City Park/Tennis Center via Shady Lakes Drive is both shorter and avoids the schools
    • The project was voted on over a year ago, each part having separate Council votes with estimates under $2 million.

At this point, Comments from the Public resumed. Other Comments made before and after the Shady Lakes ‘interruption’ include:

  • Resident Vito DeFrancesco pointed out that Mr. Woods should have been seated in March, and was denied so due to a misinterpretation by staff of the Charter. He also said that all votes taken since March should be reworked. (Note – since the Council has voted unanimously 4:0 or 5:0 on all items since that time – no different outcome would have resulted – although clearly had Council Member Woods had a strong argument differing with those votes, he could have swayed the remainder of the Council, changing the results.)
  • Barbara McQuinn (candidate for School Board District 1) and Tony Bennett (Candidate for County Commission District 1) both introduced themselves.
  • Tom Murphy, President of the PBG Police Foundation, reminded the public that the deadline for the 9/11 essay contest is coming up. See details here.
  • Michael Marsh, of Vero Beach – who has spoken several times on his friend Corey Jones as well as use of body cameras, thanked the City for how fast it implemented the cameras and changed Policy and Procedures.
  • Troy McDonald, on the Council of Stuart, came to congratulate Mr. Woods and to offer advice on attaining public office.
  • Barbara Grossman read parts of a letter she had sent to the Council detailing safety issues with All Aboard Florida.

During Items for Council Action/Discussion – Mayor Tinsley asked that there be a Proclamation drafted to honor and thank former Mayor and Councilman David Levy at the next Council meeting in September. All were in agreement.

**PBGWatch has a different issue with the Settlement between Mr. Alexander, Avenir and the City. Mr. Alexander is NOT a resident of Palm Beach Gardens. He lives in IBIS. So should a Charter Review Committee be assembled, our position is that it should consist of Residents of the City. We will raise the issue when the subject arises before the Council in the future.


Next City Council Mtg on Thursday August 4th at 7PM

The next City Council Meeting will be this Thursday, August 4, at 7pm in City Hall.

Consent Agenda includes:

  • Resolution 60, 2016 – Crossing Agreement between FEC, All Aboard Florida and the City regarding the 2nd set of tracks and the City intersections.
  • Four other resolutions regarding attendance of Mayor Tinsley at Florida League of Cities annual conference, Seacoast Utility Easement, approving the Atlantico at Palm Beach Gardens Plat, and repealing the resolution from July calling for a Special Election pending the results of Levy vs Woods.
  • Seven Purchase Awards:
    • Fire/Rescue EMS Supplies – opting to renew contract on year to year basis – $120k/year – piggyback contract
    • Gasoline/Diesel Fuel – bulk fuel purchase for City’s fleet – Piggyback on State of Florida contract – 3 year term with total contract value of $2.250 Million
    • Stop Loss insurance Coverage on City’s Group Health Insurance Plan (self-funded), publicly bid on 1/30/15 and renewable every year for a five year term. Total contract value $1.8 Million
    • Installation of Concrete Pavers at Veterans Plaza – publicly bid – $106K
    • Veterans Plaza Outdoor Audience Shade Structure – publicly bid $145K
    • Driving Simulator for Tactical Training Center – piggyback/access contract through federal government – $119K
    • Force Training Simulator for Tactical Training Center – piggyback/access contract through federal government – $69K

City Manager Report – no details listed

Public Hearings and Resolutions:

  • Resolution 50, 2016 – Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) 1-Year Annual Plan Submission – since the City became eligible for HUD CDBG in 2015, it must submit action plans annually and is eligible to receive $182,698 in 2016-2017.
  • Resolution 54, 2016 – Amendment to OakBrook Shopping Center Master Signage Plan (NE corner of PGA and US1) to allow Starbucks, a tenant, to display its logo in its federally registered trademark color/font. Approved by PZAB 7:0.
  • Resolution 55, 2016 – Amendment to Gardens East Plaza PUD (aka Promenade Plaza) to convert the theater use to fitness center and retail, update restaurant use and parking calculations.
  • Resolution 43, 2016 – Approving and Ratifying agreement with the PBA for Police Officers, Sergeants and Communications Operators for Fiscal Years 2016-2019. See the entire agreement here. The agreement was ratified on June 2, 2016 with a vote of 59:2.
    • “Salaries (Article 32): The proposal adjusts the salary range minimums and maximums for all bargaining unit positions by 3% in the first year of the contract. This adjustment will address internal equity, control compression, and maintain external competitiveness of being within the top five (5) of comparable Palm Beach County municipalities. Additionally, all employees will receive a 6% increase to base salary effective October 1, 2016, 2017, and 2018. These proposed salary increases will cost a total of approximately $1,837,624 over the three- (3) year contract.
    • The estimated increase in the proposed assignment pays, as provided by Articles 3 and 42, will cost a total of approximately $158,715 over the three- (3) year contract. As a result, the three- (3) year total estimated cost of the contract including assignment pay and salaries will be approximately $1 ,996,339. “
  • Resolution 47, 2016 – Adopting the 2016-2017 Fees and Charges Schedule
    • “Consistent with the department’s business plan, the City conducts an annual survey on various fees that are charged for programs and services provided to the public. Staff took a comprehensive look at the fees focusing on field permits, room rentals, and aquatic and tennis center rates. Based upon the data collected from the survey, the department is proposing to significantly increase some of the rates for non-resident participants while only slight increases are being proposed for City residents, thus allowing the City to remain on a competitive level with Palm Beach County and surrounding municipalities.”
    • See the details here. The changes will be effective 10/1/16.

Check the agenda to see if any additional items have been added before the meeting here.