Martino: New Council Members Need to Demonstrate Leadership, Change and Transparency

In March of 2016, the Palm Beach Gardens City Council elections were held. Maria Marino, a new face, was certified as the Group 2 City Councilperson. Because of various court challenges to the election results in Group 4, newcomer Carl Woods had to wait until October 2016 to take his seat on the City Council. Both of these new Councilpersons were elected, in part, as a result of term limits.

Hopefully, Ms. Marino and Mr. Woods, recognize that embedded in their elections is the trust of the voters’ term limit expectations, of which at the top of the list are change and transparency. In my opinion, it is important that these two new Councilpersons move quickly to restore communication, openness, and accountability, as the foremost governing principles of the City Council.

Leadership from Ms. Marino and Mr. Woods must begin in earnest and begin now. As a result of term limits the March 2017 City Council elections will welcome three additional new faces to its body. Expectantly, these new faces will campaign to complete the term limit demands of change and transparency. Ms. Marino and Mr. Woods must provide the inspiration and the direction to motivate the new City Council to embrace the values of communication, openness, and accountability.

With the March 2017 City Council election results will come new potential, new opportunities and new challenges for the City’s future. I would like to offer my congratulations and best wishes for a successful tenure to Ms. Marino and Mr. Woods as they move the City forward..

Martino: PBG Truly Has a New Face

Congratulations to Mr. Carl Woods, Palm Beach Gardens new Group 4 City Councilperson. It’s been a long and arduous journey for Mr. Woods to navigate. His journey was an uncharted path of twists and turns littered with obstacles. For Gardens’ residents, it was an intriguing escapade to watch, witness, and wonder why this is happening.

Mr. Woods’ journey began in the latter part of 2015 when 3 candidates qualified to run for the Palm Beach Gardens City Council Group 4 seat, the incumbent David Levy, and the challengers Kevin Easton and Carl Woods. It ended on July 20, 2016 by order of a Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge declaring Carl Woods the winner of the March 14th election by default based on the fact that that Mr. Woods was the only eligible candidate left in the race. In between the beginning and the end the City Charter’s election and term limit language was questioned, lawsuits were filed by the candidates, the City, and the Supervisor of Elections; a candidate withdraw from the race; an ethics complaint was filed; an election was held on March 14th; a winner was declared but then ruled ineligible by the Palm Beach County Court of Appeals; the winner became a loser who resigned to avoid being ousted. Carl Woods, finally, took the oath of office as Group 4 City Councilperson on July 21, 2016.

Mr. Woods has successfully completed his difficult election journey but he now embarks on a new one. This journey is the art of governing. The challenges of governing in a Council-Manager form of local level government as a part-time elected official can be and often are complex and complicated. Creating and maintaining the balance in the chain of command between the residents, the City Council, and the City Manager is complex. The responsibility for the health, safety, welfare, and recreation of all the City’s residents is complicated.

Carl Woods has persevered in the face of adversity. He defended the words and meaning of the City’s Charter against incoherence. He fought for what he thought was his right. These are admirable traits and qualities that will serve him well as he begins his new journey as a City Councilperson.

In Carl Woods the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens truly has a new face.

(Editor note:  If you would like to see a timeline of the election see Sarah Peter’s article here.)

Subdued Council Passes All Items 4:0 and Showers City Manager Ferris with Praise

Much of the discussion during the July Council Meeting centered on subjects not originally on the agenda. All Ordinances and Resolutions passed 4:0 with the result that:

  • Property tax revenue will increase by 6% if millage is not lowered during the September Budget hearings. Maximum millage is set during July meetings throughout the state. The only usual proponent of lowering millage on the Council, Council Member Premuroso, stated that he saw no way to lower millage in the fall given upcoming Police and Fire/Rescue contracts, and city growth. He also said that the goal should be to continue to maintain flat millage. (Note – this means that as property valuations increase, your property taxes will go up accordingly – at differing rates depending on whether or not you own a homesteaded property). Save the date – September 8, 2016 at 7pm for the first 2016/2017 Budget Hearing.
  • PGA Station PUD amendments were approved. See a summary in Sarah Peters’ article here.
  • Resolution 52, 2016 – added to the Agenda at the meeting, allows for the City to call a Special Election concurrent with the November 8, 2016 General Election. This is a place holder should Circuit Court Judge Colin find for the City in the Levy/Woods Litigation conclusion within the next couple of weeks. The August City Council meeting would be too late to open candidate qualification. Should the judge seat Carl Woods, then the Council would withdraw Resolution 52 in August.  More detail below.
July 8, 2016

Mayor Tinsley began the meeting with a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub attack. She then brought up former Mayor/Council Member Levy’s resignation and read his resignation letter. She brought forward the City Attorney report to the beginning of the Agenda, so that Mr. Lohman could describe briefly the litigation time-table, enforcement of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on the Charter’s Term Limits retro-activity and Levy’s ineligibility to have run for office. Resolution 52, 2016 was added to the agenda. More detail here .  (NOTE:  PBGWatch was present at the most recent hearing – it is Max Lohman, on behalf of the City, that is arguing for a Special Election – otherwise Judge Colin would not be considering it.  We recommend that the Council read the transcript obtained by their attorney, and here is our summary of that hearing).

Presentations included Recognition of the City’s Spirit Team, and the  Sponsors of the Gardens Cup, which raises funds that are used to put on morale raising events for City Staff.

Comments From the Public included:

  • Tom Cairnes, of the PGA Corridor Association thanked David Levy for his contributions to the City, especially in all things environmental. He also hoped that the citizens wouldn’t end up regretting their actions comparing the term limits vote in 2014 to Brexit.
  • Ross Wilcox and William Papageorge, both residents living on Gardens Glen Circle, raised a Code Enforcement issue with a vehicle with trailer parking on the city street at all times. Mayor Tinsley and City Manager Ferris were reviewing the problem.
  • Carol Courtney of 40th Terrace N. cited concerns with how the City implemented the Sunset Dr/40th Terrace improvements without respect for environmental impacts.
  • Kevin Easton and Marilyn Parmet both asked that Resolution 52, 2016 not be voted on, that there not be a Special Election (ranging in costs up to $80K) and that Carl Woods be declared the winner of the March election.

Mr. Ferris began his City Manager Report by implying that the two residents didn’t understand that Resolution 52 was just a placeholder and that the Special Election would only cost $15K. (editor’s note – he was not understanding that they were saying the Council could end the need for such an election by seating Mr. Woods!)

Also included in the Mr. Ferris’ upbeat report was:

  • Well earned recognition for Km! Ra, Purchasing and Contracts Director, for a prestigious Excellence in Achievement Award for the 3rd year in a row. As Mr. Ra IS the Purchasing Department – he achieved a round of applause!
  • Congratulations to the City’s Police Explorers who one 1st place in the 2016 Law Enforcement Challenge for the 3rd year in a row.
  • Thanks to the Police Foundation for donating 40 infrared thermometers which can be used to detect temperature in parked vehicles.
  • Recognition by the City by interim Fire Chief Keith Breyer and the City to Juan Nunez, lifeguard at the Recreation Center for saving a toddler unresponsive in the swimming pool – see Lifeguard Receives Hero Award for more details.
  • The Chief also Recognized Km! Ra once again – this time for getting a $43K FEMA grant for 120 Personal Safety/Rescue Bailout System for the Fire Department.

During Items for Council Discussion, the Council did their annual City Manager Evaluation. It also happened to be Mr. Ferris’ birthday. He couldn’t have asked for a better present than the effusive praise, minimal critique if any, and the standing ovation given him by the Council and his staff….

Term Limits Affirmed – Levy Removed from Council


David Levy

As you may know, the 4th District Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge’s ruling that only a current term of office would count against the two term limit, and that 4 term Concilman David Levy had been eligible to run. The 3 Judge panel sent the case back to Trial Judge Martin Colin for action.

Today, Judge Colin ruled on one of two issues – that David Levy should be removed from office.

The second question – as to how the seat will be filled will be decided in the near future.

Plaintiff Carl Wood, the only remaining candidate from the March election after Kevin Easton withdrew and David Levy has been ruled ineligible, argues that he should be seated immediately.

The City on the other hand, represented by Attorney Max Lohman, is arguing that a special election is now required, open to any and all candidates interested in running.

Judge Colin has asked that written arguments and precedents in case law be supplied on the second question by next week and he will decide it in an expedited manner.

Seating Mr. Woods now seems like the obvious course of action to us. It is true that none of the three candidates on the ballot received a majority of the votes, and the judge previously decided that votes for Kevin Easton (who had withdrawn) should be considered in the totals implying a runoff election was necessary. But the runoff would have been between Levy and Woods. Now, with Levy ineligible, there is only one candidate remaining – so he should be declared the winner, much as Maria Marino was declared the winner when Takeeta Pang withdrew.

The city though has a different view – they appear to be so opposed to seating Mr. Woods that they are willing to spend even more taxpayer money on a special election on top of what they have contributed to the legal fees incurred in support of David Levy. It is not clear to us why the city even has a dog in this fight. With term limits decisively affirmed, and Mr. Levy removed, what do they seek to achieve?

Woods/Levy Litigation Hearing Wed 7/6 at 8am

FYI – in case you’d like to attend and show your interest in the case!

Where:  Main Courthouse at 205 N Dixie, West Palm Beach, Courtroom 10D – Judge Martin Colin

When:  Wednesday, July 6th at 8am

Note:  Parking meters along Quadrille.  There should be plenty of metered parking on the west side of the courthouse that early in the morning.  The security lines shouldn’t be too bad either.  Plan to allow 10 minutes to get through security and up the elevator from the time one arrives at the courthouse.

 

Next City Council Mtg on Thursday July 7th at 7PM

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

Consent Agenda includes 3 Purchase Awards:

  • Ancillary Health Benefit Plans – Openly competed – 2 year contract valued at $296K. “The City has a self-funded Group Health Plan that is administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Inc. The Group Health Plan is supplemented by various other Ancillary Health Benefits Plans that are available to employees and qualified dependents, including domestic partners. The current Ancillary Health Benefits Plans are: Life Insurance and Accidental Death & Dismemberment; Dental Insurance; Employee Assistance Program; Vision Care; and Long-Term Disability.”
  • Bunker Gear for Fire Rescue Department – Piggyback Contract – $99,990 upon delivery
  • Repairs to Allamanda Water Control Structure – Piggyback Contract – $292K

City Manager Report – no details listed

Public Hearings and Resolutions:

  • 2nd Reading Ordinance 5, 2016 – Police Pension Amendment.
  • Resolution 37, 2016: Tentative Maximum Millage rate will be set for Fiscal Year 2016/2017– it can be adjusted downward during the September Budget Hearings
  • Resolution 39, 2016 – Attention Sunset Drive/40th Terrace North/Brenna Lane property owners “Adopting a non-ad valorem special assessment roll for the design, construction, and installation of water utility and road improvements on 4Qth Terrace North, Sunset Drive, and Brenna Lane. ” Note: In accordance with the requirements of Section 197.3632(4), Florida Statutes, all affected property owners have been notified of the need for the special assessment, its cost, payment schedule, the effect of non-payment, the identities of the Benefitted Parcels, the right to appear and participate in a public hearing at the July 7, 2016 City Council Meeting at which this resolution is considered for adoption, the right to file written objections, and all other relevant information concerning this special assessment.
  • Two Art in Public Places resolutions – Harborchase Assisted Living Facility (Resolution 41, 2016) and Northlake Gardens, located in PHASE II of the Banyan Tree PUD (Resolution 42, 2016)
  • Resolution 45, 2016 – PGA Station Planned Unit Development (PUD) Amendment – A request for
    PGA Design Center

    PGA Design Center

    approval of a PUD Amendment to modify the 30.03-acre PGA Professional and Design Center PUD to allow a conversion of uses for a revised development program of 415,401 square feet of Professional Office, 49,279 square feet of Medical Office, 11,777 square feet of Retail, a 111 room Hotel, and 3,000 square feet of Restaurant, along with modifications to the master plan, landscape plan, sign program, and architecture.

  • Resolution 46, 2016 – The Applicant is requesting approval of two (2) temporary modular structures located on the Zimmer Biomet site (formerly known as Biomet 3i, Inc.) at the South Park Center Planned Unit Development (PUD) in the Northcorp Planned Community Development (PCD). Staff recommends approval of the request.

Items for Council Action/Discussion – the annual City Manager Evaluation

(Editorial Note – Noticeably absent from the published agenda is any discussion of the recent Fourth District Court of Appeals Court ruling that David Levy was ineligible to run in the March 2016 City Election. Mr. Levy’s name appears on the list of Council Members on the Meeting Agenda – see the latest Palm Beach Post article here.   A hearing is to be scheduled with the original judge, Judge Colin, in the near future.)

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

Martino: Levy and Council Outfox Themselves

Why does it take the Circuit Court and the District Court of Appeals to read and understand the City Charter of Palm Beach Gardens? Is the answer because the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens, its records’ keeper the appointed City Clerk, and its legal adviser the appointed City Attorney – CANNOT! No, I’m sure they all can read and understand the Charter language. But do they want to is the significant question? As written does the Charter language fit with their power agenda? Does the Charter language meet their obvious desires to maintain the status quo? The answer to those questions and others similar to them is, NO!

The City Council, its City Clerk , and its City Attorney, have tried to distort and misrepresent the Charter language as it applies to the City Election of March 14th, particularly, the Seat 4 results. First, they allowed the 4-term incumbent, David Levy, to be placed on the ballot as a candidate even though the Term Limit language in the Charter determined him to be ineligible. Second, when the election results were tabulated and none of the Seat 4 candidates gained a majority, as the Charter mandates, the City Clerk declared David Levy the winner based on faulty assumptions and imperfect Charter application.

The challenger, Carl Woods, filed suit as was his right. The Circuit Court ruled a runoff election should be scheduled while upholding the City Clerk’s interpretation that Levy was an eligible candidate. Thus, at this point both Levy and Woods have a victory. Levy beats the term limit retroactive eligibility provision and Woods gets the runoff election he sued for. So both candidates are in the ballgame and all they have to do is compete.

But competition and fairness is not good enough for Levy or the City Council. Levy appeals the Circuit Court decisions to the District Court of Appeals. The City Council votes to join the appeal process, in my opinion, without cause. The Appeals Court overrules the Circuit Court and sustains the Term Limits provision of the City Charter. The District Court of Appeals Judges clearly mandates that David Levy was and is an ineligible candidate. Thus, he should not have been on the ballot in the first instance. The decision renders all other issues moot. The case is sent back to the lower Court for final declaration which is pending

So it appears the City Council’s political shenanigans resulted in failure. It looks as if David Levy’s appeal is for naught and he is remanded to the sidelines instead of competing in a runoff election. What’s further distressing is that the residents of Palm Beach Gardens are not being dealt with seriously, truthfully, and responsibly by the City Council they elected to do just that. Instead, the residents are being dealt with cunningly, circuitously, condescendingly, and arrogantly.

Martino: The Charter is Clear! Why Appeal?

I have a question for anyone who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, and above all, our esteemed City Council. The question is, “Wouldn’t it be nice if the City Council could get acquainted with the City Charter, particularly, its words and their meaning?” Well, in my opinion, apparently with all their “experience” the current Council members have yet to master many of the words and much of the meaning of the City Charter.

Case in point is the bungling and embarrassment surrounding the March 15th 2016 City CouncilSeat 4 election. There were 15,970 total votes cast in this election contest as certified by the election canvas board. David Levy, the incumbent, received 6642 votes (41.6%) and Carl Woods the challenger, received 6256 votes (39.2%). Neither received a majority of the votes cast.

In Article IV: The City Council, Section 4-1. – Election the City Charter clearly states, in plain everyday good old-fashioned English, that it is a requirement for a candidate to receive a majority of the votes cast. When this does not occur, the Charter states a runoff election must be held. When the City Council and its Administration decided to play politics with the results of the March 15th Seat 4 election and not hold a runoff election as the Charter mandates, Carl Woods filed a lawsuit to establish his right to a runoff election. A Circuit Court judge ruled the City must obey its Charter and schedule a runoff election between Messieurs Levy and Woods. But lo and behold, the City Council and its Administration refuse to believe the Judge can read and so they have voted to appeal his decision.

That raises questions, questions, and more questions! Is the City Council dwarfing the will of the people’s Charter by trying to produce a dictatorial end that they, each of them, seek? Why involve the City in continuous, contentious, and costly litigation? I wonder if power has something to do with it. Are the Council members protecting one of their own, David Levy, the City Clerk, or perhaps both? Who is paying for David Levy’s personal lawyer, who incidentally, is affiliated with a law firm that regularly appears before the City Council on behalf of developers?

From my perspective, there is something very ominous in this dereliction of trust in the City Charter by the Gardens’ City Council. Is it a deliberate and direct falsification of the Charter’s words and meaning to support personal power and ambition? Is it a direct attempt to discount the will of the voter by sowing the seeds of discord and confusion? Is it none of this but simply plain incompetence? Only the City Council can give the correct answer but they never do.

This City Council never fails to disappoint. I have said this before, but I shall say it again – and again – and again. Collectively, this is an arrogant City Council that does not respect the sacred trust that was given to them upon their individual election. Palm Beach Gardens’ residents deserve better.

Martino: Term limits are now a part of political life in PBG

The November 4th election has come and gone. In Palm Beach Gardens the two Term Limits ballot initiatives were both big winners. As the City of Palm Beach Gardens has matured so has the mindset of its registered voters and they have embraced term limits as an asset that will improve the governing of the City.

The Gardens voters’ choice to insert Term Limits into the City Charter as another barometer for City elections affects the current long-time City Council members to some degree. It is understandable and perhaps only human nature that these Council members are undergoing a certain amount of disappointment. However, I would presume that these same Council members would understand that elections and ballot initiatives are part of the consequences of the job they accepted as candidates and officeholders.

In my opinion, the Palm Beach Gardens Term Limits initiatives were never intended to be a referendum on the current City Council Members nor a personal vendetta toward them. Unfortunately, some have made it so, including certain members of the present City Council.

For the City Council members not to facilitate the Term Limits initiative process is one thing, and possibly excusable. But haranguing and disparaging the results, as at least one City Council member has, is an insult to the residents of the City. These noisy, nonsensical, castigating remarks besmear, sully, and undermine the creditability of the City Council members individually and collectively.

The election is over and the results are in. Term limits are now a part of political life in Palm Beach Gardens. The City Council members should graciously accept that fact and move on. There are many pressing issues facing Palm Beach Gardens that need their undivided attention. They should move forward and discuss them.

Term Limits Passes in a Landslide

Voters answered both Gardens’ ballot questions  with a resounding ‘YES”;  Question 1 received 79% of the vote and Question 2, 68%.  Read Tony Doris’ article in today’s paper for additional background.

Total votes cast back in the City’s March 2014 Municipal Elections was 7167.  (See Analysis post for more details) That was an unusually high turnout at 19% of registered voters.   7-12% turnout is more typical in the Municipals.  The winners’ margins of victory were measured in the hundreds.   When any of our council is elected or re-elected because there is no opponent, or by such low turnouts and close margins it is difficult to say any of them are there by a mandate.  That is not so much a reflection on the candidates as it is voter apathy during local elections, and one reason why we in PGBWatch want to foster citizen participation!

There is no doubt with numbers like those shown below, that a much larger portion of the City’s voters were paying attention.   This time, as in the vote for the Ethics and Inspector General Ordinances in 2010, the residents’ desires were loud and clear!

Results from the Supervisor of Elections website

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