The Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon is paid hundreds of thousands of tax dollars annually, as is Palm Coast City Attorney Bill Reischamm. Both are employees of five elected individuals — Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts and City Councilmen Jason DeLorenzo, Bill McGuire, David Ferguson and Bill Lewis.
As any other employer, the mayor and City Council members are responsible to manage their employees. Section 2 (C)(8) of the City Charter clearly states the city manager has the responsibility to see that all laws and provisions of the charter are faithfully executed. It was stated in the Feb. 27 issue of the Palm Coast Observer, “I don’t understand what the issue is,” City Manager Jim Landon said. “From a legal standpoint … every possible issues has been addressed.”
This alone speaks volumes and should be of concern to the city's elected officials, as Mr. Landon’s statement was not accurate: The city has not yet fully cooperated by addressing a very important matter because they have not requested the virtually free formal opinion (that only they can request) to confirm they have met all the requirements to modify their city charter following the 2011 elections.
Landon and Reischmann were each paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2011 and should have done their homework at that time so there would not be issues in 2013 or 2014 to address. Currently, it is unknown if how they addressed issues I raised has been correct and legal.
The city manager is believed to have miserably failed his employers by placing the 2011 ballot referendum item to change the city elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years on the primary election ballot instead that of a general election ballot or a special election ballot for that specific purpose.
He also failed to modify the charter language — all of which posed problems when I began to prepare a Palm Coast interlocal agreement to conduct the 2014 city elections, because I am required to follow Section 8 (elections) of the City Charter as well as Florida Statutes Chapters 97-106 when conducting elections. As a result, in recent months I brought election issues that I identified to the attention of the City Council, mayor and city manager.
The issues should have concerned all of them enough to do all that they could to protect the pocketbooks of the taxpayer, knowing a city election in 2014 could possibly be challenged and could result in hundreds of thousands of tax dollars being at risk, and the confidence of the people they represent could be shaken.
To date, the city has not obtained confirmation confirming they met all requirements in 2011 to allow the city to modify its charter changing its election cycle from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, which may put the taxpayers at risk of a costly election challenge regardless of whether the city conducts its own election in 2014 or if the election is conducted by the supervisor of elections.
The issues I raised as supervisor of elections apparently were valid, otherwise the city would not have addressed them by adopting ordinances in late January 2014. The need to adopt ordinances should have been a big red flag for the city's elected officials because if their employees (city manager and city attorney) were properly doing their job in 2011, there would not have been any issues to raise that required attention and the need to adopt ordinances. Because the “big red flag” existed, the city should have cooperated with me by requesting the formal opinion as I requested to protect the taxpayers’ pocket book against any challenges.
The council members and mayor may have remained silent as the city attorney and city manager handled the issues; however, the council members and mayor are elected and are ultimately responsible.
The city has tried to spin this story in the media over the past couple of months to take the focus off of them and place the focus on me by repeatedly making the claim the supervisor of elections hasn’t been cooperative when this is far from the truth. But perhaps this is their way of taking attention away from the issue at hand.
The fact of the matter is, I never changed my position and perhaps this has frustrated the city. I brought concerns to the attention of the city in September 2013, and it wasn’t until late January 2014 that the city adopted ordinances to attempt to correct matters. It is unknown at this point if such action was a legal or proper measure to take. It wasn’t until Feb. 28, 2014, that the city responded directly to a yes or no question I asked of them on Dec. 6, 2013 (and several times thereafter): “Does the city of Palm Coast intend for this office to conduct an election for them in 2014?”
It took nearly three months to get this simple question answered by the city, yet Reischmann ... recently made an inaccurate statement by stating he and the city clerk have been diligently working with me to try to have the 2014 elections conducted by the elections office.
Since I have raised many issues over the past several months, the city repeatedly claimed it was capable and prepared to conduct its own election, and this may have itself created voter confusion, just as it may have when the city referred to the city of Palm Coast Supervisor of Elections/City Clerk on the city website. This information was removed from the city website about a week ago.
The city has never conducted its own election, and my concern is if (city officials) can’t follow the simple laws and rules to modify their city charter without issues being raised, how in the world would they ever be able to conduct an election that the voters could have confidence of being honest and fair? There’s no doubt if the city conducted its own election that the mayor and City Council would remain silent if issues were raised, and the city attorney and city manager would, without fail, do all that they could to convince the citizens everything was just fine, even if it wasn’t.
Bottom line is, if there are any election challenges filed following the 2014 city of Palm Coast elections, the City Council, mayor, city manager and city attorney are responsible and should be held financially responsible for not doing all in their power to protect the taxpayers’ pocket book by obtaining or attempting to obtain confirmation that they have met all the requirements to modify their charter to hold an election in 2014.
Because the voters and taxpayers of Palm Coast are in a no-win situation with possibly facing the risk of an election challenge — regardless of whether the city or I conduct city elections in 2014 — I want to put their minds at ease as to the fairness and honestly of an election.
Therefore, I will present the city with an interlocal agreement to conduct elections for the city in 2014, and I am hopeful the city will cooperate by entering into the agreement. So, yes Mayor Netts, the negative impact on the voters of this community would be immeasurable if you and the council don’t allow this office to conduct this or any election for the city, and you have known this since the issues were raised and you failed to cooperate.
By conducting the Palm Coast municipal election, I am in no way saying the city met all requirements to modify their City Charter following the 2011 elections, nor am I agreeing that because the city addressed issues I have raised since the 2011 elections that they have been properly or legally addressed. It is unfortunate the city refused to request the formal opinion that only it could request to obtain confirmation that it met all requirements following the 2011 elections, changing its election schedule from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, to know if would be legal for the city to hold an election in 2014, as this may have provided protection to the taxpayers and provided confidence to the voters that what is being done is legal and fair.
The operations of the elections office is done with integrity. I, too, am elected by the people, and I work for those whom I represent. I do not follow the lead of employees such as Landon and Reischmann. I follow the laws of the state of Florida.
Kimberle B. Weeks
Flagler County Supervisor of Elections