PB: Council of Embarrassment Part II

by SDM

After the village council adopted its budget – probably illegally (i.e., no motion, no second) – it took a three-minute break for about 20 minutes. SDM used the time to decompress from the stress of watching the Mayor “self-immolate” as one of SDM’s commenters wisely observed.

After a self-indulgent presentation by School Board Member Larry Feldman and members of the “education compact” committee, the council took the Palmer item out of order and the real fun started.

The question of what exactly constituted the Palmer item was the first order of business. The village attorney seemed to indicate that the so-called “take-it-or-leave-it” final offer was merely a bargaining ploy. She suggested to the council that they ask Palmer to rise and address them on what exactly they were offering.

After some remarks by the council, Palmer’s Board Chairman told the council that their counter-offer was the base starting point but that Palmer wanted to meet with residents and get their input, too. Then, he sat down.  (Sometimes, a short statement beats the hell out of talking too much.)

The council opened the floor for public comments and the usual suspects got up and pontificated about how Palmer’s offer was unacceptable and how schools ruin their property values, yada, yada, yada. (Seriously, if that statement were true, then why are homes in Palmetto Bay and Pinecrest in such great demand?)

Regular commenter and SDM sleuth Andy Newman offered to participate in solving the problem, though he took no position on the actual item. (Blessed are the peace makers.)

The last speaker was the attorney for CCOCI who rejected Palmer’s settlement and hinted at a third-party challenge should the village modify the development order as part of the settlement. (Let the war continue!)

By the time the matter got to the village council, SDM really wasn’t sure what Palmer was proposing. Was the school willing to modify its position during discussions over drafting a final settlement agreement? (Palmer lawyer Stanley Price seemed to say so.) Or, was the letter the non-negotiable agreement? (As the other Palmer lawyer Sean Cleary stated.)

SDM figured the council would notice the inconsistency in the position and ask a simple question: what do you want us to do tonight? How do we move this ball forward?

But the council didn’t do that. Vice Mayor Dubois seemed to have a handle on what he wanted, which was to accept the Palmer offer with modifications regarding lighting and a couple other issues.

The problem was that Mayor Stanczyk and Councilwoman Lindsay couldn’t get past the semantics of the offer. Stanczyk couldn’t get over her need to lecture Palmer about how they have conducted themselves over the past 6 years. In fact, every time the council seemed to move toward a clearer understanding of a path forward, the Mayor would sidetrack the conversation into some tangential subject.

At one point, Councilwoman Lindsay asked Palmer lawyer Price why the settlement was removing most of the 80 ridiculous conditions imposed on Palmer. Price answered that their legal theory was that the village violated the school’s constitutional rights and those conditions were “fruits of the poisonous tree,” meaning they all flowed from the illegal act and were therefore illegally applied to Palmer.

Stanczyk either never heard of this legal doctrine or didn’t understand why it was important because she began one of her customary lectures. How the attorney stood there and listened to her without jumping over the dais still boggles SDM’s tiny brain.

There was also a little back and forth between Councilwoman Lindsay and Price. After Price answered Lindsay’s question, she wouldn’t accept his explanation and badgered him for an answer he had neither intention or reason to give her. Price said, “this is why it’s impossible to negotiate when a litigant is sitting on the dais” or something like that. (Councilwoman Lindsay’s conflict of interest must be addressed either by herself or by the village attorney. It is unacceptable to pretend it doesn’t exist.)

Once all the back and forth was about to be completed just before midnight, the village attorney reminded the council that they had to extend the meeting by a super majority vote. Uh oh. SDM thought this would be the end of the night. Clearly, Stanczyk and Lindsay didn’t want to deal with the Palmer settlement. They would vote against extending and the settlement would be dead in the water, right? Wrong my furry little friend.

Mayor Stanczyk called for a vote to extend and only Shelley voted no. Huh?

So the meeting continued and at least one member seemed to be paying attention because Vice Mayor Dubois decided to push his item along. He claimed the floor and announced he was going to proceed through several items so that the council could take a vote on an amended item.

Before he spoke a full sentence, Councilwoman Lindsay interrupted him to say she wanted to reconsider her vote to extend the meeting. (SDM Wondered: Would the third set of reconsideration motions be handled better? Of course not!)

Mr. Dubois wasn’t going to be sidetracked this time. He reclaimed the floor and went through a couple of modifications, asking Palmer if they would accept them. They did. (SDM Note: Dubois noted that the lighting issue could not be resolved by settlement, but had to be addressed at a later hearing. Wisely, he set that controversial issue aside.)

Now it was Mayor Stanczyk’s turn to make a fool of herself, again. When Dubois finished, but before he could get his motion before the council, Stanczyk pushed the reconsideration. (You really should watch the end of the meeting because SDM is not describing Shelley’s chaos properly.) To summarize, Stanczyk wasn’t sure of the status of the reconsideration motion.

She cajoled Councilwoman Lindsay – who appeared to have done a head count and figured out that she didn’t have the votes to reconsider – into restating her motion for reconsideration. Then, Stanczyk asked for a second. Nothing…crickets were chirping, so she handed the gavel to the Vice Mayor and seconded the motion herself.

SDM Codebreaker: Now, let us pause for a second to consider what Mrs. Stanczyk did here.

Mistake One: Never give the gavel to your opponent. She handed over the chair duties to the guy she was trying to defeat; gave him the discretion to call and announce the vote. Dumb.

Mistake Two: Before you demand a vote, understand what the consequences are. Though a vote to extend the meeting requires four votes, a motion to reconsider only requires a simple majority. When no one seconded the motion to reconsider, by definition that means she only had two votes: herself and Lindsay. Why call a vote you’re going to lose?

This sequence reminded SDM of certain sports bloopers, like when a quarterback calls for a timeout at the end of the game only to find out he had none left. The result: game over.

Once “Mme. Reconsideration” finished her humiliation, a vote on the Vice Mayor’s motion was called and it passed three to two.

SDM Says: Palmetto Bay should celebrate as the end of the Palmer debacle seems to be on the near horizon. Kudos go to Vice Mayor Dubois for bringing the issue forth and for hanging in there to get it done. Councilmen Fiore and Schaffer deserve credit and support for voting to close this terrible chapter in the brief history of the village.

Palmer would do well to identify some reasonable concessions (maybe some sidewalks?) and to make them before this item returns for a public hearing. Regardless, the new council majority needs to get this matter resolved so we can work on the other major issues facing this village.

Up first is repairing a totally dysfunctional village council and that starts with the Mayor. Send her to remedial classes on Robert’s Rules or buy her a computer program on running meetings. SOMETHING must be done to make these meetings work.

SDM noted that many in the village want to see new commercial construction develop along US 1 and in the Franjo Triangle. Does anyone seriously believe an investor would watch that meeting and come away with the confidence to put her money to work with this kind of political dysfunction? In global terms, our village has a high degree of “political risk,” which will scare away investors rather than lure them here.

For example, later this month the village will consider a proposal by South Motors to modernize its dealership. SDM’s seen the drawings and the facility is beautiful. Will this village drive South Motors crazy like it has done to Palmer and many others? SDM worries that if this Mayor is driving the train, all we will see is more chaos and – God forbid – reconsideration.

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