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Palm Bay: The Lannon Saga.

We want to talk a little (okay, it is going to be a lot) about the saga of former Palm Bay City Attorney Andrew Lannon. There are some things that we have spoken about, and there are some things of which you may not be aware. We also want to comment on some recent developments.

On April 12, 2018, Lannon sent an email to the City Council announcing his resignation. We covered that in this post. We also covered the reason for his leaving in another post.

As it happens, we had an meeting with the Mayor Capote the following day – Friday the 14th.

As many of you know, we had been fighting with Lannon and in some regards Councilman Holton over the disclosure of the existence of emails that we knew the City had not disclosed. (See here, here, and here for the background.)

We contend that if the City wants to redact or not disclose emails, they may do so under two conditions:

First, they must provide the statutory or case law allowing the non-disclosure. Secondly, they must disclose the existence of the emails. The City cannot say, as Lannon and Holton did, “we withheld emails. Period.” The reason for the disclosure is so the requesting party can seek to have the emails made produced if they do not meet the criteria of the law. A petition is made to a judge who reviews the the emails and then determines whether the disclosure exemption is valid. However, if the City doesn’t disclose the reason they are claiming the exemption or the number of emails affected, etc., that legal safeguard is illegally voided by the City’s actions.

In correspondence with Lannon, he refused to disclose emails as required under the law. It is our belief that Lannon and therefore the City was acting outside of the Florida Statutes.

At a November Council meeting at which Lannon was not present, after we discussed the situation in front of the City Council, no one on the Council seemed to care about the City’s legal violations. Well, that’s not entirely true. Councilman Bailey asked then Assistant City Attorney Smith whether we were correct.

Smith replied that Lannon was looking into the issue and she did not feel it would be appropriate to comment or answer.

Think about that for a moment. The Assistant City Attorney was essentially saying “I am not going to offer a conclusion on something as basic as the Sunshine law and emails.”

Because of the holidays and other things, we let the issue drop because we knew there would come a time when the emails we have that were covered by our public records request would come to light and the City could no longer claim the exemption they claimed (and which wasn’t a valid exemption for our emails to begin with.)

Then another Lannon email came across our desk.

This email:

The recipients of the emails were other City Attorneys and what we assume were friends and people with whom Lannon had interacted with before.

The email raised several flags in our minds:

First, the email is unprofessional. No one, and we mean no one, uses the computers and servers of their current employer to send emails looking for support in gaining another job. Professionals don’t do that. Apparently the City of Palm Bay agrees because…..

(Secondly,) ……. the City’s Personnel Policies include this:

Section 13 Use of Computers

USE OF COMPUTERS

A. It is a City requirement that its computers, computer network, and related resources constitute City property and therefore should only be used for City business.

We thought there may be an exemption for some people, but that’s not the case. Once again from the policies:

RULE 1 GENERAL TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT

These Personnel Policies are applicable to the City Clerk’s Office and the City Attorney’s Office with the City Clerk and City Attorney replacing the City Manager as final authority for their respective offices.

Unless otherwise indicated above, all City employees are expected to follow the policies and procedures outlined in these General Terms and Conditions of Employment, in addition to those policies, practices and procedures published in the City’s Administrative Code or other City document except as provided for in an authorized collective bargaining agreement or written employment agreement, all employees of the City are “at-will,” meaning that either the employee or the City has the discretion to terminate the employment relationship at any time without cause or notice.

Lannon was under the policy that required the use of emails, computers, servers, etc., to be for City use only.

We couldn’t see how asking other lawyers for their support in leaving the City for another job would be official City business.

Third, take a look at the signature block on the email. You’ll notice that the City logo and seal is there.

That’s a violation of the City Code:

CHAPTER 58: CITY SEAL AND LOGO

58.03 MANUFACTURE, USE OR DISPLAY OF SEAL OR LOGO.
The manufacture, use, display, or any other employment of any facsimile or reproduction of the City of Palm Bay seal or City of Palm Bay logo, except for City of Palm Bay officials or employees in the performance of their official duties, without the express approval of the City Manager of the City of Palm Bay, is prohibited.
(Ord. 2005-19, passed 6-2-05) Penalty, see § 58.99

58.99 PENALTY.
Any person or entity who violates any portion of § 58.03 of this chapter, is guilty of a second degree misdemeanor, punishable as provided in Fla.
Stat. §§ 775.082 and 775.083.
(Ord. 2005-19, passed 6-2-05)

We initiated a public records request for the email and any responses to it.

We got this response from City Clerk Terese Jones:

Good afternoon.

I have been advised that the records you seek below are personal emails and do not fall under the definition of public record pursuant to Florida Statutes.

Should you have any further questions, please advise.

Terese

That email was followed up by Ms. Jones forwarding this from Lannon himself:

This is not a public record. It is not related to municipal business. It is a personal item.

Thanks,

Andrew P. Lannon, Esq., B.C.S.
City Attorney of Palm Bay, FL

This meant that Lannon himself was admitting that the emails were not part of any official use and he had violated the City Employment Policies as well as the City Code in using the logo and seal for non official City business.

We composed a presentation and were about to appear before the City Council when the City passed the ridiculous policy that all presentations were to be reviewed for content by either the City Clerk, the City Manager or the City Attorney. That meant that the City Attorney would review and say whether we could make a presentation on his conduct.

We were not confident that would be allowed.

We therefore decided our best course of action was to meet with the Mayor and allow him to determine where this would go.

As we said our spokesperson met with Mayor Capote the day after the Lannon resignation. Because of some issues in the past, Capote pulled City Clerk Terese Jones and the emergency fill in Attorney Patricia Smith.

According to our guy, the meeting went smoothly as our goal was not to go after Lannon but rather to show the Mayor that there were problems in the way that the City was handling public records requests for emails. We believed that the Mayor and eventually the City Council would not need the interpretation of a lawyer to see that within the City, people were breaking Employment Policies and the City Code. The very people who approved of the policies and the Code should be able to see the issue in this case and therefore the problem in the way that the City was handling emails and public records requests.

Oh how wrong we were.

Amazingly, at one point in the conversation Smith said that she’d have to check Lannon’s contract which may have allowed him to use the City computers, networks and servers for non-official business. She then offered that the use of the logo and the seal may fall within the same category.

We want to make clear the implications of what was being said:

The acting lawyer for the City was actually offering the idea that the City could write a contract that was contrary to Employment Policies and more importantly, contrary to the law.

Think about that for a moment.

How many times have citizens raised the idea that working for the City or being an elected official doesn’t give you special privileges and yet there is was.

It was Animal Farm revisited.

What is even scarier is that Smith is now the acting City Attorney.

The Mayor said he would get back with us and as of this date, no one has.

Call us shocked at that. (sarcasm off.)

However, in the interim, some things have happened with Lannon and the City.

The Lord knows that we don’t want to talk about this, but since it is out there, we feel we have to.

On April 20, 2018, Andrew Lannon was committed to a local mental health care institution under Florida’s “Baker Act.”


The Baker Act allows:

394.463 Involuntary examination.—
(1) CRITERIA.—A person may be taken to a receiving facility for involuntary examination if there is reason to believe that the person has a mental illness and because of his or her mental illness:
(a)1. The person has refused voluntary examination after conscientious explanation and disclosure of the purpose of the examination; or
2. The person is unable to determine for himself or herself whether examination is necessary; and
(b)1. Without care or treatment, the person is likely to suffer from neglect or refuse to care for himself or herself; such neglect or refusal poses a real and present threat of substantial harm to his or her well-being; and it is not apparent that such harm may be avoided through the help of willing family members or friends or the provision of other services; or
2. There is a substantial likelihood that without care or treatment the person will cause serious bodily harm to himself or herself or others in the near future, as evidenced by recent behavior.

This is an involuntary commitment to a mental health facility for a few days to allow professionals to make determinations of the person and if possible, to help them through whatever they are going through.

It is impossible for us to know what Lannon is going through in his mind, but we see the loss of the job as the Palm Bay City Attorney and the appointment of Eden Bentley as the County Attorney are what we would call “body shots” in ones professional career.

If Lannon thought or others thought he was in danger of causing himself or others harm, it is a good thing that someone recognized that. We are trying to tread lightly here but with the incidents around the country where people were denied care or authorities ignored the need for care resulting in catastrophic oputcomes, we cannot and will not fault whomever decided to commit Lannon to allow him to get a deep breath and see the world still exists and the sun still will rise.

Other than that, it is wrong in our opinion to make wild statements, as some have done, to the reasons behind what happened including the idea that Lannon knew where the skeletons and bodies were buried at the Palm Bay City Hall.

We hope that Lannon got and gets the care he needs or needed.

Frankly, there for the grace of God goes us.

Or you.

However, Lannon has now fired off a demand letter claiming his leaving the City was part of a “constructive discharge.” A “constructive discharge” is one where the employer makes the working conditions so unbearable that the person is compelled to resign.

We find the letter rather puzzling and in some ways, laughable.

First, Lannon’s contract had a bail out clause for both the City and Lannon. Either party could end the contract for any reason. If Lannon wanted to go elsewhere, he could do so. If the City wanted new, fresh eyes on their legal department, they could let Lannon go. There was no reason for the City to do anything that would create an atmosphere that would force Lannon to resign. They could just vote on it, and then wave good-bye.

Secondly, as we noted in our post on the resignation, outside legal counsel was brought in to look at some situations within the City including a lawsuit that the City is settling in part because of Lannon’s actions. The outside counsel recommended to Lannon that he resign. Whether he took that advice was up to him and not the City.

(The lack of professional from Lannon showed again in that he resigned via email. Not a letter, not a face to face meeting, but an email.)

The demands Lannon is now making are ridiculous:

In his settlement offer, which he submitted Tuesday, Lannon requested:

• A $300,000 payment, minus taxes. In exchange, he would serve as a continuing consultant to Palm Bay’s city attorney for three years.

• Six months’ worth of insurance coverage for his family of five.

• Palm Bay officials and Lannon would waive any rights in perpetuity to file suit against one another for any reason. Also, the city would indemnify Lannon in any litigation in which he was a named defendant.

The “consultant” job and pay is beyond belief. Lannon resigned and now wants to still work for the City? Furthermore, what would he “consult” on? There is a bit of hubris in Lannon’s demand. As he wrote to us:

I am one of only 2 attorneys out of the 100,000+ in Florida who is Board certified in both City, County and Local Government Law and Business Litigation. I know this area of law better than 99,999+ attorneys in Florida.

Does Lannon really believe that City of Palm Bay cannot exist without his legal acumen? That there aren’t other attorneys that can do the same job he did? (Heck, we suspect that other attorneys can follow City Codes, procedures and Florida Statutes which Lannon failed to do.)

The demand for health care should be tied to the law that covers health care for people who resign. As far as we know, there is no such law that requires the City or any company to provide health care when a person leaves or ends their employment.

The last demand is the one that seems so innocent, but it is the kicker in this whole deal.

If the City of Palm Bay settles the lawsuit (as we know they are) and Lannon’s actions / inactions are at the heart of the settlement, the City’s insurance firm would have the right to go after Lannon to recoup losses if Lannon violated the law, professional standards, ethics, etc. This demand is not about Lannon suing the City, but rather Lannon trying to avoid being sued by the City or their agents.

There is an old saying that when you have dug yourself a hole, the best thing to do is to stop digging.

Someone should take Lannon’s shovel away from him.

In a search for a new position, Lannon will be hard pressed to explain how he resigned and then sued his former employer. What new employer wants to take that type of person on?

In our opinion, it is not within Lannon’s makeup to walk away. He has to prove he is the best and the smartest kid in the class. Yet other smart people and people with practical experience know when to fold ’em, when to walk away and when to run. That would be Lannon’s best course of action at this time.

We hope he takes it.



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  1. […] covered some of the reasons for Lannon’s resignation in past posts, and we are going to expand on other reasons in this […]

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