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PALM BAY: The Meeting.

This past Thursday, the City of Palm Bay held a regular meeting. As we said, the big issue was the procedure to appoint a replacement for Councilman Bailey, who has announced he is resigning.

(During the meeting Bailey said he was moving to a more rural setting and away from the urban life. A commenter here noted that Bailey had gotten a teaching job up in Alabama. If it is Bailey’s dream and in the best interest of his family to move away from Palm Bay, more power to him. We should all follow our dreams and take care of our family.)

At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Medina made a motion to bring the agenda item on the ordinance more to the top of the agenda. Councilman Foster voted against that as well as another councilman who we could not identify.

With the council chambers being packed, and with over 200 people outside, the move made sense.

(It should be noted that the City ran out of comment cards for people to sign up to speak. Whether planned or by accident, running out of cards made it seem like the City Council didn’t want to hear more people than they had to.)

We have no idea why Foster and another Councilman voted against the move as their vote made no sense.

Other items on the agenda took place such as announcements of board vacancies, voting to approve the consent agenda, a couple of presentations to some residents, and reports from the Charter Officers.

When the item for the ordinance came up, you almost felt Michael Buffer was in the room giving his famous line of “let’s get ready to rumble.”

Before starting public comments on the issue, Mayor Medina did two “interesting” things.

First, he noted all of the people in the room and then said “I salute you,” standing up and giving the chambers an actual salute. While that is his “style,” it is a bit uncomfortable on some level. A simple “thank y’all for coming to have your voices heard” would have been acceptable.

Secondly, he said that he wanted people to address him and not the other members of the City Council and to be civil and not make negative comments about people on the dais.

For someone who constantly touts his military service and defense of the Constitution, one would think that he would realize that the First Amendment allows for criticism of members of the government – even insults. The really odd thing is that Medina just made presentations on how great people are, and then wants to limit comments that are negative about people. We’ve covered this before (and will again in the coming days) but Medina is engaging in viewpoint discrimination. He cannot allow one point of view (positive comments) and ban a different point of view (negative comments.) Doing so is a violation of the First Amendment.

In a public meeting, up to comments that are obscene, inciting violence and making true, viable threats, the public can say whatever they want. Throughout the night Medina referred the Founding Fathers and blood spilled for the right to vote. We don’t understand how he thinks that the Founding Fathers only spoke glowingly of the British and King George. It just doesn’t work that way.


For the next two and a half hours, the people of Palm Bay spoke.

We have to say that we were impressed.

Some of the people were shy and were quick to step up to the mic and then retreat. Some were highly nervous, but felt so strongly on the issue, they came and spoke to a City Council for the first time.

There were speakers who were forceful. Others that were eloquent.

For us, the speakers that touched us the most were the speakers from China, Communist countries, and brutal regimes who talked to the Council about how precious the right to vote fore leaders is. For them, it was not some hypothetical case of not being able to vote. They had experienced not being able to vote or being persecuted for their votes. Their comments brought home the importance of the right to vote in this country – a right that they felt was under attack by the proposed ordinance.

No matter the experience in speaking, the race or gender of the speaker, or their birthplace, all of the speakers had one thing in common – they were opposed to the ordinance.

For over 150 minutes, not a single person spoke in favor of the ordinance.

Not a one.

The solidarity of the people on this issue was overwhelming.

Which is why when the discussion amongst the Council had two members – Councilman Kenny Johnson and Councilman Randy Foster coming out against the people’s will and saying they would support the ordinance as written, that was an expected surprise. By that we mean that Foster has stated that he doesn’t like to listen to constituents, and there is no indication that either Johnson or Forster ever listens to the people so their opposition was expected. It was still a surprise, but not unexpected.

(We want to mention that during the comments, Mayor Medina made comments in support of the people speaking. While the people applauded the comments, the fact of the matter is that he was speaking out of turn. He did not have the floor – the people did. Him speaking during the public comments was contrary to the rules of the City Council. After the third time of doing this, Foster spoke up and called for a point of order, which is simply a notification that the speaker is acting contrary to the rules of the forum. Median and Foster got into a sharp exchange with Medina saying “I run this meeting.” Technically, he does run the meeting but when a member calls a “point of order,” the speaker must stop and the point of order ruled upon. In other words, Forster was claiming Medina was violating the rules but instead of ruling on that point of order, Medina blew it off. Under Robert’s Rules of Order, Medina must address the point of order. If he rules against the person, the rest of the Council can vote to overturn Medina’s ruling. None of that happened. Medina ran over Foster with the idea that it was his meeting and the heck with the rules.

Because Medina’s comments were in support of the people in the audience, Medina had their support. However, people need to remember that there will come a day when Medina (or another member of the Council) will bull rush Council members on issues that the public doesn’t support. If Medina and the City Council wants to hold citizen speakers to the rules, the Council must act within the rules as well.

In addition, several times through the night, Medina ordered a recess. He cannot do that without a motion either.)

Once the public was finished, Councilman Foster made a motion to approve the ordinance. Johnson said he seconded the motion “for the purpose of discussion.”

Johnson does this all the time – making a motion for the purpose of discussion. There is no such thing. Either a person seconds the motion or not. Johnson might as well be saying that he seconded the motion for a hamburger. It has the same meaning and weight.

Councilman Foster started the discussion between the Council members. He said that he would not seek to eliminate the people’s right to vote for their representatives, but he was going to vote for the ordinance that would eliminate the people’s right to vote for the replacement for Bailey’s seat. If you are confused, so were most of the people in the room and online.

Foster said that he was voting for the proposed ordinance allowing the City Council to appoint Bailey’s replacement because he was worried that a four member council could be deadlocked at 2-2 on issues and that would mean the issue would die. He said that he wanted to move forward and that meant having a fifth Council member to break ties and keep Palm Bay going in a good economic direction. Foster apparently never considered that the appointed fifth Council person would vote in the negative, killing ordinances and proposals. It is that lack of critical thinking that had people shaking their heads.

Councilman Johnson echoed the same thing – that he didn’t want deadlocked votes which would mean the death of items. So while claiming that he would never suppress or vote to take away the people’s right to vote, he too would support the ordinance that would allow the Council to appoint someone to fill a vacancy rather than allowing people to vote for that replacement.

That meant that two of the five Councilmen were publicly declaring their support of the right to vote when speaking out of one side of their mouth, and then saying they were going to vote against the people voting to choose the person to fill the vacancy in from the other side of their mouths.

The next to speak was Councilman Bailey who said that when he decided to resign, he never thought that all of the commotion that was going on would happen.

Bailey addressed Johnson’s and Forster’s point on deadlocks by saying he “always felt that if you can’t get a 3-1 vote for a passage, the item should fail.” That resonated with the crowd. Bailey said he would vote against the proposed ordinance.

With Medina repeating that he would never vote to take the right of the people to pick their elected officials away, that left Councilman Felix as the deciding vote.

Felix announced that he was getting texts from his wife and others while the public comments and the discussion were going on. The City Council has a rule against reading texts or computers while the pubic or any other speaker is speaking, but once again, rules don’t apply to some Council members.

Felix said that he had come to the meeting with his mind made up. While he never said which way he was going to vote initially, it doesn’t seem right to have your mind made up which means you aren’t going to be open to the public’s comments or debate. If that is the case, then what are all the people doing wasting their time?

Felix said that he had listened to all of the peoples’ comments, but he too was concerned about 2-2 votes.

That launched into a long discussion of the finer points of the ordinance.

During this discussion, City Attorney Smith said that she had only written the portions of the ordinance that needed to be changed to reflect the Florida Statutes. She stated she had not written the changes to eliminate a special election.

In a Florida Today article, the City said this about the proposed ordinance:

The agenda item was brought forth by the city’s three charter officers, city spokesperson Keely Leggett said. They are City Manager Suzanne Sherman, City Attorney Patricia Smith and City Clerk Terese Jones.

If Smith did not write the change in the ordinance reflecting appointing Council members in the case of a vacancy, and the City claims the issue was being brought forth by the City Manager, the City Clerk and the City Attorney, that means that either the City Clerk or the City Manager had not only proposed the changes but had written them.

The idea that either City Clerk Jones or City Manager Sherman decided to make a proposal to change the way a vacancy is filled on the City Council whole cloth seems unlikely.

It is far more likely that they were directed by a City Councilman or multiple City Councilmen, to write the proposed changes. No Council member owned up to this and neither Sherman or Jones admitted they had done it own their own, so the people of Palm Bay are left with another mystery in City Hall that defies any sort of transparency.

While Feliz was trying to get answers from Smith and Jones, Councilman Johnson offered that he would be willing to support the idea that the City Council appoint a Council member until a special election could be held to where the public could vote on the person to fill the vacancy.

In proposing it, Johnson said that the appointed person would have to agree not to run for election either in the special election or in the general election because a person needs to concentrate on the business of the City and not be campaigning.

In that Johnson is up for re-election in 2022, his comment seems ridiculous if he wants to seek re-election. After all, how could he be campaigning and doing the City’s business?

(His suggestion and requirement would also be illegal in that the Council doesn’t have the ability to change the requirements of qualifying to run for office.)

The discussion then turned to Johnson’s suggestion appointing Council member until a special election could be held.

Felix and Foster indicated their support for the idea which meant that there were likely three votes to pass the idea as Medina and Bailey were still opposed to anything that did not mean the people got to vote and the City Council did not appoint someone – even if that appointment was temporary.

Sensing the changing tide, Johnson withdrew his second to the original motions. Of course, he cannot do that under Robert’s Rules of Order, but Medina let him, supposedly leaving the original motion to pass the ordinance as written without a second. Without a second, Medina announced that the original motion died.

(Will someone get these people a copy of Robert’s Rule of Order? Or at least the more fitting “Robert’s Rule for Dummies?”)

Johnson then made a motion for the Council to appoint a Council member to fill the vacancy and then have a special election. Bailey offered that the language should be changed to require an election withing 75 – 180 days (as opposed to the 90 – 180 days that was the original proposed ordinance.)

A vote was taken and that motion passed, with Feliz, Foster, and Johnson voting for it with Bailey and Medina voting against it.

(Oddly, the three Democrats voted for the proposal and the two Republicans voted against it.)

The crowd was not happy with the new ordinance, but they were not angry as they would have been if the original proposed ordinance had passed.

With the end of the agenda item, most people went home. It was late and so their leaving was understandable.

Just as likely, there were not other issues on the agenda that interested them or affected them.

We once had a City Manager tell us that people come out to Council meetings when the Council is discussing or voting on things that will affect them. That makes sense. A lot of sense.

While we will lament the lack of participation in Council meetings at times, and the City Council said they wished people would come out like the crowd had done on the Council vacancy ordinance, we need to remember that the Council members, the support staff, and the Charter Officers are all on the public dime. They are all getting paid to be there. The public is not.

So when people show up to make their voices heard, the City needs to respect them for that.

Then again, we saw tonight how two Council members disregarded the comments from citizens so maybe citizen know they are wasting their time.

Still, even when shouting into the wind, or speaking to people who will not listen, someone else will.



11 Responses to “PALM BAY: The Meeting.”

  1. Percy Veer says:

    I tuned in to watch the last few public comments and the council discussions. I think it was pretty obvious that the citizens wanted to leave the ordinance as is and for their elected reps to vote against changing things.

    I wholeheartedly agreed with Baileys comments that if they can’t get a 3-1 vote it probably shouldn’t pass anyway. Also, the mayors comments about the council doing everything they can to prevent the perception of corruption rang true.

    I thought all the councilmen wasted a lot of time self promoting and touting their own credentials/background without really talking about the proposal.

    In the end it still appears that PB has three councilmen that are not willing to represent their constituents and have some other agenda they are working too. It will be interesting to see who they appoint and if any controversial issues come up before the special election.

    • ThirdDimension says:

      Agree. Seems we have in the works the start of a Recall Petition against two or all three councilmembers that can’t listen. Johnson’s term ends next year.

  2. Ron Lockwood says:

    For all intentions and purposes…I applaud all who attended last nights circus and those who emailed or phone called the council members.
    As a 21 year resident, I have seen, watched and observed our city government carry on as if they were a single entity so self absorbed in their own agenda(s) and giving their electorate the cold shoulder far too often. We have placed our trust in these elected officials to do our bidding-we have endorsed their campaign promises and have been bamboozled, belittled and boldly deceived by their agenda filled, back room-lack of observing Sunshine Law(s) timetable. It is so obvious to me that citizens have little or no recourse to voice their opinions-be them yay or nay … Some of these elected fools refuse to listen as their own self worth is more important than that resident or business owner and their viewpoint. After viewing last nights 3 ring circus…I am lead to believe our city government will only be a catch-all of continued Lies/Corruption/Lack of Transparency. As I recall, I was promised by all current elected official in their campaigning these adjectives/verbs would be done away with…Instead, they dress up in them and display all their deceitful ways on our behalf.
    As I stated earlier…Recall has a genuine ring to it and should be considered the next step for an inaudible Palm Bay City Council.

    And I wish Councilman Jeff Bailey and his family all the very best in their new life adventures. His services were very much appreciated.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Ron Lockwood,

      Thank you for your comment.

      As we stated in our post (which was finished at 3 AM, the speakers last night were awe inspiring. There were no uncontrolled shouting matches. The audience was polite even as Council members made conflicting statements.

      We would still like to know who initiated the section on filling vacancies in the ordinance. Not only that, but who directed them to do so.

      We would like to know who else was texting Felix during the meeting.

      It seemed clear to us that Foster and Johnson had spoken about this issue or at the very least someone had communicated the thoughts of one to the other as they were too aligned in their comments to have happened by accident.

      For people who campaigned on ending corruption, transparency and no backroom deals, it certainly seems like those promises went down the drain.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

    • ThirdDimension says:

      Ron, so glad you are still on our side fighting with us to overcome these corrupt members.

  3. Mike Reitano says:

    Excellent article.
    I watched last night on web site.
    It also shows that there needs to be mandatory classes on Roberts rules before one takes office put on by a association of municipalities before one takes the oath of office.
    Or at very least the city attorney should also know the rules and interject when needed to keep the meeting in line with those rules.

  4. ThirdDimension says:

    AAfterwit, Albeit most times you are correct, as with the motion for a recess. Yes, a motion and a second are required, with no debate, as a privileged motion. The Chair then calls the meeting back to order.
    But then you show you don’t know everything. The second may withdraw his or her second at any time before the Board acts on the motion. If the second is withdrawn the motion will die unless the motion receives a new second.
    So you need to make sure you stop your misinformation or retract your mistakes.

    And yes, one person did agree with the motion, Robert Burns aka Kenny Johnson’s cousin and campaign manager. Go look at his comments on Randy Fine’s call to action post.

    • AAfterwit says:

      ThirdDimension,

      The second may withdraw his or her second at any time before the Board acts on the motion. If the second is withdrawn the motion will die unless the motion receives a new second.

      Before we typed that, we checked with Robert’s and our statement is correct. In addition we checked with a retired palimentarian who said we were correct.

      And yes, one person did agree with the motion, Robert Burns aka Kenny Johnson’s cousin and campaign manager. Go look at his comments on Randy Fine’s call to action post.

      You had submitted a comment card and were not there when called (twice.) Therefore you weren’t at the meeting when Burns made his comments.

      We don’t care what Burns wrote on Fine’s Facebook page. There is animosity between Fine and Burns just as there is animosity between you and Burns. Perhaps that is coloring your view as to what happened at the meeting.

      To repeat something that is all the rage, you need to make sure you stop your misinformation or retract your mistakes.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      A. Afterwit.

  5. ThirdDimension says:

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation. This is a preview, your comment will be visible after it has been approved”.???

    REALLY?

    • AAfterwit says:

      ThirdDimension,

      We have no idea why your comment dropped into moderation. None whatsoever.

      We have checked the settings, moderation lists, etc and there is nothing there that we can see.

      A comment will drop into moderation if the action of the poster imitates that of a bot, but only you know whether your actions led to that.

      We can only apologize.

      We didn’t even read the comment before releasing approving it.

      A. Afterwit.

    • AAfterwit says:

      ThirdDimension.

      We now see the problem.

      WordPress has an internal setting that prevents bots. When someone puts up as many comments as you did in a row, the comment drops into moderation.

      A. Afterwit.

  6. […] our previous post discussing the ordinance on appointing / voting for a replacement to fill a vacant Council seat, we […]

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