Did commissioner vote ‘yes’ when he just didn’t know?

March 29, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

To the Editor:
On March 8, while reading the latest edition of the News-Press, I was surprised to see an article by Commissioner Frank Mann titled, “Eslick bridge removal is a Lee Commission’s rules violation”. Within this article, he provides his own interpretation of information and explanation for challenging a past vote from the Commission while claiming we violated Administrative Code, the spirit of the Sunshine Law and the Public’s right to be heard. I would like to provide the background and corrective information surrounding this issue.
On December 3, my office sent an email to County staff and fellow Commissioners advising them of my Commissioner Item for the following Board meeting day. This item was placed on the Recap Agenda for the County’s website and was a ceremonial presentation. On December 4, I brought before the Board, a motion to rename the Estero Parkway Bridge in representation of all the residents of Estero. This motion specifically directed County staff to prepare a Resolution for the Chair’s signature authorizing the renaming of Estero Parkway Bridge to the Estero Community Bridge. Members of the public were then afforded the opportunity to be heard prior to the Board’s vote on this motion. The County Commission then voted unanimously, 5-0, to support my motion.
Fast forward to the March 5th BoCC meeting, where during Commissioner Items on the agenda, Commissioner Mann brought up for discussion, a request of the County Attorney to review the December 4 vote, alleging violations of County Codes. I am happy that the BoCC supported his motion to have the County Attorney review that vote. As most of you know of my previous career working in Law Enforcement for 25 years and now you as an elected official, I would never participate in any illegal actions or violate the County Code, thus my need to address such allegations.
On March 15, the County Attorney provided a complete and thorough response to this request of the Board. The memo was very clear and concise in its evaluation and review. The BoCC did not violate County Code, the spirit of the Sunshine Law, nor the Public’s right to be heard. It should serve as a reminder for Commissioner Mann what the County Codes actually state, along with his past actions and votes while on the Board.
On August 17, 2010, the Administrative Code 1-3 was revised to allow for more flexibility. Three years later, the State adopted public participation requirements under Florida Statute § 286.0114. As a result, the County Attorney’s office came to the BoCC on September 3, 2013, seeking their direction on two options presented within the memorandum. After presentation of those options, Commissioner Mann inquired as to whether the Board could do both options stating “[if] we know about the issue that we notify them in advance; but, if it comes up [on the day of the Board hearing], then we would target it for next week’s action?” The Board was advised that both options could be used, thus the Board’s consensus was to utilize both options. On October 29, 2013, Administrative Code 1-3 was amended to be consistent with Florida Statute § 286.0114, and the Board’s direction from September 3, 2013 (Resolution No. 13-1-21).
I believe that the real issue at hand, as previously stated by Commissioner Mann, is that he was not fully aware of the action he was taking on December 4. He voted in favor of the motion without the knowledge that it involved his supporter and friend from Naples.  I completely understand one’s feelings on such a sensitive item, but there is no need to allege that the Board’s action was a rules violation and thus deem it Null and Void, especially before the County Attorney’s office has had the opportunity to review and share a legal opinion.
I welcome you to read the County Attorney’s response stating that the BoCC’s action was a lawful exercise of its legislative authority. The action was consistent with past practices and did not violate Florida Law, Lee County Ordinance, Lee County Administrative Code, nor the spirit of the Sunshine Law!
I look forward to supporting ALL of the Lee County residents that make our great community the best in the State and always follow the rules!
Commissioner Cecil L. Pendergrass
District 2 Lee County