Monday, March 31, 2014

A Brand New Day In Belle Isle

Even before the swearing in of Belle Isle's two new City Council members this coming Tuesday, our City is already seeing some significant changes.

Along with huge resident attendance, last Wednesday's workshop meeting also brought a new style to our City's workshops. In the past, typical workshop meetings in Belle Isle involved city officials huddled around a table with residents barely able to hear and unable to access to the documents being discussed by the council. Combined with the fact that residents were not permitted to speak at workshop meetings, this meant that residents usually left workshop meetings with a lot of confusion and unanswered questions.

But what used to be a closed workshop process was suddenly opened last Friday. The many residents in attendance were invited to actively participate in the workshop process by asking questions and offering ideas. And despite this 180 degree shift in meeting procedure, the meeting was a huge success. It was productive, civil, and lasted a reasonable length of time while still allowing residents to make real contributions.

This change in workshop meeting procedure isn't the only change our City has seen over the past week. Minutes from Wednesday's workshop meeting were published for Council approval by the end of the week (they can be found attached to the April 1 meeting agenda). Whereas minutes were never previously made available before approval by council, which often happened 2-3 months after the original meeting, Wednesday's minutes were made available by the City in unofficial form within days of the meeting. This will surely be seen as a welcome change to the many residents who have tried to find information about a meeting, only to learn that minutes would not be posted for weeks or months.

And those changes are just the beginning. The Wednesday workshop meeting resulted in Lydia Pisano and Harvey Readey addung a number of items to the April 1 meeting agenda, including:

  • Moving city council meetings to a later time
  • Reviewing Belle Isle meeting procedure, including moving citizen comments to the beginning of the meeting and allowing for response and discussion by council
  • Changing the Belle Isle permitting process
  • Tree permitting and fees
  • City council expenditures
  • City grants for each district as discussed by Council last October
  • Permanent sign out front of City Hall for announcement of meetings and other important information
  • Dumpster monopoly and overpricing by Republic
  • Changing in the process when City Commissioners resign to require a general election unless there is less than six months remaining in the outgoing Commissioner's term
  • Regular presentation of the monthly finance reports promised to Council when they approved new financial software purchased by the City last year

Along with these topics brought up for discussion by Commissioners Readey and Pisano, our City Council will also be discussing the 2013 Belle Isle Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) at the upcoming Tuesday meeting. This report raises a number of questions about our City's accounting procedures as well as Belle Isle's present financial state. Hopefully, these questions will be addressed on Tuesday. You can view a copy of the 2013 CAFR, as well as the March 26 meeting minutes and April 1 meeting agenda, by clicking the links below:

2013 Comprehensive Annual Finance Report

April 1, 2014 Meeting Agenda + March 26, 2014 Workshop Meeting Minutes


After the swearing in of our new City Commissioners, presentation of the 2013 CAFR, as well as the numerous other topics up for discussion by Council, the Tuesday meeting will likely run a bit longer than usual. Those planning to attend the "Meet Your New Commissioners" event at the Belle Isle Bayou should be aware that the Commissioners, as well as many attendees, may arrive a bit later than 8:00 p.m. if the meeting runs late. But at least four Commissioners will be attending the event, so this will be a great opportunity to get to know your elected officials in a comfortable setting.

I hope to see you all at the City Council meeting this Tuesday, April 1 at 5:30 p.m. and then afterward at the Belle Isle Bayou!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Meet Your New Commissioners Event This Tuesday! [UPDATE]

The Belle Isle Sun is sponsoring a "Meet Your New Commissioners" event at the Belle Isle Bayou this Tuesday, April 1 at 8:00 p.m. It will follow the City Council meeting where Sue Nielsen and Ed Gold will be sworn in as the newest members of our Belle Isle City Council.

Unfortunately, "sponsoring" doesn't mean picking up the tab. But the Belle Isle Bayou has $1 sliders, $9.99 fried catfish, and happy hour specials all night. Plus you'll be supporting one of our local businesses. The Belle Isle Bayou is family-friendly establishment, so feel free to bring the kids. Everyone is welcome!

I have requested that our City Clerk officially notice this community get-together as a public meeting. This will allow multiple commissioners to attend without any possibility of violating Florida's Sunshine Law, which prohibits elected officials from discussing city business that might come to a vote outside of noticed public meetings.

Once again, the "Meet Your New Commissioners" event will be at the Belle Isle Bayou at 8:00 p.m. on April 1, following the City Council meeting at 5:30 p.m. The Belle Isle Bayou is located at 5180 S. Conway Road, behind CVS at the intersection of Conway and Hoffner. I hope to see you there! 

UPDATE 3/31/14:

The Tuesday meeting agenda will include the swearing in of our new City Commissioners, presentation of the 2013 CAFR, as well as numerous topics up for discussion by Council. Those planning to attend the "Meet Your New Commissioners" event at the Belle Isle Bayou should be aware that the Commissioners, as well as many attendees, may arrive a bit later than 8:00 p.m. if the meeting runs late. But at least four Commissioners will be attending this event, so it will be a great opportunity to get to know your elected officials in a comfortable setting.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Commissioners Elect Still In The Dark

The last meeting of our City Council in its present composition will take place this Wednesday, March 26 at 8:30 a.m. Our newly-elected Commissioners' terms will begin at the following City Council meeting on April 1 per the Belle Isle City Charter. But despite having only one week left before being sworn in, our new Commissioners have not heard anything from City Hall since the day of the election.

Here's how the process usually works. In the weeks between the election and the swearing-in ceremony, the City Manager contacts each new Commissioner to set up an orientation meeting where the new Commissioners are presented with copies of the Sunshine Law manual, the Belle Isle City Charter and Code, and the City's latest budget report. Additionally, the Mayor contacts the new Commissioners regarding their preferences as to whether the swearing-in ceremony be performed by our Mayor or another qualified person, such as a judge, clergy member or elected official. That should have all been done long before today, so it appears that City Hall is changing procedure this year.

From the actions of those at City Hall, it almost seems as though the election never occurred. The City has not sent out a single email or notice regarding the election results. The only mention of the election on the City website is buried on a sub-page and reads "UNOFFICIAL," despite the election results being certified by the canvassing board on March 13. No one from City Hall, including Mr. Spaulding, has made any attempt to contact the winning candidates. By contrast, candidate Susannah Snavely sent an extremely gracious message to her opponent just after the election results were announced.

Attendance at this week's City Council workshop meeting will be limited. Mayor Brooks will be absent, as will City Manager Keith Severns and a majority of our City Council. Only Commissioners Readey, Pisano and Ady will be present, but a quorum is not required because no voting occurs at a workshop meeting. When our Mayor and Vice-Mayor are both absent, meetings are chaired by a temporary "Mayor" chosen by and from the pool of attending Commissioners. This meeting should be no exception. You can find a copy of the workshop meeting agenda below.

Workshop Meeting Agenda - March 26, 2014

This may prove to be an interesting meeting, despite there only being a few Commissioners present. Once again, the workshop takes place this Wednesday, March 26 at 8:30 a.m. The next regular City Council meeting will take place next Tuesday, April 1 at 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Next Step [UPDATE]

Now that our Belle Isle election results are official, you may be wondering what happens next.

Under our City Charter, newly-elected commissioners become active members of the Belle Isle City Council on the first Tuesday in April. This year, the first Tuesday falls on April 1. I don't think being sworn in on April Fools Day has any real legal effect, but I'll double-check to be sure.

I suggest that our new commissioners elect enjoy their last few days of freedom. Come April 1, they will come under the purview of the Florida Sunshine Law. The Sunshine Law has many facets, one of which is that our elected City officials are not permitted to discuss matters which could come before the Council outside of properly-noticed public meetings. Want to learn more about the Sunshine Law?

Florida Sunshine Law Frequently Asked Questions

The final meeting of our City Council in its present composition will be at the upcoming workshop meeting on March 26 at 8:30 a.m. The following week, Ed Gold and Sue Nielsen will be sworn in at our City Council's next regular meeting on Tuesday, April 1 at 5:30 p.m.



UPDATE 3/19/14

According Sue Nielsen, as well as a helpful reader of the Sun, the Sunshine Law may actually apply to our new commissioners elect as soon as the election results are certified.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

2014 City Council Election Results [UPDATE]

Here they are, the unofficial results of your 2014 Belle Isle City Council election (less one provisional ballot awaiting certification on Thursday):

District 1:

Ed Gold - 713 votes

Susannah Snavely - 557 votes

District 7:

Sue Nielsen - 720 votes

Eric Spaulding - 544 votes

As I said previously, just having our first local election in almost a decade has been great for our City by inciting discussion and debate between residents about the important issues we face every day. Now it's time to relax and get a good night's sleep.



UPDATE 3/13/2014

The above results were certified by the Belle Isle canvassing board on Thursday, March 13 with no changes.

Nearly 1300 votes cast is an amazing feat for a small town like Belle Isle. Congratulations to everyone who voted for making this an election for the history books!

Wait, Which Candidate Is Being Supported By Outside Special Interests?

You probably received a robocall yesterday from an anonymous group known as "Citizens for an Honest Belle Isle." The call accuses candidate Sue Nielsen of being supported by "vested special interests outside Belle Isle." I'm not sure what that refers to unless it's Sue's endorsement by the Orange County Firefighters.

Today I received copies of the campaign finance reports that City Hall denied to me yesterday, and I can see why they were withheld. Although there is nothing remarkable in the other three reports, incumbent candidate Eric Spaulding's campaign finance reports includes large donations from numerous outside special interests, including Belle Isle's mandated permitting inspector, Universal Engineering Services and a number of other contractors from Winter Park and Orlando.

Mr. Spaulding's campaign finance report isn't long, so I'll just post it below for your review along with the other candidates' finance reports for comparison.

Eric Spaulding Campaign Finance Report

Sue Nielsen Campaign Finance Report

Ed Gold Campaign Finance Report

Susannah Snavely Campaign Finance Report

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's Election Day!

Sorry about the multitude of posts in the last day or two. Everything will slow back down to a normal pace very soon. Here's all the last minute election information you will need. 

Voting Locations, Requirements and Times

Find your proper polling place on the green post card mailed to you by the Supervisor of Elections. You have to go to the correct location, but they are only about a mile apart. Worse come to worse, try one and they'll send you to the other if needed.

Voting is open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Below are the addresses of the polling locations. Click them to load a map.

Belle Isle City Hall, 1600 Nela Avenue

Pine Castle Masonic Lodge, 1216 Hoffner Avenue 

Recent Posts

Have you been keeping up? A lot has happened in the last 24 hours, so be sure to review the last few articles if you have any questions before voting. Here's a recap:

Where Is All This Money Coming From?

Who is Doug Guetzloe Part I / Part II [UPDATED]

City Manager Salary Revisited 

Election Results

Get your election results first from the Sun! If you haven't already, sign up for Belle Isle Sun email alerts, which will notify you each time a new article has been posted (usually no more than once or twice a week). You can find the "Subscribe" link at the top right of the page under the Sun banner. You can also follow us on Twitter (@belleislesun) for new article notifications. Election results will be posted here as soon as the counting is done.

No matter how it turns out, just having our first local election in almost a decade has been great for our City by inciting discussion and debate between residents about the important issues we face every day. Happy voting!

Where Is All This Money Coming From?

Over the past 48 hours, I have received four glossy brochures (three were mailed) and one robocall, all in support of City Council candidate Eric Spaulding. A conservative estimate of the total cost of distributing these to our entire City is easily over $10,000.

Who is paying for all these communications? I'd love to be able to answer that question for you. I requested all the candidates' campaign finance reports early this afternoon while our City Clerk was in the office. Even though City Hall confirmed that the requested records were sitting in the Clerk's office and available for copying, having been just turned in on Friday, they refused to provide these records by the end of the day as I requested and as they have done previously.

With regard to the robocall many residents received this afternoon from an unknown PAC named "Citizens for an Honest Belle Isle," the source of its funding will remain a mystery until after the election because the call was timed to occur late enough that public records could not be obtained regarding its funding.

At the risk of stating the obvious, it's a bit ironic that "Citizens for an Honest Belle Isle," a PAC that chooses to obscure the identities of its donors, is accusing Sue Nielsen of being "put up to run by vested special interests outside the city." More so when you consider the fact that outside special interests personally sponsored the mailed attack ad against Sue Nielsen.

Although Sue Nielsen is fully qualified to run as a resident of district 7 (see www.SueForBelleIsle.com) and has not been supported by anyone outside of Belle Isle, unless you count the firefighters and a few people with properties outside Belle Isle who allowed her to display signs, the robocall ad does get something right. Vested interests are supporting Sue Nielsen - long-time residents across Belle Isle who are ready to take back control of their City. Many of these residents, such as Dr. Stuart Bernstein, contributed to Sue Nielsen's candidacy by helping her make the decision to run.

So who do you trust more, a candidate who was motivated to run because of her peers and their love of this City, or a candidate supported by unknown interests who are willing to spend and say anything to win this campaign?

Why would those supporting Mr. Spaulding's candidacy hide their identities? If someone loves Belle Isle enough to spend that kind of money out of love for our City, why wouldn't they be proud to stand up and proclaim it?

Who Is Doug Guetzloe? - Part II [UPDATE]

This morning, I received an email from Doug Guetzloe, founder of the Ax the Tax PAC. As you may be aware, Mr. Guetzloe is not a Belle Isle resident, yet he recently sent out an attack ad in support of Belle Isle vice-mayor Eric Spaulding. To ensure that Mr. Guetzloe has a fair chance to explain his role in the 2014 Belle Isle City Council election, I have included his email in its entirety below:



Dear Jeremy:

In response to your 'editorial' attacking my credibility I would offer the following observations.

Ax the Tax has been involved in local politics since 1982. Surprised you had not heard of Ax the Tax or me, but that speaks volumes in and of itself.

Ax the Tax has many Belle Isle supporters who had asked for recommendations on the local races. This is a normal process and we usually make recommendations in local, regional and state races.

I have not spoken to or met any of the candidates involved in the race and obtained information from local media and public records in determining to send out the post card.

As for the two legal issues you mentioned, in the first misdemeanor issue over the disclaimer, the law that I was charged with was declared unconstitutional by the Federal courts and affirmed by the US Supreme Court. Interestingly, you being an attorney, chose to leave that little item off your editorial.

As for the second misdemeanor issue, I was charged with failing to FILE a tax return, nothing more, nothing less. Having not signed two tax returns by the deadline is a criminal offense. All taxes were paid, inspite of your implication otherwise.

Neither issue is relevant to Ax the Tax but is certainly relevant to the recent disclosures of over zealous prosecution of anti-tax and Tea party activists.

Regardless, my actions are not in question here, the actions of one candidate who chose to deceive the voters is clearly an legitimate political issue for debate and discussion.


Doug Guetzloe
Founder & Chairman
Ax the Tax




Below is a copy of my response to Mr. Guetzloe:



Mr. Guetzloe,

I have reviewed the information you provided. Everything in my recent article appears consistent with your statements, but I have posted your reply in its entirety in order to supply readers with the additional information you have offered.

While I appreciate your carefully composed email to me, it does not address any of the real issues raised in my article. If you have a chance, could you respond to the below questions? I'd be happy to post your answers if you would like.

1. Because you regularly fail to file campaign finance reports for Ax the Tax, voters have no way of determining who funded this recent attack ad. Did you fund it personally or did someone at Belle Isle City Hall contribute to your PAC for this mailing?

2. Given your significant history in local politics, you must get asked for political recommendations from people across Central Florida. Are your PAC's present campaign efforts limited to Belle Isle or has your PAC sent out campaign literature in the 2014 Edgewood election, Winter Park election, or any of the other Central Florida elections going on right now?

3. Your affiliation with the National Taxpayer Union demonstrates that you are in favor of lower taxes, smaller government, and accountability from public officials. I wholeheartedly agree that these are extremely important values, especially in a small town like Belle Isle which has spent nearly all of its once-plentiful city reserve fund, obscured an increase in taxes by separating out residents' waste management fees, changed meeting times and announcements to prevent residents from attending, and dramatically increased the size and payroll of our city government. Given your dedication to the above values, can you explain why you are supporting a candidate who has never spoken out on any of these issues while opposing a candidate whose platform is centered on curtailing wasteful spending in Belle Isle and increasing the accountability of our city government?

Thank you again for contacting The Belle Isle Sun. I hope to hear back from you in the near future.

Regards,
Jeremy Weinsier



[UPDATE: 3/10/14]

Below you can find Mr. Guetzloe's responses to my questions:



1. Because you regularly fail to file campaign finance reports for Ax the Tax, voters have no way of determining who funded this recent attack ad. Did you fund it personally or did someone at Belle Isle City Hall contribute to your PAC for this mailing?

The reports that you refer to were all "waivers" - in other words no funds were collected or expended during those specific reporting periods. It was my error that they needed to filed to show that nothing was collected or expended during those reporting times.
The informational mailer that was sent out was done with my own funds. No one contributed to its dissemination.


2. Given your significant history in local politics, you must get asked for political recommendations from people across Central Florida. Are your PAC's present campaign efforts limited to Belle Isle or has your PAC sent out campaign literature in the 2014 Edgewood election, Winter Park election, or any of the other Central Florida elections going on right now? 

I make personal recommendations in many election cycles but normally in the primaries and general elections later in the year. The Belle Isle post card was the only municipal election that Ax the Tax has participated in to date. In the past we have been involved in Edgewood, Winter Garden, Orlando, Winter Park, Apopka, Belle Isle, Kissimmee, St.Cloud and Windermere.

3. Your affiliation with the National Taxpayer Union demonstrates that you are in favor of lower taxes, smaller government, and accountability from public officials. I wholeheartedly agree that these are extremely important values, especially in a small town like Belle Isle which has spent nearly all of its once-plentiful city reserve fund, obscured an increase in taxes by separating out residents' waste management fees, changed meeting times and announcements to prevent residents from attending, and dramatically increased the size and payroll of our city government. Given your dedication to the above values, can you explain why you are supporting a candidate who has never spoken out on any of these issues while opposing a candidate whose platform is centered on curtailing wasteful spending in Belle Isle and increasing the accountability of our city government? 

I'm actually not supporting Ms. Nielsen's opponent (whom I have never met or spoken to). I simply pointed out what I considered an anomaly that is paramount to elected representation as a cornerstone to the establishment of the Republic. One cannot serve two masters, nor live in two locations. I simply pointed out what I considered a discrepancy, nothing more, nothing less. Ax the Tax has always fought for lower taxes, less government and greater individual freedom and generally support candidates who espouse those beliefs.



And one more response from me (I know this is getting long...):



Mr. Guetzloe,

Your commitment to spending personal funds to protect our Republic is laudable, albeit unnecessary in this case. The Belle Isle City Charter, our City's "constitution," spells out the requirements for serving on the Belle Isle City Council. It requires that a City Council member be a resident of his or her district throughout her term of service.

There is no issue here, since Mrs. Nielsen's move from her daughter's house on Nela to her new home in district 7 is already complete. Her new home is deeded and homesteaded. Her drivers license and voter registration are updated. She had to have the entire house re-plumbed, and there's still more work to do, but I'm sure her neighbors aren't complaining about the improvements. In fact, she's there right now if you're looking for her. Look for the house with the orchids out front.

It is unfortunate that you "have not spoken to or met any of the candidates involved in the race and obtained information from local media and public records in determining to send out the post card." While you are certainly not required to pick up the phone, you could have saved yourself quite a bit of personal expense if you had you simply contacted Mrs. Nielsen prior to sending your attack ad. She could have directed you to the relevant portions of the Belle Isle City Charter and provided the information you needed to assure yourself that that the Charter was not being violated in any way.

If there had been any reason to disqualify Sue Nielsen from this election, I guarantee you that City Attorney Frank Kruppenbacher would have found it when Mayor Brooks requested that he do so immediately after Sue Nielsen announced her candidacy.

On a related note, I would like to see the campaign finance report showing your personal contribution for the attack ad against Sue Nielsen. Would you mind providing that to me?

Regards,
Jeremy Weinsier



For more information about Doug Guetzloe's involvement in Belle Isle politics, please continue reading:

Big Money In Little Belle Isle


City Manager Salary Revisited

For some reason, the Sun has been getting a bit more traffic and commenting activity than usual lately. There is one particular comment that I have seen come up repeatedly in various flavors, so I wanted to take a moment to consider it and respond. On the recent article "Who is Doug Guetzloe," one commenter states (with regard to our city manager's $150,000+ salary):

"Everyone seems to forget that the city manager worked for two years free....that is about $50,000.00 a year. I even heard one of those running say that is the only reason they have no problem with his salary. Looks like some people aren't getting all the facts about the candidates."

I have heard this argument many times from Mayor Brooks and other Belle Isle city officials, but I respectfully disagree.

Free is free. When TruGreen offered my first lawn service for free, does that mean I should have expected to be double-billed next time to compensate them for the initial "free" service?

And if we really are compensating Mr. Severns for the time he offered to serve for "free," which he did only to prevent violation of our City Charter, then aren't we really compensating him with back pay in violation of the City Charter?

Furthermore, the above calculations assume that Mr. Severns $150,000+ salary will only last for one year, even though there is no such provision in his contract. If this is really back pay for the time Mr. Severns served for "free," then shouldn't his present pay level be only temporary? Isn't it about time we visit the issue of concluding his back pay and reducing his salary to a reasonable level for a city of our size?

And none of this takes into account the money Mr. Severns earned from the no-bid contracts awarded to his construction company, KNS Construction, for work at Cornerstone prior to the opening of the school (as disclosed by Mr. Spaulding at the recent candidate forum).


Still have any questions regarding the reasonableness of our city manager salary in Belle Isle? Check the below data regarding city manager salaries for cities of our size around Florida (researched, compiled and presented to the Belle Isle City Council by Sue Nielsen in May 2013):

CityPopulationSalaryEducationExperience
Treasure Island7500$105,046Bachelor's Degree10 years
Clewiston6357$85,000Bachelor's Degree3-4 years
Dade City6133$75,000Bachelor's Degree10 years
Fellsmere5108$115,000Bachelor's Degree5-7 years
High Springs5350$55,000Bachelor's Degree10 years
Live Oak6480$65,000Bachelor's Degree10 years
Newberry4950$86,112Master's Degree10 years
Sanibel6374$105,046Bachelor's Degree10 years
St. Augustine Beach6241$106,587Bachelor's Degree5-7 years
Surfside5800$18,000Bachelor's Degree10 years

                            Average salary = $81,579

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Who is Doug Guetzloe?

Before today, I had never heard the name Doug Guetzloe. But upon seeing the first political action committee (PAC) advertisement I can ever recall in a local Belle Isle election, I became curious about the sender, "Ax the Tax," which turns out to be a PAC run by a man named Doug Guetzloe. You can read more about this PAC and Mr. Guetzloe here:

Ax the Tax (Wikipedia)

Doug Guetzloe (Wikipedia)

Instead of focusing on any of the real issues in this election, Mr. Guetzloe's recent ad focuses on the important question of candidate Sue Nielsen's legal address, despite the fact that Mrs. Nielsen has described many times how she recently purchased her own home at 5006 Saint Germain Avenue after living in her daughter's house in Belle Isle for a couple years and deciding to settle here. Anyone interested can read more about Sue Nielsen's new home at her website: www.SueForBelleIsle.com. Despite Mr. Guetzloe's attempts to imply otherwise, Sue Nielsen would not be on Tuesday's ballot if she did not meet Belle Isle's requirements to run for office.

Mr. Guetzloe appears to have some pretty strong beliefs about campaigning, including the distribution of anonymous campaign literature. He describes himself as the only person in America ever jailed for not putting a disclaimer on his political flyers. According to the Florida Department of elections, Ax the Tax has regularly failed to file its required campaign finance reports from 2004 all the way through to the present.

Florida Department of Elections - Ax the Tax PAC

Aside from his convictions for not disclosing the author of his political advertisements, Mr. Guetzloe has also been convicted on two counts of willful failure to file tax returns on income totaling over $350,000.

Despite his questionable views on transparency in campaigning and campaign funding, Mr. Guetzloe also supports the lofty goals of lower taxes, smaller government and accountability from public officials. Therefore, it is difficult to see why Mr. Guetzloe is sending out last-minute attack ads in support of incumbent candidate Eric Spaulding. Under Mr. Spaulding's tenure on the Belle Isle City Council, our City has:

  • separated out waste management fees from residents' property taxes, allowing our city government to claim that it has not raised taxes even though residents are paying more. This has had the added effect of making the waste management fee ineligible for inclusion in the calculation of your tax deductions.
  • approved payment of $150,000 per year salary for our city manager contract, plus a $500 per month vehicle allowance, and insurance and retirement benefits, all without any open candidate search or interview process. This is approximately double the salary of typical city managers in cities our size around the state of Florida.
  • increased the size and payroll of the Belle Isle city government to unprecedented levels.
  • changed City Council meeting times from 7:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. - times when working residents cannot attend.
  • terminated the practice of putting out a sign to announce City Council meetings, despite repeated requests from residents to reinstate this practice.
  • regularly failed to publish minutes for at least 2 to 3 months following City Council meetings while leaving out crucial information and attachments.



For more information about Doug Guetzloe's involvement in Belle Isle politics, please continue reading:

Who Is Doug Guetzloe, Part II


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Revisionist History in the Making

by Sue Nielsen

One topic of discussion at the recent Belle Isle Candidate Forum was the May 7, 2013 City Council meeting at which I pointed out to our City Council a $300,000 error in proposed Resolution 13-02. This resolution was an amendment to the 2012-2013 Belle Isle City Budget. As proposed at the May 7, 2013 meeting, Resolution 13-02 contained a $300,000 error on page four, entitled "Exhibit B."

After Mayor Brooks openly and publicly acknowledged the $300,000 error at the May 7 meeting, the Council proceeded to approve it anyway with a vote of 6 to 1, with the intention to correct this error after it passed. Commissioner Readey voted against Resolution 13-02 because he believed that this error should have been corrected prior to approval. You can read more about it in the meeting summary linked below:

City Council Meeting Summary - May 7, 2013

So why is a financial error from ten months ago, and which has since been corrected, relevant today? Because Mayor Brooks and Commissioner Spaulding are now telling residents that no such error ever occurred. Moreover, City Hall employees have been taking time out of their busy days to back up Mr. Spaulding's claim with "proof" that there was never any error.

Here's the long and short of it. If you go to the City's website today, you will find three things:

(1) The meeting agenda for May 7, 2013, which includes proposed Resolution 13-02 but does not include Exhibit B. At the time of the meeting, Exhibit B was included, as you can see in the original printed copy of Resolution 13-02 linked below. If you look at the third line from the bottom of the original Exhibit B, you will see a figure of $1,105,858 (the erroneous value).

(2) The final version of Resolution 13-02, which contains a corrected Exhibit B with a value of $1,405,858 (the corrected value) on the third line from the bottom. 

(3) The meeting minutes for May 7, 2013, which state that Sue Nielsen "had some concerns on Resolution 13-02. Ms. Nielsen provided a copy of her questions to the Clerk for the record which is attached." However, those questions are not actually attached to the May 7 minutes, despite the fact that prior months' minutes always included citizens' written questions and statements. You can find a copy of these written questions linked below.


To sum up, City Hall has eliminated all evidence of the $300,000 error from its website, along with all evidence that a resident ever pointed such out an error.

My real concern is not the $300,000 budget error itself, which has since been corrected, but City Hall's willingness to boldly claim that the error never occurred. Considering the amount of discussion about openness and transparency I have heard in Council meetings over the past year, it is disappointing to see our elected representatives put this much work into denying that a small mistake was pointed out by a resident.

People, as well as governments, all make mistakes. There is no need to revise our City's history to exclude the fact that a resident pointed out an error to the Council for correction. Instead, we should be celebrating the fact that we have so many residents willing to offer their time, experience and insight. Our City should be encouraging more residents to get involved, so that we can employ their skills and knowledge for the benefit of our community!