Sunday, August 3, 2014

FDLE Investigation Update & Tuesday Meeting Time Change

Readers have requested an update regarding the recent City Council workshop meeting. While it would be tough to provide a comprehensive summary of the three-hour meeting, it was refreshing to see some actual discussion of City issues - even if this discussion focused on some of the less important issues presently before the Council. The recent workshop meeting included an hour-long discussion the proposed "golf cart ordinance" and an extended discussion of the proposed "Belle Isle Neighborhood Grant" program.

But despite the lengthy meeting, the Council provided residents with little information about the most pressing issue on many residents' minds: the status of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation into the recent incident involving City Manager Keith Severns and Chief Jackson of the Belle Isle Police Department. The Council engaged in a brief discussion of this incident at the request of Commissioners Nielsen and Readey, but did not address the question of an interim Council response to this incident.

While it is sensible for the Council to refrain from making any final judgments until the FDLE investigation is complete, many residents have inquired as to why the Council has not even considered temporarily suspending the individuals involved in this incident for the duration of the FDLE investigation. According to a number of residents, this would be the expected response in most other Florida municipalities.

However, the majority of our Belle Isle Commissioners appear to be against taking any Council action in response to this incident. In fact, Commissioner Shuck described his outrage at the Sun's reporting of this incident, yet did not even express mild disappointment at the individuals admittedly involved in the actual wrongdoing.

Although the Council did not provide any significant update regarding the status of the present FDLE investigation, I received the following information from Special Agent Danny Banks in charge of the FDLE Orlando Regional Operations Center:

"As with all our cases, FDLE will be choosing the lead agent for this investigation, and I am confident that our team will do a thorough, unbiased review of the facts surrounding the allegations. I am very proud of our agency’s reputation in fulfilling this role, and equally proud of our ability to provide accurate reports which document our investigative activities."

Special Agent Banks stated that he cannot comment further on this active investigation, but anticipates that the investigation "will be completed within a matter of weeks."

Apart from the ongoing FDLE investigation, the other major issue presently faced by our City is the creation and approval of our 2014-2015 City Budget. On Wednesday, the Council discussed an initial budget proposal made by City Manager Keith Severns. It appears from this discussion that the Council's focus in the upcoming City Budget will be the Capital Improvement Program - especially issues surrounding repaving our City's roadways. You can learn more about these repaving issues by reading Commissioner Nielsen's recent Sun article entitled "Everything You (N)ever Wanted To Know About Repaving."

Discussion of the 2014-2015 City Budget will continue at the upcoming City Council meeting scheduled for this Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. This is a change from the previous 5:30 p.m. meeting time, made pursuant to the recent City Council decision to change meeting times. From this date forward, regular Tuesday meetings will begin at 6:00 p.m. and Wednesday workshop meetings will begin at 9:00 a.m. Citizen comments will continue to be permitted at Tuesday meetings but not at Wednesday workshops.

The 2014-2015 City Budget must be approved by next month. Any residents who want to provide input regarding our City's infrastructure, budget, or any other topic should plan to attend the City Council meeting this Tuesday, August 5 at 6:00 p.m.

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