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Commissioners Disregard Process to Appoint Advisory Board Member

Against protocol, city commissioners appointed former mayor and state Rep. Tom Anderson to a vacant spot on the Board of Finance on Thursday, before the group had an opportunity to consider all its applicants.

Norma Tillges says she couldn’t believe what she witnessed at Thursday's commission meeting.

"This is not how our city should operate," she said.

In a 3-2 decision, commissioners effectively denied the city’s volunteer advisory Board of Finance its opportunity to review applicants for two vacant positions and selected one for them.

Advisory board members typically review applicants and give their recommendations to the city commission. Commission members then vote on the applicants.

John Tornga, chairman of the Board of Finance, asked the commission in a June 14 letter to allow “the normal consideration process for the filling of those positions."

But on Thursday, June 21, Commissioner Dave Carson led a motion to appoint one of the eight applicants — former Dunedin mayor and state Rep. Tom Anderson — to finish a three-year term on the finance board that expires this October.

"Going through these times of turmoil with the budget, I think his experience and knowledge would be a huge asset to this city," Carson said. "There are two seats open on that board; to appoint one at this time I don't think is all that big of a deal."

Commissioner Julie Scales, who, along with Ron Barnette, dissented.

"This is a big deal, really, because we have an established process that ensures all people are fairly considered," Scales said Thursday. "I think the various committees' involvement in it is important ... These are volunteers. I don't think that we should show disrespect for them."

"At the last meeting, Commissioner Carson said (Tom Anderson) is dying to tear into the budget," she said. "He can do that right now. He can attend the meetings. He can be a participant. I don't see why tossing aside an established process needs to occur when he can be fully involved with that committee."

The Board of Finance's most recent vacancy opened on June 6, while the group was in the middle of reviewing the proposed 2013-14 budget.

City records show that another seat has been open since October 2011, but Tornga's letter indicates since spring. All the applicants submitted for the position between September and May. They include a retired pharmacist, a consultant, a former bank director, a retired real estate agent, a nurse, and a former accountant. Anderson submitted his application on June 14.

Tornga's letter explains the group had not yet had a chance to consider its eight applicants because of the increased workload of the budget review process and the complexities of scheduling around the lives of 11 people.

Tornga wrote, “It was also felt that we could complete our tasks with the current members.”

The group's budget report was nearly complete at the time of Tornga's letter. He estimated it would be complete on or around June 21, the same day as the commission meeting during which Anderson was appointed.

Mayor Dave Eggers expressed disappointment over the openings.

"I think it's important to get these filled in a timely fashion," he said. "We rarely get a person of Tom's background and experience. I think even in this late time of the budget he can give kind of a bird's eye view of what all's been happening."

Norma Tillges doesn’t sit on the finance board, but she was so rattled by Thursday’s decision, that on Friday, she took a principled stand and resigned from her positions on both the Marina Advisory Committee, where she served nine years, and the Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Committee, where she served six years.

“The applicants that have submitted their resumes with qualifications should have been considered,” she wrote in her resignation letter. “What I am witnessing at the City Commission is not making me very proud of our city.

"Citizens need to stand up to this forced action and make sure the applicant process is followed.”

bill coleman June 25, 2012 at 11:08 AM
Wow, this is slap in the face of all city boards and advisory committees. Tom Anderson will be a tremendous asset; but that's not the queston, it's the complete disregard and disrespect for established proceedure. It reeks of back room politics and the "good old Boy" way of goverment. We're better then that. The three amigos should take a good hard look in the mirror and reflect on the image of protocol and proceedure.
Maryellen Farinas June 25, 2012 at 12:49 PM
City Commission gets another feather in the cap of cronyism. Tom Anderson has been a wonderful public servant, but again, that's not the point.
Heidi Thompson June 25, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I find actions such as this extremely frightening. This is NOT the American way and has nothing whatsoever to do with Tom Anderson. The committee should have come to their own conclusion and presented it to the City Commission.
Dianne Wheatley-Giliotti June 25, 2012 at 06:04 PM
What next? Term limits for volunteers? Appraisals of volunteers? A city with fewer and fewer volunteers to do work that taxes do not support?
Bob Burdewick June 25, 2012 at 06:04 PM
From experience I find that city commissions do what they feel like doing and not taking into consideration recommendations from the various boards and committees. Actions like this leaves me no surprise.
Donald W. Story June 25, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I'm appalled. I spent several years in and around Chicago and Cook County, IL This act seemed like Chicago style politics. I thought we were above that. I am dissapointed.
un-delightful in Dunedin June 25, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Dear Mr. Carson. Please let me know on what day you became the dictator for the City of Dunedin. I firmly plan on taking this into consideration when I vote. It's up to the people on each board or committee to recommend new members to the commission. More and more this commission seems to just pay lip service to the people of Dunedin, while just doing whatever they want to do. Commissioner Scales is right, this IS a big deal. Everyone should keep in mind there are alternatives, and remind our Commission that they do answer to us.
Robert Harris June 26, 2012 at 02:59 AM
If in fact a vacancy existed since October 2011, was a replacement put forth by the board? Might this have been motivation to appoint a member since now two positions were open?
Kelly Reukauf June 26, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Another reason why we need to be out voting on election day. This is not how democracy works. Vote to get these people out of office!!!!
Kelly Reukauf June 26, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Thank you Bill, well phrased!

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