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.”