110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
DeBary censures its mayor
Council members say he puts himself above others on council
By Pat Andrews
posted Nov 12, 2012 - 9:18:51am
Most in the audience didn't know just what was coming when City Council Member Lita Handy-Peters asked to add a discussion of DeBary City Charter revisions to the Nov. 7 DeBary City Council meeting agenda.
After her presentation, Council Member Dan Hunt made a series of motions, including one to censure Garcia because the mayor has behaving "in an irrational fashion," which reflects on the City Council and DeBary. That motion passed 4-1, with Garcia opposed.
Handy-Peters used a slide show to illustrate her discussion of Robert's Rules of Order, city ordinances and the City Charter — in light of Mayor Bob Garcia's conduct, though the presentation never named Garcia, but referred to "an individual" or "the minority."
The first slide quoted Robert's Rules of Order: "Where there is a radical difference of opinion in an organization, the minority, after failing to sway a majority to their views, is gracefully to submit and to recognize the action as that of the entire organization, and cheerfully to assist in carrying it out, until they can secure its repeal."
She said "leadership" is governing within those rules, "as opposed to putting oneself above the governing body by campaigning as an individual in violation of the same principles."
Missing meetings then ridiculing council's vote
The next slides noted that Garcia had taken part in three workshops regarding the city's new splash pad, and voted to move ahead, but later cast the lone dissenting vote and "Publicly ridiculed the decision of the majority."
Garcia did the same with the budget, Handy-Peters said, participating in "numerous" workshops, and stating he was fine with going to the rollback rate. Garcia then missed the first reading of the budget and, without commenting to the council, went to the news media and ridiculed the council's vote.
Handy-Peters said he did it again after attending workshops on changes to the land-development code, missing the second reading of the ordinance, then ridiculing the 4-0 council vote in the news media.
"It is very apparent that the mayor puts himself above the rest of the council," Handy-Peters said.
Handy-Peters said a section of the City Charter says a council member may forfeit the office if the member misses three regularly scheduled council meetings during his or her term without being excused by the council.
Garcia noted one of his recent absences was due to his grandmother's death, and the other two times he had health issues.
Garcia said he has the right to his opinion, and the right to speak on it.
"It appears that this council has total disregard for the chair," Garcia said.
Council Member Nick Koval said he has a problem with the mayor missing meetings, then making derogatory comments, not simply missing a meeting, per se. Koval was insulted by a Garcia e-mail calling council members "arrogant and heartless," among other things, he said.
Handy-Peters asked staff be directed to draft a reimbursement policy that restricts reimbursement to travel to events and meetings approved by the council.
After her presentation, Council Member Dan Hunt moved to direct the city manager to investigate Garcia's expenses and mileage. Hunt noted Garcia has been billing the city 56 cents a mile, for "30 trips to the Moose Lodge and the DeBary diner."
Garcia said all the meetings were justified.
"I go to DeBary Diner to meet with people who don't want to meet at City Hall," he said.
Council members voted 4-1 against him to order the investigation of Garcia's mileage expenses.
City decals and magnets
Handy-Peters also asked for a discussion of the placement of city-related magnets, decals and so forth on personal vehicles.
She suggested the City Council schedule the discussion for the Dec. 5 meeting, and suggested authorization for them be required, and if authorized, that the City Council member must provide insurance consistent with that required of city consultants, listing the city as an additional insured.
Garcia drives a truck with large city decals affixed, with the word "Mayor" on them.
Handy-Peters asked that the excuse process be formalized and absences be approved by the City Council.
These recommendations were made in place of any specific complaints, Handy-Peters said.
Hunt made motions to direct staff to draft policies for mileage reimbursement, car magnets and insurance, and for excused absences.
The first two motions passed 4-1 with Garcia opposed, and the third vote was 3-2 with Council Member Chris Carson and Garcia opposed.
Garcia has had differences with previous council members. In 2010, then-Vice Mayor Norm Erickson and Lenny Marks won a fight over Garcia's use of office space at City Hall, and on July 21, 2010, the council voted 4-1 to instruct staff to draw up a resolution prohibiting any elected official from having physical office space at City Hall. The next City Council, however, allowed Garcia to have an office.
At the Nov. 7 meeting, Hunt made a motion to again eliminate Garcia's office; the motion died for lack of a second.
Also in 2010, the City Council stopped Garcia from conducting round-table meetings with residents without other council members present, and from attending city staff meetings, since no council member or mayor is to direct employees under the city's charter — only the city manager.
In 2009, Garcia was the subject of a formal City Council hearing, to determine if he had violated the City Charter by giving orders to an employee in discussing FEMA reimbursements with Chief Financial Office Jimmy Seelbinder. Garcia was cleared of the charge.
The comments posted below are posted by readers, not by The Beacon staff. These comments express the views and opinions of the authors, and not the administrators, moderators or webmaster. The comments forum is governed by these rules. Please use the report abuse link if you find offensive comments.
Did you find this story interesting or informative? Subscribe to The West Volusia Beacon to read more stories by Pat Andrews, along with others from our award-winning writers. Subscribe now!