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To the Citizens of Clay County,
After attending the Clay County Commission Meeting on the morning of Monday, January 23, 2017 in attempt to hear what the commissioners and county administrator had to say to those impacted by the sudden policy shift in the fee collection process for slip lease renewals at Smithville Lake, I find myself in total disbelief at what occurred. While Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte had placed the item on the agenda for professional discussion, it was quickly squashed by Commissioner Ridgeway and Commissioner Gene Owen.
I applaud Presiding Commissioner Nolte’s comments regarding the other commissioners’ behaviors.
These individuals were elected to serve. Part of serving involves at least listening to those you disagree with. Both Commissioners Ridgeway and Owen just won an election, so did Commissioner Nolte two years ago. I’d like to remind Ms. Ridgeway and Mr. Owen that Commissioner Nolte was elected by the entire County not just a portion of it. He’s not the other Commissioners boss, but he does represent all the people of Clay County. The actions on Monday show a disregard for those they were sworn to represent.
I find it concerning that, while Ms. Ridgway was again unable to attend in person and attend by phone, she could hear and make her motions to squelch all conversations on this agenda item. She also seemed to maneuver on many other important items with what appeared to be great ease.
When called upon to address the questions by Mrs. Stacy Long during public comment, who endured three hours of waiting with three young children in tow just to speak during the public comment, Ms. Ridgeway abruptly begged off stating she couldn’t hear or be heard well enough via phone to provide direct responses or answers to the questions asked.
Well…which is it Ms. Ridgeway, could you hear or not?
Should she have been allowed to vote on any topic that day?
How much did she miss during those important discussions?
It appeared like selective listening to those of us watching.
Now, let’s talk about what appears to be retaliation by staff and elected officials because of actions that I was a part of in May of 2016. Several other slip holders and I stepped forward to alert the commissioners to the gross neglect, mismanagement, and significant safety concerns at the docks.
In my opinion, the evidence presented showed direct and willful negligence. I would venture to say that it was not at all pleasant for those with the delegated management responsibilities to hear, let alone have their nose rubbed in it because of their inaction that forced it to the public meeting. I ask the reader to recall I made the statement during one of my presentations back in 2016 that many feared of retaliation by the county staff and some commissioners.
Remember the look of shock on their faces? Thanks to TheNorthlandNews.com the comment and their response was recorded. You can watch that below.
I hate to say this next thing as integrity means something to me. I believe my testimony at the County Commission has proven that I believe in the importance of evidence, but I am wearing out with this situation as I have invested significant personal time on these issues.
I want to be clear my next statement cannot be substantiated due to it being in conversation. I assure you that it occurred. If I was under oath in a courtroom, I’d say it happened. I say look at my argument and then draw your conclusion.
Assistant County Administrator Nicole Brown, who has the delegated responsibility to manage all the marina activities as she has pointed out numerous times, stood in the parking lot at Camp Branch Marina after a meeting we held with other slip holders to address ongoing issues and made the following statement directly to me:
“You guys started this and we’re going to finish it. Buckle up as things are going to get tough for the slip holders in 2017.”
This was the last meeting the county officials attended. Keep in mind this was the same meeting where she blocked the Presiding Commissioner Nolte from sitting in on the meeting with his constituents. He was forced to leave or the meeting was going to be cancelled.
Numerous documented requests for additional meetings have gone by the wayside. I guess I should note this is where I started reaching out to my elected commissioner, Ms. Ridgeway, in an attempt to meet with her along with my spouse. Five months later with six pages of email history, we have yet to meet. Excuse after excuse and delay after delay seems to be her specialty.
So where are we now?
Well, all slip holders that received a renewal letter this year were put on written notice:
“Beginning January 1st, random inspections will be conducted. If a slip is found to be in violation, we will contact the slip holder in order to address the issue in a timely manner. Continuous or serious violations of the lease will result in termination”.
I’m left asking more questions:
What prompted the aggressive stance post decades of not having it?
What is a “timely manner”?
What constitutes a “serious violation”?
These are subjective terms that leave many open questions around motive and intent.
Then, we have the sudden changes in slip fee payments and the total disregard for the published ordinance that Mrs. Long referenced during her public comment at last Monday’s Commission Meeting.
Again more questions…
Why did this change in mid-day and seem to be in direct violation to published policies on record at the county?
Why has the staff at the dock house been instructed to remove the table and chairs that many of the retired folks in the community routinely use to fish from while they drink the coffee they purchased from the county in the dock house?
Why did two of the commissioners block the public discussion on the slip renewal policy change fee topic on Monday?
Why won’t anyone from the administration leadership team talk in detail about their actions and behaviors?
Why were some people allowed to pay on January 13th without penalty fees, and others were not allowed to pay at all?
Why were some that were not allowed to pay on the 13th provided free of charge park entrance passes as a consolation, but others were not afforded the same extension of monetary compensation?
I have been told that official county records for slip renewal payments made on the 13th were modified to reflect they were paid on the 12th. If this is proven accurate, is this not fraud at the most basic level? How quick can they scramble to revert back? Who might have the hard evidence that proves this? Hmm…
There are so many more things that I’d prefer to do then write letters to editors and take time off work to attend County meetings. But, sometimes you don’t get to do the things you want to do, and must do the things that are right. My goal is not to attack those that are serving the County, it is not to name call, and it is not to harm.
My goal is to get resolution for those that I feel are being treated unfairly. My goal is to improve the facilities that I pay taxes and boat fees to maintain.
Sincerely and with all due respect to all Clay County residents,