Palm Beach County

The Board Hears the Truth!
The video below is my response to Commissioner Santamaria’s distortion of facts relating to his Community Forum November 18, 2009.

Commissioner Santamaria Shows His True Colors!
“…Public input is the way the democratic system works…” Jess Santamaria. Listen as Commissioner Santamaria censors public input that addresses his involvement with a County issue he once championed.

From: Andy [mailto:andy@upinarms.net]
Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 1:49 AM
To: ‘BCC-AllCommissioners@pbcgov.org’; ‘Robert Weisman’; ‘StateAttorney@sa15.state.fl.us’
Cc: ‘jennifer_sorentrue@pbpost.com’; ‘abreid@SunSentinel.com’; ‘joel_engelhardt@pbpost.com’; ‘george_bennett@pbpost.com’’; ‘NewsTip@wflx.com’; ‘newstips@wptv.com’; ‘news@gotowncrier.com’
Subject: FW: Conduct of County Meetings

Commissioner Aaronson and Mr. Weisman,

The following statement appears on the Palm Beach Post website.

“Palm Beach County Commissioner Jess Santamaria asked a resident from his district to leave a community forum last week after he said the man asked questions about a topic that wasn’t on the agenda. ”(Link to the palmbeachpost)

One of the topics was encouraging public involvement to hold elected officials accountable for their actions. Please explain to me exactly how I violated decorum. Also, please provide me with the case law that that justifies “ it is within the authority of a Commissioner conducting a public meeting to maintain decorum by asking for the removal of someone they deem to be disrupting the conduct of said meeting.”

I need a real clear understanding of what “they deem to be disrupting” means. Please explain the justification and legal precedence as to how my right to be at a public meeting was justifiably terminated by Commissioner Santamaria with cause. Please detail the cause. Also, please provide me with the official typed minutes of the Forum.

The following statement also appears on the Palm Beach Post website.

“I said, ‘I am through with you; if you don’t stop I am going to ask you to leave,’ ” said Santamaria, whose district covers western Palm Beach County. “I really raised my voice, and I really told him to leave the premises.” ((Link to the palmbeachpost)

The underlined (bold) portion of the above statement is a complete fabrication and completely false. Commissioner Santamaria never said that as the audio recording proves. He was completely hostile towards me as soon as I started to speak. His statements to the newspaper and actions at his Forum amount to slander and defamation. Should Commissioner Santamaria continue to distort the facts with falsehoods and historical revisionist statements, I shall be left with no other choice than to pursue all options legally available to me.

This is a perfect example of why an Inspector General is desperately needed to oversee the BCC. As the BCC Chairman Commissioner Aaronson, I would hope and expect that you do not condone political censorship, tyrannical behavior from the elected officials you chair and the flagrant disregard for a citizens civil liberties.

Once again I demand a written apology from the County and Commissioner Santamaria for his behavior at a County function open to the public and for his false statement to the media.

Andy Schaller
www.upinarms.net

_____________________________________________________________________
From: Andy [mailto:andy@upinarms.net]
Sent: Monday, November 23, 2009 12:44 AM
To: ‘Robert Weisman’; ‘BCC-AllCommissioners@pbcgov.org’; ‘csuits@pbcgov.org’; ‘jeaston@pbcgov.org’
Cc: ‘abreid@SunSentinel.com’; ‘jennifer_sorentrue@pbpost.com’; ‘george_bennett@pbpost.com’’; ‘joel_engelhardt@pbpost.com’; ‘newstips@wptv.com’; ‘NewsTip@wflx.com’; ‘news@gotowncrier.com’; ‘StateAttorney@sa15.state.fl.us’
Subject: RE: Conduct of County Meetings

Mr. Weisman,

Considering that your response to me lacks substance, I would have to conclude that you disagree with Commissioner Santamaria’s actions.

First and foremost, I never mentioned Fargo Avenue or assessments! You said you listened to portions of the recording. Perhaps you did not listen closely enough or to the pertinent portions. I asked two questions that were related to all County residents who travel roads in this County.

“While there are no specific rules of conduct for such meetings, there are principles for the conduct of County Commission and other public meetings which may reasonably be deemed to apply.” What principles did I violate? It was Commissioner Santamaria who violated decorum!

Please explain to me exactly how I violated decorum. Also, please provide me with the case law that that justifies “ it is within the authority of a Commissioner conducting a public meeting to maintain decorum by asking for the removal of someone they deem to be disrupting the conduct of said meeting.”

I need a real clear understanding of what “they deem to be disrupting” means. Please explain the justification and legal precedence as to how my right to be at a public meeting was terminated by Commissioner Santamaria with cause. Please detail the cause. Also, please provide me with the official typed minutes of the Forum.

The individual lacking proper decorum was Commissioner Santamaria. He is the one who launched the personal attack on me. I asked him two professional, County Commission related questions and he was anything but professional. If anyone should have asked someone to leave for breaking decorum it should have been me telling him to leave. Commissioner Santamaria was anything but a gentleman or a humble public servant. His childish tirade was that of a man with a guilty conscious who got called on the carpet for dropping the ball and his ego got the best of him once again.

Commissioner Santamaria spent most of the 90 + minutes prior to my questions, pointing fingers at the current BCC as well as past Board members. He said that people don’t get involved with issues and have apathy and complacency. Further, he said to hold the Board accountable for their actions, write letters, show up at meetings, sign petitions, be persistent, keep pounding, send letters to the editor, send emails to elected officials, etc. That is exactly what I was doing calmly and peacefully. Commissioner Santamaria just finished telling everyone not to call him “honorable.” He said that elected officials should not be elevated to a status greater than the public servant role they were elected and paid to perform. When has one of your paid employees told you, their employer, to leave the building for doing what they just spent an hour and a half advocating?

It is hard to listen to an elected official pontificate and criticize the behavior of the BCC that he is a part of without holding that same official accountable to the very same standard. I was doing exactly what a main focus of that night’s topic was, holding a Commissioner accountable. Listen to the Q&A portion where nearly every question/comment was about BCC accountability.

Commissioner Santamaria asked all attendees to sign a petition but he is ignoring the signed petitions he was responsible for sending out.

Once again I demand a written apology from the County and Commissioner Santamaria for his behavior at a County function open to the public.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Congress nor Jess Santamaria!

Andy Schaller
www.upinarms.net

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From: Robert Weisman [mailto:RWeisman@pbcgov.org]
Sent: Friday, November 20, 2009 3:47 PM
To: Andy
Cc: Verdenia Baker; Lisa DeLaRionda; Brad Merriman; Robert Weisman; Johnnie Easton; Burt Aaronson; Jeff Koons; Jess Santamaria; Karen Marcus; Priscilla Taylor A.; Shelley Vana; Steven Abrams
Subject: Conduct of County Meetings

This is in response to your recent message regarding Commissioner Santamaria’s November 18, Community Forum. The County considers this a public County Commission district informational meeting, notwithstanding its location in a privately owned shopping center. It is that public meeting status that allows for us to provide County staff in support of the meeting. Such meetings have been conducted by some commissioners periodically for many years.
While there are no specific rules of conduct for such meetings, there are principles for the conduct of County Commission and other public meetings which may reasonably be deemed to apply. Among those are: access to all citizens who wish to attend and providing similar rights to speak, if any, to all attending in regards to the subject matter on the agenda. There is no legal requirement that public comment be accepted.
I note that the Commissioner did advertise that the agenda for the meeting would be limited to matters of his choosing. I have listened to portions of the tape of the meeting. After his remarks, he accepted public comments which he indicated should be related to the subjects that he had addressed. From his comments to you, it is clear that the Commissioner did not consider Fargo Avenue and assessments to be relevant to matters he had addressed previously and he chose to limit your comments on that subject.
Irrespective of the location of the meeting, it is within the authority of a Commissioner conducting a public meeting to maintain decorum by asking for the removal of someone they deem to be disrupting the conduct of said meeting. Such occurences are rare and unfortunate and should be avoided thru mutual respect of these meeting circumstances.

Robert Weisman
PBC Administrator
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From: Andy [mailto:andy@upinarms.net]
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 12:17 PM
To: ‘Jess Santamaria’; ‘BCC-AllCommissioner@pbcgov.org’; ‘Rweisman@pbcgov.org’
Cc: ‘jennifer_sorentrue@pbpost.com’; ‘abreid@SunSentinel.com’; ‘joel_engelhardt@pbpost.com’; ‘newstips@wptv.com’; ‘NewsTip@wflx.com’; ‘news@gotowncrier.com’
Subject: Comm Santamaria’s True Colors

Commissioner Santamaria,

Your behavior towards me last night was completely unbecoming of an elected official and of a rational person. I was attending a publicly advertised meeting in a public place. Two of your County paid staff were there. You were using the County’s Public address equipment that was being operated by a County employee. Another County employee from the County media department was there as well. This was a Community Forum advertised by you and open to all.

Upon my arrival I filled out a comment card with two questions and indicated my desire to speak. You ignored my written request to speak. I raised my hand to speak during your Q&A and was given a County owned microphone. Before I had a chance to ask any question you launched into a childish tirade about how you would not discuss Fargo Avenue and that you would not speak to me. After you settled down temporarily you realized my question was not about Fargo. My second question about a topic that affects many Palm Beach County residents is what drove you ballistic and you shouted demands for me to leave the building! You shouted I gave that man $4000 as if that was some sort of payoff for my silence. The real Jess Santamaria was plainly visible for all to see and hear.

Moments prior to this you spent a great deal of time telling everyone in attendance about how the public should not place elected officials upon a pedestal. You instructed everyone to not call you “The Honorable” Jess Santamaria. Then you gave everyone in attendance a firsthand example of your less than honorable behavior. Jess Santamaria showed his true colors.

Last night as well as during nearly every public speaking event that I have witnessed you participate in, you told the attendees to persevere with trying to change government for the better. The constant mantra of yours is “Right is Might.” Last night you exercised your “Might is Right” ownership of a personal property being used for County business and crossed the line of elected public representative and landed into the area of an egoistic maniacal tyrant who opposed everything he just pontificated!

The job and role as public representative that you choose to accept and are paid for does not allow you to pick and choose those whom you represent. You have abandoned Fargo property owners who have signed the County petition that you caused to be sent out. The majority of property owners returned petitions in favor of paving Fargo but you have washed your hands of the entire process that you started and encouraged me to pursue to its completion. You have made a decision to let every YES petition, the majority, hang in limbo as you publicly declared last night that the MSTU program was not your concern and that you were done with the issue and done with me.

As I stated to you Sir, as long as you are my County representative, I am not done with you. You can’t wash your hands of a group of citizens because you are embarrassed at your lack of ability to properly handle one small neighborhood road in your district. I am guessing that the reality of the “once great” developer who built 3000 homes, brought businesses and medical to a rural land, who shaped the very area he represents, and who now doesn’t have the wherewithal to serve a neighborhood properly by getting a County owned road paved, has finally caused you to react the way you did last night.

Clerk Bock and The BCC Internal Audit Committee have found cause to investigate the very program you now want to disassociate yourself with. Perhaps that is because the ongoing Internal Audit Committee investigation is not casting a favorable light upon The MST program and Engineering. You have had a chance to represent “the little guys” of a neighborhood and you have let everyone down thus far. That could be corrected by true leadership and integrity. You could do the right thing and correct your thus far apathetic attempt to help. Instead you have chosen the route of a bully who last night decreed in front of his constituents, “MIGHT IS RIGHT!” Turning your back on the very citizens who elected you to represent them is dereliction of duty. Shame on you Jess Santamaria!

Once again last night, you professed to the audience that you record all of your meetings. I ask you one more time for the recordings of our meetings concerning Fargo Avenue. Previously you said no such recordings exist. Why do you continue to mislead and deceive the public by telling them that you record all your meetings which by your own written documentation you clearly do not. This is one more example of politician Santamaria speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

Andy Schaller
www.upinarms.net

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November 09, 2009

Commissioner Santamaria,

Despite your effort to keep your word about your monetary offers regarding Fargo Avenue, once again you have distorted the facts. The first time you offered me $10,000 of your own personal funds to pave Fargo Avenue was immediately after the BCC meeting in June of 2008.

I asked you for support in your official capacity as my District Commissioner. You responded that my neighborhood was not in your area of concern. The “forgotten” area of the western communities was your focus. I responded to you that you were not being fair to me and my neighbors because of our location in your district. “In 74 years no one has ever said that Jess Santamaria was unfair” was your response. Then you proceeded to offer me $10,000 towards paving Fargo. I declined your offer and asked you do things the right way. Your support in an official Commissioner capacity was what we needed, not a check to go away and to relieve you of your official responsibilities.

Commissioner, you made this offer within the first five minutes that you and I ever discussed this matter in the hallway outside the Commission chambers. You made this offer in front of a witness. Days later your repeated this offer in front of County Engineer George Webb during a meeting we had discussing Fargo Avenue. The idea of changing the MSTU ordinance was never discussed until later in the still ongoing process. However, the discussion of your original $10,000 offer continued through our one year plus interactions.

Your initial offer was a response to your ego being challenged that you were being told you were unfair and turning your back on a particular location in your district. Your pride and your wallet responded with a $10,000 offer towards paving Fargo Avenue. You offered this “no strings attached.” Now you are attempting to recreate history and to fabricate conditions upon which your ego got the best of you. Not only have you not had a grasp of the situation you were involved with pertaining to paving Fargo, you now don’t have a grasp of your own ego responses. Witnesses heard your no strings attached offer and now you are once again reneging on your word.

You have left a super majority of Fargo Avenue property owners in the lurch. Upon your motion to pave Fargo, the super majority of Fargo property owners responded to the County issued petitions in favor of road paving. Those petitions are now sitting in political limbo. What about them? You are washing your hands of this matter leaving property owners with no resolve.

You changed your “convictions” when a number of non Fargo residents appeared at a BCC meeting to object to being assessed for paving Fargo. The County policy is to assess all benefiting properties. You sat quietly by while the Board reversed your previous motion. Since that time, George Webb has provided more information about Fargo Avenue.

1. Fargo is a County road that was dedicated and deeded to the County at the inception of the neighborhood. It is not a private road. It is a county road that has never been maintained in 30 plus years despite property owners paying County road taxes since that time.

2. Engineering did a traffic study showing that traffic on Fargo Avenue would have a monthly average of 12,000 trips coming and going from non Fargo properties as compared to 3,000 trips by Fargo property owners. The same neighbors who came to the County chambers to say they never use Fargo were proven by inaccurate by Engineering’s traffic count!

Additionally, two separate offices have found justifiable cause to audit Engineering and the MSTU program. County Clerk and Comptroller Bock found reason to audit the program as did the BCC’s own internal audit committee. The internal audit committee’s investigation is underway and has been for some time. The results of that audit will be presented to the audit committee in March of 2010.

Meanwhile the wishes of the Fargo property owners who have responded with YES votes to the County petition to pave Fargo have been shelved indefinitely. Now you have abandoned them both personally and professionally. You have withdrawn your political and personal support for citizens in your district and have tried to recreate history to justify your actions.

I don’t believe I or anyone else would have traded your support in an elected official capacity for a $10,000 check. The reality is we have neither. Not only did you never come and view the road and neighborhood, you never had a complete understanding of whom and what you were involved with.

Bottom line Commissioner, you have washed your hands of a situation that still needs your support as our elected representative; that in and of itself is neglect of responsibility. Your attempt to correct your ego driven offer of $10,000 for Fargo Avenue through a fabrication of facts is inexcusable!

If you won’t do the right thing as a politician, at least honor your word as a man.

Sincerely,

Andy Schaller
www.upinarms.net

11-3-2009 BCC Meeting – Matters By The Public

Commissioners,

21 months ago I started once again, working to pave Fargo Avenue. 16 months ago I asked the Board to change the MSTU program. This request was unanimously supported by the Board and George Webb as a way of paving Fargo. 11 months ago the Board unanimously approved the MSTU change. To date not one citizen has been able to utilize the ordinance change.

Mr. Webb stated in an email to Ray Nichols, a Fargo resident, that Fargo Avenue is a county owned road. It is not a private road.
Fargo was deeded and dedicated to the county at the inception of the neighborhood. We as residents have been personally maintaining a county owned road for 40 plus years.

Mr. Webb did a traffic count of the east west roads that intersect Fargo. His results show that the neighbors who came here to say they don’t use the road actually use the road 4 times as much as Fargo residents. Mr. Webb’s study shows non Fargo residents will use Fargo Avenue 12, 000 trips per month as compared to 3,000 trips for Fargo residents.

Commissioner Marcus, 8 months ago you asked Mr. Weisman to personally get involved to see that we didn’t have to wait another 16 months to resolve this matter. At this pace 16 months has turned into 24 at a minimum.

Commissioner Santamaria, I ask you to put your money where your spoken and written words are. I’ll accept your $10,000 offer to personally contribute to paving Fargo. You also offered to pay my expenses for all the wasted time I have in this matter. Those expenses are now $4,000. Please make the check payable to the County or another grading service to benefit all County citizens to maintain the county road that has been County neglected for forty plus years.

America is a Republic not a Democracy, Sir. Are you really surprised that people who are getting something for nothing, road maintenance, wouldn’t want to pay for a service they are now getting for free upon the backs of a hand full of others?

Who among you are proud of the way this issue has been handled? I am living proof of why people have little or no faith in this Commission.

Commissioner Santamaria makes good on one of two promises.