HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs Commissioner Eric May resigned from his post on the commission effective Tuesday morning. In an alarming statement, May wrote in an email, “High Springs’ government is in an emergency situation and I cannot stop it.”
May’s resignation comes amid intense political unrest in High Springs, where just last week, Interim Police Chief William Benck resigned, giving two weeks notice, and was then dismissed immediately by Interim City Manager Jeri Langman.
The night before May resigned, Langman effectively canceled a meeting in which the commission was to consider a partnership with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) to help run the High Springs Police Department. Langman promoted Officer Steve Holley to a sergeant Friday then to Police Chief on Monday.
In an email, May was specifically critical of Langman’s actions, writing, “Decisions such as our interim manager's electing to terminate a police chief, promote a friend within the department -- unilaterally in the chief's absence --to the rank of sergeant, then going on to name that person to chief of police on the same day the city was to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Sheriff's Office to bring in an outside, interim chief are just scratches on the surface of the problems we have here.”
He also accused Langman of playing favorites with commissioners. “For me personally, I have fallen victim to the manager neglecting to inform me of meetings and appointments and being left in the dark on information that is being fed to other commissioners,” he wrote.
In his letter to High Springs City Clerk Jenny Parham, May wrote, “…the direction our city has taken in recent months has caused me to reevaluate the impact completing my term would have on my life, including my family and my personal health.”
The former commissioners said in his letter that the city was on an “irreparable course filled with continued cronyism complimented by unethical and illegal behaviors.” The likes of which, May said he, “Simply could not have any personal part of.”
“It breaks my heart to see what is going on in our town but I, as one commissioner, do not have the ability to change the city’s course and cannot stay on board and take on the liability that will be assumed in the coming months.”
May seemed to call on the current commission to take responsibility, writing, “remember, it doesn’t matter who created the problems, it’s just our job as a city to fix them.”
He wrote in an email that he was being denied avenues to obtain pertinent information, “all the while my phone rang off the hook with more bad news on the other end. Often it was a concerned citizen who witnessed such cronyism as a commissioner's political supporter being preferred for a job or another discouraged from applying. Other times it was a city employee speaking confidentially of the unethical or questionably-legal behaviors the city manager or her cronies were performing at city hall.”
As for his accomplishments as a commissioner, May said he stood proudly behind them.
“Since joining the commission in November 2009 I have undertaken the mission of cutting wasteful spending and attracting jobs to our community. I personally championed a commercial tax abatement program that is unmatched in our local area and I’m happy to report our annual budget was reduced over a half a million dollars annually – not an easy feat given a city our size.”
He is also largely responsible for arranging to have audio recordings of the commission meetings placed online and open to the public.
His departure will likely leave Commissioner Sue Weller as a lone wolf on many issues before the commission. Weller said Tuesday that she would continue to serve. “The voters of High Springs elected me to serve a three year term, and that’s what I intend to do,” Weller said.
Having been elected in 2009, May said he already made the decision he would not seek re-election when his term was set to expire in November 2012.
He said he was sad to leave office and felt like he was letting the citizens down, but added, “I cannot … have my name and reputation attached to the antics that are absolutely tearing this city apart.
“I am incredibly humbled to have had the opportunity to serve as a city commissioner,” May wrote.
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