HIGH SPRINGS – At the March 28, 2013 High Springs City Commission meeting, and following a significant amount of gavel passing, motions, seconds and discourse regarding the resolution to formalize rules of conduct for elected officials, the Commission voted unanimously to conduct a workshop to review the City’s Rules and Procedures instead of moving ahead with the proposed resolution.

At the previous city commission meeting held March 14, 2013, discussion about the resolution culminated in a heated confrontation between city commissioners Bob Barnas and Byran Williams and the tabling of the resolution to the March 28 meeting. At the earlier meeting, some commissioners voiced the need for the civility resolution referencing a lack of civility on the part of Commissioner Barnas toward members of the public and fellow commissioners on his blog site. Barnas called the resolution “one-sided” and a violation of his right to free speech. Commissioner Linda Gestrin agreed that the resolution was an attack on free speech, adding it was a form of bullying. Vice-Mayor Scott Jamison said that public officials are held to a higher standard and should at least “adhere to the same level of civility that we hold our employees to.” Mayor Sue Weller commented that the Commission is the “face of the City and we have an obligation to present ourselves in a manner becoming the position.” She requested the resolution be tabled to allow commissioners time to review it and take a further look at it at the next meeting.

At the March 28 meeting, in an attempt to get the discussion started, Mayor Weller initially passed her gavel to Vice-Mayor Jamison so she could make a motion to consider establishing behavioral expectations for commissioners and charter officers. Hearing no second, Jamison passed the gavel to Commissioner Barnas to allow him to second the motion himself, which ultimately failed by a 3-2 vote.

Passing the gavel back to the Mayor to conduct the balance of the meeting and further discussion on the issue, suggestions were made by commissioners as well as some residents that the Rules and Procedures Handbook for Commissioners, which was adopted in March 10, 2011, needed to be updated to address the civility issue.

Citing lack of penalty and a clear way to judge if the rules of conduct were violated, commissioners generally agreed the resolution under consideration, if it had been enacted, would have been meaningless.

Although Vice-Mayor Jamison said he thought the resolution formally addressed what the City should be able to expect of their elected officials, he added his affirmative vote to make the motion for a workshop to review the rules and procedures unanimous.

City Manager Ed Booth was tasked with setting a date for the workshop. As of press time, Booth said he has not established the exact date, but anticipates it will be set toward the end of April.

#     #     #

Email Cwalker@