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Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011 10 years ago

Planning Board controversy comes to close

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Compared to the hand-wringing that took place earlier over the appointment of two members to the city’s Planning Board, the actual reappointment process was quite anti-climactic.

Planning Board members Susan Chapman and Chris Gallagher were reappointed to their seats Aug. 15.

But the route to that conclusion wound through allegations of favoritism, cronyism and lame-duck politics.
Both Chapman’s and Gallagher’s terms expired at the end of May.

With three new commissioners being sworn into office May 13, the process that was supposed to take place called for the Planning Board appointments to be handled by the new City Commission.

However, outgoing Commissioner Dick Clapp asked that the appointment process be moved up to May 2, which was the last meeting for himself, Mayor Kelly Kirschner and Vice Mayor Fredd Atkins.

Clapp had said he wanted to make sure that experienced Planning Board members were reappointed; he didn’t want to risk having the new commission place someone else on the board.

Some people cried foul.

The jobs had not been advertised publicly, reducing the number of people submitting applications.

In fact, only one person had applied — former City Commission candidate Richard Dorfman, who said it wasn’t fair that a lame-duck commission would be making the appointments.

Then Commissioner-elect Paul Caragiulo agreed.

“This stinks, politically,” he said at the time. “It’s an important board, and I’d like to see a robust number of applications come in.”

Because city code requires the positions to be advertised for 90 days before appointments are made, City Attorney Robert Fournier warned the outgoing commission not to move forward May 2.

The three lame-duck commissioners voted initially to ignore that advice but later backtracked when Fournier insisted they would be setting up the city for a lawsuit.

“It would be tantamount to thumbing your nose at those who wished to apply,” Fournier told them.

In the end, Dorfman dropped out, and only one out of nine other applicants, Glenda Williams, received a nomination (see box). None of the current commissioners mentioned any of the other applications during the session Monday.

Chapman and Gallagher both won reappointment by 4-1 votes. Caragiulo did not vote for Chapman, and Willie Shaw, who nominated Williams, did not vote for Gallagher.

Accepting applications
Although nine people applied to be considered for the Planning Board, only one received a nomination.

• Glenda Williams (nominated)
• Manuel Chepote
• Donald Cogswell
• Phil Grande
• Katherine Kelly-Ohlrich
• Colleen McGue
• Donald Saba
• Norman Schimmel
• Pete Theisen

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