They Say “America Runs On Dunkin'”
And For Damien Gilliams It’s True Because
Damien Runs On Dunkin'!
 
So, In Preparation For The 2013 City Council Election,
 
Join Him For A Neighborly Cup Of Coffee And Donuts
 
And A Casual Discussion Of Issues Concerning Our City
 
Every Wednesday Morning From 8:00 To 9:00 AM At
 
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2013
Political advertisement.  Paid for and approved by Damien Gilliams for Sebastian City Council.
HOT TOPICS ------------------ Friday, November 18, 2011

UNDER THE RADAR PAYMENTS OF CLAIM and THEY DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT

Debbie McManus and her daughter Brittney Keane, owners of the defunct Fisherman’s Landing Restaurant / Cafe believe that the City of Sebastian, that owns the property, or one or all of the other principals that leased the newly renovated former Hurricane Harbor Restaurant from the City of Sebastian should reimburse them for the total sum of approximately $100 thousand that they invested in the purchase and installation of all the commercial type equipment necessary to operate the unauthorized restaurant and bar facility located at 1540 Indian River Drive.

They allege that they were misled due to the lack of proper oversight on the part of the City of Sebastian and the continued false assurances from representatives of Fisherman’s Landing Sebastian, Inc. and the owner of Indian River Seafood, d/b/a Crab-E-Bill’s, Inc., who leased the entire facility from Fisherman’s Landing Sebastian, Inc. and then sub-leased a major portion of the space to them as a full-size restaurant, bar and entertainment venue.

It is their assertion that they were not only allowed, but continuously encouraged to set up, promote and actually begin their operations, while their landlords knew full well that the entire facility, and specifically the portion of it that they occupied, was only designated to have a small snack bar with very limited seating under the terms of the approximately $3 million Stan Mayfield Working Waterfront Grant that the City of Sebastian had garnered.

Sebastian City Manager Al Minner has now asked them for copies of all their equipment purchase and installation receipts to prove the total amount of their expenses, apparently hoping to settle the claim before a lawsuit is filed.

But where will the money come from to satisfy their claim and who will ultimately benefit from such a settlement?

Cooking the books (pun intended) is one way of doing it. Or is it better described as creative financing of poorly planned and mismanaged projects? Just rob Peter and pay Paul if nobody is watching, or better yet use the old slight-of-hand shell game where you move the money around so fast that it eventually ends up under the clam shell (game) you least expect. Even with total transparency the general public could get lost in the financial maze.

Does that sound like a familiar scenario where money is transferred from account to account and eventually the audit trail gets so blurred it becomes difficult or impossible to follow? But hey, nobody would do that, would they?

Which reminds me, what happened to the vanishing $900 thousand excess from the City Hall Complex building project that was earmarked for an Engineering Building at the Sebastian Municipal Airport when it was not built? But that is an entirely different story that we can pursue at another time once we get this current fiasco dealt with.

Now back to the case at hand and all the unintended consequences of a mismanaged Working Waterfront project.

Crab-E-Bill’s, a for-profit corporation, is owned by Bill Tiedge and he fortuitously could now open the snack bar himself, especially if the City were to settle out of court and in effect purchase the restaurant equipment. He can immediately benefit by being the heir-apparent for everything he needs to put a high-end snack bar into operation without it costing him a dime of his own money. And presto, his cash register begins to ring a very happy tune.

And the $100 thousand needed to settle with the McManus clan, broken down into seven (7) $15 thousand or less increments (i.e., $13.5 thousand for the deep-fat fryers and cooler boxes, $14.9 thousand for the flat-top grill and eight burner stove with dual ovens below and overhead broiler, $14.4 thousand for the hot tables and prep stations, etc.) can be systematically disbursed out of the General Fund by the City Manager without City Council approval.  Then, after the fact the money can be transferred out of the Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) account in one transaction to replenish the General Fund, and voila, the deed is done and few outsiders will be the wiser.

As for our five current City Council Members, they can just look the other way and say that they knew nothing about it, beforehand, when the public becomes aware of the shocking realization of “under the radar” payments and the transferring of funds from one account to another. That is exactly what it appears four of them did when the large-scale restaurant opened with its extensive menu, a trendy bar with a (*) liquor license, plenty of seating and live entertainment. Individually and collectively to the person, they deny any knowledge of what transpired.

And the City Manager says he had no idea how much seating they would be having. It was a total surprise to him.

(*Note: To acquire the above liquor license, the City would have had to sign off on the application to the State of Florida. That application requires the inclusion of a detailed site plan drawing showing the layout of the entire restaurant and bar facility, including ingress and egress, the restrooms, the kitchen cooking and other preparation areas, the configuration of the bar and the general service areas, and detailing the exact number and positioning of all the seating that must meet specific State requirements to receive their approval and the issuance of a license.)

The extensive pre-opening advertising, public relations and publicity campaign that the owners of the Fisherman’s Landing Restaurant / Cafe conducted, by themselves and/or in conjunction with Crab-E-Bill’s, seems to have been very successful in getting widespread attention except that of our City Manager and City Council Members who failed to notice any of it, even though it was the talk of the town and the general public enthusiastically responded.

Incredibly, Mayor Jim Hill said that he was on the site almost every week for a year and didn’t know anything about it until it opened, much to his great surprise. Does that make the least bit of sense to you? If it were anyone else who made such an admission, you would wonder if they were blind, incompetent, complicit or something else!

In his opinion on the subject as a whole, and trying desperately to convince us that we should not make a mountain out of an egregious mole-HILL (the gross mismanagement of the process and the funds), Mayor Hill emphatically stated that: “This is a minor little bump in the road!” Obviously, he was trying to deflect criticism and blame.

And Council Member Andrea Coy was so shocked and shaken that she allegedly fell off her stool after a couple of beers at the bar with former City Attorney Rich Stringer, now attorney for Fisherman’s Landing Sebastian, Inc.. She was there on opening day getting the “lay of the Landing” and having a heated discussion with the restaurant owner, Debbie McManus, about just what was going on there and how had they managed to secretly do all of this without her knowledge and approval. She said that the beer was good and cold, but that she was appalled.

Also, do you remember when current City Council Member Richard Gillmor, who was our Mayor at the time, publically announced from the dais at a City Council meeting how pleased he was that the dilapidated dock at the former Dabrowski property next to the Hurricane Harbor Restaurant had been fixed up, and with his help at that. They just took a bunch of boards and positioned them in place and voila, instant dock repair and revitalization of a previously blighted area along our scenic waterfront. What a guy to put himself out like that for his community.

Never mind that they didn’t have a permit to do the work, but no big deal. That was just an unfortunate detail that had been overlooked in the process, but how was the Mayor to know you needed a permit for construction in Sebastian? The important thing was that he personally had helped to erase another blemish on our community.

Then when this regrettable misunderstanding arose over the Fisherman’s Landing Restaurant, Council Member Gillmor said that it was not a major problem and that things just need to be “tweeked” to get the situation back
under control and into compliance. Again, never mind that it was probably going to cost the City an additional $100 thousand cash for something that proper oversight would have prevented from happening in the first place.

But, money is no object when you have more of it than brains, especially when it isn’t your money you’re spending.

However, the bottom line here is that if anyone had been paying attention and strictly following the rules, all of us wouldn’t be where we are today . . . literally being taken up the river and forced underwater with drowning debt on a sugar-fix, feel-good folly of a project that from day one has been amateurishly, defiantly and juvenilely run by our City Manager and City Council kids who were turned loose in a candy store with the taxpayer’s credit cards!

One of the most distressing problems is that your taxpayer dollars are being systematically used to subsidize a special interest group in this egregious and insidious metastasizing boondoggle that will keep on costing the citizens of Sebastian enormous amounts of money for years to come. And all the while, these special interests will unfairly be competing with other local businesses that do not have the special benefits of this absurd government largesse.

Not only is the Press Journal failing to correctly and adequately report this story, but their bias is clearly evident in the sugarcoated and preferential coverage appearing in the Press Journal on a regular basis by their entire staff.  They seem more intent on choosing sides and/or making the news than they are in simply reporting the news.

Their Editorial Page Editor Larry Reisman, smug and superior in his position, and their Columnist Russ Lemmon, who obviously considers himself the world’s foremost authority on everything, apparently do not want to find fault with the City Council Members that they have endorsed and steadfastly defend, so they have taken an aloof and condescending look-the-other-way approach to the issues, but go out of their way to demean and marginalize me.

Even when presented with factual evidence of what had been going on, I was given lip-service and told that they would assign an investigative reporter to take an in-depth look into the entire Working Waterfront Grant Program and everything that has transpired since its inception, including all of the numerous allegations of mismanagement.

Obviously, that has not happened as of this date. And if past performance is an indication of future performance, it is not likely to happen anytime soon unless they get orders to do so from a higher authority in their organization.
Sebastian deserves better reporting than it is getting and I’ll waste little more time with the likes of either of them.

As usual, we were sold a bill of goods on this latest grandiose scheme because our City Manager and four of our City Council Members got caught up in the euphoria brought on by the intoxicating effects of “free” grant money.

Not withstand the bad press coverage or inaccurate public perception of the maximum risks and minimal rewards, it is what it is, an ugly but preventable mess. From the very beginning our City Manager, who has admitted to two grievous errors of judgment, in (1) the improper disposition of City assets and (2) letting the parties execute their own leases without proper review, has left him open to censure for lack of professional discipline in this matter.

All this was for the now shadowy, but well known former Indian River County Tax Collector, Charlie Sembler and everyone else involved with him on the Working Waterfront Project that he seems to have inherited. Since nobody else was given an opportunity to enter a bid on it, this must seem like the ultimate gift that just keeps on giving.

I know this is holiday feasting time, but is he ever going to get off the government gravy train and stop using his family reputation and connections as serving spoons to heap his plate with a huge helping of taxpayer turkey?

So, once again the City will raid the CRA account which already has been depleted by about $500 thousand to fund this project while other worthwhile projects are not being attended to at all or with any real sense of urgency.

It is reported that Sembler, with his apparent appetite for lucrative public-private partnerships, is checking with the State of Florida for another grant to do a fish house right next door to his proposed restaurant and chapel, with no site plan improvements such as drainage, landscaping, etc. The City will then have to come up with a lot more money to match the grant for the fish house, out of the CRA account and further diminish it, if he is successful.

All other district businesses suffer because they are not able to access funds from the CRA account to renovate their facilities to be competitive. However, as previously outlined, City Manager Minner has the discretionary authority to write “under the radar” checks out of the General Fund account for up to $15 thousand without City Council approval, which he has already done for the Fisherman’s Landing lift station and air conditioning units.

Those funds should have come out of the $256 thousand from the CRA account to improve the property. Instead of following the transmittal outlining the repairs for the former Hurricane Harbor building, such as installing a new roof budgeted at $75 thousand, he paid approximately $12 thousand to temporarily patch the existing roof.

Then he took the balance of the roof replacement money and on his own authority put it towards installing a large commercial kitchen hood system and a high-capacity ice maker suitable for a very large restaurant operation, not just a much smaller and less expensive one suitable for a very small snack bar as had been originally intended.

In the final analysis it appears that Minner, with implicit City Council approval, has been using the CRA account and his slight-of-hand procedures for the benefit of a for-profit business so they could, in essence, compete with other local businesses while using taxpayer dollars to do it. Does that sound in any way right or reasonable to you? I’m sure it doesn’t to all of their marginalized competitors who are struggling to just survive in these very difficult national economic times, trying desperately to simply keep their doors open and hopefully not have to lay off any of their loyal and also struggling employees while optimistically waiting for a turnaround in our local economy.

The irony here is that Minner may be the only one to get blown away in this Hurricane (Harbor) fiasco when he ultimately realizes that the four City Council Members who botched this project will be looking for cover as well. And there will only be enough room for them to ensure their own job security in whatever shelter they can find to weather the massive storm that is building in intensity, is right on the horizon and is taking dead aim at them.

And while all of this is taking place, Sembler has conveniently resigned from the non-profit Fisherman’s Landing Sebastian, Inc. special interest enterprise as its president, at least temporarily, until everything blows over and he can safely emerge and continue business as usual with clear sailing into the sunset on his taxpayer financed vessel .

Not surprisingly, once again Mayor Hill is in the thick of it just like he was for the $11.5 million Taj-Ma(City)Hall Complex project that was $4 million over budget, plus the many other boondoggle financial sinkholes he endorsed.

But, be sure to hang on to your wallet and keep your eyes wide open because you haven’t seen anything yet!

With the election of Mayor Hill’s close personal friend Bob McPartland to the Sebastian City Council, they now have a vice-grip type stranglehold on local government operations and the City checkbook. They are very good at autocratic rule, cronyism, playing favorites with special interests and self-aggrandizing wasteful spending.

For those of you who failed to exercise your right and civic responsibility to vote in this last municipal election, you have nobody to blame other than yourselves, but all is not lost. You can still be part of the good fight and stand up and be counted when it counts on a daily basis. And attend the Council meetings to let them feel your discontent.

Don’t forget, they work for us whether they like it or not. Even though their “Five of a Kind” is a seemingly unbeatable hand, there are 22,000 of us who can and will beat them at their own game. I for one will do my part to defend and protect the residents and businesses of Sebastian from anything that is not in their best interest.

I don’t profess to know all of the answers, but I do know most or all of the questions that demand to be asked here.

And always remember, www.DamienLovesSebastian.com. and will fight for what is right for all of us!

Signed: Damien Gilliams

Political advertisement. Paid for and approved by Damien Gilliams for Sebastian City Council.


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PRESS RELEASE ----------- Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SCSO ACTIONS AND HIS INVOLVEMENT IN THE ( PAC ) PROVE THAT WRIGHT IS WRONG!

I am forming a truly civic-minded organization of well-informed, enlightened, cohesive, dedicated, service oriented and patriotic citizens for community enrichment who are diligently attentive, ever watchful and eternally vigilant, namely the Outspoken Sebastian Citizens Society (OSCS), a Citizens Academy of Patriots (CAP).

It is the exact opposite of the Sebastian Citizens Speak Out (SCSO), a Political Action Committee (PAC), which has proven itself to be run by a group of self-aggrandizing power-brokers and know-it-alls who believe that we need someone to do all of our thinking for us and are generally uncomfortable with Government in the Sunshine Laws.

Some SCSO followers may be good, well-intentioned and civic-minded members of our community, but who have been misinformed or misled as to the core purpose and ultimate goals of that organization which appears to be a concerted effort, with no regard for ethical standards, to seize control of our local government operations; and to fundamentally change the character and nature of Sebastian into their image of how it should be to best serve their own interests . . . personal, political, financial or other.

It looks more like an organization of fanatical partisans. 

A classic example of this is how they endorsed incumbent candidate Vice-Mayor Don Wright who is one of their own directors and who contributed heavily to the organization just prior to the publication of their endorsements in the form of a printed circular that was distributed as two inserts in the Press Journal and which contained a scathing “NOT RECOMMENDED” lambasting of me as “potentially lethal option” and “gadfly of worst degree”.

Was that legal, or ethical, or civil, or necessary?  It speaks to their basic character and their fear of losing control!

Then they have the audacity to state on their web site and the circular: “SCSO recommendation of candidates for Sebastian City Council may be considered a paid political advertisement which is paid for by Sebastian Citizens Speak Out, 474 Sea Grass Avenue, Sebastian, FL 32958 independently of any candidate. This advertisement was not approved by any candidate.”

Don Wright was a candidate and didn’t he in fact approve and endorse himself?

According to their website: “Sebastian Citizens Speak Out (SCSO) was formed as a Political Action Committee to serve as a credible source for factual information concerning our community.”

And conduct smear campaigns?

It further claims: “SCSO is a diverse group of concerned citizens, retirees, small business owners, land owners and professionals who want to protect and maintain our quality of life in Sebastian.”

About as diverse as peas in a pod?

And that: “Our members are active in local organizations and local government, looking out for the best interest of all of the voters in Sebastian.”

Especially those voters who are their cronies in self-serving special interest groups?

I challenge them to post a membership list, if there really are any members, and a contributor list on their website.

It could be a “shell” organization with the only members being the ones they did post, their “Board of Directors:
Edward H. Herlihy, Chairman  (Current Information Technology volunteer for the City of Sebastian.)
Linda Wanser, Secretary-Treasurer
Don Wright (Current Vice-Mayor and successful candidate for re-election this year. )  Surprise, surprise!
Louise Kautenburg
Lisanne Robinson” (Former Sebastian City Council Member Lisanne Monier.)

That is a very interesting group of concerned citizens to say the least, but their primary concern appears to be getting one of their Directors re-elected by any means so he and they can better promote their own self-interests.

I rest my case.  Now, let’s hear from the defendants.  Then, you be the judge.

And always remember, www.DamienLovesSebastian.com. and will fight for what is right for all of us!

Signed:  Damien Gilliams


Political advertisement.  Paid for and approved by Damien Gilliams for Sebastian City Council.

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PRESS RELEASE -------- Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To All The Residents of Sebastian:

Your votes have been counted and you have selected the three candidates who will serve you on the City Council for the next two years.  I was not one of them, but I respect the process and the outcome.

Government works for us and “we the people” have hired those who will represent us.  To everyone who supported me, I offer my heartfelt thanks and promise to continue to live up to your belief in me.  And to those who chose other candidates, I will strive to earn your trust and confidence in the years to come.

The Sebastian power brokers like the Sebastian Citizens Speak Out (SCSO) Political Action Committee (PAC) and their ilk, aided by Press Journal king makers, namely Editorial Page Editor Larry Reisman and their official international license plate counter and know-it-all columnist Russ Lemmon, think they have scored a knockout in round two of our bout for who is best qualified, thoroughly knowledgeable on governmental affairs and fiscally responsible enough to represent Sebastian on its City Council.

My opposition waged a blistering and relentless attack on my character and competence, but never did they forthrightly address the issues and allegations swirling around the Mayor, other Council Members and the City Manager for playing fast and loose with the rules, plus possible misfeasance or malfeasance.

Unfortunately for them, like last year, they only won this round on points.  They have not won the fight.

There are still potentially thirteen hard fought rounds to go in my bout with the “good old boys and gal” on our current City Council.  The same applies to any new ones of the same stripe and philosophical bent.

Their self-aggrandizing policies and payouts, their own lack of adherence to the same rules they enforce on others, their fear of transparency and accountability, their dismal record of fiscal irresponsibility, plus their arrogance and total disregard for the best interests of  the residents and business owners in our community is utterly appalling to say the very least and unconscionable on their part.

It demanded a change and a champion and that is why I entered the political arena (or ring)!

I officially put on the gloves last year after trying for ten years to make a difference at the public podium in front of the dais, but like everyone else who had an original idea and wished to espouse a difference in opinion or direction, I was quickly silenced.  At least that was their intent, but it was to no avail because like the Energizer Bunny, I kept on going . . . back and back and back and back.

Between rounds I will be back at the public podium, again pointing out their hypocrisy and advocating for necessary changes.  Not being one of their cronies or a special interest person, I can expect the same treatment that I have received in the past.  Likewise, they can expect that I will continue to hold them, individually and collectively, accountable to always do what is right, reasonable and really responsible.

Next year I will again enter the ring and continue the fight for what is best for my hometown and everyone in it.  The intermediate outcomes are not as important as the final decision, and rest assured:

I shall prevail !!!!

I hereby announce my candidacy for a seat on the Sebastian City Council in the 2012 Election because www.DamienLovesSebastian.com.

Signed:  Your Champion Damien Gilliams


Political advertisement.  Paid for and approved by Damien Gilliams for Sebastian City Council.
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