By ALICIA LEONARD
The DeFuniak Springs City Council met for their first meeting of the month Aug. 13, at city hall. On their agenda was a request by Jonathan Dunn, previous owner and operator of Aero FX (now Emerald Coast Aviation) to change wording in a previous settlement with the city; a request for fee waivers for Love Your Pet Day; planning board appointments; public hearings for two different residential variance requests; siting plans for a compressed natural gas station and other items of importance.
The meeting opened with DeFuniak Springs Councilman Ron Kelley leading the invocation and the presentation of previous minutes from the July 23 regular City Council meeting and the July 31 budget meeting up for approval. After some minor wording changes and a clarification of fees being waived for new Tractor Supply Company, the minutes were approved unanimously.
Next up before the Council was Dunn, the former operator and owner of Aero FX, Inc. Dunn came before the Council to request a change in wording in one part of the agreement to settle with the city in a previous lawsuit. Dunn told the Council, “I really didn’t want a new lease. I put over $400,000 into my business and when I tried to work out some new terms, as I didn’t really want to leave, I felt like the city manager didn’t want to go that route. I don’t know why, but I felt like the door was closed, and so, I entered into litigation with the city to protect my investment.” Dunn pushed the point with the Council that he lost a 15-year lease and future profits through the agreement. DeFuniak Springs City Attorney Clayton Adkinson was quick to respond to Dunn’s opinion, “You didn’t lose a 15-year lease. We bought you out of a 15-year lease. That’s what the settlement was for, was for that lease.”
Dunn told the Council he was willing to donate $20,000 to the elevator fund for the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood and another $10,000 to the city’s skateboard park for the approval of the wording change. During the discourse, it was discussed that Dunn might possibly need the wording changed for tax purposes, so he could go back and amend previous tax returns. When asked how much he stood to get back in monetary returns through the amendments that would be allowed with the change in wording, Dunn responded that he didn’t know exactly. “I’d have to go through all the paperwork and documents and get the figures together,” he responded.
When asked if he stood to gain more than the total $30,000 he was offering to donate to the city, he responded, “yes.” Dunn told the Council he knew there was “bad blood” between him and some of the members, but wanted them to know he did not enter into litigation with the city until he felt like he had no other recourse. Dunn walked away from the litigation, 12 hours before trial with a settlement of $685,000 from the city. DeFuniak Springs Councilman Mac Work asked Dunn why he did not ask for the change during the settlement. Dunn responded, “I think my attorney got it wrong, Mr. Work. I do not believe I would be here today if it had been done correctly.”
After a little more discussion, Work responded, “I think we settled this lawsuit and it’s over with. I make a motion that we deny Mr. Dunn’s request.” Councilman Henry Ennis seconded the motion quickly. The Council moved to deny Dunn’s request 4-1, with Councilman Kermit Wright being the dissenting vote.
Next up, Tammy Hardee and a group of young ladies made a request of the Council to waive fees and approve of a “Love Your Pet Day” at the lake yard amphitheater on Sept. 22. The pet day will provide a rabies clinic, free pet identification tags, free pet photos, low cost pet adoptions from the Walton County Animal Shelter and much more. The Council approved the request for fee waiver and the use of the amphitheater unanimously with Kelley adding, “I think this is a great thing to do for our animals that need homes and our citizens to take part in.”
Work then requested the Council consider rotating the position of Mayor Pro-Tempore yearly. Mayor C. Harold Carpenter responded that it is usually done every year after elections, but now that the city doesn’t always have an election every year, that some Council members might be in that position a little longer. Sitting Mayor Pro-Tempore at the meeting was Ennis. Work made a motion for Councilman Wayne Graham to be nominated for the position until next April, when another council member would be nominated. The Council approved the motion unanimously.
Wright then requested that the Council consider compensation for city employee Sandra Arnold for the time she served as interim finance director, when Sara Bowers was made city manager and before a new finance director had been hired. Wright said that all the other employees that had held interim management jobs had been compensated for their extra work and although Arnold had not requested it, he felt she should be compensated for the extra work load of doing two jobs. Bowers had tabulated the hourly rate multiplied by an increased 80 percent workload to come to a total of $9,200 compensation. The Council approved the request unanimously.
Wright then appointed Janie Griffith as his choice for the DeFuniak Springs Planning Board. Kelley also appointed local realtor and resident Bruce Naylor as his pick for a planning board seat….
Read the full story in the Aug. 16, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.