REDINGTON SHORES — Town Commissioner and Vice Mayor Michael Robinson has resigned. Robinson had been considered a leader on the commission and was reelected without opposition in the March 15 election to serve a third 2-year term as District 3 commissioner.
At their April 13 meeting, commissioners agreed on a schedule for filling the seat, asking for applications from interested District 3 residents to be submitted by the end of April. That would allow time for commissioners to talk with the candidates before making their selection at a special meeting on May 9 or 10. The winner will be sworn in at the May 11 regular commission meeting.
Robinson’s letter of resignation, dated March 31 and effective immediately, gave no reasons for his decision to leave the commission.
In response to a recent inquiry from the Beacon, Robinson told of his experience in government service during his career and gave some insight into his resignation from the town commission.
“I have over 40 years of government service,” Robinson said. “I’ve held high-level state and federal positions, been a member of a governor’s cabinet, chaired federal advisory committees, and as the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police even negotiated relationships between police in the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. I’ve handled many difficult and challenging relationships in the past.”
As to his resignation, Robinson said, “Let me just say that working with the current board of commissioners is an uphill battle, one that I am no longer willing to fight. I no longer believe that my contribution as a commissioner is valued or of benefit.”
Though he gave no specific examples of the uphill battle, there have been growing signs of discord among commission members.
That point was made by resident Chris Cook, who said she had been dismayed by things that were said by some commission members at the workshop meeting on March 30, the day before Robinson resigned.
Cook told the commissioners she thought Robinson was “a really good person and very helpful, very involved in this commission — and he was attacked.” She said Mayor MaryBeth Henderson, who was not present at the workshop, had been attacked as well.
“It really sounds like you’re attacking them and accusing them even though you keep saying that there’s nothing nefarious going on,” Cook said.
At the April 13 commission meeting, comments similar to those made at the workshop resurfaced.
Right at the outset, during a discussion of the ratification of bills, Commissioner Jennie Blackburn brought up concerns about the town’s finances. She made a motion to have the town hire an accounting firm to do a forensic audit, but then withdrew the motion, saying it should be discussed at a workshop. The vote on the ratification of bills failed 1-3, with only Henderson voting in favor.
Later on in the meeting, while discussing commissioners’ responsibilities, Commissioner Cinda Krouk said currently the mayor has more powers than other commissioners. She said that all five commissioners should be on an “equal footing” as defined in the Town Charter. Krouk made a motion to eliminate a policy that gives extra powers to the mayor. Although Henderson said it was unclear how that would work, she voted “yes” along with the others, for a 4-0 decision.
There were other examples in the meeting where disagreements arose among commission members.
The commission is facing a period of adjustment as a new commissioner is seated and a recently hired town administrator begins in that newly created position. But it appears likely, given the current commission makeup, that disagreements among the commission members will continue. The town administrator’s job could be a challenging one.
Sea turtle ordinance
The town’s existing sea turtle ordinance is 18 years old, vague, heavily weighted towards new construction, and hard to enforce, said Blackburn, who led the effort to update the code. She told the Beacon in later comments that the new ordinance, which passed unanimously on first reading, is intended to be enforceable but not burdensome.
The focus of the new law, Blackburn said, is on minimizing harm to endangered sea turtles by reducing artificial light visible from the beach. The area for enforcement is not just beachfront properties, but also areas along Gulf Boulevard with artificial lighting visible from the beach.
Criteria from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for fixtures and bulbs are used in the code, Blackburn said.
The new ordinance allows for regular inspections to be conducted by the town’s code enforcement officer during turtle season, with the objective being to work with people and encourage them to come into compliance.
Final approval is expected on second reading next month.