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Egregious becomes political

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Guest Column by Bob Hallman,

High Springs resident

Jeri Langman, High Springs City Manager, held a news conference with no participation from the press, on Friday morning June 8.  She nervously read a prepared script and immediately walked from the room without taking questions from the press.  Her message was Vice Mayor Barnes should resign for “egregious and repeated violations of the Charter of High Springs, for directing her activity.”  This kind of charge should include the opportunity for those attending this orchestrated public event to direct questions to Ms Langman.  The absence of such an opportunity usually means difficulty in defending inquires.

Bob Barnes stated in a TV interview afterwards, that he felt the “timing of the charges seem suspect” because the meeting to discuss her performance was very soon.  I attend most commission meetings and remember Barnes disclosing his inquires concerning staff during commission meetings with no questions from commissioners or the city attorney.  The city manager did not bring the subject of egregious violations up in a commission meeting.  I reported to the commission during a commission meeting recently explaining other examples of former Mayor Travis and Commissioner Wheeler directing staff concerning city business.  This practice by commission members has been common practice in the last four years.  A real egregious violation of the City Charter was the appointment of Thomas De Peter as city attorney.   Where was the press conference for that violation?

The residents of High Springs should insist there be an investigation about this serious problem and many other issues.  This makes sense with this political format taking over the important business of our commission.  I suggest the city manager, city staff, city commission and prior city commissions need a third party review.   Has anyone violated Florida law?  Contract and vendor expense must be part of the investigation.   Let us not forget the engineering firm that gave us a failed sewer system.  The investigation should also include recent terminated staff.

Langman continually requested assistance from certain private residents, including her husband, who also contacted others extensively to help her fulfill her responsibility as city manager.  Her charge seems strange or worse, based on this information.  If the city manager was confused or unable to perform, it is hard to understand her motive to charge the vice-mayor of a Charter violation.  It is strange that those who opposed her appointment as city manager are now defending her.   Maybe this is where the egregious becomes political.

A unanimous vote by the present commission for a third party complete investigation needs to start now.  I hope prior Mayor Travis will help this effort since he feels the need to have an investigation on this recent issue.  I encourage those of prior commissions to help with this effort.  If the State of Florida or other authority refuses to investigate, a third party administrative and financial audit should be a consideration.  We already know from poor performance reports by our audit firm of financial irregularities from past commission administrations.

Vice Mayor Barnes and Commissioner Gestrin need support to initiate an extensive investigation, and be careful of those who will not support such an activity.

It makes no sense to me why certain individuals who lost their chance to govern are committed to destroy positive progress for High Springs.  In all my experience with government, I have never seen such mean spirited destructive activity.  The commission meetings are reckless with no control to keep order.  This mob type disruptive behavior, plus the “egregious charge” is just a prelude to further back room political misconduct.