Frank Paul Jones Expresses Regret over CRA Dispute
First of all, I want to thank Maria Sutherland our Administrative Services Director for the City of Avon Park, for taking time out of her busy schedule to clarify things for me concerning the CRA and their operations. Secondly, I want to apologize to Arnold Davis an advisory board member of the CRA, for even thinking he was involved in wrong doings and thirdly I want to apologize to Gerald Snell the chairman of the advisory board for saying “the honorable thing is to resign,” this is not required.
I wrote letters to the CRA and City Council whom are one and the same people wearing different hats at different meetings. And I posted them on the internet as open letters to be transparent about my dispute with City Hall, so people could weigh in on the argument. So it is only proper that I finish this argument in the public eye, with an article about my findings
I still believe that the CRA misappropriated our tax dollars, by sponsoring the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parades and events. Though Maria Sutherland explained a lot to me, this wasn’t explained to my satisfaction. Still nobody showed me where in the Florida Statue that these spending practices are authorized for a community redevelopment agency. However, I realize if I pursue this argument and the CRA stands behind these spending practices, it would require a complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics and if I lose I will have to pay for their legal fees. And a good lawyer can get anyone out of anything that isn’t cut and dry. This has layers and is a matter of interpretation. I only expressed my opinion, which I still believe to some degree is on point.
My strategy was to bring this to their attention in a public forum, hoping they would stop these spending practices, so that they can do much more for our local businesses, who really need help and soon. Too many businesses in the Southside District are closed down here and have been demolished and I believe this could have been prevented if we worked much harder on the plan on the books that the CRA agreed upon to expand businesses.
As for the CRA Advisory Board, which is not the CRA, being there is one CRA and three Advisory Boards. There purpose is to advise the CRA. But when going to their meetings you would think they make the decisions, but they can only advise the CRA, who appointed themselves from the City Council. Only the CRA can make decisions concerning our redevelopment plan. So if you have any problems in the future with the CRA, target your compliant towards the City Council who are the same people and not the advisory boards whom are actually powerless, unless the CRA agrees with their decisions, they can only advise the CRA.
I mentioned Arnold Davis might have engaged a conflict of interest between his non profit organization and the CRA, by running the Dr. King parade with CRA money while being on the board and president of the non profit on the other end, but Arnold Davis didn’t fund himself, the CRA funded him. This is unclear and it would be a matter of interpretation to determine this as a conflict of interest, which would take many hours of research to prove.
As far as CRA term limits go, they do exists, but the way they handle this is after each elections the City Council reappoints themselves to the CRA board, which is legal and maybe even ethical, being many cities in Florida do this. But like I said I still didn’t see a clause for spending redevelopment money on parades based on marketing, which is how I was told it was done. I do not know if funding marketing is authorized in the CRA budget. So still I think it is a conflict of interest somewhere, but Arnold Davis played the pawn, he wasn’t the decision maker, but maybe weighed in with his advise, because he support Dr. King. And I understand he didn’t get paid anyway. So we need to leave this alone.
Though I do not totally agree with what was explained to me, I do understand and do not think there is any criminal behavior or criminal intent, I just think we have different priorities and I am not the shot caller and the best I can do is argue in public to gain attention in hopes of changes being made by the CRA.
So overall, I regret my having this public dispute, because it will probably change nothing. Because I think they plan to stand behind their policies as they are, I do not see anything being accomplished by this. I think it will take someone with more juice than I to really bring about any changes in the directions we are traveling with our CRA. And do not get me wrong our CRA has done some wonderful things in Avon Park, but they simply didn’t do enough and most of my supporters got burned by them. But give credit where it is due. So I grade the CRA 3 stars.
Frank Paul Jones