Town counsel Dawn Lehnert submitted her Letter of Resignation to the Council of the Town of Fort Myers Beach on Tuesday, December 13, 2016. This occurred 8 days after Council discussed Legal Service Goals for her at its December 5 Workshop and after reviewing her contract on September 22.
In her letter, Lehnert cited Paragraph 5 of the Legal Services Agreement that states “either party may terminate this Agreement at any time, with or without cause, by giving not less than 30 days prior written notice to the other party,” making the effective date January 12, 2017.
Mayor Dennis Boback at the December 5 workshop asked his colleagues what they want Lehnert to accomplish. Council member Anita Cereceda replied “her job! Help me get to the finish line without going to jail. I like our attorney to be assertive until I say I have enough.” Council member Rexann Hosafros wondered if Lehnert “has enough time to complete the review of the Land Development Code and make all the much-needed changes. Maybe the Town can employ a paralegal to assist her.”
Council member Tracey Gore went a step further, saying “I still think we need a legal firm. We have a lot of stuff on our plate. We are still working through the stormwater ordinance. We do not need a paralegal but must go in another direction.”
The Mayor added that “we need timely and accurate information. The stormwater ordinance is in its third or fourth rendition, and should be complete a lot quicker. This is not Dawn’s expertise so maybe she needs to ask for the help of others rather than letting these things languish in space somewhere. We need stuff off the table. Large issues like the Land Development Code and the Stormwater Ordinance are not done in a timely manner. I am not throwing this at your feet; if you need help, ask for it.”
Lehnert replied that “I am doing my best to provide what you want, and not just the big picture items, but day-to-day things addressed by the Town staff. Your definition of ‘quick’ and mine may be different, and it is Council’s prerogative to hire outside staff at any time.” The Mayor countered that “it is not our decision to dictate when you need help, but to give you the tools to accomplish what you need. We have $100,000 budgeted for outside legal fees over and above what we pay Dawn.”
Hosafros said the Town will need that $100,000 “for lawsuits on the horizon; that will go fast, therefore there are no extra dollars,” returning again to a paralegal under Lehnert’s supervision. Gore stated that during her last evaluation, Lehnert had an issue with receiving everything she required from Council and inquired if all information was now available to her, with Lehnert replying in the affirmative.
Cereceda asked her if Hosafros’ suggestion of a paralegal would assist her, with Lehnert saying that “it is one thing to go through the codes, but another to conduct a complete reevaluation with checks and cross-checks. The Land Development Code is a long and complex task. If you want me to do this, I can attempt to do that,” with Mayor Boback concluding that “I would like to see you do that.”
Eight days later, Lehnert submitted her resignation.
Lehnert was selected as Town Attorney in September 2015 from a field of applicants that included then Town Attorney Derek Rooney, former Town Manager Marsha Segal-George and Jed Schneck.
The Town’s controversial stormwater ordinance will be a topic in Town Council Chambers at both its Workshop on Monday, December 19, at 2 p.m., and Council Meeting at 6:30 p.m.
During the Workshop, staff will make a PowerPoint presentation regarding the current and future needs of the stormwater utility, including what is complete to date in the Basin Based Neighborhood, design approval for the north Estero side streets and eight joint outfalls, the estimated cost of design and stormwater funding options.
It appears twice on the Meeting agenda, initially for its First Public Hearing for the Amendment to the Stormwater Utility Provision to establish a utility fee, enterprise fund, appeals process, borrowing of moneys, and adjustments & credits, among other items.
Council first adopted the stormwater utility regulations in September 2015, requested amendments on February 1 & 16, 2016, and received comments in open meetings with citizens on August 22 and September 22, 2016. On December 5, Council directed its first public hearing be at its December 19 meeting. Two hearings are necessary to adopt a Town ordinance.
Stormwater appears again under Application Resolution, authorizing the Interim Town Manager to submit paperwork to the State Revolving Fund to complete its proposed stormwater improvements. Since the estimated price is $2 million and the Town takes in just $94,000 monthly from its fees, the Revolving Fund will allow Fort Myers Beach to pay for the project then reimburse the State. The Town does not anticipate needing these dollars for the outfall installations until August 2017.
Since stormwater is on both agendas, the public can comment on it at the start of the Workshop, and at the beginning and end of the Council Meeting.