By J.M. Copeland
For Hometown News
The Holly Hill City Commission was slated for a presentation to James Kenney for 25 years of service as a water plant operator, the second reading of Save Our Seniors Homestead exemption, a dog park and fire pension ordinance change.
But the items that took up the most time were Commissioner Donnie Moore's residential status and, ironically, how long the public should be allowed to speak.
Commissioner Moore sat quietly and listened as members of the nearly non-existent audience and Commissioner Penny Currie repeated accusations that started months ago when Commissioner Moore's legal residence came into question. Many asked if he was qualified to be commissioner if he did not live in the city and was not eligible to vote within the city.
After speaking her mind, Commissioner Currie accused Commissioner Moore of lying, something he obviously did not appreciate. When Commissioner Currie made a motion for a formal hearing there was no second from her fellow commissioners and the topic was closed, at least at the city level, and Commissioner Moore retained his seat on the commission. Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall had ruled Commissioner Moore is a qualified voter, leaving the State Attorney's office the only other entity still investigating allegations.
The commission discussed a new card plan implemented a month ago. Those interested in speaking before the commission are required to fill out a card and submit it prior to the meeting. There also was discussion as to how much time should be allowed at the beginning of the meeting for the public to speak. Citizens have five minutes to speak while the image of a stop light and a clock count down is projected on a screen in front of them.
The vote on the amended motion and the motion to allow the public to discuss their issues while still at the podium both passed 3-2 with Commissioner Elizabeth Albert and Commissioner Moore casting the nay votes.
"So starting at the next meeting we're going to have a different type of public participation. No cards and we go back to the old system we had," Mayor Roy Johnson said.
Several individuals from local nonprofit organizations approached the council to emphasize to the commissioners the negative impact on local charitable programs caused by the banning of gaming machines. The mass removal of all gaming machines was ordered by the state after the Allied Veterans ran Internet parlors that were a front for a gambling operation with very little of the proceeds going to the veterans charities.
Kelly Mathis, a Jacksonville lawyer, was convicted on Oct. 10 of using Allied Veterans as a front for a $300 million gambling operation.
Individuals from the Bikers for First Amendment Rights, the American Legion Post and the Fraternal Order of Eagles each spoke about how removing the machines hurts their charitable efforts. These organizations use the proceeds for a variety of local veterans programs.
The nonprofits each described how the money from the gaming machines is used to take veterans to doctors appointments as far away as Gainesville and Vero Beach.
Eddie Colosimo, the founder of Bikers for First Amendment Rights said the Allied Veterans "were a joke," and the local organizations were "nonprofits that serve our veterans, our community and our needy."
Wes Douglas, president of the Holly Hill Fraternal Order of Eagles, echoed Mr. Colosimo's words.
"We're here for the city. We're part of the community."
City Attorney Scott Simpson explained how the issue needs to be addressed at the state level and how the commission had no ability to override the state law.
"A lot of good organizations got caught up in it," Mr. Simpson said.
But, he said, "The city can't allow something that the state says is illegal."