Tony Brown returns to contentious Keystone Heights council

By Nick Blank Staff Writer
Posted 4/24/19

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – City council members welcomed a familiar face back to the dais last Monday night – former Mayor Tony Brown.

He replaced Steve Brown who stepped down. In 2017, Tony Brown …

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Tony Brown returns to contentious Keystone Heights council

Posted

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – City council members welcomed a familiar face back to the dais last Monday night – former Mayor Tony Brown.

He replaced Steve Brown who stepped down. In 2017, Tony Brown resigned to look after his business, he said. He was elected without an opponent earlier this month and said a seat on the council would help him weigh in on issues institutional knowledge without the extra burdens of the mayor.

“Honestly, I don’t think I ever left the swing of things. I’ve kept informed of what’s going on,” Tony Brown said. “I’m just getting used to being back in meetings and stuff like that.”

He said he saw the city in a good place. Later in the meeting, he called City Manager Scott Kornegay the best city manager he’d seen.

“We’re just looking to move forward not backward,” Tony Brown said.

He said the major challenges to face were vandalism to city property and monitoring water levels at Keystone’s lakes, though they had improved.

Kornegay gave council members updates about the vandalism to Keystone Beach the past few meetings. Clay County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jeff Johnson gave a demonstration of CCSO’s camera network, which can disclose traffic violations in real-time. Businesses assume the cost to secure the images.

“For example, in our parks, if we had a camera there, we paid for, they could take the evidence from it,” Mayor Karen Lake said.

Johnson said the goal was to have a unified network of cameras to learn of violations quickly, assist with crime after the fact and during 911 calls. If a plate is read leaving a scene of a crime, deputies would be more alert to where the vehicle was headed.

“They can get that situational awareness,” Johnson said. “That’s what the long-term goal is.”

One of the last items on the agenda provoked a tense argument between Lake and Council Member Larry Peoples. Peoples proposed three policies under new business. The second policy created a “Council Censure Policy.” The first was a “gavel rule,” which disallows a council member subject to a censure hearing from presiding over the censure hearing.

The censure policy would require allegations from a council member toward another with evidence. Then the council would undertake a public hearing if an ad-hoc committee approves.

“If a member of the council does something against the law, there are two options – nothing [the city can do] or a recall,” Peoples said.

Peoples said the policy wasn’t a witch hunt because it allowed for reasonable errors of judgement. He said the policy was similar to the city of Stockton, Calif.

“There needs to be something in the middle our council can do to discipline one of our members who has done something they should not have done,” Peoples said.

The final policy caused the most disagreement. Dubbed the “Right to Disconnect,” the policy tightened language concerning the ability of council members to contact city staff off-duty.

Lake said all three policies were meant to minimize the seat of mayor and called them unfriendly. She mentioned an example of a recent event with technical difficulties, so she texted employees. Kornegay addressed the issues, she said.

“This is a personal attack to me,” Lake said.

“No, it’s not ma’am,” Peoples said.

“This is also about the girls against the boys, against the one girl who got the job,” Lake said.

“Oh please, you got the job through claiming everybody was sexist,” Peoples countered. “If I was sexist, I would have voted for the man.”

Lake was voted 4-0 to become mayor in December of 2017, after Tony Brown stepped down. Her application was originally rejected.

She defeated Daniel Lewandowski in April 2018 election.

Both called each other’s views “un-American.” Tony Brown said the argument resembling something from a daycare and the issues needed to be looked at further.

Hart said he agreed with the policies but said the first two items should be tabled and the “Right to Disconnect” should be revised by City Attorney Rich Komando, and council members agreed with the recommendation.

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