So, What’s Up In Inglis?
Inglis, Florida became my
hometown just before last Christmas when we bought a place with access to the
river and discovered peace and extended periods of quiet where nature trumps
man-made racket and white noise. Like a majority of our fellow citizens we like
it here for more than one reason, and we appreciate the efforts of those who
care and make the political sacrifice to bring about positive
Inglis, Citrus County’s neighbor, is located across the Barge Canal Bridge to the north. It’s a small town of about four square miles, bordering the lower Withlacoochee River. The focal point of the city’s commercial activity is the intersection of SR 40 with Highway 19.
Turn west at the stoplight and you’re actually on
Follow That Dream Parkway. You know, as in, Elvis. It will take you out to Yankeetown which is better known, more
water activity oriented, and would be considered quaint because of its architectural preservation. However,there’s
no Elvis festival here or there. Inverness beat everyone else to the punch on that one. Besides, Inglis probably only has enough seating for one hundred, not counting the ground.
The city had an evolutionary election back in March.
(Revolutionary, could also be used here judging by the ongoing response of a handful of those in the losing opposition). Big changes were resoundingly voted
in for a town of just over 1,600 with a registered voter roll of over 900 citizens. Seven of the proposed amendments to the town charter and the election
of one incumbent and two newcomers to the town council put a new face on local politics. The message was pretty clear. Of just over 400 voters polling that day 58% said “yes” to change, across the ballot.
The election results were altered when a member of the opposition, Mr. Gordon Fulwood brought suit to reverse the seven amendments. In two hearings a very knowledgeable and fair judge ruled two of the amendments did not meet the requirements of Florida law or Administrative Code. The opposition was represented by council who prepared a well researched brief and presented same in a forthright argument. The lame duck council, still in power, instructed the City Attorney not to participate or take any action what-so-ever. He did as instructed and told the judge why. She masterfully kept a straight face.
Mr. Fulwood can be thanked for his efforts because the
nullification has had a more positive effect than negative on what the “change” advocates hope to accomplish. That doesn’t mean that change will come easy, but it will come.
Inglis is the last incorporated town of its size in our area (and well beyond) to maintain a municipal police and fire
department. Its “best management” practices didn’t make it out of the last century. Repeatedly, its CPA firm, auditing under state mandate, has warned the city that its controls and overall financial management procedures were not adequate. Glaring proof of that came with the arrest of the town’s accounts payable clerk who for several years, added herself to the official vendor's list
and was able to steal over $22,000 and misuse the town’s credit cards because she had no oversight from management! She worked in the town hall, the same building as does the town clerk (manager). The Mayor's office is there also. It is highly unlikely that even one red cent of that money will be recovered.
The Inglis police department patrols an area approximately 2 miles by 2 miles. In addition to the chief of police, there are five full time cops, 9 Reserves, and there was a canine officer (in this case a dog catcher). The previous town council voted to require the “canine officer” to be certified per state law. He flunked the certification exam twice. The city paid for those exams.
The bad but typical part of this story is, the police chief nor anyone else informed the town council that the
”canine officer” flunked the certification but continued to work. When that cat got out of the bag he resigned.
At new council’s first meeting in early April, the police chief gave the March 2013 activity report to the city council liaison, Commissioner Andrew White, from which he reported the following:
The Department logged 4,524 miles, with a total time worked of 836 man hours – 26.97 man hours per day for 31 days. Eight arrests were made, two of which were felonies. 195 calls were answered and 469 Security checks made. No distinction is made as to drive-bys, door rattles, stake-outs, etc. etc. You can do the probable math on the miles driven/gas consumed, alone. Kind of a shocker, huh? No wonder the new town council voted to
rescind the officer’s perk of driving their patrol cars out of the town while off duty.
Recently, one of the town’s firefighters who is on a popular social media site was “ratted out” (my phrase) by an anonymous source. Demonstrating his professional mindset by example was a picture of he and another male mooning the camera and more than a half dozen, foolish, suggestive and vulgar other photos. Bet you can guess. He blamed someone else for tagging the mug- uh - moon
Lastly, the community has its very own self-appointed political watchdog whose “insider” experience as a former mayor is part of his qualification to run investigations and gather incriminating information to distribute. He regularly reports by e:mail to city hall the startling,
disqualifying residency transgressions, the probable serious consequences of commissioner’s private employment and business decisions, and offers up
opinionated commentary to authenticate veracity and wit (his). In his mind he's the consumate comedian. A clue to this person’s past accomplishments would be his DUI arrest record that qualifies for listing in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
Sadly, had he put half the effort into being "mayor" that he expends now on silliness the town might not be in quite as much of a pickle today. Unfortunately, the last mayor wasn't a whole lot better. He knew how to spend it but not manage it. The embezellment happened on his watch. I think that the revelations being uncovered after the "good ol boys" time in office is the main reason they're in such a hissy. They don't want people to know just how incompetent they were.
In summary, true change is not always good. However, this is the United States of America. When voters decide, subterfuge, whining, libel, threats hollow or real, or intimidation are not going to change the results. If you don’t like the way your local politics are going get out and campaign for change. And do it with honor and real sincerity. The rest of us are fed up with anger, malice, revenge and cowardice.
Stay tuned for more on Inglis town politics and how change is coming.