Hard feelings as workshop nixed

Brevard County commissioners recently broke an apparent record for quick meetings, cancelling a May 9 planning workshop within seconds after Chair Kristine Isnardi convened it.

Commissioners had planned for months to take a look at the county’s 65 citizen advisory boards, decide which are necessary and either disband the others or consolidate them. But recently commissioners have, on their own, reviewed the advisory boards’ roles. So it wasn’t necessary to duplicate efforts with staff on the clock. “Most of this, we could do at a regular commission meeting,” Pritchett said apologetically.

For some, however, Pritchett cared more about how much staff members were being paid than about the 20 or so residents who came to speak. Commissioner John Tobia dissented on the 4-1 vote to cancel the workshop.

In a May 21 commission meeting, Indialantic resident Chet Ellsworth called the workshop cancellation a “coup” and “possible treason.”

“The folks involved should resign,” he said, adding, “that meeting was very important. You censored the public.”

The topic is expected to return in a regular meeting in the near future.

County records show there are 24 mandatory advisory boards, required by state or federal law, such as the Planning and Zoning Board, and 41 non-mandatory boards, established by county ordinance, such as the Save Our Indian River Lagoon’s Citizen Oversight Committee.

Altogether, they cost county taxpayers more than $700,000 in 2018, records show, mostly in staff time.

Vice Chair Bryan Lober, of Rockledge, said his colleagues, such as Pritchett, may have had time to review the advisory boards’ roles, but the commission hasn’t done so collectively. Pritchett, of Titusville, could not have called her colleagues ahead of time to cancel the workshop because Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law requires such discussions be held in public.

Tobia, of Grant-Valkaria, was the only member to attend the workshop with a hard copy of his recommendations. He handed his proposals to his colleagues, but nobody discussed them. “I apologize to all the people who showed up thinking this workshop would happen,” he said.

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