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Lake City News

Vacated Council Seat Now Down to 3 Candidates. Chasteen Drops Out. City Manager Reconsiders When He Found Out

Lake City Reporter headline and photo of Mike Williams. Copy: City set to officially appoint Douglas to council
Photo and headline the Lake City Reporter on the Web via Fair Use | Columbia County Observer graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – Tonight at 6 pm, the Lake City, City Council will again attempt to select a candidate to fill the vacated City Council seat of Chris Greene. With the withdrawal of Abbie Chasteen first thing last Thursday morning, the field is now down to three. What is the Council’s plan? It doesn’t have one.


On September 9, 2021, City Councilman Chris Greene resigned from the City Council.

By October 9, 2021, the City had received five applications to fill the vacated seat.

On October 13, 2021, after a secret ballot, the City Council voted to fill the seat with Stephen A. Douglas.

Councilmember secret ballots are against the Florida Sunshine Law.

On Monday afternoon, October 18, City Council Candidate Befaithful Coker sued the City for Sunshine Law violation and other things. Ms. Coker also asked for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to keep Mr. Douglas from being installed. A TRO requires an immediate Court hearing in front of a judge.

During the October 18 meeting, City Attorney Koberlein said the City had not been served.

While this is technically correct, City Attorney Koberlein received service through the Court's electronic filing system.

Ms. Coker never received her hearing on her request for a temporary restraining order.

However, after a Marx Brothers-like attempted installation event during the October 18 Council meeting, and despite the best efforts of Councilman Todd Sampson, the Council did not install Mr. Douglas in the vacant seat.

Tonight, based on the final unanimous motion of the October 18 Council meeting, the City Council will revisit the applications of the three remaining candidates.

What else the Council will do is anybody’s guess.

image of eye and copy: eye on the Lake City ReporterInterim City Manager and the Local Main Stream media, the Lake City Reporter

On Friday, October 22, veteran reporter Tony Britt interviewed Interim City Manager Mike Williams.

During the interview, Interim City Manager Williams did not reveal that the candidate field was down to three, with the withdrawal of Ms. Chasteen.

A day-and-a-half before Mr. Britt’s interview, Ms. Chasteen withdrew via email to the City Clerk, specifically at 8:07 am on Thursday, October 21.

At 09:31 am yesterday morning, after reading the online article in the LCR and finding nothing about Ms. Chasteen’s withdrawal, your reporter texted Interim City Manager Williams and asked:

“Good morning Mike. On Friday, you spoke with Tony Britt of the Lake City Reporter. Abbie Chasteen withdrew first thing Thursday morning. Ms. Chasteen's withdrawal is not mentioned in Mr. Britt's article. Did you mention the withdrawal to Mr. Britt? Did you know about it when you spoke with him? Thanks. Stew”

One minute later, at 09:32 am, Mr. Williams texted back:


Concerned that Mr. Williams may have misread the two questions, your reporter texted back:

“There are two questions. Is the answer to both: “no.”

Then your reporter elaborated:

“Good morning again. I am confused about your previous answer. On Friday, you spoke with Tony Britt of the Lake City Reporter. Abbie Chasteen withdrew first thing Thursday morning. Ms. Chasteen's withdrawal is not mentioned in Mr. Britt's article. ***** Did you know about it when you spoke with him? Thanks again. Stew”

At 09:50 am, Mr. Williams texted back that he was in a meeting and would answer when he was done.

Five hours later, at 02:09 pm, after not hearing from the Interim City Manager, your reporter texted Mr. Williams back:

"Good afternoon Mike. Just checking back. To[o] many meetings…Thanks again.”

At 03:02 pm, Mr. Williams responded:

“Stew unsure I think I found out on Friday. Do not recall if it was before that call.”

Interim City Manager Williams in the LCR

The City Council, the three remaining candidates, and the public are coming into tonight’s meeting on the blind. No one knows what is going to happen.

Mr. Williams looked into the future, “They're (city council) holding another meeting, and what I think they're going to probably do is arrive at a nice procedure probably by motion if they all agree to that to select the person for council seat 14. There were a lot of good candidates.”

There were five candidates. One withdrew because of a felony conviction and confusion about his status to run, and one withdrew last Thursday morning. That left three candidates, which does not seem like "a lot."

There is also debate among the citizens and the Councilmen about which ones are good.

The Interim City Manager then opined about the law.

According to the article, Mr. Williams opined: “What they did before was not necessarily wrong, they just decided they tried to do it by motion,” he said, noting city officials were unable to appoint a candidate using the method.”

It was necessarily wrong, which is why Ms. Coker took the City to Court, and why the City Council is involved in a do-over.

The Official Record of the October 18 Meeting: Where is it?

The City Council is coming into tonight’s meeting with just the three candidate’s letters of interest.

The City’s Rules of Procedure, passed by the City Council, are clear and unambiguous: “At least three days prior to each meeting, the city clerk shall furnish each councilmember of the city council and the city attorney with a copy of the minutes of the preceding meeting.”

There are no minutes of the October 18 meeting debacle for the Councilmen to review, which tonight may aid them in not ending up before a judge. City Council minutes have been problematic for almost three years, and the Council has done nothing.

The City Charter gives no direction to the Council for filling the vacated seat, other than time frames and the following instruction: “by a majority vote of the remaining members, choose a successor to serve said unexpired term of the vacated council seat.”

This was something that could have been addressed as the City’s 2020 Charter Review Board was led through the process by Attorney Koberlein.

The LCR: What does it know? What it is doing?

President Truman holding an early edition of the November 4, 1948 Chicago Daily Tribune showing an erroneous presidential election headline. (Fair Use)

Who, if anyone, will be appointed tonight, is anybody's guess?

The web headline of the LCR, "City set to officially appoint Douglas to council" was not written by reporter Britt, but by the editor/publisher. Do they know something no one else does?

Are the paper's brass trying to influence the City Council or others?


The "Cure Meeting"

City Attorney Fred Koberlein during the October 18 City Council meeting.
City Attorney Fred Koberlein during the October 18 City Council meeting.

Tonight, according to City Attorney Koberlein, through Ms. Coker and her attorney, the City will have a “Cure Meeting.”

Throughout the 50 states in America, there are only 5 cases that mention the term “cure meeting” in primary and secondary case law. Not one of them is Florida.

A Tennessee case explains a "cure meeting." The case gives the parameters to fix what in Florida would be a Sunshine law violation.

In 1990, the Tenn. Ct. App. wrote the following in an Open Meetings act violation: “A cure meeting will not be effective, however, unless the ultimate decision is made in accordance with the Open Meetings Act, and it is a new and substantial reconsideration of the issues involved.” Neese v. Paris Special School District, 813 S.W.2d 432

In Florida, a entity can cure a Sunshine law violation at a subsequent meeting. There are a few cases and Attorney General Opinions which explain how this is accomplished. While it is established law, no Florida court has called this a "cure meeting."

In 1972, in Bassett v. Braddock, (Fla. 1972), Justice Dekle of the Florida Supremes, speaking for the majority, wrote in a "secret ballot case": "In this particular instance, any initial violation by secret written ballot was cured and rendered 'sunshine bright' by the corrective open, public vote which followed." (citation omitted)

Overwhelmingly, for over 6 decades,Florida courts have not looked kindly on the violation of Florida's Sunshine law, something which City Attorney Koberlein allowed the City Council to do at its October 13 City Council meeting.


Tonight, contrary to Interim City Manager Mike Williams’ opinion, “What they [City Council] did was not necessarily wrong.” It was.

If it wasn't, the City Council would not be doing a do-over beginning at 6 pm this evening.

Whether or not it will be "sunshine bright" according to Florida law is anybody's guess.

Get your popcorn and sit back and relax.

If history is any guide, you may not have seen anything yet.

*Cure Meeting section updated and revised at 12:30 pm, October 26.

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