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Lake City Florida: Another Popcorn Night Coming Up. This Time It's the P&Z. Will the Council Follow City Manager Dyal and Remove Sylvester Warren?

Sylvester Warren with headline: Will the City Council keep him on the P&Z

LAKE CITY, FL – Tonight, turmoil continues in Lake City as the City Council will be asked to remove community activist and businessman Sylvester Warren from his recent appointment to the City's Planning & Zoning Board.

Sylvester Warren

Over the past few years, Sylvester Warren has never made it a secret that he was arrested for dealing drugs, served time in federal prison, has a lot of money, and owns a lot of local real estate.

Mr. Warren is not shy and routinely shares his opinion about almost every topic in front of the City Council and almost everything else. For those that cannot get enough of Mr. Warren during City Council meetings, he has a Facebook page where one can find him opining about many topics.

On November 1, 2021, Sylvester Warren’s submitted application for the City Planning & Zoning Board (P&Z) was on the City agenda. City Councilman Jake Hill motioned to appoint Mr. Warren to the P&Z. Mr. Hill's motion died for lack of a second.

A year and a half later, on May 15, 2023, Mr. Warren's application for the P&Z was back on the City's agenda for consideration.

How Does One Get Appointed to the P&Z?
A Mystery to the City Council and City Attorney

Over time, appointment to the City P&Z has been a mystery to the City Council, Mayor Witt, former City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr., and current City Attorney Todd Kennon.

The City’s most important document, its Home Rule Charter spells it out: “The mayor shall… appoint members of the city boards with the approval of the council.”

The definition of appointment is not confusing. Black’s Law Dictionary defines appointment this way: “The selection or designation of a person, by the person or persons having authority to fill an office or public function and discharge the duties of the same.”

None of Mayor Witt’s P&Z appointments in the past eighteen months conform to the rule in the city charter.

May 15, 2023: Filling a Seat of the P&Z

The May 15, 2023, City agenda was clear: 10. Discussion and Possible Action - Planning and Zoning Board. Application received on 11-01-2022 via email from Vanessa George for Sylvester Warren.

This is Lake City. Mr. Warren's application has no official time stamp showing when it was received. There is no place on the application for a date.

Mr. Warren made a pitch for his appointment. He explained he owns property and thought no one owned more historical property along Marion Street [Lake City's Main Street] than he does. He said, "I've done a lot of development throughout Lake City and the County."

Mr. Warren said he finds himself "equally -- if not more qualified for that position… This is my second-time askin' for it."

Mr. Warren asked the City Council to appoint him to fill the P&Z vacancy.

Councilman Hill motioned to put Mr. Warren on the P&Z. Councilman Jernigan seconded the motion.

The City Clerk recommended incorporating a resolution into the motion, which made Mr. Warren's appointment immediate.

The motion passed 4-1, with Councilman Sampson opposed.

After the vote, City Attorney Todd Kennon announced, “Ms. Sikes, I'll get with you tomorrow. We just need to put the specific that's being appointed, also in that resolution and the term."

City Clerk Skies replied, “Yup.”

The resolution appointing Mr. Warren to the P&Z appears to have been written today, June 5, 2023, which would explain why it is not included in today’s agenda, even though the “City Administration” is recommending that it be rescinded.

The City's "City Administration" is undefined, and it is unclear who added the item to the agenda or recommended it.

City Manager Paul Dyal has often made it clear that he runs Lake City, and when the City Administration determines something, it is ultimately Mr. Dyal's determination.

According to the resolution, Mr. Dyal has “determined that Warren is unable to serve on the Board… [and] finds that it is in the best interest of the City to rescind the appointment."

According to the June 2, 2023, edition of the Lake City Reporter, Mr. Dyal said the decision is based on "legal guidelines." Mr. Dyal did not elaborate other than to say City Attorney Todd Kennon "was looking into whether it was legal for Warren to serve on the board.”

Mr. Dyal said, "It has something to do with clemency."

Mr. Warren has not made a secret that in the past, he was convicted as a drug kingpin, did federal time, and was released from prison.

Anybody remotely knowledgeable about Columbia County/Lake City knows of Mr. Warren's past.

Today's resolution is a cover-up of something that Mr. Warren never tried to cover up: he is a convicted felon. City Manager Dyal knew it, City Clerk Audrey Sikes knew it, City Attorney Todd Kennon knew it, and the City Council knew it. It didn't make a difference; although Councilman Sampson opposed the appointment, Mr. Warren was appointed anyway without a peep from anyone.

Can Mr. Warren Sit on the P&Z?

The laws in Florida are clear: Without clemency, it is against the law for a convicted felon to hold public office. This is nothing new. Howevver, former City Councilman Glenel Bowden served without clemency and no one in the state balked.

Even though the City was clueless about the P&Z appointment process, the Council, by a majority vote, approved Mr. Warren for a seat on the P&Z.

Tonight, City Manager Paul Dyal is asking that the City Council remove Mr. Warren from the P&Z by rescinding its May 15 appointment.

The City Council may not feel it is in the best interest of the City to remove Mr. Warren.

City Manager Paul Dyal – Can he be trusted?

The City mainstream media and public mouthpiece, the Lake City Reporter, wrote: “Dyal said he didn’t request for the committee appointment to be reviewed, but noted that a citizen asked for an investigation or made a public records request regarding Warren.”

Your reporter was that citizen who put in the public record request for Mr. Warren's clemency certificate and any information showing he applied for clemency. The request was filed in the early morning hours on May 18, 2023, with the Police Chief, Sheriff, the City, Mayor Witt, and Todd Kennon, the City Attorney.

The only official that responded was Sheriff Hunter, who said he had nothing.

The Police Chief, the City, Mayor Witt, and the City Attorney, Kennon, have not responded.

There is no way that City Manager Dyal could not have known your reporter filed the public record request regarding the clemency of Mr. Warren.

Is the City Council going to keep Mr. Warren on the P&Z?

Will Mr. Warren resign?

Tune in tonight. It's another popcorn night in Lake City.

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