Milton meetings are 'combat zone,' says 1 of 2 council members to resign in last 5 days
For the second time in less than a week, a member of the Milton City Council has resigned unexpectedly.
George Jordan, who represents Ward 3, tendered his resignation verbally to City Manager Randy Jorgenson and City Clerk Dewitt Nobles on Monday afternoon. He also turned in all of his official city-issued equipment, according to city spokesman Ed Spears.
Jordan did not provide a written resignation letter, and he did not respond to the News Journal's request for comment Tuesday.
He did, however, address the Santa Rosa County Commission at the board's meeting Tuesday morning and said he resigned because of “grave concerns” about the direction the city was headed.
“As of about 2:15 yesterday, I resigned as councilman,” Jordan said, addressing the board. “I have grave concerns about the transparency, the honesty and accountability, and the leadership in Milton, and I felt like the continuance forward in the position of councilman would say that I was in agreement with the way things are being done. And, holding true to myself, I had to resign.”
Jordan did not elaborate on his claims.
In a small but heated exchange with District 3 County Commissioner James Calkins, Jordan interrupted the commissioner twice as Calkins talked about how he believed the new City Council was headed in a good direction.
“The current group, the City Council, the majority, the new majority now, is going in the right direction,” Calkins said.
“Mr. Calkins, you and I definitely disagree with that,” Jordan responded.
After another brief exchange, Calkins indicated Milton would be “happy” to hear Jordan had resigned.
“Thanks for your resignation,” Calkins said. “I think Milton will be happy.”
Holley: Council meetings are 'like a combat zone'
Jordan's sudden resignation comes just days after Councilwoman Sharon Holley, who represented Ward 4, also resigned unexpectedly Thursday, claiming in her resignation letter that "some members of this council with their outside influences have pushed this council as a whole from being an effective government body."
Holley told the News Journal in an interview on Tuesday that she resigned because of concerns about the leadership and direction of the city, and the behavior of council members and citizens at meetings.
“Every meeting we had, the council was divided. It has been for years,” Holley said. “The majority would bring in their supporters, so to speak, and just basically they called us idiots if we did not vote the way the rest of them were going to vote. And so it just got to the point for me where I had to resign.”
Holley said another reason she resigned was to spend time with her grandchildren, who are active in sports. She said her brother passed away Feb. 24 from cancer, and the death has been difficult for both her and her sister.
The former councilwoman also said she disagreed with the direction the city was headed on several fronts, including the inspection for the old hospital on Stewart Street, the over-budget wastewater treatment plant and what she called a lack in faith in city leadership.
“The council is responsible for the city. They hire the city manager, the city attorney and they allow things to happen. It’s just not right,” she said. “There have been things that have been done, and I’m not going to elaborate on all that, but it will all come out eventually. I’m not going to be the one that’s going to sit here and tell you everything that has happened in the city.”
Holley declined to provide names or cite specific incidents to support her claims.
Holley said her decision to resign wasn’t an easy one, but it was the one she had to make for her own well-being.
“I felt like I let the people down, because they voted me in for four years,” she said. “But I just couldn’t stay there under the environment that we were having to be in at every meeting. It was like a combat zone as far as I’m concerned.”
Councilman Jeff Snow fires back at allegations
While Holley and Jordan did not specifically cite any council members while making their allegations, they were both often publicly at odds in City Council meetings with Councilman Jeff Snow, a Realtor who was elected to serve in 2016.
Snow told the News Journal on Tuesday that there was “nothing” to the allegations Holley and Jordan put forth regarding city leadership and effectiveness. He went as far as to say their resignations were a good thing for the city.
“As far as my comment as them resigning, it’s two of the best things to happen to Milton,” he said. “They’ve never put the city first, they’ve only blocked everything that’s been good to come to Milton, including the splash pad. They’ve stood in the face of progress for years.”
Snow invited Holley and Jordan to provide proof for their claims and denied any wrongdoings by elected officials or city staff.
“The city of Milton has one of the best staffs anywhere. I think it’s extremely effective. We’ve paved over 40 roads in four years, have had numerous projects come to Milton in the last year and we’ve had more growth than we’ve seen in 30 years, so I think we’re on the right track,” he said. “The citizens of Milton have taken their city back.”
Jorgenson, the city manager, did not comment specifically on the allegations when reached by the News Journal on Tuesday.
Jorgenson said it’s up to the council to determine if certain city staff members need to be terminated for wrongdoing.
“Staff takes its direction from the council. If there are five members of the council that make a motion and the motion is passed, it provides direction to staff to carry out the program, project or policy as long as it doesn’t violate the tenants of the law in any way shape or form,” he said. “We carry out the activities that are directed by the council. If there are members of the council who don’t believe that the city is moving in an appropriate direction, they’re charged with the responsibility of realigning with the direction they’d like to go.”
Down to six members, what's next for City Council
The Milton City Council is now down to six members, and must replace its two vacant seats within 60 days. The council will accept applications from interested people who live in Ward 3 or Ward 4, and then vote to appoint someone out of that pool of applicants.
The deadline to apply to fill the seats is April 5. The council will review the applications at its executive committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. April 5.
Completed applications and a current resume must be submitted to the city clerk by 2 p.m. April 5. Late submissions will not be accepted. The city clerk will review all applications to determine eligibility.
Applicants will be given an opportunity to present their qualifications at the April 5 meeting. Applications are available on the city’s website at miltonfl.org..
Annie Blanks can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8632.