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Economic development council loses director

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By Lou Elliott Jones

 The Nature Coast Business Development Council asked for the resignation of its fifth director since its incorporation in 2000 during a contentious and sometimes angry meeting on June 28.

Cedar Key’s Pat O'Neal, who was hired one year ago, was told to submit his resignation by July 1 in a 6-0-1 vote with its newest member abstaining. O'Neal was given 24 hours to respond to the demand that he resign. 

Instead of a resignation, O'Neal informed board members in an email dated June 29,  "In accordance with the Nature Coast Business Development Council, Inc., Board of Directors' decision of 28 June 2011 and our conversation of 12:12 p.m. today, my last day will be 30 June 2011."

O'Neal said he did not resign, but was vacating the office and submitted his expenses and payroll invoice before turning in the keys as requested.

The decision came during the board's reorganization meeting — its first gathering since March — where Chiefland Realtor Doug King was elected chair and College of Central Florida Levy Provost Marilyn Ladner was elected vice chair. Skipper Henderson of Levy Abstract and Title was voted treasurer.

The Levy County Commission — which funds the Council — reappointed the Council members in June months after their terms expired. Reappointed were King of Chiefland, School Superintendent Bob Hastings, County Visitor Bureau Director Carol McQueen of Fanning Springs,and businessman Walt McJordan or Cedar Key. Sharon Battles, an elected member, was appointed to replace the late Tommy Dunford.

The appointees — as allowed under the Council's bylaws — elected several other members including Ladner, Greg Galpin of Chiefland, Amy Mangin of Ocala, Skipper Henderson of Chiefland, and Arlene Bell of Williston.

King who opened the discussion of O'Neal's job performance that went around the table.  "I'm sick and tired of us being in a position of things not being done," he said. "We're in a constant state of of things not being done and kept current. .. I've lost complete confidence in you. I just don't see it being any better. "

Speaking of the lapsed appointments, "It's not my job to keep track of this. It's not Carol's job. It's rassing. I've never had to go before the board to be appointed."

Hastings said he remembered his first year as an agriculture teacher when he also took on sports coach duties. "I was working 18 hours a day and making no one happy." He said O'Neal was qualified, "My opinion that's where Pat's got the edge. The name of this is business development and I haven't seen any business development from the Council."

Ladner said O'Neal lacked organizational skills. "You are the one paid to do that and asking for volunteers to support you isn't appropriate."

McQueen said she gave O'Neal a lede on a business that did renovations so they could obtain tax credits and a refund of the sales taxes. "I gave him (O'Neal) the only business card I had. I finally tracked him (the businessman) down again and he had never heard of us." McQueen said she gave the man, the owner of the recently renovated Chiefland McDonald's franchise, the information to obtain the credit and refund. "It is not my place to track that man down, ... It's hard to swallow that one."

The other directors for the Council include: Lanny Cardona, retired; Howard M. Jones, resigned; Pamela Williams Blair, resigned, indicted in public corruption probe and awaiting trial; Amanda Douglas, resigned and convicted of stealing funds from the Council, and O'Neal. The last four directors have been hired since 2006.