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HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission voted of 4-1 Thursday, Oct. 11, to officially terminate former City Manager Jeri Langman following a relatively short quasi judicial public hearing.  Attorney Bill Whitley represented the City Commission as hearing officer and conducted the proceedings.

Whitley said he had prepared two resolutions for Commission consideration after the hearing.  The first was Resolution 2012-T to terminate and the second was Resolution 2012-U to reinstate Langman.

One reason for the hearing’s brevity was that Langman, who was sworn in to testify by Whitley, read a statement specifying that her attorney “has asked in writing at least three times for this hearing to be postponed as her husband had surgery today and is unable to attend this hearing.”  Langman said the attorney has not received a reply from the City to her request.

Langman requested the city attorney contact her attorney, Carla Franklin, to see if they could agree to delay the hearing to Oct. 28 to allow her attorney to be present.  This is “a reasonable request normally afforded to any officer of the court who requests it.  To afford me any less due process is continuing this unlawful retaliation against me for blowing the whistle on Mayor Davis, Vice-Mayor Barnas and Ms. Gestrin for unlawful activities,” she said.

Former City Attorney Thomas DePeter was sworn in.  He commented on the procedural nature of the hearing and suggested the Commission ask their new attorney whether granting an extension would be a violation of the Charter, and pointed out that in a quasi judicial hearing any ex-parte communication regarding the issue would mean the findings are flawed.

Following the two speakers and seeing no one else to testify, Whitley closed the hearing and returned the meeting to the mayor and commissioners.

Commissioner Sue Weller asked if the Commission was in compliance by continuing.  City Attorney Tosha Fernandez, noting the meeting had been properly noticed and followed the City Charter, said, “It is your prerogative to make a decision this evening.”

Vice-Mayor Barnas moved and Commissioner Sue Weller seconded a motion to pass Resolution 2012-T to officially terminate Langman.

During public comments, DePeter said he did not hear any testimony from anybody regarding the performance of the city manager or whether she is pleasing the Commission.  “I heard no substantial evidence at all presented at this hearing,” he said.

Attorney Paul Regensdorf commented that as a lawyer he had been in several hearings where one side or the other has a scheduling issue.  “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a hearing where, because of the unavailability of a lawyer, the presiding body did not grant a continuance when requested,” he said.  “My opinion would be that, whatever the time limit is for a hearing is one that obviously could be waived as long as both parties agree.”

“It is a little bit startling to me,” he continued, “that a body such as this does not allow a person who is going to be fired to have their attorney present when the grounds requested for that continuance is the unavailability due to some sort of medical problem in the family.  I’ve only practiced law 40 years.  I’ve never seen that happen before.  I guess this will be the first time if, in fact, you don’t grant her that continuance.”

The Commission moved forward and voted 4-1 to approve Resolution 2012-T.

The dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner Scott Jamison who had earlier stated he would hope that the Commissioners would “take note from this as we go into the next City Manager…that we inventory what we’ve done and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes dealing with the next one as we move forward.”

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Email Cwalker@alachuatoday.com

HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs City Commission voted of 4-1 Thursday, Oct. 11, to officially terminate former City Manager Jeri Langman following a relatively short quasi judicial public hearing.  Attorney Bill Whitley represented the City Commission as hearing officer and conducted the proceedings.

Whitley said he had prepared two resolutions for Commission consideration after the hearing.  The first was Resolution 2012-T to terminate and the second was Resolution 2012-U to reinstate Langman.

One reason for the hearing’s brevity was that Langman, who was sworn in to testify by Whitley, read a statement specifying that her attorney “has asked in writing at least three times for this hearing to be postponed as her husband had surgery today and is unable to attend this hearing.”  Langman said the attorney has not received a reply from the City to her request.

Langman requested the city attorney contact her attorney, Carla Franklin, to see if they could agree to delay the hearing to Oct. 28 to allow her attorney to be present.  This is “a reasonable request normally afforded to any officer of the court who requests it.  To afford me any less due process is continuing this unlawful retaliation against me for blowing the whistle on Mayor Davis, Vice-Mayor Barnas and Ms. Gestrin for unlawful activities,” she said.

Former City Attorney Thomas DePeter was sworn in.  He commented on the procedural nature of the hearing and suggested the Commission ask their new attorney whether granting an extension would be a violation of the Charter, and pointed out that in a quasi judicial hearing any ex-parte communication regarding the issue would mean the findings are flawed.

Following the two speakers and seeing no one else to testify, Whitley closed the hearing and returned the meeting to the mayor and commissioners.

Commissioner Sue Weller asked if the Commission was in compliance by continuing.  City Attorney Tosha Fernandez, noting the meeting had been properly noticed and followed the City Charter, said, “It is your prerogative to make a decision this evening.”

Vice-Mayor Barnas moved and Commissioner Sue Weller seconded a motion to pass Resolution 2012-T to officially terminate Langman.

During public comments, DePeter said he did not hear any testimony from anybody regarding the performance of the city manager or whether she is pleasing the Commission.  “I heard no substantial evidence at all presented at this hearing,” he said.

Attorney Paul Regensdorf commented that as a lawyer he had been in several hearings where one side or the other has a scheduling issue.  “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a hearing where, because of the unavailability of a lawyer, the presiding body did not grant a continuance when requested,” he said.  “My opinion would be that, whatever the time limit is for a hearing is one that obviously could be waived as long as both parties agree.”

“It is a little bit startling to me,” he continued, “that a body such as this does not allow a person who is going to be fired to have their attorney present when the grounds requested for that continuance is the unavailability due to some sort of medical problem in the family.  I’ve only practiced law 40 years.  I’ve never seen that happen before.  I guess this will be the first time if, in fact, you don’t grant her that continuance.”

The Commission moved forward and voted 4-1 to approve Resolution 2012-T.

The dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner Scott Jamison who had earlier stated he would hope that the Commissioners would “take note from this as we go into the next City Manager…that we inventory what we’ve done and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes dealing with the next one as we move forward.”

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