It seems we’re finally getting some answers to questions created by the dispute between Raydient Places + Properties (Raydient) and Nassau County.
This is the same dispute in which Florida Politics chronicled the series of public records violations, Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law violations, and the costly “war” against Raydient waged by those in power in Nassau County — all of which will carry a hefty price tag for taxpayers.
The Circuit Court of the 4th Judicial District weighed in on June 10 regarding the matter, specifically the argument of who is responsible for funding and maintaining parks within the East Nassau Community Planning Area (ENCPA).
Circuit Judge James H. Daniel granted partial summary judgment for Count VI in favor of Raydient and the ENCPA, stating “the obligation to comply with levels of service for parks and recreational facilities under the Comprehensive Plan remains with Nassau County and the BOCC.”
Earlier this year, Florida Politics took a deep investigative dive into why Raydient ultimately decided to file a complaint against Nassau County, asking the court to weigh in on who, in fact, is responsible for the construction and maintenance of parks and recreation facilities within the ENCPA.
The impetus for this lawsuit: Nassau County claimed Raydient had agreed to fund construction and maintenance for all civil facilities at the penalty of losing further development rights within the ENCPA. They claimed Raydient had reneged on this promise, hurting taxpayers.
Raydient, on the other hand, held that under the agreement the county was responsible for the construction and maintenance of civil facilities, like parks.
The complaint filed by Raydient and the depositions and testimony that followed uncovered a series of Florida’s Public Records Act and Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law violations by some in Nassau County.
The county attempted to wage a “war” against Raydient. In February 2018, the five Commissioners at the time, along with then-County Attorney Mike Mullin (he’s now the County Attorney and the County Manager), then-County Manager Shanea Jones (now Shanea Jones Stankiewicz) and other county employees, traveled, stayed and met together in Tallahassee, “in an attempt to defeat a proposed amendment to a state sector plan statute which the county believed would benefit landowners and developers like the Plaintiff … While in Tallahassee, the County Commissioners met together outside of the Sunshine and discussed how they could exact revenge on Plaintiffs for having supported the legislative amendment, including plans to launch negative media campaigns, suspending development approvals and enacting ordinances to target Plaintiffs’ property for increased taxes.”
Around the same time, Mullin hired “a public relations consultant, to help mount a public relations smear campaign against Raydient … negotiated her compensation and used taxpayer dollars to pay her fees.”
While there isn’t an exact dollar figure yet, it’s clear Nassau County has spent a lot of taxpayer money essentially dragging their feet on what they should have been doing all along. From legal fees to the public relations consultant, how many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on fighting something where the law and facts were not on their side?
In part one of our investigative series on this issue, we noted how Nassau County’s long-standing money problems came to a head between the start of the ENCPA and the second Detailed Specific Area Plan (DSAP) Raydient submitted.
In fact, in 2007, the county government had been warned by its own paid consultants, Fishkind & Associates, that “the capital budget is deficient.”
It was a warning that was reiterated multiple times and by various parties over the next several years, including Fitch Ratings in 2015, which said that the county’s “capital needs had been pay-go funded, but allocated resources appear inadequate to meet the needs beyond 2016.”
The county had found itself in a position where it had a growing deficit and no sustainable path to reverse the trend.
While it appears the county had no plan to address their 30-plus year park deficit and simply wanted to hand the bill to construct and maintain parks to Raydient, they were all in to prove that it was otherwise. Now, this failure to extort its largest landowner and one of its biggest community partners will cost county taxpayers in external legal and public relations fees alone nearly $400,000 and is climbing.