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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

'Early release' for Bradenton Beach Code Enforcement Officer

Bradenton Beach Code Enforcement Officer Dawn Betts received three days paid leave before her intended last day of work Feb. 25 from the city commission last week.

Betts resigned Feb. 9, offering the city two weeks notice of her intention to leave.

In a special emergency city commission meeting at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, commissioners agreed 4-1 to allow Betts to leave city employ early after Vice Mayor Anna O'Brien said "I am asking her to not come back to work after today.

"She has done very inappropriate behavior in front of citizens, and she's had citizens crying in the streets," O'Brien said of Betts. "She has ignored complaints, and she has been seen on the porch with [Old Bridge Village developer David] Teitelbaum being very intimate while serving as our code enforcement officer. There is an atmosphere of intimacy, and I'm very scared. She needs to watch what the hell she's doing in public."

O'Brien said she had heard that Betts was leaving the city to work for either developer Teitelbaum or Steve Noriega, another prominent Bradenton Beach developer. Both at times have been at odds with the current administration.

O'Brien said she "objects to [Betts] having access and I want no further damage to my city. I'm concerned with her use of public power. I believe it is very improper, and unless there is a dire need for her to be here Monday, enough is enough. I don't want her to represent the city."

O'Brien's original motion was to have the code enforcement officer be given the next three days - through Feb. 25, her intended last day of employment - considered as vacation days and deny Betts access to city hall and public records. That motion was seconded by City Commissioner John Shaughnessy.

After discussion, the final motion approved by the city commission was for Betts to have three work days off in recognition of her "fine service to the city," also seconded by Shaughnessy and approved by the city commission with the "nay" vote coming from Mayor John Chappie.

"She's done a lot of good work for the city," Chappie said. "There are always complaints against the code enforcement officer - it's the nature of the beast." He said that he was concerned Betts "has had her resignation in for almost two weeks, and we haven't done this with any other employees."

City Commissioner Peter Barreda concurred with O'Brien so far as saying, "Just give her three days paid leave."

City Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips said she had received information on issues that had come before Betts that had been inconclusive "until I spoke to Mayor Chappie. It is a pattern. I'm seeing code enforcement as being very selective. There were three instances I brought to her that I did not see any resolution to. I'm seeing a pattern with her past supervisor, confidant, whatever - I'm concerned."

Bradenton Beach Code Enforcement Board Chairman Ken Lohn, present at the meeting, interjected from the gallery that "there is corruption involved in Bradenton Beach City Hall and I can testify to this matter." He was not allowed to elaborate.

"With this new information," Phillips said, "I have a fear that something will happen."

When told of O'Brien's comments, made at the public meeting, David Teitlebaum said, "Her comments are totally unfounded. It is slander, scandalous, unfair to Miss Betts and unfair to me. I'm not going to stand for it."

Betts told The Islander, "I'm flabbergasted. It's absurd, the [O'Brien] comment was totally uncalled for. And as far as the comments as to who I'm going to work for, I'm not going to work for anybody. I've started my own business and I don't want to comment further until I'm away from the city. It will be a service business and I have developed a corporation and I'll be on my own and my services will be contracted."

Betts defended her work, saying "I've worked with so many people and I work with everybody. My last few days I was working on an unsafe structure and the tenant thanked me for have FPL turn off service until the problem was resolved. On Wednesday, I stayed overtime on an anonymous call about a construction site and I worked with the Holmes Beach building official to get a stop-work order.

"I handled a noise complaint at [Teitlebaum's] Tortuga Inn and I fixed that by having the contractor box in a noisy pump. I've had anonymous calls against Noriega, too."

Betts said she was most disappointed that she would not be following through with lighting changes ongoing at the Beach House Restaurant with regard to turtle protection.

She joins a host of people affiliated with Bradenton Beach government who have left, either of their own volition or not, since three new members of the commission took office last November.

On Nov. 21, city commissioners voted 4-1 to terminate contracts with longtime City Attorney Alan Prather and City Planner Bill Brisson. Commissioners at that meeting also terminated the terms of city planning and zoning board members Susan Kehne and Pete Milazzo.

In December, Building Official Bob Welch offered his letter of resignation effective Jan. 2, citing undue pressure from city commissioners to allow him to continue to perform his duties.

Betts stated in her resignation letter that "due to lack of management support, company structure and low morale, I find it necessary to serve notice of resignation."

Betts, under the supervision of a police officer and the mayor, removed personal items from city hall Monday.

No action to replace Betts has yet been undertaken by the city commission, although O'Brien offered to take code complaints in the interim.