Center operations director named new executive director

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By Bianca Benedí and Kathy Prucnell

Islander Reporter

The Center of Anna Maria Island has a new executive director, and it looks like the solution was close to home.

Chris Culhane, a lifelong islander who has served as the center’s operations director since 2015, will succeed interim director Carl Weeks as the leader of the nonprofit at 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

The center board issued a statement May 4 announcing the hire.

Former executive director Kristen Lessig announced in January she was leaving for a position at the Sarasota YMCA.

Human resources consultant Margaret Beck was employed to lead a hiring committee. More than 170 people applied for the position, which took nearly three months to fill.

In a statement, board chair David Zaccagnino said Culhane emerged as a “top choice” in the selection process, citing his work in recent months to keep the center running during the search.

“He is a natural, and has stepped into the leadership position with purpose,” Zaccagnino wrote.

Culhane also issued a statement thanking the center board for selecting him.

“As executive director, I pledge to steer our center to a path of sustainable success as we enter this next phase of history,” he wrote.

Culhane said he spent his childhood at the community center, participating in sports, volunteering at the concession stand or “simply having fun.” He said in the past four decades, he has spent his time contributing to the center through coaching, volunteering and as a member.

His short-term plans for the center include filling vacant staff positions, preparing for the summer’s camp program and finalizing the budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which begins July 1.


Center leader, sovereign citizen?

Run-ins with the law for driver’s license violations and forgeries point to Chris Culhane’s belief in a sovereign citizenry.

Culhane, 43, was arrested in 2012 and 2013 for driving with a suspended license and, the following year, he was arrested for forging court documents.

A pre-trial diversion contract was the end of the road for Culhane on two counts of forgery brought by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in April 2014 for filing more than 300 illegitimate court papers in a domestic relations action that resulted in divorce.

Twelfth Circuit Judge Robert Farrance dismissed his 2012 arrest for driving with a suspended or revoked license in Bradenton. Farrance withheld adjudication in Culhane’s 2013 case for driving in Holmes Beach with a suspended license. A withhold means there’s no court record of a conviction despite a finding of guilt.

Both license cases show multiple filings from Culhane as a pro-se litigant.

So what’s up?

A March 2013 probable cause affidavit from Holmes Beach Police Officer Garrett Shaffer sheds some light:

“The defendant has previously informed the Holmes Beach Police Department as well as the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office that the defendant is a sovereign citizen and is not subject to state laws.”

According to the HBPD report, Culhane was uncooperative and told the HBPD he did not require a driver’s license because he held “an international license.”

According to Wikipedia, sovereign citizens “see themselves as answerable only to their particular interpretation of the common law … not subject to any government statutes or proceedings.”

Culhane did not respond May 7 before press time to a phone call for comment.

Zaccagnino said May 7 the board was aware of the charges and also unconcerned. He claimed the charges were related to a foreclosure on property Culhane owned.

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