During County Councilwoman Heather Post's "Government 101" event on Saturday, Feb. 17, one audience member latched on to a quick mention by Post.
The woman asked her if she wasn't being heard or having her questions answered during County Council meetings because the other council members didn't support her or because there was someone not doing their job. The question triggered nervous laughter from Post, who took a second before answering.
“Politics is a very, very interesting animal," Post said. "And I’m not a politician.”
Post held the event with the purpose of educating the community as to how government works at the both the local and state level. She touched on the Florida Constitution Revision Committee, how bills become laws and who represented which areas of the county at different legislative levels. She also talked about some bills to keep an eye out for on the ballot, for better or worse. These included bills regarding raising the homestead exemption and raising the maximum sentence needed to stay in county jails rather than being transferred to state correctional facilities.
In response to Post's event, Kelley said he felt she was "grandstanding" and that she herself is still learning how government works.
"The county council works by people working together, not being individuals," Kelley said. "We’re individuals working together for the same goal.”
Kelley brought up Post's event during the County Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, repeating the same sentiment. In a written statement made to The Observer after the meeting, Post said she couldn't agree more.
"Perhaps if some councilmembers focused more on the issues and less on making public comments in misrepresentation about me, we could accomplish a great deal together," Post wrote. "We are not in competition. We are seven equal members of a council whose main focus should be our citizens."
At the "Government 101" event Post was discussing how consent agendas work, when she mentioned a few County Council examples of items she wanted more information or clarification during a meeting. One of those involved a $15,000 settlement for a DeLand woman who fell on a sidewalk out of county jurisdiction. Post said that in law enforcement, you don't deal with things outside of your jurisdiction and that confused her.
She also said that she was confused there was no standard operating procedure for these sorts of cases and asked staff to create some. It was not approved by the rest of the council.
County Council Chair Ed Kelley said if they could stop all people from suing the county with making an example of someone, then litigation would be worth it. However, because they are working taxpayer money, he said settling is oftentimes less financially risky.
“Those of us who have been in Government 101, 404 and 505 for years, understand the risk/reward and trying to protect the tax payers from additional expenses," Kelley said.
At the event, Post also said the council needs to be looking at the county's money and make sure they're doing the right thing. The $200,000 a year Post said the county spent on similar settlement cases caught her attention.
“We should be taking care of our own before we do anything else," Post said.
There have been some "political lessons" she's learned over her first year on the council, she said as well, though she explained she is not new to government having been surrounded by it as a law enforcement officer in Tallahassee. In addition, she referenced making a motion once and not being acknowledged during a meeting.
It's okay to bring things up, Kelley said, but it doesn't mean it'll lead to a discussion every time.
“Anybody can make a motion, but unless it gets a second, it’s not brought to the floor for discussing," Kelley said. "You can’t force people to second something to talk about.”
Based on their comments made during the County Council meeting, Post wrote in her statement that it was clear her fellow council members had "no clue" as to what the meeting was about. However, she's not letting their comments deter her from holding another "Government 101" event.
"I was elected just like everyone else on the council and while I greatly appreciate advice from anyone genuinely concerned for providing the best for citizens, it is ludicrous for Kelley to say that I am not qualified to provide information and help the citizens in my district to be better informed and work better with their government or to tell me how and when, or what my meetings with my constituents should entail," Post wrote.