[HarmonyFL:675] Welcome Steve Berube!

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Geo

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Apr 30, 2010, 12:43:57 PM4/30/10
to HarmonyFL
Thank you for agreeing to join this group Steve. Doing so makes you
much more readily accessible in a way that all current and future
residents can benefit.

Steve currently represents Harmony residents as our CDD supervisor #4.
He was appointed to the board to replace James O'Keefe who held
unelected seat #4 for many years. Mr. O'Keefe resigned after it was
revealed at a recent CDD meeting that he is the spouse of an employee
of the developer.

Again, thank you for your flexibility Steve.

As I wrote to Ray Walls, I think that you and I may not agree on some
issues, but I certainly believe that you are doing a much better job
representing our interests than Mr. O'Keefe did.

What is most important to me is transparency and accountability. We
have had little of either in Harmony so far, especially from the
developer.

Are you willing to answer questions in this open public forum Steve?

spberube

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Apr 30, 2010, 9:34:32 PM4/30/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
George--

I will reply through this email link as I cannot get the Google group link to allow a response.

As George stated, I am your appointed CDD Supervisor in seat 4. In the interest of full disclosure, I am intending to run for election in November. I also intend to simply pay the filing fee to qualify rather than intrude in your lives by asking you to sign a qualifying petition to put me on the ballot.

Thank you for inviting me to participate in this Forum. As I stated earlier in our private emails, I am happy to join in but would proceed very cautiously and would decline to participate if my participation led to politicism or mud-slinging pointed at me or anyone else.

In this, our very first exchange, the mud-slinging has begun. Your charecterization of the circumstances surrounding Mr.O'Keefe's resignation are simply not needed here in a public forum where Mr.O'Keefe is not here to defend himself. Further, I believe that while initially appointed, Mr.O'Keefe was elected in the last election for his seat; that is my belief.

And while I appreciate your positive comments about my performance, there is no reason to denigrate Mr.O'Keefe's performance during his years of service.

Lastly, transparency & accountability are indeed important to me as well--I am available to you as you know through your call to me last Friday and my email is available to anyone at spbe...@earthlink.net.....So, I am very available, transparent and will take responsibility for my actions. BUT---there is no reason for you to specifically call out The Developer for what you perceive to be their deficiencies.

So, while I value your invitation and look forward to interacting with all participants, I will not take part in any further discussion(s) until you recharecterize your statements below to reflect the reality.

I know you understand my point and look forward to your re-do....my aim here is to try to understand your concerns and then make progress toward making Harmony an even better place than it already is. Working together we can do that; pointing fingers, using accusatory inuendoes and name calling won't get it done.

Steve Berube

Geo

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May 1, 2010, 1:57:20 AM5/1/10
to HarmonyFL
Steve, thank you for your reply. But it looks like we are off to a
rocky start.

As I stated previously, I think that you and I may not agree on some
issues. But I would hope that we wouldn't use that as an excuse to be
unresponsive.

So far I have asked you only one question in this forum:

"Are you willing to answer questions in this open public forum Steve?"

A more direct response would have been more appreciated.

"where Mr.O'Keefe is not here to defend himself"

While Mr. O'Keefe is not likely interested in this public forum, he is
certainly not prevented from defending himself here. Anyone is free to
join this group on their own without my intervention, even if they
don't live here. Anyone can read, join and post whatever they like (no
spam of course). So please feel free to ask Mr. O'Keefe to join us so
that he can speak for himself. He is welcome.

I have personally attended many CDD meetings since 2004. I have not
studied the public record in detail on this point, so please correct
me if you have specific facts to prove otherwise. But as I recall, Mr.
O'Keefe was on the board prior to the very first meeting that I
attended. Yet I never saw him vote in opposition to Bob Evans (ie. the
developer) or Jim Lentz before him, not even once. This is the basis
of my characterization of Mr. O'Keefe, not his special relationship
with the developer.

"Mr.O'Keefe was elected in the last election for his seat; that is my
belief"

I am sorry Steve, but your belief on this detail is incorrect. The
very first CDD seats elected by Harmony residents are the seats
currently held by Mark LeMeneger and Kerul Kassel. I believe that Mr.
O'Keefe was originally appointed by Jim Lentz. He was certainly never
elected since.

"So, I am very available, transparent and will take responsibility for
my actions."

Transparency means more than availability Steve. To be transparent
means that everyone can see what questions you have been asked, which
questions you refuse to answer and what answers you do finally offer.
However much you may dislike my style, I hope you can agree that
answering questions here for all to see is a whole lot different than
private communications accessible to only one person at a time.

"there is no reason for you to specifically call out The Developer for
what you perceive to be their deficiencies"

This is something that you and I will just have to agree to disagree
on Steve. I would like to think that our disagreement won't preclude
you from being responsive in this forum.

I hope that I have cleared up some of your apprehensions about my
first post to you Steve.

So once again, are you willing to answer questions in this open public
forum? Before answering, please read Ray Walls' answer to the same
question as well as his subsequent answers. I think that you will
better understand where all of this is leading.

IMHO, we need folks on the CDD board who are open, willing and
responsive, even if they feel a bit uncomfortable in the process.

spberube

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May 1, 2010, 7:59:11 AM5/1/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
George--

I am more than willing to answer questions in this forum or anywhere else for that matter.

But, I also told you that I would proceed very cautiously and that politicization and mud-slinging would preclude my participation.

No matter how you want to interpret and/or twist my position, I stated it clearly and it remains my position that is not going to change. Now, that is as transparent as I can be; my initial words to you and my response to you here are available for all to see so I am open; and to date, I have answered your phone calls and emails completely so there's my openness.

My position stands: I will not participate in mud-slinging or any other type of exchanges that are simply not productive. I will answer your direct questions but if they are contexted in any way(s) that I have described, they will not be answered.

As to the elections, I did not look that far back. You might be correct--if so, I stand corrected.

BOTTOM LINE: If you have questions or concerns, I will try to help. Anything other than that, I am not interested in. Uncomfortable is NOT my concern---negativity gets nowhere---positive attitude gets results.

Think about it---I'm sure you will agree.

So, to reiterate, if you recharecterize your original message, I'm in. If you are unwilling to do so, I am unwilling to participate as well. I'm sorry you think we're off to a rocky start--but my standards for participation were, I thought, not very demanding and certainly clear.

Thanks,

Steve Berube




-----Original Message-----
>From: Geo <IIDIMG...@spammotel.com>
>Sent: May 1, 2010 1:57 AM
>To: HarmonyFL <harm...@googlegroups.com>

Geo

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May 1, 2010, 10:56:20 AM5/1/10
to HarmonyFL
Fair enough Steve. I am sorry that you took offense to my reference to
James O'Keefe. I hereby retract that part my original post. So please
consider the original message changed to include the following in
place of what was first submitted:

Steve currently represents Harmony residents as our CDD
supervisor #4. He was appointed to the board to replace
James O'Keefe who held unelected seat #4 for many
years.

Again, thank you for your flexibility Steve.

As I wrote to Ray Walls, I think that you and I may not
agree on some issues, but I certainly believe that you
are doing a good job so far.

If you find this rephrasing acceptable Steve, I would like to move
forward.

Please accept my apologies for getting off on the wrong foot with you,
that was certainly not my intention.

spberube

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May 1, 2010, 11:20:39 AM5/1/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
George---

Thank you for partially revising your statement.

However, I have uncovered a larger issue. As I explained to you initially, I was proceeding very cautiously because I suspected that at least some activities on these public forums might create a violation of Florida's Sunshine Laws.

Indeed, there might be a conflict. I refer you to the minutes of the CDD Meeting of November 20, 2008 where the topic of public chat groups and Sunshine Laws was discussed. Specifically, in the 2nd order of business, Item C, Attorney Qualls advises and I quote: "My advice is, if you have to ask, it is probably wrong."

The message here is clear: I thought there might be a conflict, and before I had to ask, I found the answer and that answer is within the quote above. It is very specific and I must take it as my guidance.

I am sure that you, being as well-versed as you are in the operation of this CDD as well as the entire facility will understand why I will take the advice rendered and decline further participation.

I believe that emails to me (outside of this forum) at spbe...@earthlink.net will not create a violation. But, I will have to ask for a legal opinion of that; in order to do so without creating a separate legal bill, that question will have to wait until our next meeting so I can ask Attorney Qualls while he's already "on the clock."

Again, thanks for inviting me to participate and understanding my position.

Steve Berube


-----Original Message-----
>From: Geo <IIDIMG...@spammotel.com>
>Sent: May 1, 2010 10:56 AM
>To: HarmonyFL <harm...@googlegroups.com>

Geo

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May 1, 2010, 12:09:37 PM5/1/10
to HarmonyFL
Steve, I am sorry to say that I am not at all surprised by your
decision to back out of your initial commitment to participate in this
forum. Fear of being confronted in public is certainly understandable.
The developer has similar issues.

By the tone of your very first response I suspected that you would not
last very long here. I do hope that you are able to find it within
yourself to reconsider your decision, since I think that you are
making a mistake. All public officials will be held accountable in an
open public forum like this eventually.

This is what I think happened. You read my subsequent questions to Ray
Walls and decided that the Sunshine Law might give you a way to back
out of something that you really didn't want to get involved with to
begin with. Steve, I think I could actually see this on your face when
I handed you the card Thursday night with the link to this site. It's
hard to say "no" to someone's face. This I have seen many, many times
before in Harmony. I don't really fault you for this.

The pertinent questions to Ray that you have preemptively answered are
these:

Do you agree that the Florida Sunshine Law allows for
your active participation in this forum as a CDD
representative similar to the current active
participation of Mark Lemeneger and Kerul Kassel in the
closed Yahoo group?

It seems to me that having CDD board members openly
communicate within an unrestricted public forum like
this, not with other board members of course, but with
other Harmony residents in general is very much within
the spirit of the sunshine law. I hope that you and
other prospective CDD board members can agree with this
reasonable assessment.

If you agree with my assessment of the Florida Sunshine
Law, would you be willing to continue answering
questions in this forum after you are elected to the
CDD?

So while your answers to these questions are now clearly
"no" (contrary to your previous posts), Ray answered this way:

I do not believe that the Sunshine Law would restrict
my ability as a CDD representative to come to this
forum, or any other, and provide information or answer
residents' questions related to CDD matters.

I will answer residents' questions whenever and
wherever practicable. Forums, email, face-to-face, etc.

In my view, I believe that Ray Walls is right and Tim Qualls is wrong.
Tim is overly cautious at the expense of sound public discourse in
Harmony. I hope to help prove this someday.

IMHO, neither Mr. Qualls nor his boss, Ken van Assenderp, have served
Harmony well. Their position simply serves to chill open discussion of
the issues. Mark my words, a legal decision will be rendered in the
near future that proves that you and Mr. Qualls are on the wrong side
of the Sunshine Law.

The Florida Sunshine Law has been misused for too long as an excuse
for public officials not to be openly responsive and accountable in a
modern public medium like this.

I feel very reassured that Ray Walls understands this and does not
fear open communication this way. He understands the spirit of the
Florida Sunshine Law: we need open access for everyone, so that
everyone can see everything that is going on within our government and
can actively participate.

I look forward to the day when all of our CDD supervisors do not fear
being held accountable to Harmony residents in a convenient, open and
interactive way.

spberube

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May 1, 2010, 12:39:38 PM5/1/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
George--

I am NOT afraid of being "confronted" in public. Just the opposite is true---I enjoy public discourse. And, if my initial response was going to be "NO" you would have heard it then. I will always tell you what I think even if you won't like it.

You are twisting everything around here so as to suit your viewpoint. You have conveniently forgotten that I told you upfront that I would proceed CAUTIOUSLY.

I also felt that I needed time to research that which I felt needed research meaning the Sunshine Laws.

And, in fact, guidance has already been offered in that Public Document of 11/20/08 and the words are very clear...Like you, I am NOT an attorney but the printed words are very clear and I intend to abide by them.

What others do as residents is their business; should they be elected, you might just see their positions change. Contrary to your belief, the Sunshine Laws are not intended to quell discourse or open conversation; rather, they are intended to make sure that the people's business is conducted out in the open under the sanitizing effect of the sunshine.

It may be unfortunate that some interpretations of those laws lead us to this point, but it is what it is.

I also told you that I take my position very seriously and continuing this discourse contrary to legal advice is simply not doing the right thing which could lead to a legal issue which always costs money. And, asking for a
legal opinion now will also cost all of us money.Certainly, you do not want me to spend money needlessly..?

So, I will ask at the next meeting for further clarification whereby the attorney will already be on the clock.

Again, I am NOT trying to hide from anything/anybody. I am available anytime for any reasonable purpose but this forum is off-limits at least for now.

I'm sure when you think about it from my perspective, you will agree.

Steve Berube



-----Original Message-----
>From: Geo <IIDIMG...@spammotel.com>
>Sent: May 1, 2010 12:09 PM
>To: HarmonyFL <harm...@googlegroups.com>

Geo

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May 1, 2010, 5:17:40 PM5/1/10
to HarmonyFL
Well at least you should be commended for not quitting cold turkey
Steve. ;0)

Steve, you are too cautious, IMHO, like every other Harmony board
member so far. The developer is similarly so cautious that we rarely
know what's going on here or what's going in.

What we need now is more boldness and less caution.

"You are twisting everything around here so as to suit your viewpoint.
You have conveniently forgotten that I told you upfront that I would
proceed CAUTIOUSLY."

I would appreciate your discontinued use of the terms "twisting" or
"twisted" in your rhetoric Steve. You will notice that I have not
resorted to similar terms in describing you or your positions.

We are all now well aware of your need for caution. I was just hoping
that you wouldn't use the word caution to mean silence.

"should they be elected, you might just see their positions change"

Hope springs eternal Steve. I think that there are those who don't
scare so easily and who will have the fortitude to hold to their
stated principles. We'll see.

"Contrary to your belief, the Sunshine Laws are not intended to quell
discourse"

Why would you state this as my belief? What you've claimed for me
couldn't be further from what I believe. I guess I am not expressing
myself clearly enough. Sigh.

It is the misuse of the Sunshine Law that I believe is going on here.
I believe that the attorneys hired by the developer are inclined to
suggest limits to the active online participation of residents in CDD
affairs because that's what the developer wants. They don't want to
bite the hand that feeds them. Going along with the developer's
attorneys is a mistake Steve, in my opinion. But of course that's your
choice and you are free to make it.

"I will ask at the next meeting for further clarification whereby the
attorney will already be on the clock."

Fine, but I am sure that you will just hear the developer's attorneys
reiterate what they have always said on this subject, words to the
effect "Oooh you better be careful of that online internet stuff, or
the bogeyman just might get you!" I suspect that if Tim's boss was 40
years younger we might be getting different advice.

Trust in yourself Steve, not in developer's attorneys. Please do your
own due diligence on this important subject. Investigate the Sunshine
Law yourself. Do the right thing by the people you purport to
represent (ie. the residents, not the developer). Don't do just the
easy thing.

"I'm sure when you think about it from my perspective, you will
agree."

When I think about it from your perspective I think that you are just
trying to protect yourself from some fantasy lawsuit.

Show us a concrete example of a public board member being sued in
Florida for engaging in totally open communications with citizens, the
people that he or she represents (ie. not with other board members).
Show us a concrete example of how a public board member gets sued for
posting messages within a publicly accessible medium like this that is
open to everyone on the planet. Show us this Steve and then perhaps we
will be more likely to understand your perspective.

Ray Walls

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May 1, 2010, 5:36:39 PM5/1/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Given that my name has been brought up several times in this thread, I
just want to make it clear that I believe Steve is doing the right
thing by seeking legal guidance regarding the sunshine laws before
diving in. It's better to be safe than sorry, in the interests of
everyone (including residents) that could be on the hook for legal
bills as a result of possible violations.

Having said that, my previous comments were based on years of working
with and for elected officials in Florida. I don't think anyone's
going to find fault in CDD supervisors going online and discussing
broad policy, providing general information, and answering basic
questions from residents. County Commissioners do this kind of thing
in the newspaper all of the time.

However, as I said, I think Steve is correct in being cautious and I
will be interestd to hear the lawyer's response on this specific
inquiry.

Ray Walls

Sent from my iPhone

Geo

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May 1, 2010, 5:54:22 PM5/1/10
to HarmonyFL
Thanks for your input Ray. It is helpful.

Steve, please be sure to quote Ray's stated experience to the
attorneys when you speak to them. Perhaps this will help them to
better understand what we are really asking for here. We simply want
Harmony to come to terms with the 21st century.

What we really need is for you folks to apply some common sense and
not be so much afraid of the lawyers and what they might think.

What matters is not what lawyers think, but how the law is actually
applied. The concrete examples previously asked for are what really
matter since those are the precedents that will be used in future
court cases.

Please ask the attorneys for those concrete examples Steve if you
can't find any yourself.

Geo

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May 4, 2010, 6:54:39 AM5/4/10
to HarmonyFL
UPDATE

While Steve is steadfast in his position that he will not post
messages in a public forum like this until he gets an "OK" from the
CDD attorney, he has decided to remain a member of this public forum
none-the-less. Steve believes that although he may not be able to
respond openly here, at least he can receive open one-way
communications this way without risk of Sunshine Law violations.

This means that you can now reasonably assume that Steve will be
reading whatever gets posted here, although he will not acknowledge
anything (not for now).

So please feel free to post whatever ideas, suggestions or agenda
items that you would like Steve to take with him to future CDD
meetings. You can then read the resulting agendas and published CDD
minutes to learn how your suggestions where subsequently addressed.

This brings to mind a new question.

Ray, do you think that we can get the agenda posted here at least a
few days prior to each future CDD meeting?

wallsr

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May 4, 2010, 8:55:07 AM5/4/10
to harm...@googlegroups.com
I'm not entirely familiar with the Management Group's agenda distribution
timeline. Personally, I obtain the agenda before the CDD meetings by
accessing the agendas page on the CDD web site:
http://www.harmonycdd.org/agendas.htm

Perhaps a link to that page could be permanently posted on this group?

Also, some time ago, Kerul Kassel pointed out to me that the Management
Group has an email distribution list and will email the agendas directly to
residents each month if residents contact them and provide their email
address. However, I prefer the web site method because the agenda is
usually several files and can get bulky in terms of file size.

Hope this helps.

Ray Walls

Geo

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May 4, 2010, 9:36:33 PM5/4/10
to HarmonyFL
I've been to the CDD site many times, yet I didn't know that the
agenda was there. Thanks Ray.

You have already gone above and beyond Ray, so I wouldn't ask you to
shoulder any more responsibility. I suggested to Steve that he
shouldn't be worried about the Sunshine Law if he just commits to
posting the links to the agenda items each month. Here's an example of
what I mean:

April 29, 2010 6:00pm CDD Meeting Agenda

http://www.harmonycdd.org/Agendas/04-29-10%20Part%201.pdf
http://www.harmonycdd.org/Agendas/04-29-10%20Part%202.pdf
http://www.harmonycdd.org/Agendas/04-29-10%20Part%203.pdf
http://www.harmonycdd.org/Agendas/04-29-10%20Part%204.pdf
http://www.harmonycdd.org/Agendas/04-29-10%20Part%205.pdf

This way folks who don't use Microsoft Internet Explorer can still get
easy access to this information while also being reminded to attend
upcoming meetings.

If the CDD management company doesn't post this information at least a
few days in advance of each meeting, then the CDD supervisors need to
insist that they do.

Anything that can be done to get more community information pushed to
more people will likely result in more people getting involved (ie.
without the need for them to remember a website and find stuff for
themselves, especially if the website is difficult for some to
access).

Sadly, Steve once again had to decline my suggestion for fear of
violating the Florida Sunshine Law.

IMHO, these CDD attorneys have done an extraordinary disservice to
voters everywhere by planting the seed that online discourse between
public officials and the people they represent should be discouraged.
I am sorry, but once we get Bob Evans the hell outta here, those
attorneys are next. I am sure that we have long passed the need to
import our attorneys from Tallahassee every month. The time that we
look for some local attorney talent is long overdue, don't you think?

I look forward to the day when every CDD board member and every HOA
board member is as open, as flexible and as helpful as Ray has offered
to be so that the vast majority of residents who simply cannot attend
these meetings can finally benefit from them more directly.

This is what every community really needs to foster more active public
participation.

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