Tensions rise over commissioners negotiating contracts 

Winter Springs will have a special work session about whether city commissioners should be allowed to negotiate contracts with third-party companies doing business with the city, after commissioners sparred about whether it should be allowed. 

That meeting, set for 5 p.m. April 24, could see some clarification about whether the actions of some commissioners will be allowed to continue after some controversy was stirred regarding development and land deals in the city. 

“I personally see ethically it smells bad to me, and I’d like the Commission to vote on it and talk about it,” Mayor Kevin McCann said at Monday night’s Winter Springs City Commission meeting. 

“I don’t like the notion of developers and whoever else having lunch with every individual commissioner prior to a commission meeting and essentially conducting city business and negotiation outside of this chamber,” Commissioner Ted Johnson said.

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The conversation turned lively when Commissioner Cade Resnick accused the mayor of singling him out in remarks regarding the mayor’s displeasure with individual commissioners talking with developers on behalf of the city, specifically about talking to solid waste disposal company Waste Pro, who Resnick said reached out to him.

Resnick, who had previously been a commissioner in the city from 2014-2018, spoke about how the city negotiated contracts differently then, thought his view of how that was handled differed from McCann’s. 

“Up until 2019 everything was fine, and then all of the sudden it closed,” Resnick said, referring to the city changing how it negotiated with city contractors, such as solid waste removal companies. “If you want to keep everything closed it makes perfect sense, when nobody respects us in the county. We have no respect.”

“It smells awful,” McCann replied. “I know you want to be that player, but that’s not the system of government we have.”

McCann said that having individual commissioners negotiating contracts for the city could bring money into elections that invites corruption, or the appearance of it, from political donors who were negotiating with the city. 

“It’s a really dangerous area,” McCann said. “Several years ago, 4-5 years ago when the Commission really started changing, we did a lot of things. We all agreed as a dais that we’re not taking political contributions from anyone that does contracts. Is that going to change too? It’s a slippery slope. We start getting into that then all the sudden it goes back to Waste Management and all our contractors become the biggest campaign donors to our races.”

Referring to the city’s recent hire of Utilities Director Bilal Lftikhar, but also to city staff as a whole, McCann said that the city should leave contract negotiations up to “the professionals.”  

“We hire these super-talented people…an Ivy League trained attorney who’s been in the industry for years, and we’re going to get in between them as an elected official, for whatever motivation, ego or just thinking we know better – we’re going to get between these highly trained professionals,” McCann said. “I just don’t get it.”  

Johnson agreed. 

“The way I interpret the Charter is it’s a city manager form of government and it’s the city manager who should go into negotiations,” he said. 

The discussion came up shortly after Commissioner Victoria Colangelo said she’d spoken with “a very honorable source” about allowing the former 7-Eleven in the Tuskawilla neighborhood to reopen as a new 24-hour 7-Eleven, but said that she did “not state my involvement with the city or who I was” when talking to the realtor involved in leasing the property.

“Have they reached out to staff?” Johnson asked.

“No,” Colangelo replied.

“Well I would suggest that they do that,” Johnson replied.

But Resnick, who told McCann “you don’t like me, that’s your choice,” which McCann said was not true, said that individual commissioners building relationships with businesses and individuals in the county can lay the groundwork for negotiations in the future. 

“I’ve built relationships in this county for years,” Resnick said. “Please don’t discredit what I’ve done.” 

McCann said that having all commissioners interfering with city negotiations could lead to developers who talk to all commissioners and then “count votes,” he said, exerting influence on the Commission’s decisions. 

“Now you’re coming in and saying that you want to be the go-to guy with this developer when we have serious multimillion dollar conversations to do with this private landowner, and you’re interjecting yourself into it,” McCann said. “None of us know what’s going on in those conversations. Let me tell you…it smells awful.” 

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