An open letter to Richard Anderson: For the sake of Apopka, put this case behind you
By Reggie Connell/ Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice
In the early morning hours of April 5th, Richard Anderson changed a lot of lives. When his Dodge Ram crossed the center line on SR46 and crashed into Michael Falcon’s Toyota, the former City Administrator took the Apopka community on one of the darkest journeys in its history.
This story has been a chronic malignancy in the Apopka news cycle for over 15 months now. It’s a story writers don’t like writing. It’s an issue the City Council doesn’t want to deliberate. It’s a case the Lake County State Attorney, and the Florida Highway Patrol would like to put behind them. It’s a subject the residents of Apopka don’t want to talk about.
And now it’s time for it to end. It’s time for this tragic, unthinkable, unending saga to conclude, and I’m calling on you, Mr. Anderson, to drop this lawsuit.
I don’t know how much money you have made in Apopka, but I suspect you are approaching seven figures after a long career as a paramedic, fire chief, city administrator, consultant, and lobbyist. I was not the Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice when you were city administrator, but I am told by people who knew you that you did a good job. I take them at their word and have no reason to believe you didn’t love Apopka with the passion I am told you did.
If that is the case, if you truly love Apopka, then I urge you to end this polarizing issue and let Apopka heal. Forego the trial. Nothing good can come from it.
Count your blessings, sir. You were involved in a head-on collision. The person your pickup crashed into was seriously injured and airlifted to ORMC. Three 911 calls were made on his behalf. None were from you Mr. Anderson, despite making several calls shortly after the collision, but at least you were able to walk away relatively uninjured.
Some might classify that as a miracle.
A year later the Lake County State Attorney agreed to a shocking plea agreement that sentenced you to three years probation on the charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving injury, and six months probation on the charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Two other charges – reckless driving causing serious bodily injury, and reckless driving with bodily damage were dropped because the prosecutors claimed the Florida Highway Patrol was unable to prove you drove the vehicle. Considering the maximum penalty for those charges was five years in prison, five years probation, and a $5,000 fine per count, everyone can agree it was an extremely lenient sentence.
The Apopka City Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to reject your $60,000 settlement agreement. And with that split decision comes a polarized Apopka.
Mayor Joe Kilsheimer gave no opinion in the discussion except to read from a prepared statement that shows his hope for a fast conclusion to this matter.
“Earlier in the case, we proposed that both sides walk away from the litigation with no money changing hands. At mediation, the choice became this… decide on my own to take the case to trial or bring a settlement agreement back to this council. After some interaction, it became clear that I could not substitute my judgment for the Council’s judgment. With regards to whether the city should continue this litigation is, in my opinion, better to express the will of the community through this City Council rather than my judgment alone. With regards to this amount, this is the lowest amount to which the other side would agree.”
“Have we already suffered and are we just extending something that only further hurts our city for personal vindictiveness? We’ve all sat through all these budget hearings. Looking at the financial side, it does have ramifications as well because it affects what we can do for our city and citizens.”
Commissioner Kyle Becker also took an approach few could disagree with.
It’s simply wrong to pay you a settlement when the fault lies with you, Mr. Anderson. With all due respect, you were convicted of two felonies, nearly killed a person, watched as less qualified passers-by came to his aid while you made 10-plus phone calls, and walked away. If the mayor, any member of the City Council, or any department head of the City of Apopka had committed those acts, they would have resigned or been fired. They would not have counter-sued the city, and most of them make a lot less money than you did.
I would also draw from the wisdom of Commissioner Bankson…
“Have we already suffered and are we just extending something that only further hurts our city for personal vindictiveness?”
I would ask Bankson’s question of you sir. What is the motivation for extending this case? If vindictiveness plays a part in this case, please rise above it sir.
For the sake of Apopka forego this lawsuit, Mr. Anderson. Do not put this city through another trauma. Allow your final action in this matter to be a selfless act.