Opinion/Analysis

By Reggie Connell/ Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice

As a writer, journalist, and columnist, it’s important to inform, enlighten and inspire the readers of The Apopka Voice. And probably because we are online and more interactive than a traditional print publication, we get a lot of comments, replies, and thoughts on our news site and on our Facebook page as well.

Interaction is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it’s a welcome forum to hear from the community of readers in Apopka that follow the news so closely. Other times it can become sarcastic, mean-spirited, or even border-line libelous.

But last week, those of you who commented were impressive, thoughtful, and clearly informed on the issue at hand.

In an article entitled “Commissioner Nolan confirms her critical remarks on social media about Carnesale, Nelson” readers of The Apopka Voice responded on social media with observations and thoughts that I felt compelled to share.

Here are just a few among the dozens of comments and replies I collected from The Apopka Voice news site, Facebook page, and on other local Facebook pages that shared the article to their sites.

Readers questions and comments are in bold and italicized:

“Just for clarification, these are messages sent privately from (Commissioner Alice Nolan) to her friends on social media?”

It’s a great question.

Why are we publishing the private messages of a city commissioner? Should private conversations be made public? It feels unfair. There should be a level of privacy even for the Apopka City Council. I know I have said things in private I wouldn’t want others to know, and I would be upset at a friend who betrayed that trust.

However, in the case of Commissioner Nolan, those private conversations were on a social media site, which makes them open to a public records request. The original request did not come from The Apopka Voice, but from an anonymous private citizen who then posted them on social media with his or her own opinions about Sunshine Law violations. The Apopka Voice made a separate request to verify the authenticity of the comments made by Commissioner Nolan and gave her the opportunity to explain the context in which they were made.

Those comments, however, were about removing Apopka’s fire chief Chuck Carnesale – which is clearly city business and crosses any expectation of privacy an elected official can expect. Because of this, The Apopka Voice chose to publish her comments, but it was not without careful consideration, and only after we gave Nolan the opportunity to explain, and comment on her posts.

Another reader wanted to know the reasons behind Commissioner Nolan’s assertions:

“She stated numerous times the chief is not doing the job. I would like to hear what exactly is bringing her to this conclusion?”

In her comments, Commissioner Nolan cited morale, overspending, and not doing his job as reasons to remove Chief Carnesale, but without specific examples and figures, it’s just personal observations from an elected official with no ability to replace him or any Apopka employee.

If you have specific reasons for your opinions Commissioner Nolan, they should be stated in a public forum like an opinion/editorial piece or better yet, before the public on the record at a City Council meeting. Do not make allegations this serious and then go silent. There are consequences to your actions and comments. Explain how you are measuring overspending and low morale in the Apopka Fire Department.

“It’s a sad day when you can’t trust your elected officials.”

Unfortunately, this skepticism extends beyond Commissioner Nolan’s comments.

Many readers expressed a distrust in the City Council after learning of Commissioner Nolan’s private opinions, but also after learning that a separation agreement for Chief Carnesale was drafted by Apopka City Attorney Joseph Byrd, emailed to City Administrator Edward Bass in March, and later denied by Mayor Bryan Nelson in an April City Council meeting.

It’s important for the residents of Apopka to trust its elected officials, but the silence coming from City Hall and the Council dais is deafening. It’s eroding the trust the city has for these elected officials, two of whom burst into office with sizeable margins of victory just over a year ago.

An electoral mandate can only go so far.

“Maybe it’s time for the council to have a vote of confidence for Chief Carnesale.”

Another way of coming out of the shadows would be to have a non-binding discussion at a City Council meeting about the status of the Apopka fire chief. Perhaps it’s time for a commissioner or the mayor to call for a motion offering Chief Carnesale their vote of confidence, or if you have issues with him – state them.

Mayor Nelson too should explain his intent and desire to replace Carnesale. Explain how the email from Byrd to Bass matches up with his April statement to the city that denied any intent to replace the chief and brushing it aside as a social media rumor. If he wanted a new slate of department heads, that should have happened in his first 100 days. If there is a cause, then state it. No one should have to operate such a vital department under these conditions, which brings us to another astute observation made by a reader…

“City employees should not have to live in fear every time there is an administration change.”

Certainly, a mayor’s team should be made up of the leaders he wants. All department heads work at the pleasure of the administration. But charges like the ones Nolan posted should be out in the open and not dispersed through whispering campaigns, forced retirements, and misleading public comments or investigations started well after the fact.

It’s not fair to Chief Carnesale to absorb these allegations week-after-week, followed by denials and non-comments by the administration, followed by a secret investigation into the AFD, with the innuendo that Carnesale is the subject.

Review the budget items, morale issues, and anything else that frustrates you about the AFD with the professionalism it deserves and then make your case with transparency.

“Thanks for your comments, replies and thoughts, Apopka Voice readers!”

 That last quote is from me to you, the readers of The Apopka Voice. Keep up the wise interaction on this site and on our Facebook page, I’ll keep learning from you, and I’ll do my best to keep you informed about the news of Apopka.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, city council listen to your residents…..When are you all going to make some recommendations to clean up the frontage across Dream Lake Park? We have a nice bridge there now, but there is absolutely nowhere to fish because of the brush and cattails. I know the city used to keep the lake frontage cleaned out, but somewhere along the way, someone has just dropped the ball on keeping the lake park up to par. Also, we stopped there today, and noticed that someone has stolen almost all of the solar tops off the lights that were along the posts of the bridge…..that is a shame!

  2. I sat at the city council meeting in the past when the subject of removing the pine trees out at NW Recreation Complex was discussed, and finally approved, and I knew it would be a lot of pine trees, but I thought it was only the dead, or diseased trees near the fire station, and near the playground areas, at least, that is what I thought I heard, then I saw the picture in the Apopka Chief of the pines cut and loaded onto the semi, and the caption below the photo said ALL the pine trees out there will be cut down and removed, in this week’s Apopka Chief. I did not know that! That is so many trees! We rode the other day around to see where the lightning had hit the nursery on Plymouth Sorrento Road, and then came back through Rec Way, and we were shocked to see that amount of pines cut down! I used to take my husband his lunch everyday, when he was working out there at Rec Way area when he worked for the city, and was working out there with the construction crew, and I would see so many foxtail squirrels with their extremely long tails, every single day, playing everywhere out there around Rec Way, and also I saw so many gopher turtles crawling along Vick Road, Poncan Road, and along the entrance into the NW Complex. I NEVER see those animals anymore, and that is sad to me!

  3. I have been looking at the guard rails heading up along 436, near waterways. As I have stated before, some strong guard rails are definitely needed along 436 and Piedmont Wekiva Road at the retention pond that is deep, and very close to the road, and straight down….. right past there, heading east where the County Line Lake is along 436 is a long stretch of guard rails along the lake, and if you keep going, right past Argo’s Restaurant, on the right is guard rails along that pond. Why are there no guard rails along that dangerous body of water, that close to the roadway?

  4. We were riding around a few weeks ago and was passing by a site where a big commercial development is due to be built, and it is right around here fairly close. I could see something in the horizon way, way off just running around on the bare dirt, that had been cleared off completely, and they were having a ball playing, and running back and forth across the clearing. At first, I thought it was a flock of big birds, then I put on my glasses, and it was still too far to see what it was clearly, but I soon realized that it was not birds, and between myself, and my husband, we finally determined it was a whole bunch of foxes, that were having great fun playing! I am not going to say where this was, because some of you all might try to shoot them, knowing how some of you all are so gun happy.

  5. I did not attend the last city council meeting, but was really surprised to read about all the controversy about the privacy breach of citizen’s private healthcare records being put on the internet for people to look over, by a company that contracted with the city for years, and about supposedly, donation checks from that company’s owner, in supposedly big amounts cashed that supposedly went to the fire department directly, and were being cashed with no payee written in from the donor, and done on purpose by that company’s owner, supposedly, according to a newspaper source, to keep the cash from going into the city’s regular budget. What the heck is going on in this city, and with all this alleged stuff in the news, and after the most recent rumors going around about the fire department chief leaving, or not leaving. I find it very hard to believe the fire chief is not doing his job! I just don’t believe that at all! The big question is….. who is really behind all this controversy going on around this city, and why? Who is pulling the puppet strings behind the scenes?

  6. Well, now I know why our governor, Ron De Santis, shot down the ban on plastic straws in this state. He claimed he is an environmentalist, and is going to clean up the waterways of Florida, and I am certain he is very aware of Florida’s marine life dying from plastic straws, fishing line, plastic beer rings that hold together the six packs of beer, balloons, plastic bags, and other plastic debris, that finds its way into the ocean in Florida, and other waterways here. So I thought maybe he would ban plastic straws. It is not like I care for paper straws, because I don’t, but if I knew that it would help make a difference to ban them statewide to help save marine wildlife, then why not? Right? Well, now I think I know why De Santis backed off that issue, with the ban on plastic straws…….It must be he knew that Donald Trump has found another way to try to get rich quick….Donald Trump is selling plastic straws with Trump written on them, and a pack of his plastic straws cost $ 1.50 each, and I believe it was stated they come in a pack of ten, which would make them $15.00 per pack…..people are saying they buy regular plastic straws for the price of just one dollar for a whole pack of 100 at Walmart…..let’s see….how much percentage mark-up is that people? Calling all you people good at math….LOL I could figure it, but I won’t bother, as this is just totally ridiculous to think of Trump’s latest get rich quick scheme, and why our governor didn’t want to step on the toes of Trump….by banning plastic straws in this state. OMG…Stop the Insanity!

  7. I want to make it clear…..the Trump plastic straws cost $ 1.50 each, and are sold by the pack for $15.00 for a pack of ten. I think I led you all to believe a pack of ten plastic Trump straws cost $1.50, and that is NOT the case…LOL I wanted to get it correct on here, because I just know all you Trump lovers want to, rush out to buy his latest products….LOL. Now, on a more serious note, I read about a lady who wanted to be environmental friendly, and she bought some of those stainless steel reusable straws to use, and she had some health problems that caused her to lose her balance frequently, and one day she had a mason jar glass with a screw- on lid with a hole in the top screwed into place with one of her reusable stainless steel straws inserted in her glass with her drink in hand, when she lost her balance and fell, and it impaled her through her eye socket into her brain, and she later died from it. So the article said to never use those reusable metal straws with a screw- on lid in place. That is horrible! I probably never would of thought about it being dangerous, so I just wanted to warn everyone on here……I did change my mind and try to figure out what a one cent plastic straw sold at Walmart in a pack of 100 for a dollar would cost as far as the inflated percentage price compared to of one single plastic Trump straw at the cost of $ 1.50, and it seems to me that is a 15,000 percent increase according to .01 x a 15,000% increase equals $1.50. At least, I hope you have a good laugh with my figuring this ridiculous straw thing out, anyway, just think, Trump is the person setting the trade tariffs with our country and other countries, so somebody, somewhere, including us, are going be SO SCREWED with his way of thinkin’……!!! LOL

  8. Trump’s latest statement he made yesterday about that he could solve the Afghan War in about a week or ten days, but that he didn’t want to kill off 10 million Afghan people, and so he won’t do that, and that he could wipe Afghanistan off the globe entirely, made me just shake my head in disbelief. It is really scary the thoughts that come from his brain, that exits his mouth! And it is a well known fact that Trump desires a Nobel Peace Prize??? OMG

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