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City Council revisits Mayor Nelson's 2023 censure

Will two new voting members reverse the 3-1 decision?


August 2nd, 2023, was a dark day in Apopka history.

It was the date the City Council censured its mayor. But now, almost a year later, it appears that the resolution will be re-litigated.

According to the agenda packet for the June 19th City Council meeting, an item titled "Rescinding the censure of Mayor Nelson"  will be discussed by the Council.
In the Staff Summary, it states:
"The Commission on Ethics sent a letter dated October 26, 2023, to Mayor Bryan Nelson that a complaint was filed by Kelley Butcher regarding the Mayor. Attached to the correspondence was a copy of Ms. Butcher’s complaint which also mentioned and included a copy of Mayor Nelson’s censure by City Council over statements he made about Attorney Rodriguez’s employment status.
The Commission on Ethics met on June 7, 2024, and adopted the Advocate’s Recommendation of “no probable cause” and dismissed the complaint filed against Mayor Nelson. Mayor Nelson is requesting that Resolution No. 2023-20 concerning his censure be rescinded considering the Commission on Ethics’ decision."
It's an interesting strategy to fold Nelson's ethics clearance into the censure.
While the Florida Commission on Ethics concluded that Nelson's actions do not constitute a violation, its decision is separate from the censure, and the complaint was lodged by a private citizen. The City Council, who initiated the censure, did not refer the matter to the Ethics Commission, and the facts that led to the censure remain unchanged.
At the time, Nelson was eager to move on from the censure.

"Ever since that loss for mayor, he’s [Commissioner Kyle Becker] been nothing but just trying to put a stick in the mud rather than trying to put the city forward. Do you want to move the city forward, or do you want to keep doing the gotchas? If that’s what you want, I’m here. I’ll take it. I’m a big boy.".

Nelson said those words in 2023 after being censured by the City Council on a 3-1 vote. Commissioners Becker, Nick Nesta, and Diane Velazquez voted in favor, while Nelson voted against it. Commissioner Alexander Smith did not attend the meeting and did not vote.
But today is a new day, and while Nelson advised the Council to look forward back in 2023, he is now asking them to look backward and rescind a resolution from a year ago.
When the Council reconvenes to discuss 'Resolution No. 2023-20: A resolution of the City Council of the City of Apopka, Florida censuring Mayor Bryan Nelson,' the key figures will likely be Smith, who was absent during the censure vote, and first-term Commissioner Nadia Anderson, who was not on Council during the censure vote. Becker, who presented the resolution to the Council, is no longer a commissioner.
The Apopka Voice published several articles about the censure in 2023, here are links to some of those articles, a review of the resolution, and a look at the timeline that led to the resolution:


WHEREAS, a core tenant of serving in elected office is transparency and truthfulness to ensure public trust; and

WHEREAS, Mayor Bryan Nelson, by Charter, serves as the chief executive officer of the city and shall be responsible to the electorate for the administration of all city affairs placed in his charge; and

WHEREAS, on Wednesday June 21, 2023, in a public hearing within the City of Apopka Council Chambers, Mayor Nelson made public comments that demonstrated his prior public comments about the employment status of the now former City Attorney were untrue; and

WHEREAS, on Wednesday May 3, 2023, the former City Attorney did voluntarily resign during a public hearing within the City of Apopka Council Chambers, as recorded and approved in minutes; and

WHEREAS, Mayor Nelson, on Wednesday June 7, 2023, did on the record inform City Council the former City Attorney was no longer employed as of that day June 7, 2023, as recorded, and approved in minutes; and

WHEREAS, on Wednesday June 21, 2023, when asked by City Council about the employment status of the former City Attorney, Mayor Nelson indicated he was still employed as of that date June 21, 2023, and receiving pay, as recorded, and approved in minutes.


SECTION 1: The foregoing “Whereas” clauses are incorporated herein and the City Council of Apopka formally censures Mayor Bryan Nelson for misleading the City Council, and by the same actions, the people of Apopka through untruthful public comments regarding the employment status of the former City Attorney.

SECTION 2: This resolution is effective upon adoption by the City Council, with or without the signature of the Mayor.

A censure is a formal statement of disapproval in the form of a resolution that is adopted by a majority vote. The term “censure” is not found in the Constitution, and the word does not have to appear in the resolution.


To review how the Council got here, take a look at this 2023 timeline:

  • At the May 3rd City Council meeting, City Attorney Michael Rodriguez verbally resigned from that position.

"At this point, I have serious concerns about the directions this council is taking and the means of which certain things have been communicated," Rodriguez said. "I ultimately fear that I can no longer ethically represent this council. I fear this council may be on the verge of conducting ultra vires actions, and I cannot remain as its city attorney. Therefore I am tendering my resignation so I can save you some money. I will make arrangements with the Human Resources director to finalize the matters. I will save you the time. I will assist in the transition to bring in a successor Council, and I will basically tender my resignation and proceed forward pursuant to Florida State statutes."

Certainly, that does not mean Rodriguez was expected to leave the meeting and never return, but it did confirm his intent to leave his position.

  • At the June 7th meeting, Commissioner Nick Nesta asked Nelson if Rodriguez was no longer employed by the City of Apopka. Nelson's response: 

"As of today," said Nelson. "As of 1:30... yes."

  • At the June 21st meeting, Nesta followed up and learned that Rodriguez was still acting as City Attorney two weeks after Nelson confirmed he was not.

"On April 5th, we had a 3-2 vote to fire him," Nesta said. "On April 19th, a 4-1 vote to seek additional help to look at our charter. He resigned on May 3rd very abruptly and aggressively here and then tendered his letter the next day. And the last meeting, I specifically asked, 'Is he no longer employed here?' And you (Nelson) said as of 1:30 [pm] that day he was no longer employed by the City of Apopka... so is he employed by us, or is he not?"

"He is," Nelson said.

  • At the July 5th meeting, Commissioner Kyle Becker proposed the censure based on the above facts.

During the Council's July 5th discussion about the censure, Nelson suggested tabling the censure so he could respond.

"It didn't say he was going to resign that minute," he said. "It said he would help as he was helping interview after that the date of that council meeting was interviewing folks. I mean, if you want to bring it forward at the next council meeting, put it as an agenda item. I'd like to respond to the resolution. But if not, go on and do it and call it a day."

I think a response is appropriate," said Nesta. I think that is the correct thing to do."

"I would like for us to put it on the agenda for the next meeting," said Commissioner Alexander Smith. "Because I would like to go back and look at the meeting that I was absent for."

But then Commissioner Diane Velazquez pointed out to Smith that he wouldn't be at the next meeting.

"But that's the date you're not going be here for... the next meeting, Commissioner Smith," she said. "You said you're not going to be here for the next meeting."

"Correct," said Smith.

Because of Smith's absence at the July 22nd meeting, the referendum was scheduled for the agenda at the August 2nd meeting.

Then, a week after the proposed censure, Nelson told Spectrum 13 News that it was based on politics.

"Ever since that loss for mayor, he’s [Becker] been nothing but just trying to put a stick in the mud rather than trying to put the city forward,” said Nelson.

When asked what he wanted to say to the commissioners, he wanted to look ahead, not at the censure.

"Do you want to move the city forward, or do you want to keep doing the gotchas?" Nelson said. "If that’s what you want, I’m here. I’ll take it. I’m a big boy.".

Then, in his final quote, Nelson denies misleading the Council.

“I didn’t lie,” he said. “Yeah, probably could’ve done it better, I would agree. I would go back and adjust the day he had the blow-up with Commissioner Becker, I would just say let me give you a 20-week severance package, and you move on.”
It's not the first time Nelson was less than honest at a City Council meeting. 
In 2019, Nelson denied compelling then-Apopka Fire Chief into retiring.
"No, he is not being fired or asked to resign," Nelson wrote in a text message to The Apopka Voice in April 2019.

Then at the April 17th, 2019, City Council meeting, Nelson said this:

"The last two weeks have been a real challenge. But the short answer is he's not being removed, nor is the police chief. I've got a former resident of Apopka who went on about me firing the police chief and the fire chief, and it's not true... so I apologize... I know Linda and I have been dealing with this guy, and it's really gotten kind of out of control. I know a lot of you have asked me over the weekend about this, and I had a lady this afternoon tell me that she saw all of this stuff online and she would be worried... scared for your own life. It's about him losing his wife five years ago. We've done testing... water and soil testing for him. But he just goes off on a rant... it seems like nothing helps. He's off the chain. So I don't know how to handle it. But social media, it's the new media that you have to live with. I wanted to give you a little background, but the last two weeks have been a real challenge... But the short answer is he's not being removed, nor is the police chief."

Shortly after those remarks, The Apopka Voice, in a public records request, found a separation agreement drafted prior to the meeting, outlining Carnesale's ouster, dated March 19, 2019.
The meeting is at 7 pm on June 19th at the Council Chambers of City Hall.
Censure, Apopka City Council, Resolution 2023-20, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson, Apopka


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