As you know, Mr. Poe: A 2-year-old open letter to Lauren Poe is still relevant

File photo: Mayor Lauren Poe speaks at the June 20, 2019, city commission meeting

Editor’s note: This open letter from Debbie Martinez to Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe was originally published in Alachua Chronicle on November 21, 2019. Given the recent release of the Auditor General’s preliminary report and the revisions to the city commission’s meeting rules, Mrs. Martinez has asked us to re-publish her letter.

Dear Mr. Poe,

Gainesville residents have noticed that you have become more and more erratic and abusive as more new voices have begun to appear at City Commission meetings.

They have expressed opposition to the regressive decisions you have spearheaded and championed as mayor of this city. These decisions, approved by the commissioners you oversee as mayor, have exacerbated disparities and inequities that have grown more pronounced in the 12 years since you first were elected to this commission.

You have championed and achieved the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars to militarize City Hall and invest it with a before-dawn-to-after-dusk armed private security squad.

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You have manipulated and violated this chamber’s rules of procedure, violated your own procedural rules, repeatedly attempted to limit free speech, and directed police officers to physically remove from this lectern well-informed, concerned retired Democratic residents in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, as they have attempted to offer their perspectives and solutions to problems of your making.

Over the last week, Mr. Poe, you have gone further. You issued a letter on city letterhead, without the city commission’s approval, attacking not just your Democratic constituents, but also attacking locally-elected legislators who listened to the concerns of long-time Gainesville Democratic residents and recently-arrived Gainesville Democratic residents who have become alarmed by your decisions as mayor and who have tried to present evidence of financial, operational, and management irregularities that have occurred during your 3½ years as mayor.

You have not explained why you believe you possess such authority independent of the city commission.

Equally appalling, Mr. Poe, has been your attack on the character of this city’s respected former internal auditor, Carlos Holt, a decorated military veteran, Certified Public Accountant, and Certified Fraud Examiner whose more than four years of dedicated service to this city included repeated identification of instances of lacking or failed internal controls and operational and management deficiencies, many of which have yet to be effectively dealt with.   

As you know, Mr. Poe, a year ago, Mr. Holt’s office was in the process of reopening an audit of a city program that, unknown to the public, had begun and was shelved in 2010, during your first year on the commission.

As you know, Mr. Poe, you and then-City Manager Anthony Lyons met to discuss Mr. Holt’s family life. Complete details of what was discussed at that meeting are known only by you and Mr. Lyons, who has since resigned. But after that meeting, the Gainesville Police Department, whose chief reported to Mr. Lyons, launched an investigation of Mr. Holt and his family.  

As you know, Mr. Poe, when that GPD investigation concluded, a confidential police report was issued that contained no findings of professional or personal misconduct by Mr. Holt. Despite that outcome, you and two of your confederates on this dais began what appears to have been an orchestrated campaign to force Mr. Holt to abandon ongoing audits of city operations, or resign.

As you know, Mr. Poe, the police report, which contained medical and mental health information pertaining to Mr. Holt’s wife and confidential information about his minor children, was contemporaneously leaked by an employee of this city.  Your actions, the actions of your confederates, and the actions of the as-yet-unrevealed city employee, made Mr. Holt’s family’s continued residence in Gainesville difficult, if not untenable. As a result, Mr. Holt hired legal counsel to attempt to negotiate a possible settlement agreement. After Mr. Holt’s attorney communicated his settlement attempt, you and your confederates on this commission, Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos and Commissioner Harvey Ward, oversaw a charge, joined by Commissioner David Arreola, that resulted in a narrow vote to fire Mr. Holt without legal cause.

As you know, Mr. Poe, Mr. Holt and his family have moved on to a more welcoming city than the city that Gainesville has become during your problematic time as Mayor. How they may be doing, as they attempt to rebuild lives turned upside down by actions you approved or set in motion, may not matter to you.  But it does matter to many of us who welcomed them into our community, who appreciate the years they spent with us, and who will be forever grateful for the service Mr. Holt provided before you and your confederates cut that service short.

As you know, Mr. Poe, when you and your confederates learned two weeks ago that Mr. Holt had been called upon to assist a bi-partisan legislative committee considering whether to direct the state’s independent Auditor General to send her professional staff to conduct an audit of Gainesville City Government operations and managerial oversight, you took part in a coordinated effort to smear Mr. Holt. You wrote a post on Facebook that accused Mr. Holt of attempting to extort city taxpayers. Your lieutenant, new City Manager Lee Feldman, derided Mr. Holt as a disgruntled employee in an interview with a local news reporter, implying that that you and your confederates had fired Mr. Holt for some unidentified impropriety.  

Mr. Poe, if I continue attempting to communicate the appalling actions of you and your confederates, I know I risk being escorted out, as other retired residents of this city have been.

But there is more of this story to come.

The opinions expressed by letter or opinion writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AlachuaChronicle.com.