BRADENTON BEACH – Despite voter approval of its three citizens initiatives on the November ballot, the Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach (CNOBB) is dissolving due to philosophical differences among members.
The debate centers around whether CNOBB is a grassroots advocacy group or a political action committee (PAC).
CNOBB chair Bill Vincent initiated the dissolution discussion at the Tuesday, Nov. 14, general membership meeting.
Florida Elections Commission complaints that former Mayor Jack Clarke filed against several CNOBB members were cited as another reason to dissolve.
Six CNOBB members are also named individually as defendants in a Sunshine Law lawsuit filed in August by Clarke and the city of Bradenton Beach.
Members agreed the “CNOBB” name is tainted. Vincent said the organization is “unsalvageable.”
The members unanimously agreed to dissolve CNOBB, but its bylaws require 10 days notice to members before a final dissolution vote occurs. CNOBB records list 31 paid members, but only about 15 regularly attend meetings.
After the holidays, Vincent plans to form a new group modeled after his original vision for CNOBB. He doesn’t want the new group initiating ballot measures that require registration as a PAC. Member John Metz said a new and separate PAC could be formed.
Citizens group or PAC?
When Vincent founded CNOBB in July, he envisioned a citizens group that provided information to residents and encouraged broader participation in city government, but some founding members wanted it to be a full-fledged political committee.
On Oct. 24 – two weeks before the city elections ended – CNOBB filed a statement of organization declaring it a PAC, with Vincent as chair and Metz as treasurer.
At last week’s meeting, Vincent said, “There are philosophical differences on the steering committee, and probably in the general membership, with what Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach should be. It goes to the heart of what we thought we were as a neighborhood association, and what maybe inadvertently, or expectedly, became a political action committee. I believe the mission statement and my feelings about the association are incompatible with that. I will have no part of a political action committee.”
In a Nov. 13 e-mail sent to members, he wrote: “After the remarkable success of passing three citizens initiatives how did this situation come to be? At the Nov. 9 CNOBB steering committee meeting, a vigorous and sustained discussion of the very fundamental nature, direction and philosophy of the organization occurred. Opinions ranged from a more passive, educational, advocacy, citizens group to a more active, even aggressively involved, PAC. There is and was deep concern as to whether some of the objectives are consistent or compatible with the CNOBB mission statement and/or goals and objectives.”
Failures and successes
The elections complaints Clarke filed in mid-October allege that CNOBB failed to file a statement of organization after initiating its charter amendment petition drive and failed to file the required financial reports. CNOBB later filed those documents after the complaints were filed.
“The financials were filed in time, relative to when the organization registered. Unfortunately, the organization didn’t register as timely as they probably should have,” Metz told members.
Vice-chair Tjet Martin said she was unaware the group had not properly registered until she was contacted by The Sun.
“The whole intent was to educate the residents of Bradenton Beach and right off the bat we got shot down by lawsuits and complaints,” said CNOBB webmaster Michael Harrington.
Rose Vincent said the group had good intentions and can learn from its mistakes.
Former Bradenton Beach Commissioner Janie Robertson said her fellow members should be proud of their accomplishments, including going door to door and persuading residents to vote “yes” on the charter amendments CNOBB placed on the ballot.
Robertson described CNOBB as a bridge between residents and the city government. Vincent said it would be an injustice to not continue those efforts with a new group.
Clarke did not attend the meeting, but he later said, “The complaints and lawsuit were not made out of malice. They were made because the group and its members appear to have broken multiple state statutes. CNOBB accomplished many of its initial goals and initiatives, but they still have to abide by the laws.”