Jimmie T. Smith vs. county attorney
T’was scrolling Tuesday through another ordinary batch of county commission emails when an old friend’s name caught my eye.
Jimmie T. Smith. And he wanted answers.
Suddenly my day brightened.
Smith is the former legislator and county commissioner. His mostly unremarkable four years on the county commission did include him getting a rolled up newspaper to the snout from — wait for it — Ron Kitchen Jr.
Kitchen, and the other commissioners at the time, were unhappy with Smith’s attempts to disparage Joanna Coutu, the land development director.
So in July 2020 they passed a resolution, just words really, saying Smith violated a little-used county ordinance that states commissioners may not interfere with the staff other than the county administrator and attorney.
Smith wasn’t happy about it, of course, and he voted no. I wrote about the dispute for the Chronicle and pretty much forgot about it until Tuesday.
Now, three years later, Smith for some reason is going after County Attorney Denise Dymond Lyn to explain how all this came to be.
So let's break it down:
Smith was always the odd man out during his four years. While that may not be fair, he brought a lot of it on his own and he sparred with Kitchen regularly.
He also wrote guest columns in the Chronicle that were critical of his colleagues and the staff. He particularly went after Coutu, never mentioning her by name but saying the county would be better off with someone else overseeing land development.
Well, the county does have an ordinance about that. While it’s somewhat self-enforced, the idea is that commissioners should only have official communications with the administrator and attorney, who they hire, and not the staffers who work for the administrator or attorney.
If you remember the Kitchen years, know that he usually was quite defensive of the staff. So when Smith went after Coutu, Kitchen went after Smith using this no-interfere ordinance.
As an aside, this is a good rule and a tough one for commissioners to follow. They should not be going off on their own, bypassing the administrator to bring staffers along for their pet projects. No single commissioner has a speck of authority.
So the board in 2020 voted to reprimand Smith. A month later, Holly Davis defeated him in the Republican primary, and that’s why Davis is a commissioner and Smith is not.
Now Smith wants the slate cleaned and for this board to return him his, um, whatever he had before all this happened.
But instead of tracking down Kitchen, Scott Carnahan, Brian Coleman and Jeff Kinnard to ask those four why they voted against him, he’s apparently of the belief Lyn was the one who conjured all this up.
“Why were the Commissioners not advised in the part of the meeting on this ordinance that it was not based on any facts, especially after the other Commissioners noted they only wanted to have things presented that are factual?”
Lyn’s response: Ask the commissioners.
Even for Jimmie T this is all illogical. Does the staff assist commissioners in preparing agenda items? I would hope so. Does he think Lyn strong-armed four commissioners into going along with this plan? Has he met Kitchen, Carnahan, Coleman and Kinnard? Those four aren’t pushed into anything.
Smith ended his Feb. 8 email by asking Lyn if she agreed with this statement:
"The legal team without facts, selected specific policy and ordinance that I supposedly violated and you allowed this factless ordinance to added to the agenda and to be voted on".
To which she replied:
“Your statements are not truthful and are not representative of the events that lead up to your colleagues adopting the resolution rejecting your actions.”
I don’t know where any of this is going. Is Smith asking commissioners to restore his proud family name? Is he trying to get the attorney fired? Is Smith planning another run for commission in 2024 and wants to get this event wiped off the books?
I’m sure former Commissioner Smith will make all this clear at some point. In his own way.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.