At around 1 p.m. Saturday over Labor Day weekend, when City Hall was as vacant as it could be, Alen Lowe, who is vying for a City Council seat against Theresa Carli Pontieri, managed to enter in the city council chambers and shooting a campaign video.
He positioned himself on the podium that usually faces the members of the council, turning it to face the camera and so that the city logo was prominently displayed on his shoulder. A municipal policy prohibits the use of its logo for political purposes. It also prohibits the use of its spaces without a permit.
“A facility rental application or filming permit would be required for this type of use at a City facility,” a City spokesperson said. “The City of Palm Coast has a policy prohibiting city employees from using city equipment, facilities or buildings for political activities. However, members of the city council are exempt from this policy.
Lowe, of course, did not break into City Hall. He had help getting in: Ed Danko, the member of the city council, used his city council ID card to get him in. Danko helped Lowe in the previous two campaigns for council seats.
Danko is seen in surveillance video scanning his ID card at a front door and holding the door open for Lowe, who enters with a tripod. A different camera shows the couple, Danko first, entering the dark council chamber with Lowe (4 minutes into the hallway video). Lowe stares at the ceiling near the dais, then Danko acts as director, handle, and coach (the surveillance footage has no sound), distinctly showing the podium as Lowe’s scene, even if they might as well have been discussing something else. They appear to run through Lowe’s script, with Danko holding a phone as Lowe reads (he would then position it under the phone taking the video, like a teleprompter).
If there was any doubt that Danko was choreographing Lowe’s campaign, the video from the video removes that doubt. (See two perspectives below. The lights turn on a little after the 4 minute mark):
“We first checked to see if the facility had been rented or if a filming permit had been applied for, which was not the case,” said Brittany Kersha, the city’s communications director. “For security reasons, we then checked for badges in the community wing over the weekend and reviewed security camera footage to see if we could find out who granted Mr. Lowe access to the building and to make sure no door had been left ajar. We found Council member Danko’s badge around 1 p.m. Saturday, and the corresponding security video.
By escorting Lowe, Danko circumvented city policy, allowing Lowe to shoot the video.
“The way we see him at this point is that he was escorted by someone who was cleared to be on the property, so we have no policy issues or violations. I don’t believe there’s any action that can be taken,” Kershaw said, although the city is still investigating the matter. As for the use of the logo, “He’s in the establishment, so it’s not like he’s putting the logo on any document or anything, so we’re still trying to navigate if there’s something something more to do. But there was no intrusion or anything like that because they were escorted by someone authorized to be there.
For Lowe, it’s an established pattern: When he ran for mayor against David Alfin last year, his campaign materials drew the attention of the state’s Republican party to candidates like Lowe. use governor image, misleading voters into thinking they had the governor’s endorsement. (See: “A campaign message from Alan Lowe: 60 seconds, 2 violations of the law, 3 lies, 4 misleading or misleading statements.”) During the same election, Lowe campaigned with Danko as Danko made lies about Governor and former Mayor Milissa Holland (See: “Danko-Lowe Campaign Fabrications: Governor’s Office Refutes Incendiary Allegations About Holland “Criminal Accusations”).
On August 12, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office sent a cease and desist letter to Lowe warning him to stop using the likeness of Sheriff Rick Staly in campaign literature. “You have used these images in social media posts, direct mail and advertisements to imply that Sheriff Staly and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office support and/or endorse your candidacy,” wrote John LeMaster, l attorney from the sheriff’s office in Lowe’s. “Both implications are false and provide a false narrative to voters. As you well know, Sheriff Staly did not endorse you or your candidacy for office.
Citing state law, the letter continued to Lowe: “You have not requested, and have not been granted, permission to use Sheriff Staly’s likeness in your campaign efforts. You are misleading the voters of Palm Coast in favor of your program without authorization. […] You will not receive another warning letter. In the event of non-compliance, this office will take all necessary legal action to obtain compliance. »
Likewise, the Palm Coast Code of Ordinances is clear on the uses and abuses of the city logo: “The corporate seal and logo of the City of Palm Coast, including any facsimile thereof hereof, are intended for use by authorized officers or agents of the City of Palm Coast in the conduct of official City business. No other person shall use the City Seal or City Logo in other purposes.”
“My understanding is that this video contained the city seal, and we have an ordinance requiring the city seal to be used only for city business, so that’s where I ‘have a problem, using the city seal for a political matter or political gain,’ Pontieri, the runoff candidate against Lowe (and a lawyer), said today. She didn’t know he had been cleared to enter the council chamber “with the help of a member of the city council, which is concerning,” Pontieri said.
Neither Lowe nor Danko responded to questions about the Palm Coast video, which remains at the top of Lowe’s social media page. He posted another video, this one standing outside City Hall, repeating the same message. He urged residents to turn up at tonight’s council meeting at 6 p.m. to ‘express your opposition to Mayor Alfin’s 15% tax hike’.
This is not the “Alfin” tax increase. The tax increase is, in fact, the recommendation of the municipal administration. Four council members signaled approval of the recommendation, with Alfin justifying it in a long speech – appallingly stuffed with an awkward character – other council members agreed. The council is expected to approve a budget in the first of two budget hearings on Sept. 8 that would keep the tax rate flat, which under Florida law would amount to higher taxes as the city would pull more revenue next year than it did. this year, thanks to rising real estate values.
The tax increase as legally declared by the city is 15%. But property owners won’t see such a tax increase anywhere: the increase in the assessed value of their property is capped at 3% by the Save Our Homes constitutional amendment, and commercial properties, such as shops and rentals , are capped at 10%. which makes it inconceivable that an owner would pay 15% more next year.
One of the properties Lowe lists as his on his candidate campaign profile, at 47 Collingwood Lane, is fully tax exempt. Lowe’s tax bill: zero. (Danko’s W-Section home will see its Palm Coast taxes rise by just $36.) A second property is listed at the same address on the Real Estate Appraiser’s site. She is not family. The tax increase will be 5%.
Thus, while land values increase, taxable values do not increase in kind. The Publix supermarket on Belle Terre Parkway, for example, saw its market value increase by 17% this year, from $5.4 million to $6.3 million. But it’s taxable the value increased only 7%, from $5.4 million to $5.8 million. He paid Palm Coast $24,911 in taxes last year. He will pay the city $26,639 based on the currently proposed tax rate, an increase of 7%.