MADEIRA BEACH — In a move that echoes national #metoo headlines, former City Commissioner Nancy Oakley was strongly censured and reprimanded by her former colleagues for violating state ethics rules by groping and licking the face of a former city manager.
In issuing the reprimand, the City Commission Wednesday night also accepted Oakley's resignation submitted to the city the previous day.
Oakley did not attend the meeting, nor did the city's mayor, Maggi Black. Both came under heavy criticism from audience members for not being there.
Black said she regretted not being able to attend because of a severe allergic reaction to her medications. Oakley could not be reached for comment.
"It is really a sad thing. She will certainly be missed by myself and rest of commission," Black said. "I just hope we can all come together and be the quaint little fishing village we used to be."
The decision to censure Oakley came a year after an unsuccessful recall effort against her and about a month before an election in which she was not running again.
During Wednesday night's special meeting, City Manager Jonathan Evans urged the commission to do the right thing by censuring Oakley to show the city the commission "can self govern and police themselves."
His recommended resolution censuring Oakley for behavior "unsuitable and unbecoming" a city commissioner followed a finding by the Florida Commission on Ethics that Oakley had violated state ethics rules.
That commission fined her $5,000 and asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to send her a formal censure and reprimand.
Former City Manager Shane Crawford had lodged the complaint before he was forced to resign last year by Black, Oakley and Commissioner John Douthirt.
Crawford said that although he is pleased with the outcome of his ethics complaint against Oakley, he is also upset the city, where he still lives, has become a "national joke."
"There seems to be no middle ground here,'' Crawford said, of the rancor between pro- and anti-development factions in the city. Oakley and Black were part of a ticket that was against the large-scale developments approved by the previous commission. "It is absolute chaos.''
The incident that led to Oakley's resignation occurred more than five years ago during a prior term in office.
Oakley apparently objected to a growing relationship between Crawford and his assistant, Cheryl McGrady, who are now married.
Oakley, who has admitted she had been drinking, demanded at one point that McGrady leave a public event. Later, Oakley took a swing at McGrady, who had complained that she was sexually harassing Crawford, including licking his face starting at the base of his neck.
Crawford did not file a formal complaint until much later, when Oakley ran for office again.
Oakley denied the incident had ever occurred and this week maintained her innocence in her resignation letter.
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However, Oakley said she made the "difficult decision" to resign to "still the controversy" over her actions.
"It is time for us all to move on," Oakley wrote.
The three commissioners who did attend Wednesday's meeting — Vice Mayor Deby Weinstein and Commissioners Nancy Hodges and Douthirt — thanked Oakley for her years of service
"This is a very sad day for Madeira Beach," said Hodges, who often found herself outvoted by Oakley and the rest of the commission. "Nancy did try to do her best … I just hope she can move forward and get the help she needs."
Many in the audience were not so kind.
"I am sick and tired of the embarrassing headlines created by a majority of this commission and it is time for a change," resident Helen Price told the commission.
Realtor and former commissioner Doreen Moore defended the commission majority and said those criticizing it were seeking to "return to power.''
She pointed to Crawford's own issues, citing both professional and state findings that he, too, had violated ethics rules.
"The elephant in the room (Oakley) is gone. Let's bring the city forward and work together," she said to loud applause.