Tanja Vidovic, Charrie Moscardini, and one other person attended a meeting with City arborist Art Finn on Thursday, August 8, 2019. Five days after the meeting Charrie Moscardini chose to send an email to City Manager Matt Spoor, Tanja Vidovic, and the other meeting attendee. The email was sent on August 13, 2019 at 7:41 PM. She states, "The meeting we ended up having with Art Finn on Thursday was completely inappropriate and I am upset and ashamed by my participation in it." She also stated, "I was sure that the meeting left Art feeling ambushed and threatened. Matt confirmed it was so."
Art Finn was questioned about the incident by City Manager Matt Spoor and Human Resources Manager Kim Nicholls. The questioning was documented. It states, "Art stated he was uncomfortable with the meeting. He was trying to educate the citizens, however they wouldn’t listen. Art stated that when TV [Tanja Vidovic] said at the end of the meeting that ‘if I (Art) wasn’t going to advocate for trees, we would find someone else for the job,’ he felt threatened. He went on to say he felt upset with the meeting. Overall, Art stated he felt ‘shang hai ‘ed’ by the residents."
Charrie Moscardini was one of the persons who attended the meeting with Art Finn. She sent an email to City Manager Matt Spoor five days after the meeting. This is her email that she sent to Matt Spoor, Tanja Vidovic, and the other attendee. The email was sent on August 13, 2019 at 7:41 PM.
I know what the big deal is. The meeting we ended up having with Art Finn on Thursday was completely inappropriate and I am upset and ashamed by my participation in it. If we are unhappy with Art’s performance — or any city employee’s performance — the appropriate and honorable way to handle it is to take our concerns to the city manager, Matt Spoor, not the employee in question. I had a meeting scheduled with Matt today at 3 p.m. concerning Ready for 100. At the beginning of the meeting I asked if I could talk with him briefly after the meeting and he graciously consented. At that time, I sincerely apologized for my role in our meeting with Art. I told him I was sure that the meeting left Art feeling ambushed and threatened. Matt confirmed it was so. I told Matt that this was never my intent when I agreed to meet with you to organize our thoughts for our meeting with Matt, or when we decided to ask Art to join us to discuss the trees on the property at 580 and 590. But the meeting with Art very quickly went off the rails, and afterward I felt sick at heart about it. During my meeting with Matt, he was able to answer my questions and quell many of my concerns. I don’t plan to come to the meeting on August 22. I do plan to apologize to Art in person, as I did to Matt. I tried to do so after my meeting with Matt, but Art had already left the office. I will try again tomorrow. As for Matt, he is doing what he should be doing, what any good employer would do, he is standing up for an employee he believes in and has full confidence in, who was mistreated by members of the public.
Six days after the email was sent regarding Art Finn Charrie Moscardini later stated the meeting was "civil and there were no raised voices." This is the text from her statement at the City Commission Meeting on August 19, 2019.
This post, with a large ‘ambushed and threatened’ design, made it sound like a group of three women, including me, planned a vicious verbal attack on City Arborist Art Finn. This is false. Here’s the truth. In the midst of a broader discussion on development, the other women and I asked Art to join us to answer some questions concerning why some trees were considered hazardous. He agreed. At some point in the ensuing discussion, one of the participants said something to this effect, ‘Art, this community loves its trees and members of the public will support an arborist who advocates for trees, but if our city arborist does not advocate for our trees, then the public will advocate for replacing him. This is the moment I was referring to when I wrote in my email that the meeting went off the rails.The term ‘going off the rails’ can mean anything from simply getting off track, to plunging over the cliff into catastrophe. I meant the former, not the harsher interpretation. I felt the comment was inappropriate and wrong. I also felt that Art could easily have interpreted this comment as a threat. I tried to immediately turn the conversation back to the topic at hand. The rest of this 30-minute conversation was civil and there were no raised voices. There were no raised voices throughout this conversation. So, my email was concerned mainly with that 9-second statement. Imagine my surprise when I saw more than 100 comments on Facebook about my email, some maintaining that I and these other two women were yelling and screaming at Art and verbally abusing him. In an email Matt Spoor sent to me thanking me for my apology to Art and to him about this meeting, he categorized the incident as a misstep, and I have that email. The mayor inflated this misstep into a full-fledged trouncing. The mayor could have avoided this major misrepresentation had he merely asked me about it. But he didn’t. I understand that misinterpretations are easy to make. However, because the interpretation of my email is so misguided, I respectfully ask you, Mayor Ayoub, to take down that post. If anyone wants to know in more detail why I was upset and concerned about the meeting with Art, they can ask me directly. And I must add that anyone, from this point on, who claims that they are speaking for me, or representing the true context and meaning of my email, has no idea what they are talking about.
Art Finn was questioned about the incident by City Manager Matt Spoor and Human Resources Manager Kim Nicholls. Matt Spoor read the report at the commission meeting. That is documented below. TV is Tanja Vidovic.
TV (Tanja Vidovic) wrote, ‘We told him what this conversation was about before he agreed to come out and discuss.’ Art stated this was not true. He did not know the subject, nor the participants beforehand.
Art confirmed that when asked if he felt pressure to approve tree removal permits (site plans), he responded No.
Art was asked if he ‘sometimes feels the need to say it is OK to remove trees as to not get in the way of development … influenced from developers and feeling conflicted … (TV email 8/17/2019).” Art responded with, ‘I stick to the ordinance, and work within the ordinance.’ Art went on to say to TV that ‘there are ways to save trees by moving things around’ and used the medical center as an example. Art felt as though TV was spinning words.
Art doesn’t remember who asked, ‘do you feel pressure from City Hall?’ Art does recall responding No. He also told the ladies he had a ‘non-biased decision.’
Art shared that TV did all of the talking – CM and (initials redacted) said very little.
TV wrote, ‘I (TV) brought up what he (Art) had said to me and my husband about him being fearful of losing his job if he speaks too much for the trees, which he didn’t answer, and changed the subject slightly about not standing in the way of development.’ Art stated he felt insulted by Ms. Vidovic’s comment and, therefore, did not respond and ignored the question.
Art was asked if TV talked about a Tree Preservation Committee, and a second opinion from another arborist. Art responded that he welcomes an opinion from another arborist, and does not recall anything about a Tree Preservation Committee.
TV wrote, ‘I even mentioned how much I like and respect him (Art – at the 8/8 meeting) and that I know he cares for the trees.’ Art stated that TV did not say anything like this at the meeting.
Art felt it necessary to mention that he follows International Society of Arboriculture Code of Ethics.
TV writes, ‘This (the 8/8 meeting) was a respectful disagreement between a head of a dept and residents of the community.’ Art stated he was uncomfortable with the meeting. He was trying to educate the citizens, however they wouldn’t listen. Art stated that when TV said at the end of the meeting that ‘if I (Art) wasn’t going to advocate for trees, we would find someone else for the job,’ he felt threatened. He went on to say he felt upset with the meeting. Overall, Art stated he felt ‘shang hai ‘ed’ by the residents.
Art was asked, do you feel pressure from (as TV stated) ‘the developers, and commission who support the developers?’ He answered No. TV went on to say, ‘I wanted him to know that the community would stand up for him.’ Art responded, ‘I’m not sure where she’s coming from with that statement.’
Art was asked, do you have support from the City Manager and the Community Development Director (Marcie Stenmark) – he answered Yes. Art also gave examples of the support he has received from both Matt Spoor and Marcie Stenmark.
In a Facebook post in the group Saving Safety Harbor Tanja Vidovic suggested Art Finn was uncomfortable because a woman questioned him. She also falsely suggesed that the mayor fires people who disagree with him on policy, but the mayor does not have the authority to fire people per City Charter. She also claimed that Art Finn, "told me and my husband that if he fought for the trees he wouldn't have a job."
She then concluded the online post by stating that the former Mayor of Tampa Bob Buckhorn retaliated against her while she was an employee in Tampa. She then summed up her message by claiming that both Mayor Joe Ayoub and Mayor Bob Buckhorn retaliated against her because she is a woman. "It is almost like the men in charge don't want to hear from women with differing opinions.... The world cant quite handle women with a voice."
---It all started about a month ago when I videotaped the clear-cutting of town park where I called out the mayor for approving The Cutting of 10 trees, 2 of which were healthy with nothing wrong other than they were in the "wrong spot" and asked the residents to call the mayor of Safety Harbor and ask him why. I heard that the Mayor was upset that I made the video asking residents to call and ask him and hold him accountable for his vote. The mayor then voted to clear cut another lot of 81 out of 86 trees to make way for development, I spoke against this as well. The mayor did not like me speaking against him.
I had a conversation with the City Arborist where I questioned the city policy and what we can do to protect the trees, listing different ways that we could possibly do. Apparently, a woman questioning him made him uncomfortable, even though I asked relevant questions in a quiet, calm respectful manner without raising my voice or using any profanity. This also upset the mayor he made a character assignation post about me. I had asked arborist questions as a resident. I videotaped that clear-cutting of parks as a resident. As a concerned resident, I spoke up in City Commission. I asked for a meeting with the mayor after he posted some propaganda and speculations that made it seem like I attacked the arborist, which I did not. It was a quiet civil conversation. I have received a letter that I am no longer an employee of the city of Safety Harbor, because of this, while this is only one day a month job, it is a job that I feel strongly about, where I work hard and I engage the community. Am I not allowed to be a community activist and also an employee of the city of Safety Harbor? I guess not. I imagine a city where the government actually listens to the concerns of its residents. Where the city does not terminate anyone who disagrees with him.
If you disagree on policy with the mayor you be fired next? The City Arborist confided in me that he wanted to do more for the trees and I asked him why he didn't fight for them, he told me and my husband that if he fought for the trees he wouldn't have a job. He later said to his boss that he never said that, now I see why he lied. It seems that if you speak against the mayor or the city manager, about what they think and what they deem the correct policies, even respectfully, he might be fired. It takes me back to 8 years ago maybe 9 when there was a traffic signal in Tampa that was not functioning properly and giving the walk signal for pedestrians but also the turn signal for cars. After of contacting the City of Tampa and the Department of Transportation for months and finially letting the Mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn know that it was unsafe and nothing was done, I was fearful of a pedestrian being hit by a car, I spoke up. I let the newspaper know that there was a dangerous intersection and that I made the city department of Transportation and the mayor aware and nothing was done months. The mayor even wrote back to me and said "it" was handled, I waited... it wasn't. After I spoke up, Mayor Bob Buckhorn had me written up at work.. I then went thru years of harassment where my supervisor told me that he it came from higher up. It seems like some men in power can't respect a woman who speaks against them, who has different opinion then they do. I have seen both of those mayors yell at residents , even seen and heard of them yelling at their own commission, women of course... This is unprofessional and alarming. As an elected official you should be able to have people you disagree with on policy civilly and not retaliate. It is almost like the men in charge don't want to hear from women with differing opinions.... The world cant quite handle women with a voice.
Source: Comment from Tanja Vidovic on Saving Safety Harbor from post on August 20, 2019
Three screen captures were taken of the posts in case they are removed now.
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