Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ford Left Pompano Beach Abruptly After Similar Zoning, Legal Controversy

Aug. 31, 2005:

At first, charter school proponents applied for a permit to open as an independent operation. Zoning Director Patrick Ford and the zoning board rejected that idea.

Then the seesaw tipped.

Charter school proponents quickly returned to the city with a request for a different permit, one that would allow them to become an addition to the neighborhood's Hope Lutheran Church, 1840 NE 41st St. They promised to use less than half the space of the 26,000- square-foot church and limit enrollment to fewer than 300.

Ford said he had no choice but to approve the permit. "My job is to interpret the code," he said. "If it meets those criteria, I approve it."

That's when Vice Mayor Susan Foster entered the fray.

"I just feel that the community should've been notified by this proposed charter school," Foster said. "They should've done their due diligence. They should be more responsible as far as contacting the neighborhood."

Hoping to overturn Ford's decision, Foster has appealed the zoning director's decision with the same zoning board that initially denied the charter school a permit.

"This school is a detriment to our community," Martin said. "This has turned into such a fiasco it's not even funny."

(Florida Sun-Sentinel, Jean-Paul Renaud, or 954-356-4556).


Nov. 22, 2005:

Such big headaches for such a little school.

Lawyers, petitions, appeals. All over the zoning director's decision to allow Eagles' Nest Community Charter School to open inside a Pompano Beach neighborhood.

Sound familiar?

In making his decision, Ford said church properties are allowed to have charter schools and that a school operated for at least 30 years until 2002 on the Hope Lutheran Church property. Five charter schools were able to open with the same type of permit in Broward County, said Ford, who noted that 30 percent of charter schools in Florida are annexed to churches.

Soon after his approval, the school's name was painted on one of the church's buildings.

"We all went, `What's Eagles' Nest?'" Fontana said. "None of us knew what was in there or what was going in."

Vice Mayor Susan Foster, who represents the area, appealed Ford's decision in September. A majority of that board, amid presentations by attorneys on both sides of the issue, agreed the zoning director was wrong.

Commissioners tonight have the final word.

"It's rather ill-conceived," Mayor John Rayson said of the school. "I think that's an inappropriate venue for the charter school."

But, he added, "I have no idea what's going to happen." (Florida-Sun Sentinel, JPR)

Pompano Beach city commissioners did reverse the ruling of zoning administrator Ford on that evening. The charter school had 30 days in which to appeal the decision.


Reported on Dec. 4, 2005, about an event that occurred Monday, Nov. 28. In other words, a few days later:

Suddenly, Pompano Beach has no zoning director.

Patrick Ford, who held the job since April 2004, resigned Monday without reason or notice.

"My resignation is effective immediately," he wrote in a letter he handed to City Manager C. William Hargett Jr. "The friends and associations I've made during my employment for the city of Pompano Beach will truly be memorable for years to come. Thank you for the opportunity to work for you."

A little further down:

Recently, Ford, who collected an annual salary of $76,655, was center stage in a controversial decision to allow Eagles' Nest Community Charter School to open in the residential neighborhood of Beacon Heights.

He allowed the school to open, but the community protested and the City Commission overturned his decision. That matter is now headed to court.

We don't know how that ever turned out for the residents and taxpayers of Pompano Beach. The Comet is done purchasing news articles from the Sun-Sentinel archives for the time being.

"It was a very interesting scenario," Ford said. "It's not my job to determine how the community or the City Commission might react to my decision.

"In my opinion, the City Commission in general handled this issue more gracefully than any other elected official I have ever worked with."

City officials say Ford gave no indication he was going to resign. He packed up his City Hall office over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and walked into the city manager's office on Monday to deliver his letter.

"I thought it would be the best for the city and for myself, in my opinion, to resign on Monday," Ford said.

"When an individual gives two weeks' notice, it tends to be a little awkward. I thought it would be more prudent to have someone else jump right in and take over, just to eliminate that awkwardness." (Florida Sun-Sentinel, JPR)


  1. No smoking gun here....I was hoping to see a pattern of this for that.The article does show Ford's tendency to make legal interpretations without legal support.Maybe free tuition for Alecia in the charter school was the exchange of favors??

  2. We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

    No, you're right. I think it can be used to show a pattern of questionable rulings, based on tenuous precedents, that are insensitive to resident concerns and public processes, and that result in putting cities in legal jeopardy.

    It's also just background.