Brody joins rest of commissioners in final vote naming female Marine Corps veteran to open seat
On Sept. 6, the chair of the City of Sarasota’s Independent Police Advisory Panel (IPAP) reported that the panel recommended that the city commissioners appoint to an open panel seat a female Marine Corps veteran who is working on a master’s degree in criminal justice.
However, Commissioner Hagen Brody had a different idea.
Brody’s pick was Jordan Letschert, who served in the past as a police officer in Richardson, Texas.
Letschert’s resume, included in the agenda packet for the meeting, says he is the managing partner of TTJ Investments LLC in Sarasota, which “has partnered with [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] and Section 8 housing in both Sarasota and Manatee counties.” TTJ, the resume adds, also is a partner in more than 40 Crunch Fitness franchise in four states.
Stanley Daughtry, chair of the IPAP, explained that the panel members had interviewed all four of the candidates for the open position. (The relevant agenda request form noted that Robert Lombardo had resigned his seat in April, necessitating the appointment of a person to fill that term, which will expire in June 2023.)
Daughtry described the process of narrowing the candidates to the top choice as “very hard.” However, he told the commissioners on Sept. 6, the IPAP members felt they had come up “with a strong recommendation … We all agreed on what Miss Jessica Mcvay would bring to the panel.”
City Manager Marlon Brown, who attended the interviews, concurred with Daughtry. “The four applicants were very strong [and come from] diverse backgrounds. … Any one of them could be members,” Brown added. The decision would be the commission’s, he pointed out.
“I’ve heard great things about your leadership and just think you’re doing a great job,” Brody told Daughtry.
Then, as Brody flipped through papers on the dais, he continued of the applicants, “All of ’em, I think, would bring something unique and valuable to the board.”
He had spoken with most of them, Brody added. “At the end of the day, I gotta tell you I think Jordan Letschert, um, would be my choice … Jordan, I think — you know, he has law enforcement experience, which I think is really, really valuable.”
Brody continued, “I’ve known Jordan for a long time. He’s a dedicated city resident and, um, wants to be more involved. Uh, you know, he’s kind of a young professional that I’d like to see get more involved.”
Nonetheless, Brody said, all of the applicants “were just fantastic.”
While he believed Mcvay “would be great as well,” Brody added, he still preferred Letschert. “I think he’d bring a really nice perspective.”
When Mayor Erik Arroyo asked if any of the other commissioners wanted to offer nominations for the open seat, Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch asked Daughtry why the panel members settled on Mcvay.
Daughtry responded that Letschert would be his second pick. However, he continued, “I think what Miss Mcvay brings to the table is — she’s female, so we get that perspective.” She also has experience with researching issues, Daughtry noted.
“We’ve got a great panel now,” he added, “but we could always use more depth, and I think she brings that to the table.”
He told the commissioners he had not brought with him that afternoon the notes he had made during the interviews.
City Manager Brown then pointed out that Mcvay “works in her neighborhood” — Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores; and he cited the fact that she is a veteran.
Why does the panel have a say?
Mayor Arroyo noted that he was not accustomed to city advisory boards or panels “coming up with recommendations to us.”
Brown responded that the IPAP is required to do so.
City Attorney Robert Fournier added, “This panel is unique.” When it was established, Fournier said, former City Manager Tom Barwin “recognized that this panel is really the only panel” that would offer advice.
The city’s webpages for the panel explain, “The IPAP was formed in 2011 and aims to foster public confidence and trust in the administration and operation of the Sarasota Police Department through enhanced transparency and accountability to the community. The panel meets quarterly and consists of five civilian volunteers who are appointed by the City Commission. The City Manager, the City Attorney, the Chief of Police, and the Administrator of the Police Advisory Panels provide staff support. The purpose of these meetings is to review and make recommendations to the Commission on major policy aspects of policing within the City, and to work with the Chief of Police to develop policies of the Police Department to maintain public trust.”
Barwin requested that the ordinance creating the panel include language calling for the IPAP members to “weed out applicants or make a recommendation” when a seat was open, Fournier noted.
Other commissioners support Mcvay
“They are all amazing applicants,” Commissioner Ahearn-Koch said of the group whose applications had been provided in the backup agenda material.
Brown then pointed out that Mcvay is in the Criminal Justice Program at the University of South Florida. Nonetheless, Brown continued, “We all know Jordan — awesome individual.”
Yet, Brown added, Letschert is just finishing up a term as president of Project Pride SRQ, and “he’s getting involved in some other projects.” Yet another factor, Brown said, is “the time commitment to this panel.” Those were the reasons, Brown noted, that Mcvay won the IPAP’s nod over Letschert.
Vice Mayor Kyle Battie talked of his familiarity with Letschert, as well. Still, Battie pointed out, “You don’t want to see people stretch themselves …” Battie then offered his concurrence with the IPAP’s recommendation.
Both Battie and Commissioner Liz Alpert concurred with the earlier statements about the quality of all four candidates. Alpert had planned to nominate Ai B. Streacker, she said.
Streacker’s application notes that he is a Navy veteran who has a private dental practice “with emphasis on reconstructive, restorative and [aesthetic] dentistry.”
However, Alpert added, Mcvay would be her second choice.
Once more, Brody maintained that Letschert should win the nomination. Saying he could not stress the point sufficiently, Brody told his colleagues, “If we have an applicant with … real-world law enforcement experience that has no tie or interest in the [Sarasota] Police Department,” that should be an important consideration.
“Every once in a while this board has to deal with some pretty contentious issues, and some, um, critical issues,” Brody stressed. “I think it gives it a lot more weight, just gravitas … if you have someone that comes from law enforcement.” Moreover, Brody said, Letschert “has been interested in this board for a long time.”
When Arroyo called for a vote on appointing Letschert to the panel, Ahearn-Koch reminded him that the proper procedure would be to ask for any other nominations first.
With no other names brought forward, Arroyo called for the vote. Brody’s choice of Letschert failed, with Arroyo the only other commissioner supporting it.
Then when Arroyo called for the vote on Mcvay, it passed 5-0.
The fourth applicant for the seat was Jon Baugh, who serves on the city’s Nuisance Abatement Board; he is a resident of commission District 1, in north Sarasota.