Ramswell update: City councilwoman attends first meeting since arrest, abstains from voting

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

DESTIN — City Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell attended Monday’s council meeting but, after citing advice from her attorney, abstained from voting on whether to approve various items requested by the developer of the planned Pointe Mezzanine docking facility on Holiday Isle.

Councilman Rodney Braden did not attend the meeting. The rest of the council voted 4-1 Monday to approve a major development order, major subdivision, marine construction permit and Gulf Shore Drive extension construction agreement for Pointe Mezzanine LLC and Pointe Resort LLC.

Destin Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell was present at Monday night's meeting but abstained from voting on the Pointe Mezzanine docking facility on Holiday Isle issue when it came before the council. The council voted 4-1 to approve a major development order, major subdivision, marine construction permit and Gulf Shore Drive extension construction agreement related to the project.

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These entities propose building a private long-term residential docking facility on the western shoreline of Destin Harbor, between the East Pass Towers condominium and the city’s Norriego Point property.

Ramswell is due in court on Nov. 16 to face a felony charge of official misconduct alongside misdemeanor counts of obstruction, battery and violation of the state’s Sunshine Law after being arrested on Oct. 8.

Her run-in with the law stemmed from her conversations with a private citizen concerning the docking facility project and her alleged failure to turn over copies of those conversations to the city so that it could respond to a public records request.

“Prebble Ramswell did knowingly, willingly and intentionally conceal numerous public records from the city, which caused unlawful harm to others, thereby committing the crimes of official misconduct,” according to the State Attorney's Office affidavit bringing charges against her.

Ramswell was arrested as officials attempted to serve a search warrant to locate messages sent from her private phone to local activist Gene Earley. The affidavit says that the complaint of a possible public records law violation against Ramswell was brought to the First Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office on June 5.

Destin Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell was present at Monday night's meeting but abstained from voting on the Pointe Mezzanine docking facility on Holiday Isle issue when it came before the council. The council voted 4-1 to approve a major development order, major subdivision, marine construction permit and Gulf Shore Drive extension construction agreement related to the project.

Upon securing the phone they were looking for, investigators said they located communications between Ramswell and Earley that Joe Winkeler, who Pointe Mezzanine LLC calls a development consultant, had requested the city of Destin provide him as public records.

The State Attorney’s Office said Winkeler had not received the requested records from the city, but had learned of their existence “during the course of separate legal proceedings with Mr. Earley.”

The affidavit states that in the communications Ramswell declined to turn over to the city, she and Earley discussed “specific issues” relating to the zoning, permitting and development of Pointe Mezzanine’s planned docking facility. 

Destin City Councilman Kevin Schmidt asks a question during a hearing on the proposed Pointe Mezzanine docking facility on Holiday Isle. Schmidt was the only "no" vote in a 4-1 decision by the council to approve a major development order, major subdivision, marine construction permit and Gulf Shore Drive extension construction agreement in connection with the project.

Ramswell’s failure to turn over the communications as requested did harm to Pointe Mezzanine LLC by hindering the development, permitting and zoning of the docking facility, according to the affidavit.

At Monday's council meeting, none of the other council members commented on the arrest or the allegations.

Councilman Kevin Schmidt cast the lone “no” vote against the developer-requested items for the docking facility project.

Schmidt cited Ramswell abstaining from the vote, as well as the incompletion of the city’s Destin Harbor capacity study, as the reasons why he could not support the requests from project officials.

Located on more than four acres at 1 Gulf Shore Drive on Holiday Isle, the project site will see construction of a 50-slip docking facility with three mooring points for a total of 53 vessel spaces. The docking facility is for the use of residents of a planned 79-unit, long-term upland condominium development that received the council’s approval in 2009.

Project officials did not have an estimated construction timeline for the docking facility or the condos.

NWF Daily News reporter Tom McLaughlin contributed to this report.