ST AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The Order of la Florida is the highest honor given in the city of St Augustine. And Monday night, choosing a recipient got heated during the City Commission meeting. That's because there were multiple contenders and strict regulations.
Action News was the only station there as the commission made some tough decisions.
The recipient has to be living with years of dedication to making the city better. That person has to be voted in unanimously by City Commission. And a person can only be nominated when one of eight spots opens up.
Monday night City Commission faced a tough decision: how to fill one open slot with two qualified nominees.
"Two of you brought us nominations. And by bringing two nominations you ensured it wouldn't be a unanimous vote so we should have stopped right there," said Mayor Joe Boles.
The discussion turned emotional. Commission Vice Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline says Dr. Robert Hayling is deserving for playing a crucial role in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Commissioner Bill Leary says Herbie Wiles served on dozens of committees and dedicated his life to his city.
"I don't know how we got to this point, but I'm not willing to vote against either of these people," said Boles. "That's not what I want to do, and I don't think that's what this award is set up to do -- pit people against people."
The compromise: change the rules.
They bumped the number of recipients up to nine and made the vote a super majority (a vote of four to one). A move not at all supported by Commissioner Leanna Freeman. She says only one should be chosen.
"We have a job to do here and it's not popular sometimes and it puts us in a bad situation," Freeman said.
But when it came to a vote, Hayling and Wiles were voted in.
"I don't feel it was tarnished by the outcome, I don't," said Leary. "I feel that we set some precedent in a number of ways. That's not necessarily a bad thing."
The commission also voted to evaluate all the rules surrounding both the Order of la Florida and the second most prestigious -- de Aviles Award.
Dr. Hayling is the first person to be honored by receiving both of those top honors.