Thursday, November 29, 2007

Watch Comcast Cable Channel 3 (Government TV) at 7 PM, Monday for Replay of November Meeting Meeting (re: Plaza Vendors, Illegal Dumping Settlement

Watch Comcast Cable Channel 3 (Government TV) at 7 PM, Monday for Replay of November 13, 2007 City Commission Meeting (re: Plaza Vendors, City's Illegal Dumping Settlement)

City Commission held a meeting at 8 AM on November 13, depriving the public of the right to attend or watch it at the regular time.

This is one of seven un-televised meetings City Commission held in the last two years. The others were two Sunshine violations where Ron Brown was hired as City Attorney and four Budget meetings where our City's budget was rubberstamped while the public was treated rudely, with questions never answered.

At the November 13th meeting, SUSAN BURK complained about Mayor JOSEPH LEROY BOLES, JR. privatizing the tree-lighting ceremony for a charity, leaving Commissioners out of it. Priceless. Then Commissioners had a dog-and-pony show, finally allowed public testimony and voted 5-0 to kick artists out of the Plaza.

Then they approved the supposed "settlement" of their illegal dumping (Commissioners GEORGE GARDNER, ex- Mayor and SUSAN BURK, ex-Vice-Mayor, both having left the meeting), with no public comment allowed. See below. Tune in at 7 PM on Monday and sit down for 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Watch these Scrooges with your family and friends -- watch for yourself government cloddishness at its very worst and despicable. Then think about who needs to run for City Commission next year. How about you?

Then contemplate who needs to resign. See below.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The "Gotcha" Government of the Nation's Oldest City is In Disrepute and the Whole World is Watching

City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS, photo by J.D. Plesaant

From illegal dumping to attacking and arresting artists on St. George Street and the oldest common market in North America, the illegitimate government of the city of St. Augustine knows no bounds. Will City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS resign or be arrested before he ruins plans for our 450th birthday? See below. Stay tuned.

Guest Column: City wrong to ban artists, merchants from Plaza

Guest Column: City wrong to ban artists, merchants from Plaza

St. Augustine
Publication Date: 11/26/07

Shame on the St. Augustine City Commission for voting unanimously, 5-0, to ban all visual artists, other artists and "vendors" from the downtown Historic Preservations districts (HP-2 and HP-3) in St. Augustine. This includes the Plaza de la Constitution that has fostered street artists and commerce for centuries.

About a dozen people spoke out against the ban with none speaking in favor of it but the commissioners enacted their callous, if not downright-fascist, ordinance anyway.

The 8 a.m. meeting time which I'm sure was chosen carefully by the commissioners to make it difficult for most working people to attend certainly made attendance problematic.

The public hearing was likely only a legally-required protocol for a decision that had already been made behind closed doors.

The City Commission at a previous meeting voted 3-2 to push all non-agenda public comments which had been formerly allowed near the start of meetings, to the end of meetings.

This is a big slap-in-the-face to participatory democracy and public input.

With Ordinance 2007-23, street artists if they continue to want to work in St. Augustine will now be pushed out to peripheral, un-trafficked areas of the city where it's unlikely they'll be able to make a living.

In a market economy, sales are essential for artists to keep practicing their craft.

They'll also be legally-confined to a 3 foot by 3 foot square of space that's barely large enough to stand in.

The commission's decision is a sad chapter in St. Augustine's long-history. It begs for a reversal.

The once colorful Plaza that served art, culture, commerce and fun from paintings, jewelry and sculpture; to professional, seated chair massage, to hair wraps and eclectic entertainment now lies bare and lifeless.

Commerce has been monopolized by the wealthy-few.

Dozens of hard-working locals, who made a decent living or just enough extra income to get by in this low wage, tourist-factory town, will now find themselves either unemployed or under-employed while local arts and culture suffer further.

This especially hurts local families during the holiday season and reeks of a scrooge-mentality.

Before January 2007, the Plaza was overcrowded on certain weekends and holidays with merchandise-vendors not artists.

To address that legitimate concern, the City Commission could have simply and legally limited the number of permits for non-artist "vendors" to a manageable size.

Or they could have prohibited merchandise-sellers (sunglasses, etc.,) while supporting all artists and a few service providers.

Professional seated chair massage was loved by countless visitors and locals who left de-stressed and pain-free.

Many other towns encourage street-artists and some commercial vending of goods and/or services.

Those towns are lively and fun like St. Augustine used to be.

Following Judge Charles Tinlin's court ruling, the commissioners had pursued that course for the past month with no problems.

The City Commission's most recent attack on even the visual artists is outrageous and likely unconstitutional.

After 442 years we've had our local, public commons stolen.

This follows an earlier ban on music, art and "buskers" on St. George Street that thrilled multitudes.

That action semi-privatized and culturally sterilized St. Augustine's main thoroughfare due to pressure from a few greedy, monopolistic, downtown landlords and their political allies.

Unfortunately the City Commission's action has made further legal challenges and public protest necessary while robbing St. Augustine of much of its former local charm.

David Thundershield Queen lives in St. Augustine and is a writer/activist. He is a former Plaza permit holder.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Guest Column: Giving thanks for people who speak out

Guest Column: Giving thanks for people who speak out

Ed Slavin
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 11/25/07

At Thanksgiving, I give thanks for:

1. St. Augustine's civil rights "foot soldiers," who changed history. They deserve a prominent museum.

2. Our American Founding Fathers and those who work for democracy and transparency everywhere.

3. Nature and those who work to protect it everywhere be especially thankful whenever Congress enacts a St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and National Scenic Coastal Highway Act, including electric trolley-cars.

4. People of faith for speaking out for global environmental protection and against war and poverty.

5. Veterans for defending our liberties.

6. Flagler College for recognizing student rights (Club Unity and Gargoyle newspaper).

7. St. Johns County Commissioners, better listeners than St. Augustine City Commissioners (whose antics rightly earn Folio Weekly "brickbats" and improved St. Augustine Record coverage).

8. Anastasia Mosquito Control District commissioners for canceling its $1.8 million luxury jet helicopter and ending risks to people, pets, butterflies, frogs and other "non-target organisms" from spraying organophosphates. Thanks to three AMCD Commissioners (Emily Hummel, Barbara Bosanko, Linda Wampler) for changing their minds and two others (Jeanne Moeller and John Sundeman) for persisting in speaking their truths. Courage.

9. The Burrell, Mills, Ponce and other local families for standing up to land speculators like Robert Michael Graubard. Expose "developers" (a/k/a land-raping, tree-killing, wetland-destroying speculators, whom County Commission Chairman Ben Rich calls "worse than any carpetbagger").

10. FBI for investigating/prosecuting political corruption, including convicting two Miami PBS&J engineering chief executive officers for illegal campaign contributions/bribery/embezzlement. Follow the money.

11. Congress and investigative reporters for uncovering corruption. Be thankful whenever the House Judiciary Committee finally begins impeachment hearings.

12. Our city of St. Augustine for admitting wrongdoing in its illegally:

a. polluting Lincolnville for decades with illegal dumps;

b. moving illegal dumps' contaminants into our Old City Reservoir 2005-2006. No thanks to Florida Department of Environmental Protection (a/k/a "Don't Expect Protection") for allowing our city to move 20,000 cubic yards of contaminants back to Lincolnville. Environmental racism? No thanks to St. Augustine City Manager William Harriss, who blamed former subordinates, recently yelling "I've done nothing wrong." Be thankful when sworn witnesses testify about environmental crimes.

13. John and Elizabeth Edwards, for running a clean lobbyist-free presidential campaign and exposing Ann Coulter's bigotry.

14. Al Gore for winning Nobel Peace Prize and Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth." Florida proudly voted for Gore in 2000, with recounts wrongfully ordered halted.

15. My parents, family, teachers, professors, friends and mentors for teaching me to question large organizations and how they mistreat people. Always ask, "why" (and "why not?"). Uncovering uncaring governments' massive, secretive pollution in Oak Ridge, Tenn., mercury (1983) and St. Augustine Old City Reservoir confirmed my mother's wisdom: "Trust your mother, but cut the cards." "The truth will set you free."

16. Congressional Democrats for raising the minimum wage (first time in nine years), while voting to protect whistleblowers and our environment.

17. Progressives, activists, performers, whistleblowers, artists, scientists, reporters/writers and truth-tellers. They've enriched our lives.

18. People willing to work for new leadership in Washington. Our U.S. Rep. John Mica voted against whistleblowers and against raising federal minimum wages. In 2004, 72 percent of Floridians voted to raise our minimum wage. Mica sought to halt investigations of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Mica defends Big Oil company price-gouging and offshore oil drilling demands. Enough.

Be thankful we get to overthrow our governments every two years. We need new leaders, including a "humble" president who "restores honor and dignity to the White House" (as Bush falsely promised). Too many politicians are arrogant, waste money and won't admit mistakes.

As Mosquito Control Commissioner Jeanne Moeller says, "there are more people like us than there are people like them."

Thank you for working to improve our future.

Robert Kennedy said, "it is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [s]he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Ed Slavin is a Georgetown University School of Foreign Service graduate, journalist, advocate/activist who first proposed a St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Highway on Nov. 13, 2006.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rude, Crude"City Mangler" WILLIAM B. HARRISS refuses to resign, says "I haven't done anything wrong!" and tries to slam door on citizens' questions

Photo by J.D. Pleasant/A Pleasant Family Production (c) Copyright 2007

"We Shall Overcome" St. Augustine, Florida Cith Hall Scandals Including Environmental Racism, Illegal Dumping and Wetland-Killing Speculators' Power

Moments after City Commissioners agreed to pay more than $33,000 in fines and spend Moments after City Commissioners agreed to pay more than $33,000 in fines and spend over $800,000 to clean up illegal dumping, controversial St. Augustine City Manager William B. Harriss angrily refused to resign November 13th, yelling, "I haven't done anything," then trying to slam a door on me. Why does Harriss rage?
In secret, during 2005- 2006, Harriss's minions took the contents of the old illegal city dump at the south end of Riberia Street -- 30,000,000 pounds of pollution -- and dumped it into the Old City Reservoir on Holmes Blvd. Extended. They took the contaminants from one lower-income, minority community in the city and dumped it into another one in the county, without permits or public notice or discussion.
Contents of the old dump included bed springs, toilets, sewage, heavy metals, vinyl chloride, arsenic and other poisons. City workers sorted through the contaminants without proper worker safety training. Enough stuff was deposited in the Old City Reservoir to fill in six Olympic-sized swimming pools to a depth of six feet (or cover a football field to a depth of 11.2 feet).
Out in the City and Collective Press broke the story of the dumping, later reported in the St. Augustine Record in articles and editorials.
Federal and state environmental criminal investigators failed to obtain any written statement from Harriss or City Commissioners, whom he told he'd been dumping "clean fill." As EPA told us in February 2006, "there's no bedsprings in clean fill."
For political reasons, based upon inaccurate factual assumptions about a supposed lack of motive, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP a/k/a "Don't Expect Protection") refused to prosecute a case involving government officials. FDEP's blatant nonenforcement is under investigation by the FDEP Inspector General and the Governor's Chief Inspector General.
FDEP delayed announcing its proposed $47,000 fine until shortly after the November 2006 elections, depriving voters of information they had a right to know before the coronation of Mayor Joseph Leroy Boles, Jr.
FDEP then wasted another year allowing St. Augustine officials and lawyers to engage in pettifoggery, claiming the dumping was "de minimis" or "de micromis" and demanding to leave the contaminants in the Old City Reservoir and then demanding to take them to back to the old city dump (instead of putting them in a proper landfill as DEP initially ordered).
Now FDEP has agreed to St. Augustine's demand that thousands of truckloads of contaminants are to be trucked back into Lincolnville. Lincolnville residents were never asked. This is an outrageous example of environmental racism -- one that may make St. Augustine a household name again, as in 1964.
If the contaminants are ever actually brought back to Lincolnville, there would be a monument to St. Augustine's racism in the form of a nineteen foot mound of contaminants erected next to the sewage plant by an artificial wetland.
That wetland -- and the phony urgency of creating it to allow Sebastian Inner Harbor project work to proceed -- apparently led our corner-cutting City Manager's regime to dump illegally without permits, without asking the city's outside environmental lawyer. City officials deliberately disobeyed repeated oral and written orders by the St. Johns River Water Management District that the City of St. Augustine not dump and answer questions about its plans.
Empowered local citizens took videos and reported the city's actions to the National Response Center in February 2006. City officials at first told me I could not show videos to the Commission on February 27, 2006, then switched signals and demanded I provide them copies in advance. Criminal investigators requested I not share the videos with the city.
As a result, the city was caught in a perjury trap, unable to tell more lies when its actions were on videotape.
City officials continued dumping March 1, 2006, two days after criminal investigators arrived.
Since that time, City commissioners and the city manager have refused to answer over 90 questions about the illegal dumping and the city's actions. Commissioner Jones accused me of "whipping" Commissioners, saying "uncle." Commissioner Gardner asked if I had "lint in [my] pocket."
Commissioners declared my home no longer in the city. They threatened arrests for asking questions. They reduced public comment time opportunities, first making people choose between the beginning and end of meetings, then ending public comment at the beginning of meetings, referring to three outspoken residents. Commissioners actually gave City Manager Harriss a plaque and an atta-boy in the midst of a pending criminal investigation in 2006, expressing their "confidence" in him, thereby discouraging city employees from reporting dumping wrongdoing.
Three city employees -- the city attorney, public works director and utilities director -- left the city after the dumping was revealed, perhaps as scapegoats for City Manager Harriss, who later accused the first two of "incompetence" for giving him bad legal advice. Bad legal advice? The two were professional engineers and that wasn't there job. A third professional engineer on staff was left unscathed. Meanwhile, neither they nor Harriss ever called the city's outside environmental counsel, William Pence of Akerman, Senterfitt, Florida's largest corporate law firm. Chief Operations Officer and Assistant City Manager John Regan says it would have cost only $75 for the city to call Pence and ask the question about dumping in the Old City Reservoir, which would have saved the city liability, fines and cleanup costs.
Efforts to interview Pence (who claims to be a Superfund expert) have been unavailing. Last year, paged before a meeting with FDEP in Jacksonville, Pence hung up the telephone without excusing himself or saying a word.
The City Commission vote on November 13 was without two of its five members. Ex-Mayor George Gardner and ex-Vice Mayor Susan Burk -- both serving in those positions at the time of the dumping -- left the meeting before the dumping was discussed. The meeting was oddly set for 8 AM, with only one other item on the agenda the closing of the Slave Market to artists and vendors. Commissioners had no expressed justification or excuse for their refusing to allow public comment on the FDEP dumping settlement, which Assistant City Manager John Regan told St. Augustine Record Opinion Editor Margo Pope would be open for public comment and was so reported in the November 11 Record editorial.
After a pro forma presentation by Regan,
Commissioners Errol Jones, Donald Crichlow and Mayor Joseph Leroy Boles voted to accept the plea bargain without dissenting voice or public comment or questions being answered.
The settlement left people scratching their heads at the city's intransigence, which will have wasted at least $1 million by the time the cleanup is completed.
Congressman John Mica (R-Winter Park) is already trolling for $1 million in federal funds for a new roof for City Hall (another mistake by the city, with City Manager William Harris' nephew missing a grant application deadline). Federal taxpayers would in effect bail out Harriss' mistakes, while the traditionally African-American community of Lincolnville gets the contaminants back, and more damage to Riberia Street from heavy trucks carrying contaminants. Lincolnville residents are organizing and planning their next steps. Meanwhile, St. Augustine ponders what has happened under City Manager Harriss' misrule since 1998. Marshall Burns was force-tackled and rendered a quadriplegic due to poor police training ($1.5 million of the settlement was paid by raising taxes). First Amendment rights have been violated. Artists and entertainers and musicians have been hustled off St. George Street and the Slave Market Square (Plaza de la Constitucion), with courts finding free speech violations.
Our city denied Bridge of Lions flag-flying permits to Gays in 2005, resulting in a landmark federal court decision requiring Rainbow flags fly on the Bridge June 7-13, 2005.
Wetland-destroying developers misrule, even forgiven a $15,000 tree-killing fine.
Immunity is given to corporate and governmental "crime in the suites," while St. Augustine gentrifies.
Will someone please show City Manager William B. Harriss to the door? As Jimmy Breslin's book, "How the Good Guys Finally Won" teaches about Watergate, persistence will defeat corruption every time. Regan said, "this was a pretty traumatic event for everyone all the way to the top" of the city hall hierarchy. What of those outside the hierarchy, like the residents who will pay for Harriss' intentional acts (inaccurately termed "mistakes").
What can you do:
Activate in 2008. St. Augustine voters will elect as many as four new Commissioners. (If Boles seeks re-election as mayor, he must resign the last half of his four-year term). That means that Mayor Boles, Vice Mayor Donald Crichlow, ex-Vice Mayor Susan Burk and ex-Mayor George Gardner could all be gone within one year.
Like Nixon's "Final Days," this is a fascinating time. It is time for St. Augustine to expect democracy and reject autocracy.

They've had their turn. Now it's our turn. Activate in 2008

Record sidebar summarizing DEP agreement that will truck 30,000,000 pounds of contaminants back into the community of Lincolnville

Publication Date: 11/14/07

The following are details of the city's agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection

Remove the thousands of tons of lime sludge and street sweepings from the North Holmes borrow pit.

Remove within 475 days all dirt taken from the Riberia site and return it there.

Cover the returned dirt on the Riberia Street site with clean fill and vegetation within 60 days.

Turn over within 45 days all bills or manifests documenting the excavation and transportation of the fill to Riberia.

Give a report that, among other things, shows analysis of the soil and surface water on Holmes Boulevard, plus the results from three monitoring wells.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Artists, vendors must leave plaza

Publication Date: 11/14/07

Artists, vendors must leave plaza

It's official: The artists and vendors are gone from Plaza de la Constitucion after action by the St. Augustine City Commission on Tuesday.

The action did not sit well with local artists.

"You are destroying, out of anger, those things that make this town beautiful," artist Helena Sala told the commission as she began to get teary. "We are the carriers of culture. Please, let's work together."

Sala and about 10 other artists pleaded with the commission at the Tuesday meeting to nix the ordinance. After more than three hours of discussion and public comment, the commission seemed to pass the measure reluctantly on second reading.

"We can't choose who gets to be in the plaza and who doesn't. We tried that already and the courts said no," said City Commissioner Errol Jones. "The courts said all or none. The ews and ahs (from the public) won't take away from that."

The city's previous ordinance allowed only sculpture, paintings, printed materials and photography to be sold in the Plaza de la Constitucion. Vendors selling anything but those items were ticketed by police. Three artists took their cases to court and had the cases against them dismissed.

County Court Judge Charles Tinlin ruled that the Plaza ordinance was "an unconstitutional restriction of (the artists') freedom of speech or expression as guaranteed under the First and 14th amendments to the Constitution."

The city's ordinance was vague because it made police officers arbiters of what is art and what is not, the ruling said.

Artist Gregory Travis said the city's new ordinance, which bans all artists and vendors from the Plaza, also steps on the public's First Amendment rights.

"There will be a battle that shouldn't happen if this ordinance is passed," he said.

The city originally tried to regulate who was allowed to sell items in the Plaza because of complaints that it had become "a flea market circus" with vendors displaying everything from paintings to sunglasses. To keep that from happening again, the commission approved the new ordinance affective immediately, instead of the usual 10-period before an ordinance is enforced.

Commissioner George Gardner said he wants the city to have a workshop on the issue to find another way of resolving the problem. Jones said he plans bring a new idea to handle the issue at the next commission meeting, on Nov. 22. And Commissioner Don Crichlow suggested the city open the plaza once a week to vendors, opposed to when the plaza was used every day by vendors.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Not exactly "crippled by compassion" -- Five Scrooge City Commissioners voted to kick artists out of the Slave Market Square (Plaza de la Constitucion), for 442 years a public marketplace, first in the Nation.

City OKs DEP agreement

City OKs DEP agreement

Publication Date: 11/14/07

St. Augustine City Commissioners approved a plan Tuesday to fix the city's illegal dumping of dirt from an old landfill into a borrow pit.

The vote means the city will pay the Department of Environmental Protection a $33,698 fine and remove contaminated dirt from a borrow pit on North Holmes Boulevard.

The city will clean the borrow pit and put the dirt back on the landfill site on South Riberia Street, creating a 19-foot mound that will be monitored to prevent groundwater intrusion. The mound will be covered with vegetation and will back up to a marsh, with the hope it will eventually become a park and meeting spot for bird watchers. The project will cost $800,000.

Two senior city engineers were in charge of the dumping, and Mayor Joe Boles wanted them held accountable for this "big mess up."

"You're moving dirt from an old landfill... I imagine someone should have seen some red flags," Boles said. "If we haven't cleared up some heads we need to."

John Regan, city chief operations officer, said the two engineers had already left the city for promotions with other jobs. And, he said, they shouldn't take all the blame.

"I could spend three hours defending the staff," Regan said. "We never had anyone (St. Johns Water Management District or DEP) say they were heading on the wrong track. They thought they were doing the right thing."

"Let's get down to it. This was a pretty traumatic experience all the way to the top (of city staff)," he said. "When you're an organization you will make errors. The question is what are you going to do about it."

Other residents disagreed and said they believe City Manager Bill Harriss ordered the dumping, which Harriss has denied.

When the commission voted for the plan, with Commissioners George Gardner and Susan Burk absent, a few people who attended the meeting yelled out "He (Harriss) should be fired!" and "What about the arsenic in the dirt ..."

Regan met later with some of the public who had more questions about the city's plan.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Dirt removal cost: $800,000

Dirt removal cost: $800,000
Publication Date: 11/13/07

The St. Augustine City Commission will hear city staff's plan today to correct the city's million-dollar mistake of illegally moving dirt from an old landfill to a water-filled borrow pit.

The plan is part of a contract with the Department of Environmental Protection. In the agreement, DEP levies a $33,698 fine and requests the contaminated dirt taken from an old St. Augustine landfill on South Riberia Street be removed from a borrow pit on North Holmes Boulevard.

After finding that the tipping fees alone to dump the dirt in a landfill would cost $1 million to $2 million, the city found a cheaper, innovative way to handle the problem.

"Necessity is the mother of innovation when you're staring down a $2 million trash bill," said John Regan, city chief operations officer. "Plan B emerges quickly."

Regan is proposing the city clean the city-owned borrow pit and put the dirt back on the landfill site. The materials will form a 19-foot mound and will be monitored to prevent groundwater intrusion. The mound will be covered with vegetation and will back up to a marsh, with the hope it will eventually become a park and meeting spot for bird watchers, Regan said.

"It seems counter intuitive, but we think it will work," Regan said.

The project's price tag: roughly $800,000.

The project could take 475 days to complete, Regan said. But before staff can move forward, the city commission must approve the plan.

DEP found that the dumping was recommended by two city engineers who did not carefully read the law before making a recommendation. The junior engineers have moved on to other jobs, for reasons separate from the dumping, Regan said. He said no one person is responsible for the wrongdoing, and the incident has created greater oversight for city projects.

"We did this as a city operation, and it was an organizational mistake," he said. "The responsibility is completely with the city and not with any other agency."

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© The St. Augustine Record

Editorial: St. Augustine's illegal dumping fix is correct

Editorial: St. Augustine's illegal dumping fix is correct

Publication Date: 11/11/07

The St. Augustine City Commission will be asked Tuesday to take steps to correct its huge mistake; illegally dumping solid waste in a borrow pit.

The fix estimated to cost approximately $800,000 of city tax dollars will require clean up of a city-owned borrow pit on North Holmes Boulevard, closure of an old city landfill site on South Riberia Street and other corrective measures stipulated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The city also has to pay DEP a $33,698 fine.

Holmes and South Riberia are linked because the errant waste in the Holmes pit came from the old South Riberia landfill near where the city has had a wastewater plant for years. Longtime residents will remember the former police pistol range being located in the area more than 30 years ago.

The illegally dumped materials will form a 19-foot mound over the landfill site as part of the closure process. The mound's materials will be safe, we're told. They will be cleaned up, capped and monitored to prevent groundwater intrusion, and covered with vegetation. City staff envisions a future passive park encompassing the mound.

Assistant City Manager John Regan is in charge of the cleanup project. The public will have to get up early to hear and to speak about the DEP order on which the City Commission will vote. The special meeting begins at 8 a.m. in the Alcazar Room at City Hall, 75 King St.

The city's mistake was reported in an anonymous tip to an environmental hot line in 2006. The Record, in an Oct. 23 story, identified Ed Slavin as the person who reported the tip. Slavin and the city are often at odds. Regan said he did not know who reported it.

"Assuming Mr. Slavin made the call, he did the right thing," Regan told The Record on Friday. "The (caller) was a little misguided because they reported it was hazardous waste and it was not." [Ed Slavin's note: I told the feds what the photos showed. If anyone was misguided, it was John Regan, who was angry that I reported the city to DEP and told me that because of what I "had done" it would be a "long process." I nevery deposited the contents of the old city dump in the Old City Reservoir -- that was done by WILLIAM B. HARRISS. Regan also demanded copies of the video provided to EPA and DEP, which they advised me not to give the city. End of Ed Slavin's note[

Regan said the tip led to the subsequent DEP investigation and the order to the city to clean up the mess. "We wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't for the fundamental mistake made two years ago," he said.

The tip led to more than just the DEP action. City Manager Bill Harriss has reorganized responsibilities for key managers and established an immediate notification system for employees to report similar problems, without reprisal. As for the illegal dumping at the Holmes site, Regan said the city "was not savvy as an organization to catch it" initially. The city thought it was on the right track but later found out it was working with the wrong agency; the St. Johns River Water Management District rather than Florida DEP's solid waste division.

That mistake resulted, Regan said, because of a lack of knowledge of the process by some of the city's engineering staff. "What we did was wrong, no question about it," he said.

We agree. There should have been greater oversight and review by senior managers because of the potential for environmental mistakes.

The city is moving on correctly. It has acknowledged the error, negotiated a remedy and created new procedures for staff to follow.

Now, it is time for the cleanup to begin.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Crammed CR 210 The Forseeable Result of Speculator's Special Interest With St. Johns County Commission

See below.

The Florida Times-Union: St. Johns to seek moratorium on northwest growth

The Florida Times-Union

November 5, 2007
St. Johns to seek moratorium on northwest growth

St. Augustine Record

The St. Johns County Commission has told its legal staff to write an ordinance that would impose a growth moratorium on County Road 210 near Interstate 95.

District 1 Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson said Friday that frequent and dangerous traffic backups at Interstate 95 and County Road 210 had become "insane" and that it was time to do something.

"That intersection has reached a critical point," Stevenson said. "(But) we still have projects coming. I would like to freeze things in place until we get a fix on the problem. This is a health, safety and welfare issue."

A moratorium would not affect projects already approved.

But it might delay the start dates of some projects, stop approval of new plans, prevent changes in land use amendments and prohibit major rezonings. It also might be possible to redirect local impact fees away from smaller roads and toward that intersection, Stevenson said.

County Administrator Michael Wanchick said, "(The wording of the ordinance) would depend at what stage in the development process we choose to act. That's part of the analysis we need to do."

Wanchick said he'd like to reach out and involve all "interested parties. We don't want to harm anybody, but we can't allow this condition to continue. It's a proactive, positive step if handled correctly."

The commission has often said the County Road 210 and I-95 intersection is the most dangerous in the county.

Stevenson said improvements are not just to speed commutes to work but to increase public safety.

In addition, repairs would also smooth hurricane evacuation and emergency services.

On weekday mornings, long lines of traffic stretches west from the intersection for 2 miles. Drivers wait up to 45 minutes to get onto I-95. In the evening, they return from Jacksonville and try to exit I-95 at 210.

But a long, slow queue forms, backing up into I-95, risking collisions.

Federal and state governments have provided little money to help, Stevenson said. Last year, U.S. Rep. John Mica, Republican Winter Park, found $3 million to lengthen the off-ramp, but there are still backups onto the interstate.

Commission Chairman Ben Rich said the county must reduce traffic pressure there,

"When does it get so dangerous that a worst-case disaster happens on I-95?" he said.

"Moratoriums are a tool that government uses when things aren't right. We can't keep adding to the problem," she said.

Vice Chairman Tom Manuel said the county's legal staff will first have to do a great deal of research on how this can be accomplished.

Public hearings will also have to be held before any measure is passed. "This is a very big legal issue," Manuel said.

County Attorney Patrick McCormack said a moratorium can't just be imposed and then forgotten.

"The county has to be actively working on solutions to the problem," he said.

Wanchick said it is a significant but necessary step. "It holds development in place for a period of time. It's not in anyone's interest for the situation to continue."

Already 60,000 homes are approved for construction in north St. Johns County, Stevenson said.

Some traffic relief may be on the way. Bartram Parkway's opening in February will give drivers a new route from Race Track Road to Old St. Augustine Road.

Also, the Department of Transportation is actively acquiring right of way for the new $1.8 million river crossing bridge, which will have a clover- leaf at I-95.

"Right now, 40 percent of the traffic on State Road 16, International Golf Parkway and C.R. 210 comes from Clay County," Stevenson said.

On the down side, though, the Twin Creeks project is stalled. The developer of Twin Creeks has a multi-million-dollar road-building agreement with the county on County Road 210's eastern leg.

If that does not happen, the county may have to pay for that connector.

"What I don't want is for this (moratorium) to have a chilling effect (on development) in the Northern Development Area," Stevenson said. "There is plenty of vested land with concurrency that is approved."

This story can be found on at

Letter: The beautiful views you may save may be your own March 18, 2001

Letter: The beautiful views you may save may be your own

Edward A. Slavin Jr.
St. Augustine

Local forests are under siege, destroyed before our eyes. Why was a beautiful spot once covered by woods (the northwest corner of state roads 312 and A1A) denuded by bulldozers, destroyed to erect yet another you-store-it business -- tacky and unshielded by trees, which landowners unwisely wiped out? Why did the county, leasing Anastasia state park lands, destroy five to 10 acres of trees and wildlife habitat for no good reason, without fine, firing, penalty or lease cancellation? Why did ''nonprofit'' Flagler Hospital destroy its beautiful trees for yet another parking lot? Do some businesses have a libido for the ugly? When will the orgy of tree killing and billboards stop? Who thinks it attracts tourists? Who is made happy by it? Who profits from wanton destruction of natural beauty and pleasures?

Where else are artists, musicians and entertainers hounded by police and banned from a pedestrian-only street, their free speech rights repeatedly censored on government orders, backed with arrests and the awesome power of the state? Communist China? Cuba? Horse-drawn carriages slow down automobile traffic on St. Augustine's major streets, with no complaint from self-aggrandizing burghers who ban artists from no-auto St. George Street.

Lincoln took ''public opinion baths,'' listening to Americans. Why are local citizens limited to three-minute statements, while loquacious developers' (and censors') time is effectively unlimited? Elsewhere, citizens speak and question freely. Here, citizens are too often rudely cut off. Why?

Why did County Commission's Nocatee weekday hearings commence at 1:30 p.m.? Why are most government meetings during workdays, preventing most from attending? Elsewhere, meetings are at night to make it easier for citizens to participate.

First, commissioners approved the unwanted new Nocatee city. Then, to ''protect'' the public, St. Johns County Commission passed an unwanted ''leash law'' to keep any dog anywhere from running around without a leash -- even on the beach at midnight in winter. Local ''hassle you'' governments too often let forest-killing developers have their way, while other citizens are pestered. This may violate equal protection.

Commissioners voted to leash the wrong citizens. There is a problem here with unfettered developers, not dogs. In approving Nocatee, the commission accepted assurances about the Davis family's goodness, refusing to ''look a (supposed) gift horse in the mouth.'' A Jacksonville weekly newspaper (''Folio Weekly'') has reported without contradiction that the Davis family's Dee-Dot Ranch sold land to the state of Florida, which turns out to be contaminated with illegally dumped toxic waste from dry cleaners, laboratories, metal and plastic manufacturing -- petrochemical poisons, solvents and heavy metals. If three unwise commissioners had not rushed to approve Nocatee Feb. 23, the results of investigations of toxic dumping on Davis family land might have been discussed.

Let's ''leash'' tree-killing developers -- let's ''curb'' and ''collar'' their power to destroy and uglify St. Augustine and St. Johns County and our natural heritage. Register and vote. The beautiful views (and cherished freedoms) you save may be your own.

Letter: Nocatee plan threatens safe hurricane evacuations (February 10, 2001)

Letter: Nocatee plan threatens safe hurricane evacuations

Edward A. Slavin Jr.
St. Augustine

Over 6000 residents of Galveston Island, Texas, lost their lives in the 1900 hurricane. Weather radar now provides advance warnings, allowing island/coastal residents to evacuate. Let's not thwart hurricane emergency planning, putting lives at risk.

Who wants to realign State Road 210? The Davis Family (Winn-Dixie founders) and PARC Group, developers of proposed Nocatee, a ''new town'' (in reality a two-county city with 15,000 homes, over 38,000 people, and millions of square feet of commercial space). They could easily block evacuation routes for Ponte Vedra, Palm Valley and other communities. Their notion of building Nocatee hurricane ''safe-rooms'' close to sea level is, at best, facetious. Safe rooms (useful in tornadoes) would not change the fact that Nocatee's ill-advised location endangers evacuation of coastal communities, residents of which are at risk and may need to evacuate to Interstate 95 in hurricanes.

Long Island Electric Company wasted $6 billion on its Shoreham, N.Y., nuclear power plant without an effective evacuation plan. Effective evacuation of Long Island is impossible due to the isolated nature of islands (bottlenecks getting to the mainland) and population growth. Shoreham was scrapped and ratepayers were forced to pay higher rates due to one company's reckless excuse for ''planning.'' Tens of millions of dollars were spent on evacuation plan litigation. Counties won their fight to protect citizens and property against LILCO's poor planning. Will PARC Group leave St. Johns County holding the bag for Nocatee?

Hurricane Floyd wrought the largest peacetime evacuation in American history. Even with four lanes, if State Road 210 is realigned through Nocatee's ''Town Center,'' Nocatee could cause a Galveston-style hurricane disaster. Nocatee should be rejected due to its badly located built-up ''Town Center'' area, which would impede evacuation in the event of a hurricane, threatening a public nuisance. If people are someday stranded in the middle of a hurricane because of heedless greed, we will rue the day if one family had its way.

The truth must be heard: The Record should fully inform us about costs, benefits and conflicts of interest.

Nocatee should be shelved as a reckless, bad plan -- second rate, shoddy and irrational -- as shown by thwarting effective evacuation of Ponte Vedra and other island communities, whose residents may be required to ''drive to I-95 to stay alive.'' We can't afford the risk to lives and property, landscape and wildlife, bears and wetlands. You might wish to tell your local Winn-Dixie managers what you think of the proposed city of Nocatee. Ask them to share your thoughts with the Davises.

Nocatee's economics may no longer be attractive in a recession and after Congress enacts President Bush's proposed income tax cuts and estate tax repeal. The Davises might wish to consider donating some of their beautiful family land for a park (including Nocatee and the D-Dot Ranch), instead of threatening evacuation and overdevelopment nightmares for generations to come.

(c) St. Augustine Record 2001


KUDOS TO FLAGLER COLLEGE for recognizing Club Unity (see below).
It's about time. Now Flagler College can see about starting a law school, the sine qua non of which is complying with the American Bar Association accreditation Standards for Approval of Law Schools, which bar anti-Gay and other forms of invidious discrimination.
I hope that Flagler College soon grants tenure to experienced faculty and encourages faculty and other employees to form free democratic trade unions with collective bargaining.

Club Unity gets OK from Flagler

Club Unity gets OK from Flagler

From staff
Publication Date: 11/07/07
Flagler President Bill Abare approved on appeal the application of Club Unity, a club that aims to create a supportive environment for the gay, lesbian and transsexual community. The club had previously been denied by Dean of Student Services Daniel Stewart, who said "(The club's) purpose does not fall within the realm of the mission of the college." The club appealed, and on Oct. 29 Abare approved the club and sent a letter to Chris Lauth, Club Unity's executive director, according to an article in Flagler's Gargoyle newspaper. Lauth was not available for comment, but sophomore Bobby Webb of Wallingford, Pa., a member of Change Flagler College, an advocacy group at the school, said, "We're excited, really excited. Surprised, very surprised. It's definitely a step forward." According to the club's Web site,, board members will meet in the upcoming weeks to plan for their first official meeting. It also says, "Special thanks to all of our supporters and Dr. Abare for standing up and making the right decision." Renditions of the club have been attempting to get approval since 2004.
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c The St. Augustine Record

Letter: College should explain Unity Club status

Letter: College should explain Unity Club status

Melissa Wos
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 04/23/07

Editor: Recently a group of students attempted to get a club approved at Flagler College. The club was called Unity and was meant to bring together the gay and straight students in an alliance. This group has been trying to get approved by the administration for more than five years and has yet to get passed by the dean and president of the college.

I am writing to you as a plea to help these kids get recognized. The administration at Flagler College has stated that it is "not ready" for a club such as this on at Flagler even though more than 200 students signed a petition to get the group approved.

I ask that maybe someone can interview the president or dean of Flagler College in an attempt to shed some light on the ridiculous nature of their decisions to ostracize the gay student population.

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c The St. Augustine Record

Guest Column: Club Unity belongs on college campus

Guest Column: Club Unity belongs on college campus

St. Augustine
Publication Date: 04/22/07

You could spend an awful lot of time debating the ethical implications surrounding the Flagler College administration's decision to edit -- and ultimately censor -- a story in its publication, The Gargoyle, concerning "Club Unity," a thinly-veiled Gay-Straight Alliance. The constant battle of whether the paper is a journalistic instrument or a public relations mouthpiece of the college will rage on far beyond this scrimmage.

Regardless of one's opinion of the apparent totalitarian actions of the administration, the real issue at hand is the blatant homophobia in the office of Student Services and the President's Cabinet. By once again delaying and -- probably -- denying a student organization that would serve both the gay and straight communities at Flagler College, the administration is making prejudice policy and discrimination decree.

As a president's Council Scholar, who graduated last week, I am outraged.

In an interview with The Gargoyle, Dean Stewart -- without a spokesperson after his last verbal blunder concerning a previously proposed Gay-Straight Alliance caused uproar in local media -- said he thought such a club conflicted with the college's conservative mission.

Interestingly enough, around the same time the proposed "Club Unity" was submitted for approval, clubs for philatelists and outdoor enthusiasts both sailed through administrative offices. Evidently, peeling previously-licked stamps off old envelopes and circumnavigating Anastasia Island in your kayak fit right in with Flagler's dry campus and no inter-dorm-visitation policies. One might argue a lack of inter-dorm visitation encourages homosexuality but, alas, I digress.

For a liberal arts college without any official religious affiliation, Flagler currently boasts no less than four Christian clubs, including the evangelist Campus Crusade for Christ whose mission statements includes to give others "a new life in Christ." As an openly gay and proudly Jewish student, I do not feel a warm invitation to any of them.

While it is a tragedy that a college Gay-Straight Alliance would have to masquerade as "Club Unity" so the name wouldn't offend school officials administering approval status, the goals are still important to our college community.

Organizations like Flagler's proposed "Club Unity," by any other name, have existed in other schools around the world for decades, helping to provide a supportive environment where students, regardless of sexuality, can grow stronger -- academically, socially and personally -- to better participate in a diverse world. Everyone -- from students to administrators to faculty -- should thrive in an educational environment free from discrimination.

Countless well-renowned educational organizations, such as the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors, all support the goals and ideals of Gay-Straight Alliances. Why can't Flagler College's administration?

Why do President (William) Abare and Dean (Dan) Stewart then insist on institutionalizing injustice and alienating a large proportion of Flagler's student body?

In the wake of public outrage over verbal assaults by actor Isaiah Washington and columnist Ann Coulter on the gay community, it has become very clear that a majority of Americans feel homophobia has no place in society. Washington came out with a statement apologizing for his comments and checked himself into rehab. It seems pretty trendy.

Eric Waldron graduated last week from Flagler College. He says he is not affiliated with Club Unity or the Gargoyle.

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c The St. Augustine Record

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Congressman Who Helps St. Augustine City Hall's Mistakes

Rep. JOHN MICA's office brags on getting $1.3 million for our $22 parking garage.
We don't need federal funds for a WHite Elephant unadorned by any transit component like the trolley car system we had here in 1928.

MICA's office ignored Lincolnville community leader Peter Romano's trolley car proposal.

MICA has never responded to inquiries on the St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and National Scenic Coastal Highway.

Rep. MICA's office also brags on trying to get federal funds to repair the roof on St. Augustine City Hall.

City Manager WILLIAM HARRISS' mistakes require federal bailouts. Get it?

Now if Rep. MICA would only support the St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and National Scenic Highway, he'd be helping our community instead of empowering the ancien regime's waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance and sloth.

See below.

Rep. JOHN MICA Seeks Federal Funds for St. Augustine City Hall

Rep. JOHN MICA Seeks Federal Funds for St. Augustine City Hall

Seventh Congressional District Rep. JOHN MICA brags of working to bring federal funds to pay for St. Augustine's neglected City Hall roof, for which a grant deadline was missed by City Manager WILLIAM HARRISS, who formerly employed a nephew to work on federal grants. MICA empowers our City of St. Augustine's mismanagement, waste, fraud, abuse and corruption. Rather than answer public questions about its waste, St. Augustine rubber-stamped City Manager WILLIAM HARRISS' bloated City budget. Now St. Augustine wants a federal bailout.
MICA's concerned about sand eroding in front of Ponte Vedra mansions. Meanwhile, MICA voted against the SCHIP children's health care program and voted against raising the federal minimum wage (less than 1/4 of the House of Representatives joined him). MICA pushes for earmarks for favored government contracts.
This Bush toady has his priorities straight from the GOP playbook: class warfare. Government only exists, in MICA's view, to fatten his campaign contributors, whether with government contractors or Ponte Vedra beachfront mansion owners (the sort who think they own the beach and persuaded Republican county commissioners to deed them back the county right-of-way without charge to keep surfers out..
As former Senator Gary W. Hart said, "you won't get the federal government off your back until you get your hands out of its pockets."
Republicans were once fiscal conservatives. MICA's been dancing the pork barrel polka long enough -- anyfederal funds for the St. Augustine City Hall should come with strings, e.g., as part of a St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and National Scenic Coastal Highway.
Let's not reward WILLIAM HARRISS' waste with an earmark.


St. Augustine City Hall

Rep. Mica is working with the City of St. Augustine to renovate the historic City Hall building. The St. Augustine City Hall, formerly the Alcazar Hotel, is one of two magnificent buildings designed by Henry Morrison Flagler during the late 1880’s. It is one of the few original treasures remaining from the Flagler era of 1888 – 1914. The Alcazar Hotel was widely considered one of the most historically significant buildings in Florida.

For 114 years, St. Augustine's skyline has been dominated by the Mediterranean Revival towers. The large square towers rise above the city and in their prime offered visitors a view they were unable to see anywhere else in the city.

Unfortunately, over the years strong winds and seasonal storms have severely damaged the buildings structure, windows and roof. This refurbishment project calls for the restoration of both the towers and the replacement of the windows and roof. It also includes major structural repairs.

The City of St. Augustine and the State of Florida have already invested nearly $1 million in preservation related efforts. As soon as this historic timepiece is fully renovated and restored, it will once again be viewed as one of the most dominant buildings in Florida.

FIRST COAsT NEWS: Mica Tours Erosion Ravaged Beachfront1(June 2007)

Mica Tours Erosion Ravaged Beachfront
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Congressman John Mica toured erosion-ravaged beaches in South Ponte Vedra Beach Monday.

It was one of several coastal stops for Mica as part of a fact-finding tour in response to pleas for help from the locals.

"He's been getting calls from a lot of concerned homeowners 'cause there's a sense of helplessness that takes place. You know, you've got the ocean encroaching upon your house. The EPA's telling you you have to wait until it's 20-feet from your house. You know you're watching the love of your life disappear," said homeowner Clay Hanson.

Mica told reporters the erosion problem is threatening homes all along the Florida coastline.

"I think it's almost inevitable we're going to get another storm and I think we're going to lose some houses washing into the ocean before it's over," said Rep. Mica.

Mica says a long-term solution involves millions of federal dollars - some of which could be available in the fall if a measure passes through congress.

"What we're looking at is a short-term solution trying to protect as much property as possible with the homeowners and the county," said Mica.

First Coast News

REP. JOHN MICA PRESS RELEASE, 8/1/2007: Mica Secures Beach Restoration Funds

August 1, 2007

Mica Secures Beach Restoration Funds

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-St. Johns) announced today that several Northeast Florida beach restoration projects have been approved by Congress in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) which passed in the House late Wednesday evening. Projects to study and restore beaches in St. Johns, Flagler, and Volusia counties were approved.

“With homes and oceanfront property in Ponte Vedra in danger and Highway A1A in Flagler County falling into the ocean, this action by Congress was critical,” noted Rep. Mica.

Additionally, Rep. Mica has secured $500,000 for funding in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last week, for the Army Corps of Engineers to assist in developing a solution to deal with beach erosion and restoration in St. Johns and Flagler counties. The funding would be available in the new Fiscal Year beginning October 1, 2007, if approved by the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Mica met with St. Johns County and local officials on June 11 to examine the damage caused by the recent storms that ravaged our coastline.

“With the federal funds, the Army Corps will be able to conduct a feasibility study to determine the costs and benefits of a beach renourishment project. These beaches are important to local economies and protection of this resource is of the utmost importance to residents and visitors alike”, stated Rep. Mica.

The 1999-2000 hurricane inflicted erosion problems that now threaten St. Johns County’s primary emergency evacuation route - State Road A1A. Due to tropical storms and major hurricanes, the ocean shorelines in this region have been subject to significant damage. Federal funds will aid in paying for a Corps Engineer Beach Restoration Study.

“I wanted to make certain that whatever beach restoration remedy is adopted by the Corps, the money and sand do not wash into the ocean,” Rep. Mica emphasized.

A major provision of the legislation that Mica was able to include in the Water Resources Development Act passed by Congress were the first actual funds to conduct restoration projects for Florida’s Everglades.

“The Florida Everglades, an environmental state treasure, must be preserved and restored. This bill represents a milestone in that effort,” said Rep. Mica.

This legislation also included record approval of sewer and water projects in the region. These measures were spearheaded by Rep. Mica who serves as Republican Leader on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Demands to keep our water clean and the need to process waste has dramatically increased with the explosion of Florida’s population,” said Rep. Mica. “ These funds will help keep our water and sewer bills down and maintain a viable public water and waste treatment systems for our local communities.”


Saturday, November 03, 2007

2/3 of County Polling Places in Churches; FOLIO Weekly Cover Story on St. Johns County Officials' Office Proselytizing

Thanks to Folio Weekly for years of excellent reporting on St. Johns County, including the current cover story on our local government officials' workplace preaching.
It explains why controversial Election Supervisor Penny Halyburton wastes our money giving "donations" to churches. Why, two- thirds of our St. Johns County polling places are in churches, which are admittedly paid "donations" by Supervisor Halyburton's office. St. Johns County is blessed with dozens of government buildings, including some Taj Mahals.
Why can't we vote there? We'd save money and avoid excessive entanglements with churches, avoiding possible First Amendment violations.
St. Johns County resembles a cross between Old Florida, Kennebunkport, Malibu, the Wild West, Levittown, and the movie "Chinatown."
Local officials deserve even more scrutiny. This is a place where St. Augustine City Commissioners voted that only government flags may be flown on our Bridge of Lions (after Gays won a federal court order requiring Rainbow flags be flown in 2005). Yet 2/3 of our polling places are in churches, not government buildings.
Does that make sense to you? As photojournalist J.D. Pleasant says, "they'll say and do anything."
See my November Out in the City column.
Pray for the St. Johns County political machine, whose grasp on reality (and power) is waning.
Ed Slavin
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085

In politics there are talkers and doers -

In politics there are talkers and doers -
John Mica is a doer."
President George W. Bush
During a visit to Daytona Beach,
January 30, 2002


Our 7th Congressional District requires a watchdog, not a lapdog.As Richard Hebert's letter suggests (see below), U.S. Rep. John Mica is George Bush's lapdog. His vote against SCHIP is a disgrace. He claims to be "pro-family," but that's just a slogan he got from George Bush and Karl Rove. Has Big Oil's Rep. Mica ever had an original idea? Tell us.

Representative John Mica claims he voted no on children's health care bill because of 'flawed' financing plan

Mica voted no on insurance bill because of 'flawed' financing plan

U.S. Rep John Mica
Winter Park
Publication Date: 11/03/07
I wanted to respond to recent letters of Oct. 15 and Oct. 30 to The Record regarding my vote on legislation to provide access to health care for children of low-income families.When the U.S. House of Representatives originally passed the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 1997, I supported that measure. Unfortunately recent attempts to expand coverage for our neediest children became mired in controversy when the new Democratic Majority in the House first proposed paying the cost of the increased SCHIP coverage through cuts in Medicare. When that was wisely rejected they chose to attempt to pay for the increased costs by reliance on new taxes that would require millions of new smokers to finance the expansion. I objected to that flawed method of financing. Additionally, I found several other controversial provisions objectionable. These included weakening current citizenship verification provisions that would provide federally funded health care to illegal aliens, elimination of a state's ability to consider family income and expansion of the program to include those up to 300 percent above the federal poverty level increasing income level eligibility in some states to cover families making well over $100,000. I continue to support a reasonable increase in the SCHIP program, and will vote to increase both funding and eligibility. I care about children and adults who do not have access to quality health care. As a college student I dropped out of school to help my family cover expenses because my family did not have health insurance when my father was hospitalized. That experience has always reminded me of the need to work to ensure that every American has access to quality health care. Working in a bipartisan manner, Congress can do better in helping those who truly need health care assistance. Those who know my record in Congress and in our congressional district know that no one has been a stronger advocate in expanding health care and medical services to our veterans, senior citizens, and rural residents.
John Mica's District 7 congressional district includes St. Johns County. He's a Republican and lives in Winter Park. He has an office in St. Johns County at 3000 North Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Suite 1, St. Augustine, FL 32084-8600. The number is 810-5048; fax 810-5091.
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© The St. Augustine Record

Letter: Children's insurance deserves Mica support

Letter: Children's insurance deserves Mica support

Richard Hebert
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 10/30/07
Editor: What is it about kids' health that U.S. Rep. John Mica doesn't get?We know neo-Crusader George Bush has this knee-jerk reaction to anything that smacks of 21st Century enlightenment, but is Mica merely his lapdog? How can he explain his refusal to override the Bush veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program's expansion? Perhaps he thinks (like Bush) it should only be for poor kids. Wrong. The poor have Medicaid. This was meant to help struggling middle class families who can't afford to insure their kids. Maybe he thinks it's socialized medicine. Last time I checked, it was a Republican-dominated Congress that created the program. Or maybe he doesn't want to raise taxes? The cigarette tax, which is the only one to be raised to pay for the expanded program, is the best and most popular tax we have. It's a win-win game. Raising taxes on cigarettes increases their costs and, according to every study I've seen, lowers the number of kids who take up the filthy, life-threatening practice of sucking on coffin nails. Fewer cigarettes in kids' mouths and more kids getting health insurance mean more healthy kids. The only ones likely to suffer: the purveyors of cigarettes, Big Tobacco. Is Mica in their hip pocket? Maybe this time next year voters will remember his abominable vote against kids' health.
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© The St. Augustine Record

Letter: Congress should override Bush's insurance veto

Letter: Congress should override Bush's insurance veto

Terry Kelley
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 10/19/07

Editor: This is in regard to a letter published in Monday's Record, "Children's insurance deserved better," concerning the unfairness of Bush's veto of increased funding for the State's Children's Health Insurance Program. It failed to outline a method whereby your readers can successfully make an impact on Congress to urge an override of President Bush's veto of funding of Congress's proposed increased SCHIP funding. Increased funding is needed to serve working families who cannot pay for decent housing, food, and clothing, and also pay for gasoline and other car expenses to get to their places of work.

The current Congress, composed of mostly Democrats and a vigorous Republican minority, is going to decide whether to override the president's veto. Contact U.S. Rep. John Mica and our senators quickly, if you want your voice heard on this issue.

Terry Kelley

St. Augustine

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© The St. Augustine Record

REP. JOHN MICA's Rabidly Anti-Environmental Record

Anti-environmental Congressman John Mica had a 2005 League of Conservation Voters rating of 9%. In 2006 the rating was 0%. Enough. This beautiful place needs a congressperson who will protect us from offshore oil drilling and environmental devastation.

Letter: Mica's vote wrong on Endangered Species Act

Letter: Mica's vote wrong on Endangered Species Act

Andrea Conover
Ponte Vedra Beach
Publication Date: 10/09/05

Editor: On Sept. 24 U.S. Rep. John Mica participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Education Center at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM ERR) which protects, studies and celebrates wildlife. What a great photo opportunity!

Just five days later Mica voted against really protecting the animals.

He voted for HR 3824, the so-called Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act, which actually weakens protection for many of the animals in the GTM NERR, including sea turtles, whales, manatees and many others.

The original Endangered Species Act has protected plants and animals for 33 years. Only nine of the 1,800 endangered animals listed under ESA have become extinct. That's a pretty good track record!

The House of Representatives also voted against the bipartisan substitute version of this bill which would have strengthened the Endangered Species Act.

Hopefully, clearer heads in the U.S. Senate will vote against this legislation so the U.S. can keep protecting its precious wildlife.

Congressman Mica has disappointed his constituents again. But what else would we expect? The League of Conservation voters has scored his voting record on environmental issues a dismal 9 percent.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Race pitting Hogan, Mica turning into war of words

Race pitting Hogan, Mica turning into war of words

Staff Writer
Publication Date: 11/02/02

The congressional race for District 7 is one of stark political contrasts.

A conservative Republican and former businessman faces a liberal Democrat, an attorney famed for his lawsuits against businesses.

Incumbent congressman John Mica, a friend of President Bush and a Capitol insider, runs against storied Jacksonville attorney Wayne Hogan. Hogan earned tens of millions after Florida's 1997 $17-billion suit against big tobacco and has emphasized his independence. He refuses to take money from Washington lobbyists and political action committees, but remains one of the biggest soft-money contributors in Florida. And as of Oct. 24, he had donated almost $2.8 million of his own money to his own campaign.

Mica, on the other hand, had accepted $495,346 from political action committees this year, but had not reported spending any of his own cash on the race.

It's like night and day.

Redistricting made Mica the local incumbent, though the Winter Park 59-year-old was elected to represent areas near Orlando. Hogan, 55, announced his candidacy in July.

Since then, the campaigns have grown increasingly aggressive. Mica toured the area with powerful figures like the national drug czar John P. Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. Also coming to St. Johns County recently in Mica's company were former President Bush, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, and Woodie Woodward, associate administrator for airports for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Mica is supported by President Bush, who turned to him to draft anti-terrorism legislation to help secure airports after Sept. 11.

But Hogan is not much of a Mica fan.

Hogan accused Mica of ducking out of two debates this month.

In August, he said Mica fell for the "manipulation" of insurance companies when Mica voted in favor of a House bill to cap pain and suffering damages awarded to victims in medical malpractice lawsuits. The idea of the bill is to ultimately decrease malpractice insurance rates for doctors, though insurance companies made no promises that rates would drop. Hogan said the representatives in favor of the bill didn't understand the real problem. Mica blamed the problem on windfall lawsuits produced by lawyers like Hogan.

Hogan denounced him as the "PAC-man" of American politics.

But Hogan's support has seemed comparatively slight.

That started to change last week, after Mica and the National Republican Congressional Committee aired two television advertisements berating him for taking millions from Floridians after the tobacco suit.

Hogan's team says the ads just aren't true: his paycheck came from the tobacco companies. The ad was chided by two big-name Democrats: Rhea Chiles, the widow of former Gov. Lawton Chiles, and Florida's Attorney General, Bob Butterworth. Chiles was Florida's first lady when Hogan and Butterworth beat tobacco.

Until last week, those were the major Florida Democrats who spoke in favor of Hogan to a local audience. State Rep. Doug Wiles of St. Augustine since published a letter of support in The Record on Friday. And on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Bob Graham called The Record to lend his support to Hogan. The call followed questions from The Record about why ranking Florida Democrats had not been stumping for Hogan in the area.

Hogan said he wanted his campaign to be about people in the district and not celebrities.

Mica and Hogan vie for a seat that lasts two years and paid $145,100 in 2001 and $150,000 in 2002.

District 7 includes all of St. Johns and Flagler counties, as well as parts of Orange, Seminole, Volusia, Putnam counties.

The platforms

Mica said his focuses are these: National and homeland security; economic development and job creation; transportation and infrastructure; affordable health care for all Americans.

Hogan said his focus will be on these: Education; affordable health care for seniors and veterans; economy; restoring investor confidence; creating sustained growth without manipulating debts; fiscal responsibility.

Both said they favor giving President Bush authority to determine the nation's course of action regarding threats of war against Iraq.

The money

The biggest difference between the candidates is money. It's blatant in some ways and subtle in others.

After refusing political action committees' money, Hogan stressed his independence.

Meanwhile, Mica stressed the strength of his Washington connections.

The difference underscores the sides that each candidate accuses the other of playing for.

Mica says Hogan runs on money earned from lawsuits that ultimately manipulate policy and hurt businesses. Hogan says Mica runs on money donated from special interest groups that ultimately manipulate policy and hurt individuals.

According to the candidates' descriptions of each other, Hogan wants to buy the seat, and Mica is bought by interests that want him in the seat.

Campaign receipt and endorsement reports from the Federal Election Commission bolster the candidates' statements. Hogan is wealthy enough to donate almost $2.8 million to his own campaign. And since July, he apparently had no problem accepting at least $70,000 in donations from Florida attorneys and their spouses.

The attorneys' donations are worth noting because Mica has said that trial attorneys are their own special interest group and Hogan supports them and is supported by them. Hogan is a former president of the Academy of Florida Trial lawyers.

Mica's money trail speaks volumes as well.

As of Oct. 24, he hadn't recorded spending any of his own money on the campaign, despite receiving about $1 million in contributions. Of that, $512,323 came from individuals and $495,346 from groups like political action committees. The Republican Party gave him $9,500.

Some of Mica's PAC-contributors are curious.

There's $15,000 in donations from Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds tobacco companies. Which is no surprise, given Hogan's history. Mica also accepted tens of thousands of dollars from nearly every major airline company in the nation, and thousands from oil, train and automobile companies. It makes sense. Mica is the highest ranking Florida member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee.

He also received thousands from insurance companies.

He even got $2,000 between 1997 and 2000 from the recently disintegrated Enron Corporation.

St. Johns County

The candidates shared a few ideas concerning local issues that could be addressed federally. Both said they would work to improve transportation and infrastructure. Both vowed to continue maintaining the coast, especially the parts affected by St. Augustine Beach's multi-million dollar beach renourishment plan.

But Mica said his seniority in the U.S. House leaves him in a better position to help St. Johns County and all of Northeast Florida.

"As a businessman, I support lower taxes and more efficiency from the government," Mica said.

Hogan said he was concerned that St. Augustine had not received sufficient federal attention for its historic treasures. He said he would pursue federal dollars for local landmarks. He also has said that he will instigate investigations of the practices of insurance companies. Many companies have closed or left the state in the last year, as the stock market stumbled, rates rose, and profits dropped. An investigation could make sure there's not "another Enron" in Florida, Hogan said.

Mica points to his history in the Orlando area, where he said he attained funding for two new veteran's clinics and a new nursing home. He cites his 10 years as a member of the Florida House of Representatives, and his 10 years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was also the former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Paula Hawkins, from 1980 to 1985.

Hogan said he will push for real prescription drug benefits through Medicare. He also has discussed creating a Patients' Bill of Rights.

According to Mica, a patient's bill of rights would produce nothing but bureaucratic red tape.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Culture of Trust
By Cynthia Barnett - 3/1/2007

In 1959, Howard M. "Budd" Post, a young engineer with the Florida road department, was offered a chance to help create Miami Lakes, the state's first master-planned community.

Putting up $500 each, Post and three fellow engineers formed a company that grew as quickly and dynamically as Florida itself.

Along with managing design and construction of Miami Lakes, the young men who made up what became Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan engineered the 65-mile Card Sound Bridge that connected the mainland to the Florida Keys. They designed the first reverse-osmosis water treatment plant in Florida, Aquarina, and created the Orlando Easterly Wetlands, one of the biggest wetlands for wastewater treatment.

By the 1980s, the Miami-based firm, now known as PBS&J, was on its way to becoming the Florida Department of Transportation's largest engineering consultant. It was named general engineering consultant to the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority in 1981 and to Florida's Turnpike Authority in 1988.

But when Florida tumbled into recession in the early 1990s, then-Chairman Bill Randolph decided that PBS&J needed to focus growth outside the state. Acquiring firms from here to California, he doubled PBS&J's size by the turn of the century. Between 2000 and 2005, the current chairman, John B. Zumwalt III, doubled it again -- to more than half a billion in annual revenue.

Zumwalt was particularly proud of preserving PBS&J's trusting, small-firm culture as the company grew to 4,000 employees in 75 offices in 24 states and Puerto Rico. But he and the rest of PBS&J's engineer-dominated leadership also made some key miscalculations. The biggest: As the employee-owned firm grew -- it posted $540 million in revenue last year -- it was slow to institute the kind of basic accounting procedures that are standard in large companies. "The firm grew far more rapidly," Zumwalt acknowledges, "than our internal-control system."

Suspicious invoices

What grew into a $36-million embezzlement scheme began very small, as is typical in fraud cases. In the early 1990s, according to prosecutors and auditors, two women who'd worked in PBS&J's finance department since 1978, Maria Garcia and Rosario Licata, began identifying old vendor invoices, issuing checks in those amounts, cashing the checks themselves and splitting the proceeds. Later they began to write checks to family and friends, paying for services that had never been rendered.

Their boss, William Scott DeLoach, PBS&J's controller and an up-and-comer in the company, soon called them on the suspicious invoices. But when he discovered what Garcia and Licata were doing, he decided to join the two rather than expose them.

From 1999 to 2003, Licata, as an accounts payable supervisor, would issue checks to DeLoach from one of the company's major bill-paying accounts. To avoid calling attention to either the number of checks or the amounts, DeLoach deposited them in various personal accounts he'd opened throughout Miami. In turn, DeLoach wrote checks to Garcia and Licata.

Along the way, DeLoach remained one of the most-trusted members of the firm's close-knit senior management team, which Zumwalt kept spread around the nation so managers could work "shoulder-to-shoulder" with employees. DeLoach was in Miami, Zumwalt in Tampa, the anointed fourth-generation leader, company President Todd J. Kenner, in Las Vegas.

In 2002, DeLoach was named to the firm's board of directors. In 2003, he was tapped as board treasurer. That same year, he, Garcia and Licata began to divert money from PBS&J's medical benefits account. Licata opened secret bank accounts and created what auditors describe as a phantom political action committee, "PBSJ PAC." The signatory on the secret accounts was DeLoach, who over two years transferred in millions of dollars from the medical benefits account.

The scheme could not have worked without all three: They collaborated to post unsupported journal entries in the company's ledger and then manipulated the bank reconciliations. Sometimes, they simply deleted fraudulent checks from the statements; at others, they added false deposits to inflate account balances.

Meanwhile, DeLoach continued to climb the corporate ladder. In January 2004, he was named CFO.

In addition to bilking their fellow employees, DeLoach, Garcia and Licata embezzled from clients, including Florida taxpayers. To make up what they were taking out the back door, they created bogus expenses and billed them to clients using general and administrative (G&A) accounts, which charge for project management, administration and overhead. Their manipulation of G&A accounts inflated overhead rates for government contracts.

Prosecutors say the three misappropriated some $36 million. Garcia bought sleek sports cars, Rolex watches and an interest in a local restaurant. Licata bought real estate in Florida and Nicaragua and engaged in high-stakes gambling. DeLoach had a multimillion-dollar home in Aventura and another in the Keys, sports cars and a yacht. His checks written from the phony PBSJ PAC account include more than $125,000 to ProPlayer Stadium, $92,000 to pay his American Express card and $38,000 to Neiman Marcus. He even gave $10,000 to Wake Forest University, where he'd earned his bachelor's degree in accounting.

"They were very generous people," says Cecil Bragg, inspector general for the Florida DOT. "It's easy to be generous with other people's money."

Fessing up

The generosity ended after the employee-owned company began a voluntary effort to comply with the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the federal law passed in response to major corporate and accounting scandals such as Enron and WorldCom. The act, which only public companies must follow, requires among other measures a corporate audit committee with independent members and internal audit personnel.

PBS&J's internal auditor was 35-year-old Melissa Eubanks. In January 2005, she couldn't get a satisfactory answer about a bank reconciliation of $804,223. The reconciliation noted, "less check voided to wrong bank code."

Eubanks went to the audit committee, which hired a team of securities lawyers from Holland & Knight. They in turn brought in forensic auditors, who found significant differences between original bank statements and the statements that DeLoach and the others had put in PBS&J's files.

Part of the fraud was decidedly low-tech: Using white correction fluid, someone had wiped thousands of dollars off statements with a few brushstrokes -- in one instance, $52,362.86 became $362.86. "This was not a complicated scheme at all," says Bragg.

As soon as he knew a forensic audit was under way, a remorseful DeLoach fessed up. He brought his lawyer, Jane Moscowitz, to work, admitted everything and turned over all his assets, including his homestead residence, 401(k) and marital assets. "It's the most extraordinary remorse I've seen in 30 years of practice," says Moscowitz. "He was in way, way over his head for his job." DeLoach, Garcia and Licata pleaded guilty to mail fraud in a deal with prosecutors and were to be sentenced last month.

Zumwalt decided to immediately disclose everything -- to the SEC, PBS&J's employee-shareholders and clients, including the two largest, the Florida and Texas transportation departments. "From day one, I made the decision that we would be totally transparent with everyone," says Zumwalt. PBS&J retained Holland & Knight and two top accounting firms for an internal investigation that took nearly two years. Financial sleuths pored over company records, investigated employees and scoured hard drives to determine the extent of the fraud and make sure it was limited to three people. Rod Bell, head of H&K's securities group in south Florida, says he's confident the scheme stopped with DeLoach, Garcia and Licata.

The cost to figure out the fraud and to calculate how much PBS&J owes its clients has reached $20 million, Zumwalt says.

The scandal also cost PBS&J a significant amount of business. The company was suspended by the Texas transportation department and voluntarily stopped pursuing Florida DOT jobs as the agencies conducted their own investigations. Lowell R. Clary, assistant secretary for finance and administration at Florida's DOT, says the agency pegged its loss at $12 million. PBS&J has repaid in full and is back in business with DOT, where it is program manager to five of the eight districts.

Other Florida governments overbilled included the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority and Orange and Polk counties. The company has either repaid or is in the process of repaying those agencies. In January, it paid $6.4 million to the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve overstated overhead rates on hundreds of contracts with more than a dozen federal agencies.

In November, with outside auditors digging into its own books, OOCEA decided to put longtime monopoly contracts out to bid, including the PBS&J contract that has earned the firm more than $82 million over the past quarter-century.

But overall, Clary and others say the quality of the firm's work and the trust it earned over nearly 50 years in business helped maintain goodwill with clients. The company also has been able to weather the financial blow, in large part thanks to the no-debt business philosophy carried forward from Budd Post, John Buckley, Bob Schuh and Alex Jernigan. "They always made sure they could pay the bills, even if it meant personal sacrifice," says Phillip Searcy, an independent board member who worked for PBS&J from 1972 until his retirement in 2001. The firm had in reserve accounts the nearly $60 million required to pay its lawyers and accountants and repay clients.

The biggest question mark that remains for PBS&J, its employees and clients is an ongoing FBI investigation into illegal campaign contributions at the firm that was sparked by the embezzlement probe. Federal officials found DeLoach illegally contributed to U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez's campaign in 2004 and asked four PBS&J employees to do the same. Employees and their spouses made contributions totaling $11,000, and DeLoach reimbursed them courtesy of PBS&J. Zumwalt says the practice is strictly forbidden at the firm and was part of the fraud. The FBI has declined to comment on its investigation.

While the damage to the firm's reputation and finances has been painful, PBS&J employees say the blow to the firm's culture hurt the worst. After becoming president in 2000, Zumwalt had redoubled efforts to keep the company close and community-oriented as it grew, with efforts such as "Leadership PBS&J" modeled after the Leadership Florida program. DeLoach was a graduate, and Zumwalt held him up as a model of the firm's commitment to succession planning and promoting from within.

Zumwalt also had opened the company's employee-ownership program to all full-time employees. The 45% who owned a piece of their workplace have watched their equity shrink in the wake of the embezzlement. "This was a very family-oriented company, where everybody knew everybody, and everybody was close," says Scott Lawson, senior vice president and national service director in PBS&J's Atlanta office. "It was just like finding out your own brother had done something to destroy the family."

"The way I see it is that we were in Camelot," says Zumwalt. "Now we are coming out of Camelot, and the real world is upon us."

Fresh start

While the embezzlement rudely booted the firm from Camelot, it hasn't swayed Zumwalt and other company leaders from their goal of becoming a $1-billion firm -- "the only $1-billion firm with a culture," Zumwalt likes to say. The company is focusing on the transportation, water and facilities markets. It's also targeting the fast-growing applied technologies services market, which includes risk and emergency management and high-tech mapping and surveying.
Ironically, just as the firm goes global, it also is returning to its Florida roots -- pulling all senior managers to Tampa, where it moved its headquarters last year in an effort to "make a fresh start, a different way of going forward," says Zumwalt.

In addition to gathering its senior managers under one roof and strengthening its accounting and audit procedures, the firm has hired an ethics officer and recruited an outsider with public-company experience as CFO. Donald Vrana was the chief accounting officer, controller and treasurer at Omaha-based Sitel Corp., where he oversaw implementation of Sarbanes-Oxley internal controls. Lawson, the national service director, says with employees, clients and the government all clamoring for tighter controls, "now it's like the pendulum has swung in the other direction, where our processes and controls are better than anyone else's in the field because everything we do from now on has to be beyond question. There's a general attitude that we'll all be smarter and stronger because of this. But it's been tough."

Kenner, PBS&J's 45-year-old president who has worked for the company in Las Vegas since a 1992 acquisition, relocated to Tampa last June and is expected to take the reins from Zumwalt someday. PBS&J's trusting culture may have led to its greatest crisis, Kenner says. But he also predicts it's what will pull the firm through. "I hope we never lose that deep-founded trust in each other," says Kenner, a marathoner with his eye on the long run. "That doesn't preclude us from verifying, from really challenging each other, which is what we didn't do as
effectively as we should have.

"But we have to keep the commitment to our culture, to the sense of purpose and cause we feel personally and professionally," Kenner says. "I really don't see it as worthwhile without that."


Engineering News-Record ranks PBS&J 22 among top U.S. design firms based on 2005 revenue. Here's how the company ranks in specific categories:

Category Industry Rank
Transmission lines and aqueducts 4
"Pure design" 5
Multiunit residential 8
Sanitary/storm sewers 8
Highways 8
Transportation 9
Bridges 12
Mass transit and rail 14
Airports 9
Sewer/solid waste 11
Wastewater treatment 16
Water supply 13
Water treatment/desalination plants 14
Retail 22
Source: Engineering News-Record, June 2006

PBS&J Projects

Significant PBS&J projects outside the Sunshine State:

» Sacramento, Calif.: For the largest infill project in the U.S., PBS&J is preparing the environmental impact report that will reshape Sacramento's decades-old rail yards into a multiuse complex.

» Fort Belvoir, Va.: PBS&J is part of the team selected to oversee the high-profile, complex task of preparing Fort Belvoir to address Base Realignment and Closure recommendations.

» Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: PBS&J provided engineering services and construction documents for site preparation and paving and lighting of the new fifth runway.

» Central Texas: The company has a contract with the Texas Department of Transportation's Austin District for Highway 45, Loop 1 and Highway 130, part of which opened ahead of schedule in 2006.

» Washington, D.C.: PBS&J is designing protective perimeter security systems at the Russell Senate Office Building, Ford House Office Building and the Capitol Power Plant.

» Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta: PBS&J was recently awarded a five-year, $1.5-million contract and a three-year, $1.2-million contract by the CDC Health and Environmental Safety Division for hazardous waste management and environmental management technical assistance.

» California: The firm is mapping more than 13,000 miles of levees, canals and flood-control features, setting the stage for advanced analysis and risk assessment.

» Las Vegas.: PBS&J is providing environmental, permitting, land surveying and right-of-way services for the conveyance system that will remove highly treated effluent from a water body known as the Las Vegas Wash directly into Lake Mead.


© Copyright 2007 Florida Trend All rights Reserved.

Orlando Sentinel: Grand jury raps X-way on political fundraising

Orlando Sentinel: Grand jury raps X-way on political fundraising
No one charged -- but changes urged

Christopher Sherman

Dan Tracy and Jay Hamburg, Sentinel Staff Writers

October 10, 2007

An Orange County grand jury filed a sealed report Tuesday criticizing political fundraising that went on within the region's toll-road agency, but the panel did not issue any criminal indictments.

"There are some changes that need to happen at the expressway authority," said Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar, who would not discuss specifics of the filing.

Lamar said he hoped that "this will get some sort of an ethical ball rolling" in Florida. Developers, he said, have too much influence in the political system, and closer attention must be paid to the relationship between donors and those who vote on their projects.

"We can't run the state on a good-ol'-boy network forever," Lamar said.

Tuesday's secret document comes six months after the release of sworn testimony alleging that former expressway Chairman Allan Keen pressured consultants working for the agency to raise money for political candidates he backed.

The grand jury's filing, known as a presentment, is the latest in a string of controversies involving the inner workings of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority. The Orange County Comptroller's Office is about to finish an audit expected to criticize the agency's financial record-keeping, awarding of contracts and business culture.

The presentment will remain sealed for 15 days after all of those named in it are notified. They will have the opportunity to object and request that it remain sealed or be modified. If unsuccessful, copies will be made public.

According to the testimony released in April, Keen allegedly used his expressway influence to support Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty's re-election bid in 2006. Crotty later replaced Keen as chairman of the authority.

On Tuesday, the mayor denied any wrongdoing.

"I did not make many direct fundraising calls myself," Crotty said. "I never used my position as mayor or a member of the expressway authority to raise campaign" donations.

As for other authority members who raised money via expressway-panel ties, Crotty said that would seem appropriate -- so long as they were legal and not coerced in any way.

"You kind of go to your own contact list," Crotty said.

Criticism 'always welcome'

Keen's attorney, Robert Leventhal, said it was difficult to comment because he did not know what was in the sealed record.

"Allan Keen has stated, and I state, that constructive criticism of any public activity of the authority, whether from the period when he was chairman, now or in the future, is always welcome," Leventhal said.

Expressway-authority Director Mike Snyder said he was surprised by the grand jury's suggestion of political favoritism.

"I've never had a board member -- either directly or indirectly -- say, 'I want you to consider this firm,' or 'You need to give this company special consideration,' " he said. "I don't think there ever should be such influence. It needs to be apolitical."

Snyder served as an expressway-board member from December 1999 to March 2004 by virtue of his former position as district secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation. He left that position to take the executive director's post.

Keen, a longtime GOP fundraiser, was Snyder's first boss at the agency.

Keen also was one of numerous individuals with expressway contacts and ties who were top contributors and fundraisers for Crotty's successful mayoral campaign.

They included former Winter Park marketing consultant Ron Pecora; the agency's former lead attorney, Ken Wright; and the influential former agency right-of-way attorney C. David Brown.

$737,076 for Crotty's run

All told, the 200-plus finance-team leaders helped Crotty amass $737,076 in contributions, county records show. Crotty easily won re-election last year against two lesser-known and underfunded candidates.

Crotty previously told the Orlando Sentinel that Keen brought $20,000 of the $100,000 that Crotty was credited with raising for the 2004 campaign of President Bush.

Bryan Douglas, a former authority employee who once worked for Pecora, testified that it would be hard to find a consultant at the expressway authority who wasn't involved in political fundraising.

Another former Pecora employee specifically mentioned Wright's law firm, Shutts & Bowen, and PBS&J, the agency's general engineering contractor, as consultants whom Keen approached for money.

Pecora would not comment Wednesday. Wright, Brown and Douglas could not be reached. A PBS&J spokeswoman previously told the Sentinel in an e-mail that her company "did not feel any pressure" to give from Keen.

Douglas resigned as the authority's marketing director last year. Along with Pecora and others, Douglas was interviewed under oath by investigators and attorneys working for Lamar and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Areas still under inquiry

The report indicates that, although investigators found areas of concern, they did not have evidence to support formal charges.

Lamar said there are still areas related to the authority that are being investigated and could be brought to a future grand jury.

David Damron of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Christopher Sherman can be reached at or 407-650-6361. Dan Tracy can be reached at or 407-420-5444. Jay Hamburg can be reached at or 407-420-5673.,0,1403835.story

Copyright © 2007, Orlando Sentinel