Wednesday, July 29, 2009
CITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE SUNSHINE VIOLATIONS AT ZHANRA’s RESTAURANT AFTER 4-1 VOTE TO THROW IN TOWEL ON FISH ISLAND?
As told by B.J. Kalaidi at Monday night’s Commission meeting, there was some martini-guzzling by Mayor JOSEPH LEROY BOLES, JR., Commissioner NANCY SIKES-KLINE, Commissioner LEEANA FREEMAN, City Attorney RONALD WAYNE BROWN, City Planning and Zoning Director MARK KNIGHT, City Comptroller MARK LITZINGER et al. at Zhanra’s Restaurant on Monday July 13, 2009.
They were partying right after the vote to throw in the towel on the Fish Island case. That's disgusting.
In response, Commissioner ERROL JONES said “I wasn’t there.” Good for him.
In response, City Attorney RONALD WAYNE BROWN, off-camera, made a cutting gesture with both arms that resembled a Hollywood director’s gesture when saying “cut!”
St. Augustine City Attorney RONALD WAYNE BROWN was present at the possible Sunshine violation and evidently wanted to silence Commissioner ERROL JONES from responding to Ms. Kalaidi.
Sounds like a possible obstruction of justice to me.
City Attorney RONALD WAYNE BROWN’s off-camera “cut” gesture to Commissioner ERROL JONES resembled one by President RONALD WILSON REAGAN’s press secretary (James Brady) to TV news cameras in early 1981 outside the Capitol building, when they were filming REAGAN saying something inane, spontaneous and off-message .
Exactly what were the St. Augustine City Commissioners talking about over martinis at Zhanra’s?
Their tanking real estate investments?
The horrible state of the local tourist economy?
Sex, drugs and rock and roll?
The well-deserved status of the Mayor’s alma mater, the University of Florida, as a “party school?”
Or how they all just loooove City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS, love developers and hate environmentalists and reformers and people who catch the City in the act of committing environmental law violations, and wish they’d all just go away?
Or how they want to pave over every square inch of St. Augustine to make it resemble an unreasonable facsimile of South Florida?
Or how they enjoy being the lickspittles of the likes of ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD and other developers who destroy wetlands and Native American indigenous Indian archaeological sites?
We don’t know.
The problem with proving a Sunshine law violation is that merely being together is not enough.
Sunshine law violating Commissioners would have to inculpate themselves (or be overheard by eyewitnesses or “earwitnesses”) in order to prove that they committed a crime.
Note to underpaid, undertipped St. Augustine restaurant servers: go back in the kitchen and take lots of notes on what the Commissioners say whenever they have illegal meetings in your restaurant – you may wish to “drop the dime” and call the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Tallahassee to report them.
Are Commissioners violating the Sunshine law? I reckon so. Proving it is difficult.
St. Augustine City Commissioners sometimes take a long recess , apparently for the purpose of delay and eating dinner. (They sup upstairs on the Fourth Floor of City Hall, often eating barbeque).
During these long recesses, Commissioners have been observed talking about Commission business. In fact, two different newspaper reporters from two different newspapers have observed them talking about business before the Commission, including people who had just spoken to the Commissioners.
Two different newspaper reporters observed the apparent Sunshine violations, but never published a story about it. (Reporter Kati Bexley of the St. Augustine Record was one of them.)
In 2007, the St. Augustine Record exposed two Commissioners of the Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County violating the Sunshine law on videotape. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and then-State's Attorney JOHN TANNER refused to prosecute anyone.
The St. Augustine Record champions the Sunshine law in editorials but has not yet covered its violation by City officials. We look forward to the Record exposing Sunshine klaw violations by the City of St. Augustine. We look forward to criminal prosecution of Sunshine law violations by St. Augustine City Commissioners.
Like antitrust violations or bribery, Sunshine law violations involve consenting adults. White collar criminals rarely sign confessions. Local law enforcement does not often prosecute white collar crimes.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Office of State’s Attorney R.J. LARIZZA are both rather unsophisticated when it comes to ferreting out Sunshine law violations. They lack interest in big-shot crooks in what is widely regarded as the most corrupt county in the State of Florida – one where Republican THOMAS MANUEL, former Chair of the County Commission, stands indicted for bribery.
When I called the State’s Attorney’s office to report an apparent Sunshine violation recently, I was told to “call the Sheriff! “ (That would be the former St. Augustine Police Chief, DAVID SHOAR f/k/a DAVID HOAR, who was hand-picked by St. Augustine City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS. Incredibly, the State’s Attorney told me to call local law enforcement (not even the Florida Department of Law Enforcement).
Such facetious suggestions from the State’s Attorney office are offensive – not unlike telling a civil rights violation victim to call “local law enforcement” over violating his/her rights.
The Florida legislature should consider how the Sunshine law might be simplified. Perhaps they could simply ban members of Boards and Commissions from conversing outside of public meetings, period.
This would solve the proof problem and stop the smugness.