Friday, September 17, 2010
There's no question that Florida's Sunshine laws have opened access to state and local governments for more than a century.
The Florida Legislature annually acts on access laws, creating some new protections but sometimes blocking access, too. The maze of access laws and the exemptions that are carved out at times can frustrate the public in their access to their governments.
On Monday, Oct. 4, The First Amendment Foundation and The St. Augustine Record will host a Sunshine Seminar led by Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a non-profit organization that fights to protect public access to government.
The First Amendment Foundation was founded in 1984 by The Florida Press Association, the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, and the Florida Association of Broadcasters "to ensure that public commitment and progress in the areas of free speech, free press, and open government do not become checked and diluted during Florida's changing times," according to its premise. It also offers open government education and training, legal aid and information services.
Florida's Public Records Law, Chapter 119, was signed into law in 1909 opening up records access to all citizens.
In 1967, Chapter 286, the state's open meetings law took effect, likewise allowing the public to be present for government meetings at which decisions are made from the local City Hall to the state Capital in Tallahassee. A few exceptions are allowed by law for "shade" meetings regarding legal settlements and collective bargaining;
In 1992, voters further strengthened access to public records and meetings by adopting an amendment to the Florida constitution.
Before Chapter 286 became law, the business of government was pretty much conducted behind closed doors. Though the people making the decisions were elected by the people, their decisions were often decided outside the public meeting room. Open meetings tended to be rubber stamps.
Public officials today know that it is against the law for two or more members of the same board to discuss issues coming up in the foreseeable future before their boards, without official notice to the public in advance. Those who still try to skirt the law are investigated, may be suspended, and put on trial. If found guilty, they are fined and removed from public office.
In St. Johns County, the School Board, and the municipalities of St. Augustine, St. Augustine Beach and Hastings, public officials are committed to access and ensure that their staffs know the rules. They want to share their inner workings with the public to gain more support for their decisions.
If you are public officials, citizen access advocates, or lawyers working in media law, this seminar is for you. Petersen is the expert on leading you through the laws on government and access. Time will be allowed for questions and answers. The Florida Bar Media and Communications Law Committee will make a presentation in the afternoon.
Nominal fees are charged to cover the seminar costs. Participants receive, as part of their registration, a copy of Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law manual.
Those trusted with ensuring public access and citizen advocates for access should not miss this opportunity to get to know better Florida's Sunshine Laws.
The Sunshine Law seminar is on Monday, Oct. 4, at the St. Johns County Convention Center at the World Golf Village. Registration is available at www.floridafaf.org and click on the link to 2010 Sunshine Seminars.
Pre-payment is as follows:
FAF members, $10; nonmembers, $25; students, $10 (student ID required); government employees, $15. The seminar is approved for continuing education credits for various associations. Please see the seminar information for details and additional charges.
First Amendment Foundation -- 2010 Sunshine Seminar – St. Augustine Seminar on Monday, October 4, 2010
Register Now: Members ($10.00) – Please include Member # below when adding to your cart.
Students ($10) – Please submit a copy of valid student ID via fax, email or mail.
Government Employees ($15.00) – Please submit proof of government employment via fax, email or mail.
PLEASE NOTE THE REGISTRANTS NAMES IN THE "COMMENTS" BOX WHEN PAYING
Click here for printable registration form.
Location: World Golf Village
1 World Golf Place
St. Augustine, FL 32092
Agenda: 8:30 — 9:00 am Registration
9:00 — 12:00 pm Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law: Open Meetings & Public Records
Barbara Petersen, President, First Amendment Foundation
12:00 — 1:15 pm Lunch (On your own)
1:15 — 2:30 pm Florida Media Law Presentation
Jennifer Mansfield, members of The Florida Bar Media & Communications Committee
BID PROTEST B403910 FILED WITH U.S. GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE RE: ADMINISTRATIVE CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES CONTRACTING IRREGULARITIES
ACUS Chairman PAUL VERKUIL
September 14, 2010
To whom it may concern:
1. I hereby respectfully protest the 9/1/2010 ACUS "Request for Expressions of Interest from Potential Consultants" (RFEI) to GAO and ACUS. I request you halt any ACUS research contracts from being awarded on the basis of the RFEI, which is the sequelae of the secret 8/30/2010 ACUS Council meeting, held in apparent violation of FACA and its mandatory open meeting requirements. I only learned of the RFEI late last night, despite a pending Electronic FOIA request, which should have resulted in its disclosure before now. Thus, this bid
protest is timely.
2. To award contracts based upon the deeply flawed RFEI -- apparently
approved at a secret 8/30/2010 ACUS Council meeting, held after ACUS
denied my 8/27/2010 request that ACUS not violate the open meeting requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)-- would violate Restatement of Contracts, 2nd, sec 178. (Contract Violations of Public Policy). Such illegal contracts in violation of law or public
policy are void ab initio. Thus, ACUS is requested to cease and desist and GAO is requested to uphold this protest.
3. I further object to the 9/1/2010 Request for Expressions of Interest
a. de facto sole source procurement for all ACUS research, without
conflict of interest disclosure by prospective consultants,
b. inadequately advertised for less than a fortnight (9/1 to 9/13),
c . outside the ordinary course of government business (not listed on
d. asking for consultants to study issues in cabined, biased, predetermined ways,
e. for what would appear to be already agreed upon scopes of work,
f. for what would appear to be predetermined or agreed upon prices,
g. eliminating the possibility of any meaningful, full and open
competitive bidding (inadequate notice and for only twelve days,
failing to describe agency needs adequately),
h. failing to comply with reasonable expectations of probity for a
controversial, long-moribund advisory group that Congress de-funded
and effectively abolished for some fifteen (15) years due to ACUS'
secrecy, poor studies and lack of accountability (documented in
my 1989 Common Cause Magazine article, "Business As Usual" and later
Congressional report language in both Houses of Congress).
i. apparently violating Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requirements, with ACUS planning on awarding some seven contracts based upon sources sought, not bids, as ACUS' Research and Policy Director confirmed by telephone to me today,
j. potentially violating EEO/Affirmative Action
k. with the apparent intent of reducing the scope of FACA, our cherished government in the sunshine laws and transparency.
4. The 9/1/2020 RFEI stated that ACUS intends to award contracts by
9/39/2010 (end of fiscal year). Any rush to spend funds, illegally,
before the end of the fiscal year, on questionable studies, is contrary to the genius of a free people.
5. ACUS is requested to cease and desist.
6. ACUS is requested to kindly notify me immediately upon any and all
contract award(s) so I may alert GAO,OMB, OIRA, President Obama,
Congress (and the American people through journalists and the Internet).
7. My ACUS FOIA request No 2 of 8/27/2010 should have yielded the
information about the 9/1/2010 RFEI, but I received no response and had
no notice in time to file a timely proposal in response to the RFEI.
8. This protest is filed less than 21 hours after I first read the RFEI, late on 9/13/2010.
9. I hereby respectfully object and file this bid protest with ACUS and GAO.
10. I respectfully request that:
a. GAO order an open public hearing on what took place at the 8/30/2010
ACUS Council meeting and all other issues of fact raised by the parties
b. GAO order instanter discovery of all paper and electronic documents
on ACUS consultant contracting;
c. GAO issue a protective order to preserve all paper and electronic
documents held by ACUS and all present and prospective ACUS consultants.
Let justice be done.
With kindest regards, I am,
Clean Up City of St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine, Florida 32085
To: BRichardson@acus.gov; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Mon, 30 Aug 2010 20:14:03 -0400
Subject: Re: Secret ACUS Council Meeting Monday, August 30th Violated FACA -- Please Cease and Desist All Future Violations of FACA bY ACUS, Its Council and its Committees and Subcommittees
Dear Bill and Paul:
ACUS has not yet responded about its violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act's (FACA's) Sunshine requirement earlier today.
In the light of wisdom and experience, I sincerely hope that ACUS will take my concerns about the Federal Advisory Committee Act to heart and open Council meetings in the future, and disclose what took place in all Council meetings since 1972. This will avoid a Constitutional crisis at ACUS' first Plenary Session since it was abolished in 1995. It will prevent the need for ACUS members and fellows, to raise the issue, or for anyone to file a lawsuit to enjoin future violations.
As Justice Stephen Breyer testified about ACUS earlier this year, a key question is, "who regulates the regulators?" See Testimony of Justice Stephen Breyer May 20, 2010 hearing on ACUS before House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law. As Justice Antonin Scalia testified at that same hearing, ACUS should "do good and avoid evil." Id.
As Congressman William Delahunt stated at the same hearing, the purpose of ACUS is to promote accountability. But ACUS can't promote accountability if its Council meetings are secret.
As you can see from the previous citations, the work of the ACUS Council is covered by FACA.
Thus, will you please open the Council meetings, please disclose promptly what took place at today's Council meeting, and kindly "let the sun shine in," as Congress intended in enacting FACA in 1972?
Clean Up City of St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine, Florida 32085
To: BRichardson@acus.gov; email@example.com
Sent: Mon, Aug 30, 2010 12:54 pm
Subject: Re: Secret ACUS Council Meeting Monday, August 30th Violated FACA; My FOIA and FACA Request No. 2 to Revived ACUS for Minutes, Notes and Tapes of Illegal Meeting
Dear Bill and Paul:
I am sorry that an abject and incurious worship of "tradition" has led the new ACUS astray and led to a FACA violation this morning. I request that you correct this monstrous error.
ACUS members (and its then-Chair Antonin Scalia) were wrong in 1972 to have Council meetings be secret. Again, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, "it is revolting to have no other reason for a rule of law than that it was laid down during the reign of Henry IV." ACUS' interpretation is wrong.
Please send me the minutes and tapes and all notes of this morning's illegal meeting. Please preserve all evidence of this morning's meeting.
Please note that the meeting is ultra vires and any actions taken or void or voidable under FACA.
FACA defines, in Section 3(2) , the term "advisory committee" to include "councils":
(2) The term "advisory committee" means any committee, board, commission, council, conference, panel, task force, or other similar group, or any subcommittee or other sub-group thereof (hereafter in this paragraph referred to as "committee"), which is --
(A) established by statute or organization plan, or
(B) established or utilized by the President; or
(C) established or utilized by one or more agencies;
in the interest of obtaining advise and recommendations for the President or one or more agencies or offices of the Federal Government...
Thus, FACA applies to ACUS' Council. Hence, this morning's Council meeting was illegal. Please govern yourselves accordingly.
To: BRichardson@acus.gov; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Fri, Aug 27, 2010 6:42 pm
Subject: Re: ACUS Council Meeting Monday, August 30th Must be Opened to Public Under FACA
Dear Bill and Paul:
As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, "it is revolting to have no other reason for a rule of law than that it was laid down during the reign of Henry IV." ACUS' interpretation is wrong.
From: Bill Richardson
Sent: Fri, Aug 27, 2010 5:39 pm
Subject: RE: ACUS Council Meeting Monday, August 30th Must be Opened to Public Under FACA
Since the enactment of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in 1972, ACUS has consistently interpreted FACA to apply to the ACUS Assembly and its committees, but not to the ACUS Council. Thus, in determining that Monday’s meeting of the Council will not be open to the public, ACUS is following its long-established practice. The agency’s recently refiled FACA charter confirms that “All meetings of the [ACUS] Assembly and [its] subcommittees will be open to the public and announced in accordance with FACA.”
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, August 27, 2010 11:55 AM
To: Bill Richardson; Paul R. Verkuil
Subject: ACUS Council Meeting Monday, August 30th Must be Opened to Public Under FACA
Dear Bill and Paul:
In paragraph 13 of your August 26, 2010 letter, the newly-reviving Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) asserts its Council is exempt from FACA open meeting requirements. I respectfully disagree. In pertinent part, 5 U.S.C. 595(b) states:
The Council has the power to
(1) determine the time and place of plenary sessions of the Conference and the agenda for the sessions. The Council shall call at least one plenary session each year;
(2) propose bylaws and regulations, including rules of procedure and committee organization, for adoption by the Assembly;
(3) make recommendations to the Conference or its committees on a subject germane to the purpose of the Conference;
(4) receive and consider reports and recommendations of committees of the Conference and send them to members of the Conference with the views and recommendations of the Council;
(5) designate a member of the Council to preside at meetings of the Council in the absence or incapacity of the Chairman and Vice Chairman;
(6) designate such additional officers of the Conference as it considers desirable;
(7) approve or revise the budgetary proposals of the Chairman; and
(8) exercise such other powers as may be delegated to it by the Assembly.
Based on the plain meaning of the statute, I reckon that FACA applies. Thus, Monday morning's proposed secret meeting of the Council of a FACA-chartered committee is a violation of the public's Right to Know. The meeting must be open to the public. All Council meetings must be open to the public in the future.
By copy of this letter, I am reporting ACUS' planned Monday morning FACA violation to Professor Cass Sunstein and his staff at OIRA and I am requesting that OIRA instruct Chairman Verkuil on the importance of Sunshine in our government.
Upon reflection and review of the statute, I am certain that you and Chairman Verkuil agree today that the meeting on August 30, 2010 must be open to the public.
If, however, you still opine that the Administrative Conference of the United States meeting Monday should be run outside of the Sunshine, please:
(a) Cite by close of business today any legal opinions from DOJ, GSA, GAO or otherwise.
(b) State whether President Obama and Professor Cass Sunstein and his staff at OIRA are aware that the meeting on August 30, 2010 will be in secret.
For the record, I request to attend by "conference call." I believe at least one person in the Washington, D.C. area will want to attend, so please make arrangements to welcome visitors to ACUS' first meeting since 1995.
Disgraced Republican former St. Johns County Commission Chairman JAMES EDWARD BRYANT is caught on a stunning FBI surveillance tape (see St. Augustine Record articles, below).
The FBI considers Florida to be most corrupt state in the Union.
Florida's corrupt Republican career politicians are not as colorful as the crooks in other states Louisiana (like convicted Democratic bribe-taker EDWIN EDWARDS (whose campaign slogan against Klansman David Duke vote for the crook – it matters”). But Florida’s corrupt politicians make up for their dullness with their brazen, supercilious sense of entitlement and effrontery.
Such corrupt politicians actually believe that the idea that they’re “entitled” to free stuff simply by being elected. That’s what sent THOMAS G. MANUEL to federal prison for taking $60,000 in bribes.
Ex-Commissioner JAMES EDWARD BRYANT got below-market rates got to rent an airplane from the PARC Group and ROGER O’STEEN, frontman for the rich people who brought us the massive, controversial Nocatee development, the Davis family (owners of Winn-Dixie, who are developing their D-DOT RANCH into a mega-development over 30 years).
The July 14, 2010 tape was made for the FBI by controversial developer lobbyist PAUL McCORMICK. McCORMICK is the long time lobbying partner of Republican Congressman JOHN LUIGI MICA’s daughter (D’ANNE MICA).
The FBI tape begins when McCORMICK arrives at the offices of the PARC GROUP and Davis family retainer ROGER O’STEEN.
The FBI tape was made in the wake of the FBI’s bribery arrest of Republican County Commission Chairman THOMAS G. MANUEL (who now resides in federal prison in North Carolina).
You’ve got to hear the FBI tape for yourself. It should be played for high school civics students, along with the MANUEL tapes.
These are narcissistic “masters of the universe” – people who decide which businesses will thrive and which wetlands, forests and wildlife will die.
One-party Republican misrule of St. Johns County is a creepy thing – you listen to these lugubrious goobers and you realize who was running our County before reformer Ben Rich was elected in 2004.
The ancient regime consists of feckless thugs and tinpot Napoleons – bossy political bosses who allowed developers to kill trees, destroy wetlands and ruin our beautiful environment. Ben Rich rightly called them ”worse than any carpetbagger.”
The three (BRYANT, McCORMICK and and whine, gnash their teeth, and complain bitterly about scrutiny, including public exposure by the St. Augustine Record of their “Issues Group,” in which Republican ex-Sheriff NEAL PERRY’s spouse, Sid Perry, picked future leaders by giving them mountains of developer cash.
They complain about how St. Augustine Record Editor Jim Sutton targeted STERN and MAGUIRE, but BRYANT says that he and a “third party” have taken care of the St. Augustine Record for the 2008 election, stating that Record Editorial Page Editor Margo Pope and Record Editor Peter Ellis had agreed not to be tough on receipt of developer money, and have written little about the $60,000 in developer money received by Cindy Stevenson (small compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars taken by both KAREN STERN and BRUCE MAGUIRE in 2006).
Hearing the tape, I reckon that Margo Pope and Peter Ellis realize that wicked developers have been using them and the Record. It is hoped that they will be stronger journalists, having heard themselves described as being in the tank on an FBI tape. Journalists need to realize that powerful people cozy up to them not because they are their “friends,” but because they want to have influence. As former New York Times Washington Editor Tom Wicker told his staff: “be neither in nor out.”
Personal note: on the FBI tape, FBI target JAMES EDWARD BRYANT talks about little ‘ole me.
Who knew that JAMES EDWARD BRYANT cared! (As I dig a heel eel in the dirt and look humble and smile wanly).
The three (BRYANT, McCORMICK and FBI inforemant McCORMICK) are talking about how they’re going to elect pro-developer candidates like MARK MINER and RANDY BRUNSON in 2008 (MINER beat Ben Rich, but Ken Bryan beat BRUNSON).
On the FBI tape, JAMES EDWARD BRYANT says that RANDY BRUNSON won’t won’t take enough money from developers, saying BRUNSON is “paranoid” about being seen as pro-developer.
On the July 14, 2008 FBI tape, JAMES EDWARD BRYANT is complaining about little ‘ole me as the cause of this woe. Wonder why? Because earlier in 2008, I filed Florida Ethics Commission charges against ex-Commissioners BRUCE MAGUIRE and KAREN STERN involving alleged violations in taking money from developers.
On the FBI tape, Commissioner JAMES EDWARD BRYANT says the purpose of my complaint was to keep STERN “busy.” (I also filed an Ethics Commission complaint against BRUNSON). BRYANT and his confreres lament the fact that STERN won’t be named to take THOMAS G. MANUEL’s seat because she was defeated at the polls in 2006 (and had an Ethics charge against her).
At that point, on the July 14, 2008 FBI tape, ROGER O’STEEN and PAUL McCORMICK ask JAMES BRYANT (in two-part harmony),“who is Ed Slavin?”
On the FBI tape, FBI target JAMES EDWARD BRYANT answers that Ed Slavin is a “greasy-headed, long-haired liberal,” and a “disbarred lawyer” who has “been on the City of St. Augustine’s case,” who thinks he’s “really something.”
To FBI target JAMES EDWARD BRYANT: I wash my hair every day. I can look in the mirror. Yes, I am a proud liberal. Liberal is from the same root as “liberty” and if it were up to fascist mossbacks like JAMES EDWARD BRYANT, African-Americans, women and Gays and Lesbians would all ride at the back of the bus, there would be no workplace safety or environmental laws, and there would still be slavery (or segregation) as a scourge upon this Nation.
As an undergraduate at Georgetown, I worked for three liberal Democratic Senators (Kennedy, Hart and Sasser) and saw the best of democracy – honest public officials representing their constituents.
I wear illiberal JAMES EDWARD BRYANT’s scorn as a badge of honor. He is a true caricature of a racist, sexist, homophobic Southern Republican, as lugubrious a goober as ever made a chair squeak.
I hereby challenge JAMES EDWARD BRYANT to a public debate on ethics and public policy – anytime, anywhere.
I sincerely hope JAMES EDWARD BRYANT is indicted for any and all of his federal crimes, and goes to prison for a long time. JAMES EDWARD BRYANT is a truly dangerous man. He is one of those “men of zeal” of whom Justice Louis Brandeis warned -- “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachments by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
BRYANT isn’t even well-meaning – he’s just mean. “Greasy-headed” indeed.
Socrates said, “the life that is unexamined is not worth living.” Let’s hope that JAMES EDWARD BRYANT’s life, finances, work and pomps are thoroughly examined by the FBI and a Federal Grand Jury.
Let justice be done.
As for Bryant's angst-ridden anger at me, as Senior Special Agent Robert E. Tyndall (Retired) wrote about me in the St. Augustine Record in 2006:
Letter: Slavin's work "saved" life of U.S. special agent
Publication Date: 12/10/06
Editor: I applaud your newspaper for defending Ed Slavin and the First Amendment. I could have told you that Ed is "brilliant." I am a retired former FBI Special Agent, and former senior Special Agent for both the HUD and EPA Inspectors General. One Sherman Antitrust case I supervised had 36 "defense" attorneys as my adversaries so I've known a lot of attorneys.
Late in my career, I would not and could not sign my name to a report that resulted in a cover-up of major criminal wrongdoing by highly placed EPA officials. I was left with no choice but to file an environmental whistleblower case. Other than Ed Slavin, I was encouraged to persist only by my wife, Lynda, Congressman John Dingell's office (whose investigator referred me to Ed Slavin), and then-journalist Tony Snow. Ed completely documented EPA's attempted cover-up of $100 million in acid rain research fraud, conflicts of interest, waste and abuse.
Ed represented me in my U.S. DOL environmental whistleblower case against EPA and its inspector general, winning a precedent-setting case that protected future environmental investigators' rights, reversing two DOL judges.
Ed has always been a fighter, especially against an unresponsive judiciary who cares little about ruined careers.
The unrelenting stress the EPA subjected me to nearly took my life. Thus, Ed's work was truly a life-saver. As a result of Ed's so-called "overzealous" work, the EPA IG abruptly resigned in December 1996, following a history of harassing whistleblowers.
Public officials, who retaliate against citizens for questioning their actions demand to be investigated. Public jobs belong to the "people" -- the occupant of such office is a trustee; a custodian -- always. We have forfeited our "rights" when we refer to the government as "them." No, never. It is "We" the people. Trust me, Ed Slavin is not for sale. The First Amendment is not dead, yet.
Robert E. Tyndall
Senior Special Agent (Retired)
FBI, HUD & EPA
Click here to return to story:
© The St. Augustine Record
FBI probe into county corruption wider than initially thought
The scope of the FBI probe digging into possible corruption in St. Johns County was wider than previously thought with the revelation that a fourth person was making surveillance tapes for the FBI.
The newest tape was recorded a month after it became public that former St. Johns County Commissioner Tom Manuel was the subject of an FBI investigation. He was later found guilty of accepting two bribes totaling $60,000 and is now serving a 21-month prison term, followed by house arrest.
The tape made on July 14, 2008, between developer Roger O'Steen, president of The PARC Group in Jacksonville, and public relations firm owner Paul McCormick shows the FBI was still collecting evidence and apparently looking at other individuals.
The PARC Group is the developer of Nocatee, a major residential, commercial and industrial project in northeastern St. Johns County and adjacent Duval County. McCormick did public relations work for Nocatee.
In the tape, McCormick steers the conversation at least three times to then-Commissioner Jim Bryant and his rental of a plane from O'Steen.
No charges have been filed. Contacted about the tape, the FBI declined to comment.
Here is a summary of the people doing the taping and what they found:
-- Developer's representative Bruce Robbins of Atlantic Beach taped Manuel many times from April 2007 to June 5, 2008, when the FBI detained Manuel. In two of those tapes, Manuel accepted bribes. The first was in April 2008 for $10,000 and the second was on June 5, 2008, the day he was apprehended, for $50,000. Robbins represented the Falcone Group of Boca Raton, the developer of Twin Creeks, a planned major development in northwestern St. Johns County that was never started because of the sour economy.
Robbins started to tape Manuel after St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar went to the FBI either in late 2006 or early 2007. Shoar has said he initially went to the FBI after land developer George McClure told him that Manuel "was asking us to do inappropriate things or arrange for employment for him inappropriately." He has never said specifically what those actions by Manuel were.
-- Manuel taped conversations for the FBI in June for about a week after he was taken into FBI custody on June 5, 2008, the day he accepted his second bribe. He stopped wearing a wire for the FBI after it became public that the FBI had detained him. Manuel was formally charged in October 2008 and pleaded guilty in January 2010 and is now in prison.
-- McClure taped Shoar on June 11, 2008. He said he did so at the request of the FBI because they wanted to find out what Shoar and Manuel said to each other in a conversation they had earlier that day. Manuel taped that conversation for the FBI, so agents already knew what Shoar and Manuel said to each other. Shoar has said that McClure was wrong and that the FBI was not targeting him. Rather, he said McClure's telephone was wiretapped and that his conversation was caught up in that.
-- The McCormick tape of O'Steen shows that the FBI was continuing its surveillance after June 2008, when the previously last known FBI surveillance tape was of the McClure-Shoar tape on June 11, 2008. Also, because McCormick steered the conversation repeatedly to Bryant's use of O'Steen's plane, it appears the target of his inquiries were Bryant, not O'Steen.
The introduction of a new FBI surveillance tape adds to the list of unanswered questions surrounding the FBI investigation, including: Why did the FBI target Bryant, and why did McCormick tape the session for the FBI?
FBI targeted ex-Commissioner Bryant
Informant wanted to know about plane rentals from developer
One of the developers of Nocatee, the biggest development in St. Johns County, said he cut former St. Johns County Commissioner Jim Bryant a deal in renting an airplane, according to FBI surveillance tapes from 2008 that The Record has obtained.
The tapes, made on July 14, 2008, was of Roger O'Steen, president of The PARC group in Jacksonville, and included a telephone conversation with Bryant, who was a commissioner at the time. Bryant did not seek re-election that year, but did seek election this year. He lost in August to Jay Morris of Ponte Vedra Beach.
Paul McCormick, owner of the McCormick Group, a Jacksonville public relations group, taped O'Steen in his office in Jacksonville. Asked why the FBI wanted him to make the tape, McCormick said, "It had nothing to do with Roger, and that's all I can say about it.
"I think any time someone in authority asks (for your help), you don't deny that opportunity," McCormick said about why he recorded the conversation.
The McCormick Group did public relations work for The PARC Group, which has developed Marsh Creek in St. Augustine and is developing Nocatee in northern St. Johns County. The "new town" development is planned to have 14,000 homes at build out in 30 years. In addition, there is commercial space as well as expansive open space and conservation areas.
In the tape, McCormick asked O'Steen several times about Bryant's rental of an airplane from O'Steen.
In response to McCormick's questions, O'Steen said Bryant had rented the plane, a Cirrus SR20, which O'Steen has since sold. It is a single-engine, four-passenger plane.
"He (Bryant) doesn't fly much. I cut him a deal. I let him fly below what the rate is," O'Steen said.
"He writes me a check, and I get it verified and it's an acceptable number. It's a number I can easily defend ... I told him early on I don't want to do anything that's going to get either one of us on the front page of the newspaper."
O'Steen declined to comment directly for this article, but did relay a message through a company spokeswoman that, "It is our longstanding policy not to comment on an individual person."
On the tape, O'Steen says of Bryant, "He's a good guy. He's very honest. I don't think he can be bought."
Bryant did not return calls.
However, Bryant told The St. Augustine Record editorial board in August that he had paid O'Steen $150 an hour for use of the plane for a total of about $17,000 over the years he was on the commission. He did not say whether he returned the plane with the tank full. The last time he rented the plane, he said he did not have enough money to pay O'Steen so he gave him a refrigerator that he could put in his airplane hanger.
Bryant also said that he has known the O'Steen family since he was a child growing up in Jacksonville and that he became a pharmacist because Roger O'Steen's parents, who were pharmacists, sparked his interest in that profession.
Elected officials are prohibited from directly or indirectly accepting a gift of more than $100 from lobbyists or political committees.
Julie Costas with the Florida Commission on Ethics said it "sounds like a preferential rate and, that would make it a gift definitely."
She added that if Bryant did not know he was getting preferential treatment, he "would have an argument" in defense of not being in violation of state ethics rules.
Florida Commission on Ethics spokesperson Kerrie Stillman said if someone is found in violation, penalties range based on the nature of the offense. They can include public censure or reprimand, restitution or a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per count.
The FBI has had the tape for more than two years and has not acted on it. An FBI spokesman declined comment, as is the FBI's routine policy.
A spokesman at Platinum Aviation Holdings, Fort Lauderdale, said his company has three Cirrus SR20 planes, which they rent for between $189 to $209 and hour, with the renter filling the gas tank at the end of the rental.
The owner of the plane sets the rental rates, he said, although his company could not have rented a Cirrus SR20 in 2006 for as low as $150 an hour. In 2006, his company was renting Cirrus SR20 planes for $189 an hour with the renter filling the tank.
However, he said if the owner's debt is low or the plane is paid for, "He may lower it (rate) down to $150 an hour; I wouldn't says that's impossible."
On the tape, McCormick steered the conversation several times to Bryant, and when O'Steen suggested they call Bryant on the speaker telephone, McCormick encouraged him to do so.
During the conversation with Bryant, the three talked about routine political gossip, but only mentioned the airplane in passing. Those conversations were before and after a telephone conversation between Bryant and O'Steen.
The Record obtained the surveillance tape shortly before the election in August, and decided not to run the article then because it is the newspaper's policy not to run potentially damaging stories about a candidate just before an election.
During the conversation, Bryant said he was encouraging Randy Brunson, who was running to replace Bryant, to accept money from developers because he needed it to get out mailers to voters.
On getting money from developers, Bryant said, "They've got (Randy) so paranoid about developer money or anything near developer money he thinks that's the kiss of death. But the newspaper's not going to beat him up over that because I've already been working (editorial page editor) Margo (Pope) and (then Publisher) Derek May, and they're not going to beat him up over it.
"... I was there in his (Brunson's) office today and told him don't be ashamed to take money for it. If they want to support ... let them support you. In my opinion, you can't let that bother you."
On accepting money, Bryant said, "I think what (Brunson's) resolved to do is, the next to the last reporting period, which comes down about four days before the election, I think he's going to take a bunch of money from (unintelligible) and their buddy because I told him you can't do much damage in four days. ... He's got to get his message out there."
On candidate Mark Miner, Bryant said, "I think the Miner kid is pretty heady. He's strong. And I think he'll take stands on issues." Miner went on to defeat incumbent Ben Rich. Miner is now on leave while he serves with the Florida National Guard in Iraq and Kuwait.
Bryant, McCormick and O'Steen talked about Tom Manuel and what would happen if he is removed from the county commission.
Bryant said opponents to former Commissioner Karen Stern had filed an ethics charge that "keep her busy" because they were afraid the governor might appoint her to fill the seat. Bryant said that was not going to happen since the accepted wisdom is not to appoint someone who has run but not been elected by the voters.
McCormick said the governor might appoint someone who has retired and not lost and then admitted he was floating a balloon to see how Bryant would respond.
"I would reluctantly do it if I was asked to. I'm not going to actively go seek it," Bryant said.
At the end of the tape, as McCormick was preparing to leave, he said to O'Steen, "Thanks man, I'll be back like a bad penny."
Contributing: Pete Ellis of The St. Augustine Record
What Florida law says
Individuals, including candidates, are required to file annual disclosure Form 1 or Form 6 (other than officials, members, or employees of the State Executive Branch and members or employees of the Legislature) and State procurement employees are prohibited from directly or indirectly accepting a gift worth over $100 from a lobbyist, from a partner, firm, employer, or principal of the lobbyist, or from a political committee or committee of continuous existence. (However, a gift may be accepted by a person on behalf of a governmental entity or charitable organization, provided the gift is promptly transferred to the intended entity or organization.)
Source: Florida Commission on Ethics