Friday, May 27, 2011

Gnarly List of Questions for DAVID SHOAR, Attorney GEORGE McCLURE -- Questions That Are Still Unanswered, Nearly Twelve Months Later

Local journalists need to ask these questions every time SHERIFF SHOAR holds a press conference. Like any good diplomat, let's not take "no" for an answer? What do you reckon? As William F. Buckley once said, "why does the baloney reject the grinder?"

Questions for Sheriff Shoar, and Attorney George McClure
Posted: June 19, 2010 - 11:03pm

St. Augustine Record

We have invited St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar to meet with us to answer questions that remain in the wake of the Tom Manuel case.

Manuel, a former St. Johns County commissioner, was sentenced in January for accepting two bribes totaling $60,000, and is now in prison serving a 21-month sentence followed by three years probation, including 16 months of house arrest.

We started asking for an interview with the sheriff in January before Manuel's sentencing when one of our reporters called him. Since then, our associate editor, our editorial page editor and I have spoken with the sheriff and asked him to meet with us.

Our publisher has communicated with him several times, and I met with him informally for two hours in April to discuss having a formal meeting with our Editorial Board and a reporter, after which he said he would meet with us.

Shortly after that, the sheriff reiterated to our publisher that he would meet with us and added that he would bring George McClure, an attorney, with him. McClure first went to the sheriff with concerns about the legality of Manuel's actions.

Since May, the sheriff has not responded to our publisher's requests for a meeting.

Each of our conversations has been cordial, with the sheriff being polite, yet not agreeing to answer our questions.

Yet the questions remain, so today I am sharing with you the questions we have for the sheriff:

Question No. 1:

What did McClure and Bruce Robbins, a developer's representative from Atlantic Beach who was the confidential informant who gave Manuel the money, tell you that made you decide to go to the FBI?

In our conversation in April, you said that Manuel was involved with a Jacksonville businessman who was part of the scheme that led you to the FBI. What was that man's role, and are other arrests possible in this case?

Question No. 2:

One of the issues that came up in the Manuel case was whether you had authorization to confirm that Manuel was the target of an FBI investigation. Manuel's attorney had argued that by making the case public you damaged his chances to cooperate with the FBI and earn a lower sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Hackenberry Savell told the judge at Manuel's sentencing that: "People were coming to Sheriff Shoar and told him what was going on and he made the decision (to make it public); That was not approved by the FBI or our office. He had no authorization of disclosure."

You have said that the FBI did give you permission and you have said that you are an experienced law enforcement officer who knows that to reveal an investigation without permission would have been an obstruction of justice. Also, you pointed out that if you had obstructed justice, you would have been arrested by now.

Yet Savell has not retracted her statement, which is a very serious charge.

Have you filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney, the Florida Bar or any other legal ethics group about Savell for making the statement in court that you say is not true?

Question No. 3:

Former State Attorney John Tanner has said you never asked him to investigate Manuel, contradicting your statement, "Tanner told me, 'I'm going into an election and quite honestly, we're not really equipped to deal with these cases, and he suggested calling the FBI." You said that on March 8.

Tanner told one of our reporters that he first learned of Manuel's problems when he read about them in The Record. That was more than a year after the investigation began. Tanner also said law enforcement people often seek out federal investigations because they have tougher penalties and are more difficult to win.

In January, the Ponte Vedra Recorder quoted you as saying, "I could have gone to Florida Department of Law Enforcement but they have a lot of local ties."

So which is it: Did you go to the state first, either Tanner or the FDLE, or did you go directly to the FBI?

And if you first went to Tanner before going to the FBI, have you filed a complaint with the Florida Bar Grievance Committee or any other lawyer ethics group against Tanner for making a statement that you say is not true and could harm your reputation?

Question No. 4:

McClure, the attorney and FBI confidential informant, said the FBI asked him to tape his telephone conversation with you on June 11, 2008. You have said you were not a target of an FBI surveillance because you said the FBI was already taping McClure's phone. "You can't just turn a wiretap off," you said.

The tape shows that McClure tagged the surveillance tape before you picked up the phone with these words: "Call to David Shoar, 9:35 p.m., June 11, 2008." That makes it appear that McClure did tape Shoar deliberately, as he said he did.

Are you trying to divert attention from why the FBI wanted this conversation tape recorded? Has the FBI told you why they were taping your conversation?

Also, you have told people that you knew you were being tape recorded. If that was the case, why did you say things, such as criticizing some public figures?

Question No. 5:

You have acknowledged that you have bridges to build with the FBI because of your statement to FolioWeekly: "(An FBI spokesperson) is going to give you (the) 'Traditionally we don't do that (response).' Well, traditionally you dumb bastards don't get observed in a restaurant taking a guy into custody, either."

When we met, you told me that you went to the FBI and sat around a table with 12 people and apologized for your statement.

Having a good working relationship with the FBI is important to your ability to do your job as sheriff. What success have you had so far in improving your relationship with the FBI?

Question No. 6:

Tom Manuel was sworn into office on Nov. 21, 2006. The next day your schedule listed you as having a two-hour luncheon with Bruce Robbins, the developer's representative for Twin Creeks and the FBI confidential informant who gave bribes to Manuel in April and June 2008. Your calendar said the purpose of the luncheon was to discuss a "land donation" at the intersection of County Road 210 and U.S. 1. Why would you, the sheriff, meet with a developer's representative to discuss a developer's possible land donation?

Question No. 7:

In the course of our reporting for the series of stories we ran earlier this year, we interviewed Ron Chapman, a well-known criminal attorney from West Palm Beach. Here's what he told us:

"What is the informant getting in exchange for his noble deed? Some informants, they get a set amount of money per case. They rarely do it as a community service. It's more likely they're working off charges (against themselves) or getting paid. It may have been that he is just doing his civic duty, and he should be commended for that. Or maybe, he had an axe to grind. Maybe he hated this guy (Manuel). I would definitely want to know if he's getting any type of preferential treatment at all."

Was Robbins compensated in any way? Did Robbins have an axe to grind with Manuel? Did Robbins receive any leniency for any potential charges that could have been brought against him?

The following questions are for George McClure:

You have said that you taped the June 11, 2008 conversation with the sheriff because the FBI wanted to know what Shoar and Manuel had said earlier that day in a telephone conversation. On that day, Manuel was an informant for the FBI himself and said he taped that conversation and had already turned it over to the FBI by the time you spoke with Shoar. We know for a fact that Manuel taped that conversation because we have a copy of that tape.

Why did the FBI ask you to tape the conversation with Shoar? Did they ask you to tape any other conversations with Shoar and, if so, why?

* n n

I've been a journalist for 38 years, and I have never before done what I'm doing today: Sharing with readers questions that an elected official won't let us ask him.

Before I wrote this, I called Kelly McBride, an ethicist at Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, and asked her if sharing these questions with readers was ethical.

Absolutely, she told me. Public officials have an obligation to answer legitimate questions from the public and the press. I think these are legitimate questions.

I am also concerned that it will appear that we're picking on the sheriff and McClure by asking these questions. As background, these inconsistencies came from the sheriff's statements, not from us. We feel an obligation to follow up on the questions that the sheriff and McClure have raised.


Pete Ellis is editor of The Record and welcomes your comments. He may be reached at (904)819-3517, or by commenting at the end of this column on our website,

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Rating: 4.8 (5 votes)
Comments (20)
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The Shoar and McClure Non-interviews
By Dr.MacMantazas | 06/19/10 - 11:26 pm

The questions and accompanying commentary with respect to The Manuel case appear to be relevent, fair, and insightful. I think it is the type of journalism that critical readers expect from their local newspaper. If responses are not forthcoming from Sheriff Shoar and Mr. McClure, than the Record's readers should share the benefits that those seeking more indepth understanding, receive by reviewing information disseminated on the Record's website.


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More To The Story
By paradisefl1 | 06/19/10 - 11:52 pm

This is going to be interesting. Any wagers on "No" answers for the questions by Either party?

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Excellent Questions Mr. Ellis
By anastasia | 06/20/10 - 10:31 am

As Dr. Mac stated this IS the type of reporting a community expects from its local newspaper. I wouldn't hold my breath for answers from these two but keep stoking the coals; truth has a way of eventually finding its voice!

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No "championing" going on
By Hepzibah | 06/20/10 - 01:02 pm

I don't think the paper is "championing" Manuel.

The issue is who ELSE involved in the situation has broken the law.

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Why you ask?
By stjctaxpayer | 06/20/10 - 01:20 pm

Because, if we have an elected official in office that may have participated in questionable acts, they need to answer for them.

Furthermore, if by dodging these questions in hope these issues go away, Mr. Shoar need to understand his future as an elected official rests on answering these questions.

The public needs to trust its elected officials, especially our Sheriff.

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Manuel's problem...
By citizen | 06/20/10 - 02:31 pm

...human nature.

Nice guys finish last, but they do finish.

Hyper-arrogant guys like Manuel are just so easy to dislike that they virtually paint targets on their own backs. If you were not a staunch Manuel supporter, you were viewed as the enemy - there was no middle ground. When the enemy is pushed to the wall, they will strike.

And so it was with Manuel. Its akin to the old investing adage, "Bears make money, bulls make money, pigs get slaughtered." Mixing metaphors, Tom wasn't the nice guy who finished last, he was the pig that got slaughtered and didn't finish at all.

Did the others involved break the law? Maybe so, and its worth looking into. But somehow I feel that justice was served by giving Tom just enough rope to hang himself.

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Questions seem reasonable.
By lonnya | 06/20/10 - 03:02 pm

Why would the Sheriff of St Johns County need a lawyer with him to answer questions from the media? Was McClure coming at the request of the Record to also answer your questions -- or as an attorney representing Shoar? Your article is unclear, and the difference is very significant.

Quoting the Record --
"Shortly after that, the sheriff reiterated to our publisher that he would meet with us and added that he would bring George McClure, an attorney, with him."

In the phone transcript between McClure and Shoar, published earlier by the Record, the two seem to be friends but there was no doubt McClure was playing Shoar like a violin. I've often wondered what was going on, why the call was made and seemed so scripted.

"Every One Is Entitled To Their Own Opinion But Not Their Own Facts. Facts Withstand Scrutiny, Opinions Often Do Not"

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Thanks for the summary
By newspicstaug | 06/20/10 - 03:59 pm

I'll forward this to Attorney General Bill McCollum . Maybe HE can get some answers.

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BCC Watcher
Finally! The RECORD is capable of intelligent journalism !!!
By BCC Watcher | 06/20/10 - 08:23 pm

I've no idea why the Record suddenly deviated from years of milquetoast reporting (e.g. the entire Local News section today seems to have been devoted to archaeology items) ........... but no matter, more power to your elbow.

But why bury this important Shoar/McClure issue on the unread "Opinion" page alongside readers' thoughts on euthanizing shi-tzus and syndicated Flag Day generic feel-good pap from Garrison Keillor? Get it out there where people (and politicians) can see it. Tell us on the FRONT page what responses are received, if any. Maybe the Record's circulation will go up if people see that their local paper, despite years of evidence to the contrary, can actually produce news. If Peter Ellis gets comprehensive answers to the Record's excellent questions it will go a long way to dispel any notion that the Record has so far been frightened to hold the feet of elected officials (and their FBI-informant cronies) to the fire of public accountability.

Backsliding and procrastination should not be allowed. Don't let Shoar et alia slither away from answering your questions. The fact that the Sheriff has another two years before he faces the electorate should not be a reason for him to slough off giving truthful public responses to the queries you posed.

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By skurvey | 06/21/10 - 10:31 am

If you think the Opinion and Op-Ed pages go largely unread, you need a big reality check. Perhaps that's the way they do things across the pond, but you're in the Colonies now.

The Record is as its name implies: the record of what happens in St. Augustine. Diverse local news is why I subscribe to the paper.

The editorial page is the first section I turn to daily, without fail. Even before the obituaries. The editorial page is where a column based upon politics belongs. Ellis did not write a news story, but an opinion piece from his perspective as the paper's editor and as a reporter.

His column most certainly does belong on the Op-Ed page. Ask around. You will learn something: those pages are the best read in the paper.

Perhaps print journalism isn't for YOU.

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BCC Watcher
I'm also happy the Colonies won. but .....................
By BCC Watcher | 06/21/10 - 12:39 pm

Skurvey -


Watcher, not BBC (though I will confess to having watched Masterpiece Theater from time to time) !!!

"Perhaps print journalism isn't for YOU."

Perhaps not ....... so I guess I won't have to turn you down when you apply for a job as my proof-reader!


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Not the First Time
By Qwerty | 06/21/10 - 12:44 pm

This wouldn't be the first time Shoar has said he would do something and then hasn't done it. He's like any other politician.


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The Record Reflects an Changing Culture
By DavidWiles | 06/21/10 - 12:47 pm

You get the sense that there is a transformation underway in the politics of St. Johns County. A political culture at least a decade strong seems in the process of dissolving. The culture is one of closed politics, closed to those not GOP in partisanship and, even more so, closed to those who are not the selected representatives of mega developers. If you look at the County Commission races from 2000 through 2008 you will see the pattern of GOP and large scale developer domination. The Commission elections resulted in approvals of more than thirteen Developments of Regional Impact and Town Centers, which in turn created a supersaturated backlog of approved developer rights and a public service municipality without any bonding capability.

During this past decade there have been only sporadic hints of power dynamics behind the scene. In 2004, there were charges of a Jacksonville oriented ‘Issues Group’ that selected and supported developer candidates. In 2008, Commissioner Tom Manuel was indicted and found guilty of a felony in public corruption (accepting a bribe) by a federal sting operation.

Now Peter Ellis publishes questions he wishes to ask Sheriff David Shoar and lawyer George McClure concerning the Manuel matter. Question 6 for Mr. Shoar goes to the heart of what role law enforcement personnel play in St. Johns politics; “ Why would you, the sheriff, meet with a developer's representative to discuss a developer's possible land donation?” Although the Sheriff is elected by popular vote, the office is a Constitutional (state) one, separate from the general municipal government of the County. Like the tax collector, Clerk of the Court and Supervisor of Elections, the sheriff is normally thought to be ‘above politics,’ especially any influences to land use or water resource decisions. The suggestion that David Shoar might be involved with either Tom Manuel’s election or the Twin Creek DRI that Bruce Robbins represented seems to violate his apolitical role. Further, it psychologically connects David Shoar with previous St. Johns Sheriff Neil Perry who was part of the earlier Issues Group controversy and claims of developer influence peddling.

George McClure raises questions about his role as FBI informant that, in turn, raises the larger concern of whether this lawyer for major developers used (or uses as he still processes applications before the county PZA and Commission) law enforcement role in his persuasion tactics. Again, McClure was the lawyer for the Twin Creek DRI and it was a disputed land parcel in that development that led to the Manuel bribe and indictment.

Helping St. Johns readers in June 2010 NOT forget Tom Manuel and the curious remaining questions surrounding Sheriff Shoar and Lawyer McClure is only one interesting change going on. In the past week Merrill Roland withdrew as a candidate and created an ‘open primary.’ In effect he changed the normal strategy of blocking all voters but registered GOP by withdrawing as an independent (No Party Affiliation) candidate. This chnage allows Democrats and Independent voters to vote in the District #2 and District #4 GOP Primary races.
The ‘extra’ 40-50,000 voters may well alter the outcome for previous Commissioners Karen Stern and Jim Bryant. You cannot talk of mega development approvals or St. Johns GOP dominated politics during the past decade without mentioning Karen Stern and Jim Bryant.
Karen served as Commissioner from 2002-2006 while Mr. Bryant served from 1996-2008. Both are running in the 2010 GOP primary and could win and become Commissioners for 2010-2014 in Districts #2 and #4. As both are largely responsible for leading the majority approvals of DRIs and Town Centers between 2002-2006, their candidacies stand as proxies for the Amendment 4 state-level votes in November.
Their primary themes in 2010 are ‘leadership’ and rewinding the ‘quality of life’ character that seems to have departed St. Johns in the past three years of retrenchment and belt tightening.
Loyal hard core GOP and the remaining investors in large developments may like the Stern and Bryant spiel but the larger number of open primary voters may be a different story in Fall 2010.
Like questions of Shoar and McClure, it is the opening up of the closed political situation in St. Johns County. Further erosion might occur if we could figure out the LLC campaign bundling mechanism and why the Democratic Party chooses to be permanant 'back benchers' in County-level politics.

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King Maker #6
By huckleberry | 06/21/10 - 02:56 pm

Question No. 6:

Tom Manuel was sworn into office on Nov. 21, 2006. The next day your schedule listed you as having a two-hour luncheon with Bruce Robbins, the developer's representative for Twin Creeks and the FBI confidential informant who gave bribes to Manuel in April and June 2008. Your calendar said the purpose of the luncheon was to discuss a "land donation" at the intersection of County Road 210 and U.S. 1. Why would you, the sheriff, meet with a developer's representative to discuss a developer's possible land donation?

When did Robbins donate $2000 to Shoar's campaign?

Why meet on November 22?

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What the heck is "BCC"?
By skurvey | 06/21/10 - 03:29 pm

I stand corrected, BCCWatcher. Is it "blind carbon copies" that you watch, then? Do tell.

Won't be applying for the position of "proof-reader," but might be interested in being your proofreader. I'm available Monday only, my day off.


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Not Asked Of Me
By paradisefl1 | 06/21/10 - 03:30 pm

but a long time ago I had to ask the same question.

BCC= Board Of County Commissioners

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BCC Watcher
Thank you Paradisefl1
By BCC Watcher | 06/21/10 - 05:38 pm

I didn't bother to change my nom de plume from BCC to BOCC when the county changed acronyms.

skurvey - for your Monday edification and enlightenment try


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By paradisefl1 | 06/21/10 - 06:25 pm

BCCWatcher :-)

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BCCWatcher (Do you really and how often?)
By skurvey | 06/21/10 - 08:39 pm

There are enough acronyms around to make alphabet soup, but I am glad to be in the know now. (Thanks to paradisefl1, also).

About your suggestion for my new Monday-only career from the link you posted...

"Proofreaders must have good eyesight, even if they must wear glasses."

I think I failed that requirement, reading "BBC" as I did, but you are kind to think of me.


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