Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Defeating bullies, tyrants and bigots

Oak Ridge National Laboratory was a horrible place. My late client, C.D. "Bud" Varnadore helped transform it, standing up to oppression. Oak Ridge will never be the same again. See below.

Likewise, thanks to citizen-activists here in St. Augustine and St. Johns County, we're ending the days of KKK-dominated governments run by bullies, tyrants and bigots. Only 49 years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called this "the most lawless" place in America.

We must always be on guard against oppression, which showed its ugly head Monday night at the St. Augustine Beach City Commission meeting.

Ordinarily charming, City of St. Augustine Beach Mayor Sherman Gary Snodgrass (a/k/a "S. Gary Snodgrass," a/k/a "Scary Snodgrass") is a recovering former nuclear utility executive. On August 5th, Mayor Snodgrass got outrageously rude to both citizens and fellow commissioners questioning his authority. He's got 40 years of Human Resources experience, with two tyrrannies --Commonwealth Edison (which merged with Philadelphia Electric and became Exelon) and U.S Gypsum (asbestos manufacturer). Mayor Snodgrass has written performance evaluation terms and wants his fellow commissioners to bow down to his "expertise."

Mayor Snodgrass seems kind and gentle whenever his spouse is present in meetings. When she's away, as on August 5th, Snodgrass has sometimes acted like an energumen -- nasty, brutish and bullying.

We look forward to Mrs. Snodgrass' return and to Mayor Snodgrass acting like a mensch once again. He needs to calm down and not interrupt citizens and fellow Commissioners with displays of authoritarian aggressiveness. They are unbecoming, unkind, uncouth and unAmerican.

Speaking of bullies on the St. Augustine Beach Commission, St. Augustine Beach Commissioner Andrea Samuels et ux frequently show their disrespect for free speech. Monday night, August 5th, Commissioner Samuels' spouse, Robert Samuels, had his own "Baby Meltdown Moment," waltzing to the podium and blasting me as an "outsider" and saying I "stink."

I wear Robert Samuels' scorn as a badge of honor.

Samuels' anger was in response to my questioning a dodgy developer/speculator of a Marriott Hotel, an "outsider" who demands:(a) an extension of his expiring Planned Unit Development after five years, and (b) to void his contractual obligation to pay $560,000 for drainage improvements (already underway).

Robert Samuels' shilling for a speculator/developer would be comical, but for the fact that Commissioner Andrea Samuels took a campaign contribution from this same developer/speculator while she served on the Planning and Zoning Board, while the Zoning Board had the developer/speculator's project under consideration. (June 8, 2008 contribution from "Fred" Ashdji, listed as contribution number 3 to Samuels' campaign on the website of the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections).

Robert Samuels' abusiveness Monday did not divert attention from the demands of the campaign contributor and developer to shed his $560,000 financial obligation. The demand is a non-starter, and Samuels knows it.

Last year, in a fit of retaliatory rage and animus, Commissionser Andrea Samuels wanted to fire every single St. Augustine Beach Police officer and essentially turn the operation over to Sheriff David Shoar. Why? Because she said the Department "has become politicized." Like workers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the SABPD officers had enough. After years of being told (falsely) that the "Chain of Command" prohibited them from raising their concerns outside the Department, ten brave SABPD officers signed a complaint about former Chief Robert Hedges. They had a right to do so.

We are proud of them.

Andrea Samuels' venemous vehement videotaped words of retaliation would easily have subjected the City of St. Augustine Beach to successful First Amendment lawsuits. Her haughtiness would have resulted in more than a dozen adverse jury trial verdicts. The splendid new SABPD Chief, Robert Hardwick, wisely recommended July 1, 2013. not firing all of the officers. Reason prevailed. Some seventeen (17) jobs were saved from retaliation. The First Amendment lives.

Commssioner Andrea Samuels' illegal, meritless, meretricious effort to punish ethical police officers fizzled like a dud Fourth of July firecracker.

The First Amendment lives in SABPD, and in our hearts.

Earlier this yar, I entered the room before a St. Augustine Beach City Commission meeting and was greeted by Andrea Samuels, who squeaked,"What are you doing here?" Not even former St. Augustine City Manager William B. Harriss would have asked that question. I was taken aback. She meant for me to feel unwelcome. My response was that I was there to support the sexual orientation nondiscrimination ordinance, which passed 5-0. Her question made me wonder, "Why does she want me to feel unwelcome?"
What do y'all reckon?

From the tone of her voice and the rolling of her eyes during public comment, it sounds like Andrea Samuels is thin-skinned and has contempt for democracy.

Andrea and Robert Samuels think they "own" a non-profit, the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, which they have used as a personal fiefdom and "Amateur Hour" Tammany Hall. After ten (10) years, Robert Samuels recently stepped down as SABCA's President, and was recognized in Folio Weekly with a bouquet. Not recognized by Folio is SABCA's refusal to disclose financial information to its own members and arbitrary and capricious rejections of at least two (2) applicants for membership.

SABCA refused membership to former St. Augustine Beach Mayor Edward George, P.E. Why?

SABCA refused membership to current Commissioner Undine Pawlowski. Why?

SABCA refuses to share financial information with its members. Why?

Is SABCA "The Unwelcome Wagon?" Is SABCA the Samuels' private club -- a rustic version of Tammany Hall?

JFK once said "Politics is a business of knives." Robert and Andrea Samuels often practice "Lashon hara." They spread rumors about the sexual orientation of their political opponents and they seldom have anything nice to say about anyone. They can't even go grocery shopping without running their mouths about someone, anyone, who ever disagrees with them.

Both Samuels were proud last year to work with their 501(c)(3) buddies to defeat Commissioner J. Kenneth Bryan for re-election because, well, he disagreed with them about the need for a red light on Pope Road (he wanted it and they didn't). They helped elect yet another developer shill to St. Johns County Commission. They and SABCA purported to banish Ken Bryan and other candidates from St. Augustine Beach concerts, located on county property, while bending everyone's ear (including mine) about their support for Priscilla Bennett (a/k/a "Rachael Bennett), who was running against Bryan. Bennett works for speculator/developers, day and night.

I first met Andrea and Bob Samuels at the late Flagler College Drama Professor Sean O'Casey's Twelfth Night Party, on January 6, 2006. I liked them. They're intelligent, funny and have done some good things for their community. I have been to their home, enjoying a Passover Seder with the late Senator George McGovern (his seoond and my first). Thus, it hurts me to write these words.

Writing "without fear or favor,: I must observe that once Andrea was elected, power went to her head. The Samuels are now so often angry they make no sense. They're acting like dockside bullies.

As Bill Clinton said in his Second Inaugural, "Nothing great was ever accomplished by being small."

Message to Bob and Andrea: Knock it off!

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