Thursday, June 26, 2014

Golden Fleece Award to St. Augustine Florida Mayor JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, JR. et pal. for $1332.21/month City Lease for 81 St. George Street Commercial Property

1. The "Golden Fleece Award" in our City of St. Augustine goes to two distinguished gentlemen, longtime public officials -- our St. Augustine, Florida Mayor JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, JR. and ex-Mayor LEONARD CLAUDE WEEKS, JR..
2. Messrs. BOLES and WEEKS have a no-bid $1332.31 lease deal from the CITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE of 81 St. George Street. which they sublease to FLORIDA CRACKER CAFE and SAVANNAH SWEETS.
3. The truth is out. Now. After years of cold responses to Open Record requests, and obsessive City government secrecy, "we force the Spring."
4. This $1332.31/month commercial lease (and still-undisclosed sublease terms) to "insider" tenants -- Messrs BOLES and WEEKS -- is below fair market rates. This $1332.21/month lease represents a multi-million dollar subsidy over the past 25 years to Messrs. BOLES and WEEKS.
5. It appears to be "unjust enrichment," paid for by every single resident -- man, woman and child -- and by every City business customer, property and sales tax payer, tourist and visitor.
6. Two Fortunate Sons, two "crony capitalists," two privileged officeholders, are being subsidized by the rest of us. This subsidy is unfair. It is a stench in the Nostrils of the Oldest City. It is morally, ethically and legally wrong. It must end.
7. This no-bid lease deal stinks. It expires on July 25, 2014.
8. The below-market rate lease must be ended at once. Let the City contract directly with the restauranteur and candy store, preserving their business and reasonable expectations.
9. Let's eliminate the middlemen's profiteering.
10. Messrs. BOLES and WEEKS refuse to provide me with a copy of their sublease. Wonder why? They ignore my request, as does City Attorney RONALD WAYNE BROWN. Wonder why?
11. Because they can -- because Mr. BOLES is Mayor, and Mr. WEEKS is his friend, the ex-Mayor, Chairman of the Historical Architecture Review Board and Chairman of the Parking and Traffic Committee, appointed by Mayor BOLES to both positions..
12. Messrs. BOLES and WEEKS co-own the leasehold interest, but they no longer own or run FLORIDA CRACKER CAFE and SAVANNAH SWEETS. They built the building, which the City owns. Once upon, they agreed to provide bathroom cleanup.
13. Now, ex contractu, ex nihilo, without effort, 25 years later, BOLES and WEEKS still make (an undisclosed) amount of money from subleasing. They profit monthly from the sweat of the brow of the restauranteur and store owner and their employees. They profit monthly from all of the rest of us -- every single one of us here in a very small City of fewer than 14,000 souls, located in a small patch of land area 2/3 the size of Manhattan. We all subsidize their lifestyle with this no-bid City lease.
14. The technical term for this "insider" lease is "rent-seeking" behavior.
15. Our Libertarian friends speak about it all the time -- "rent-seeking" is what distinguishes increasingly rare free market competition from "corporativism," and what distinguishes free enterprise from "corporate socialism for the rich" (or the 1%).
16. This "rent-seeking" deal hurts us all. Call it an "obsolescing bargain."
17. Knowledge is power. As James Madison said, "Knowledge will forever govern Ignorance."
18. Messrs. BOLES' and WEEKS' acquaintances -- local business people paying market rate rents -- are understandably offended by these two Fortunate Sons and their ability to convert public service, mutatis mutandis, into private gain for the two, some of the few who are privileged "insiders" here.
19. These small business owners are being victimized and violated by two officeholders, two "insiders."
20. Hence, we award Messrs. BOLES and WEEKS a Golden Fleece, out of respect for those who pay higher rents, and in tribute to the late Senator William Proxmire, who gave a monthly "Golden Fleece" award.
21. This is one "sweetheart deal," in the words of my mentor, former U.S. Department of Labor Chief Administrative Law Judge Nahum Litt.
22. Mayor BOLES must recuse himself from Commission discussion and voting on this deal, and let Vice Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline preside at all discussions.
23. I have asked our Vice Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline and the three other St. Augustine City Commissioners -- Leanna Freeman, Donald Crichlow and Roxanne Horvath -- to examine this $1332.21/month lease with a gimlet eye.
24. Otherwise, there is a possible breach of fiduciary duty by all.
25. Otherwise, there is a possible violation of legal ethics by both Mayor BOLES and City Attorney RONALD WAYNE BROWN and Assistant City Attorney ISABELLE LOPEZ.
26. Otherwise, we are subsidizing Messrs. WEEKS and BOLES, and disadvantaging every single other small business in St. Augustine..
27. The decades-long campaign by Mr. WEEKS, et al. to harm other small businesses --- especially struggling street artists and musicians on St. George Street, takes on a new tinge.
28. It was total hypocrisy and conflict of interest.
29. Mr. WEEKS, et al. kept saying that street musicians and artists weren't paying rent and were taking advantage of small businesses that did.
30. How much were BOLES and WEEKS paying for a lease from the City of St. Augustine?
31. As little as $100 a month to start? Only $1332.21/month now.
32. For what reason? Government contacts and elected office?
33. Was it a conflict of interest? Yes. Is it now? Yes.
34. Would the CITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE ever have given you such a deal? Or me? Or the person behind that tree? Or any other "outsider?" Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.
35. What written City policies govern such loosey-goosey lease deals for insiders? None.
36. After 25 years of this "insider" deal, our City of St. Augustine must enact strict ethics and lobbying legislation to end such "insider" transactions. end no-bid contracts and reform government purchasing and lease rentals as we know it.
37. Messrs. WEEKS, BOLES et al. must explain themselves. Now.
38. Messrs. WEEKS, BOLES, et al. must answer questions, under oath at the July 14, 2014 City Commission meeting. The City must hire special outside counsel uncontaminated by conflicts of interest and loyalties to Messrs. WEEKS and BOLES..
39. Messrs. BOLES and WEEKS have the right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment.
40. But we have the right and duty to keep asking questions, and to be "nudniks demanding justice" -- "pests for justice" -- in the June 18, 2014 words of one of the sixteen rabbis who were arrested with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. here in St. Augustine fifty years ago this month.
41. We need courageous leaders to say "no" to the greedy. We need more leaders like the late U.S. Rep. H.R. Gross (R-Iowa) and the late U.S. Senator William Proxmire (D-Wisc.), legislators who are not afraid to say when government has fleeced us. Sen. Proxmire wrote the book, "Can Small Business Survive?" (Regnery Publishers., 1964). One of Sen. Proxmire's major points was the prevalence of antitrust violations, monopoly power and anti-competitive government subsidies -- they hurt small businesses and threaten their survival.
42. Long the chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, Senator William Proxmire would award a "Golden Fleece" to those who ripped off the government. In Senator Proxmire's honor, the "Golden Fleece" is awarded to Messrs. BOLES and WEEKS.
43. As U.S. Senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.) asked his staff, in examining every legislative proposal, "Is it based on need, or greed?"
44. Mayor BOLES, ex-Mayor WEEKS, how do you justify below-market rates charged by the CITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE for 25 years -- a quarter of a century? Please answer in this space. _________________________________________
45. The lease in quo must not be renewed.
46. The City must deal directly with the restauranteur and candy store, charging market rates, or else put the lease up for bid or the property up for sale.
47. The original July 24, 1989 lease approved by City Commission provided for a base rent of $100/month. Then lease terms were amended by an April 24, 1994 "Addendum," which was signed by Mayor Gregory Baker and was "approved as to form" by City Attorney Geoffrey Dobson. The Addendum provides for automatic renewal for three additional five year periods, with increases of $250/month for first five years, $500/month for second five years, and $750/month for third five years.
48. Thus, the lease expires on July 25, 2014. There must be full transparency and accountability.
49. Never again must our Nation's Oldest City engage in such no-bid leases and no-bid contracts with "insiders."
50. We must cease and desist from tapping the taxpayers "like a cask tapped at both ends," as Alexander Hamilton once said (about the State of New Jersey, located between Philadelphia and New York City).
51. For years, "crony capitalists" like Messrs. BOLES and WEEKS have plundered our Nation's Oldest City, on a smaller scale than arms merchants like LOCKHEED MARTIN, but noisome nonetheless.
52. It's our money.
53. Never again must our Nation's Oldest City let exploiters ruin our historic downtown.
54. Look at St. George Street today. Do you like what you see?
55. Never again must we let our town be pushed around by developers and commercial landlords who see government as their cash register -- a small group of willful men who would prefer to proliferate obscene t-shirt shops and ruin our historic ambience.
56. Never again must the business of the City of St. Augustine be making obscene, lavish profits for holders of "sweetheart" City leases.
57. Never again must the business of the City of St. Augustine be an illegal enterprise that uses police officers in an illegal scheme, running away from St. George Street the artists, musicians and artisans whom we love, and whom tourists came to see for decades.
58. The motto of the City of St. Augustine, Florida must no longer become, de facto, as journalist Mike Royko wrote of Chicago under Mayor Richard J. Daley, "UBI EST MEO?" ("Where's mine?").
59. This is a "Compassionate City," one of the first 20 in the world.
60. Our motto must now become, "We stand up for our own. We stand up for our rights."
61. Let freedom ring. Let every voice be heard. Let everyone speak out on the future of St. Augustine -- for honesty and transparency and against graft and greed.
62. Let the word go forth from this time and place that St. Augustinians, imbued with liberty, are on the march once again.
63. People here famously stood up for their rights in 1964, against implacable odds, with nationwide support. They helped win adoption of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which we celebrate in our Slave Market Square on July 2, 2014 with a suitable birthday party.
64. A united City is standing up for our rights now, 50 years later, in 2014. JFK said in 1963, "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a Berliner.")…. Let them come to Berlin."
65. We are St. Augustinians. As the September 2, 2010 Michelle O'Connell shooting case proved, "the whole world is watching" our city and our county. The New York TImes, PBS Frontline and NBC News Dateline have all investigated our St. Johns County Sheriff, formerly the St. Augustine Police Chief Thera are more than 162,000 signatures on a petition for an inquest into the death of Michelle O'Connell. Meanwhile, not one (1) local public official has dared to speak out for justice. Not yet.
66. "The times they are a-changing," in folk singer Bob Dylan's words.
67. We "outsider" St. Augustinians -- the 99% -- will no longer tolerate the flagrant misconduct of the 1%, the "insiders" who rule like kings and keep the rest of us in the dark about their self-dealing in our government.
68. We "outsider" St. Augustinians have had quite enough of Messrs. BOLES and WEEKS. et al. and their flummery, dupery, nincompoopery, waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, no-bid leases and no-bid contracts. Enough already.
69. As the Supreme Court said famously in United States v. Mississippi Valley Generating Company (the "Dixon-Yates" case), all conflict of interest laws are based upon Matthew ("A man cannot serve two masters"), particularly one is his own personal profit.
70. SCOTUS said conflict of interest laws are aimed at conduct that "tempts dishonor." 71. St. Augustine needs a conflict of interest ordinance with teeth, to prevent, detect and deter more "Golden Fleeces" in the future.
72. In the immortal words of my Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Political Theory Professor, Jose Sorzano (later Deputy UN Ambassador under President Reagan and Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick): "IDEAS HAVE CONSEQUENCES."
73. If the $1332.21/month lease for 81 St. George Street is not reformed, if answers are not given, if self-dealing "business as usual" prevails benefitting "insiders," we can expect consequences.
74. Four (4) potential consequences come to mind immediately. On the line in the August 26, 2014 City of St. Augustine, Florida Primary Election are four (4) powerful positions: (1) the Mayor's job for Mr. JOESPH LESTER BOLES, JR. and thereby, indirectly, three (3) different City positions (two of them City board chairmanships), to which Mr. BOLES has appointed Mr. CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, Jr., who is simultaneously: (2) Chairman of the PARKING AND TRAFFIC COMMITTEE, (3) Chairman of the HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD and (4) Member of the City's VISIONING COMMITTEE. (Ed's note: in fact, Mr. CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, Jr. is a legal resident of -- and registered voter in St. Augustine Beach -- Mr. WEEKS recently served on the St. Augustine Beach Charter Review Committee).
75. Mr. WEEKS recently was required to recuse himself as HARB Chairman on the case of 80 Markland Place, for which he was the consulting general contractor for a proposed demolition permit. The demolition permit was rejected by the HARB on a vote of 4-0 and by the City Commission by vote of 5-0 on June 9, 2014. The self-serving nature of WEEKS' service on government boards is apparent. He is a large commercial landowner in the historic downtown, HARB Chair and Parking and Traffic Chair. Bill Clinton said, if you're driving down the road and you see "a turtle on a fence post, you know that somebody put it there." Mr. BOLES put Mr. Weeks in each of those three (3) important City volunteer roles. This concentration of power and influence in one non-resident Ex-Mayor, the current four-term Mayor's City lease business partner is, at best, facetious, unseemly, and an appearance of impropriety. There are 14,000 people in our City, and they deserve representation, not total exploitation and domination by the 1%.
76. It is time to halt the BOLES-WEEKS $1332.21 no-bid lease for 81 St. George Street.
Why not sell the property? Why not rent directly on fair terms, to the restaurant and candy store, thereby preserving their small business values and reasonable expectations? This would eliminate the staom pf BOLES-WEEKS "insider" self-dealing., thereby serving the public interest.
77. It's our government. It's our town. It's our time. It's time for an ethical government, "of the people, by the people and for the people," in Lincoln's words, here in Our Nation's Oldest City. It is time to stop the "insiders" and what our Founders would call their "long train of abuses." It's time to end the "gravy train" at our expense., even "if it takes all summer," in the words of MLK
78. Let's cancel the expiring BOLES-WEEKS $1332.21/month lease for 81 St. George Street.
79. Let everyone be heard about the best options -- sale, lease reformation, etc. The next St. Augustine City Commission meeting will be held on July 14, 2014 at 5 PM at 75 King Street, first floor meeting room.
80. "Decisions are made by those who show up. " What do y'all reckon?
Ed Slavin
Box 3084, St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084






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