Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Mad About Ethics Complaints, Mad About First Amendment Violations, Mayor ANDREA SAMUELS Has Mini-Meltdown Over No-Bid Lease Opposition

Citizen Thomas F. Reynolds, Jr. has filed some ten ethics complaints with the Florida Ethics Commission, and at the July 7, 2015 St. Augustine Beach City Commission meeting, St. Augustine Beach Mayor ANDREA SAMUELS showed her anger.

Citizen William Rosenstock has engaged in First Amendment protected activity by holding picket signs at Pier Park on parking issues. Threatened by lessee St. Augustine Beach Civic Association through its attorney Steven Alexander, Esquire with arrest for picketing outside the "First Amendment zone" by Mr. Rosenstock, who filed a complaint with St. Johns County Attorney concerning the violation of his rights. Andrea SAMUELS showed her anger.

Commissioner Undine Pawlowski-George, her father, Dr. Michel Pawlowski and Messrs. Reynolds, Rosenstock, Robert Kahler and Ed Slavin (that's me) expressed concerns about a no-bid five year $1/year renewal of the SABCA's lease of a police garage, raising concerns about lack of competitive bidding, lack of revenue, lack of transparency of SABCA and SABCA's invidiously discriminatory policy that allows rejection of any member (the only two members ever rejected were Commissioner Pawlowski-George and ex-Mayor Edward George, her husband, because they criticized Mayor ANDREA SAMUELS and her husband, ROBERT SAMUELS and SABCA).

Mayor SAMUELS accused the six critics of having "venom," leading Mr. Reynolds to state he would file another ethics complaint against Mayor SAMUELS for her pejoratives directed against citizens, intended to retaliate, intimidate, coerce, restrain and hold First Amendment protected activity up to obloquy and ridicule.

Commissioner Pawlowski-George noted SAMUELS' disrespectful attitude included "rolling her eyes and laughter" at the concerns, interruptions of Commissioner Pawlowski-George, including stating, "this is not a court of law."

The item was listed on the agenda for the "consent agenda," but several people signed up to speak, leading Mayor SAMUELS to say, "We have speakers? Oh no!" Dr. Pawlowski said Mayor SAMUELS' recusal was mandatory, but I disagreed, saying she had no "apparent pecuniary interest" in the private, secretive SABCA non-profit the SAMUELS started, but that recusal would a good idea.

The St. Augustine Record covered the story (sort of), omitting the anger of SAMUELS and the substance of the opponents (as well as all of our names). Citizens are barely recognized and only "members of the public" in a biased newspaper that eschews coverage of corruption and discourages public participation. Here's the Record's odd article, by its former sports reporter (could you imagine an article on a ballgame without the names of any of the players who scored points?):

After fierce debate, St. Augustine Beach Commission extends Civic Association lease
Posted: July 6, 2015 - 11:42pm

It might have been part of the consent agenda, but a vote on the extension of a $1-per-year lease for the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association did not come easily.
In an issue that had a shocking level of contention, St. Augustine Beach Mayor Andrea Samuels said, the St. Augustine Beach Commission eventually voted 4-0 to approve the compromise of a short extension at Monday’s meeting.
Following a slew of angry public comments and a speech of defense from Civic Association president Bill Jones, Samuels and Commissioner Undine George had their own argument over the issue for several minutes.
Samuels eventually recused herself from even voting at all because her husband is on the Civic Association board and she is the former secretary.
George said the records of the Civic Association should be closely inspected and that the space rented — a former police garage on the south side of Pier Park — should be opened to bids from all nonprofit groups.
George said she just wanted consistency and that the debate wasn’t personal. However, it was also revealed that she and her husband, former Beach mayor Ed George, had been denied renewal for membership in the Civic Association in 2012 due to disparaging remarks made about Samuels leading up to an election (according to an email produced by Undine George).
The other issue is that several members of the public complained about being restricted to “free speech zones” during events hosted by the Civic Association on public land.
They said they were harassed by lawyers retained by the Civic Association.
“It’s a private organization, and it restricts free speech,” Undine George said. “I don’t think we should support this organization monetarily.”
Jones said he would be glad to pay fair market rent for the space if the city required it. But he added doing so would just be taking money away from something the Civic Association would support for the good of the city, so there would be no net gain.
“Whatever we paid would just be trading it,” Jones said. “Everything we do is about promoting the City of St. Augustine Beach.”
The Civic Association signed a five-year lease for the space in 2010, and it expires in August. Commissioner S. Gary Snodgrass proposed a compromise in which the commission would have more time to examine terms of the lease — and perhaps alter them — without rushing to a decision.
He first proposed a three-month lease extension, but Commissioners Margaret England and Rich O’Brien suggested that six months was more appropriate.
So the commission voted to grant the short extension now with the possibility of approving a longer one soon. George also supported the compromise.
Before voting, Snodgrass and O’Brien praised the work of the Civic Association, which organizes various fundraisers and produces the Music by the Sea concert series.
“The Civic Association is in a class by itself,” Snodgrass said. “They have a very clear record of giving back year after year.”
Added O’Brien: “I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Snodgrass about the great work they do in the community.”
The commission also approved a neighborhood traffic management program and an amendment to the City Commission’s Policies and Procedures Manual regarding the distribution of keys to the city.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You remove comments from this blog.
That's what you have complained the Record does.
Pot calling the kettle !
Ha !

Ed Slavin said...

I removed an unverifiable, unverified comment that I should not have published. Unlike the Record, I admit error and I won't commit libel or Lashon hara. Et tu, Brute? Who are you?