Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sex Discrimination in St. Johns County? JAY MORRIS Blocks Woman Appointee to All-Male Planning and Zoning Agency

Karen Zander

Political chicanery and sexism in the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners in blocking appointment of a new woman appointee recommend by the Planning and Zoning Agency (PZA)?

UPDATE: Yess, and the St. Augustine Record's investigation printed February 19, 2016 supports my conclusion.

On December 17, 2015, the St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Agency voted and recommended to the St. Johns County Commission that St. Augustine Beach Realtor® Karen Zander be appointed a member of the PZA to succeed Brad Nelson, who resigned.

On February 16, 2016, St. Johns County Commissioners had a heated discussion and a 4-1 vote to postpone action, with Commissioner JOHN H. "JAY" MORRIS saying he would "do anything" to see that Brad Nelson got back on the PZA, with staff falsely claiming that Ms. Zander's application was "late."  No proof was provided.

What's going on here?

Brad Nelson, Certus Appraisal Group President, resigned from PZB and ran for County Property Appraiser as a Republican.

Nelson supported and encouraged Karen Zander to apply for his vacant position.

Then Nelson dropped out of the race.

Nelson continued to support Ms. Zander's application for PZA:

Then on Friday, February 12, 2016 (Lincoln's Birthday), Nelson wrote Ms. Zander an e-mail and said he changed his mind, stating inter alia:

On Feb 12, 2016, at 4:16 PM, Brad Nelson <> wrote:
I feel really bad about this, after encouraging you to apply, but I really appreciate your willingness to step aside.  
After thinking about this for a few days, and discussing it with my wife and some of the commissioners, I believe that I would like to go back on the PZA.  So I wanted you to know that I have submitted my application.  Please feel free to call me if you want to discuss this.
Brad Nelson
(904) 910-7176

Then on Monday, February 15, 2016 (President's Day), Nelson applied (late) for the position from which he resigned.

Then yesterday, at the February 16, 2016 meeting, false statements were made that Ms. Zander's application was "late."

No proof has been provided to me in response to my Open Records Requests No. 2016-38 & 41.

Nelson has not responded to three requests for the names of the Commissioners he "discuss[ed] it with -- wonder why?  (Updated).

What's really going on here?

Developers badly wanted Nelson back on the PZA, and JAY MORRIS was their hey-boy yesterday.
Developers want Eddie Creamer for Property Appraiser and are heavily backing him.

Former St. Johns County Commission Chair Mary Kohnke has alleged that the all-Republican St. Johns County Commission  required that ALL Board appointees be Republicans: 

Letter: Concerned about Republican favoritism

Mary Kohnke
Ponte Vedra Beach
Published Friday, December 13, 2002
Editor: I understand the commissioners, in the future, are going to appoint only Republicans to county boards. I'm not surprised as this was one of the questions asked of the candidates by the Republican executive committee during the campaign.
They made it clear that party membership must be a criteria for county board selections, if we wanted their support in the election.I replied that I would vote for the best qualified person.
This leads one to some serious musing and questions:
1. Will a blank space be added to the applications for political party?
2. If you change parties during your term is this cause for immediately removal?
3. Will this apply to all boards or only the PZA?
4. Will this apply to applications for new employees?
5. When RFP bids go out will only Republican companies be allowed to bid?
6. Will companies who apply for incentives have to have Republican CEOs?
7. Will the other constitutional officers have to follow suit?
8. Will only Republicans have the right to pay taxes?
9. Will Republicans get discounts at the golf course?
10. Will fires be responded to first at Republican homes?
I could go on, but I'm sure you get the message. The new motto for some seems to be

"We do not strive for excellence only for partisanship."

These political patronage abuses are a stench in the nostrils of our Nation.

Ms. Zander is registered with the Independent Party of Florida (corrected).   Not. A. Republican.  

Every single one of the six current members of the PZA is a Republican, including Jon Woodward, former State Republican Committeeman, up for reappointment, who listed other known Republicans on his application (including then-State Senator JOHN THRASHER). 

Three of the six current members of the PZA are from wealthy Ponte Vedra.

All six of the current members of the PZA voted to support Ms. Zander's application.

Ms. Zander is a woman, and PZA is currently all-male.  Current PZA members "got it," discussing the need for more "diversity."

Watching the SJC BCC meeting video,  reading Ms. Zander's e-mail (below) and reading the St. Augustine Record article (below), I conclude that this is likely a case of gender and possibly political party affiliation discrimination, in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the First Amendment.   Elrod v. Burns;  O'Hare Truck Service v. City of Northlake.

From: "Karen Zander, 97Park, Local and International Real Estate" <>
Subject: Planning and Zoning Agency vacancy
Date: February 17, 2016 at 12:28:24 PM EST
To: "Commissioner James K. Johns" <>,, Bill Mcclure <>,, Commissioner Rachael Bennett <>

February 17, 2016

(via email)
St. Johns County Commission Chair Jeb Smith
St. Johns County Commission Vice-Chair James K. Johns
St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure
St. Johns County Commissioner Jay Morris
St. Johns County Commissioner Rachael L. Bennett


I was in attendance yesterday at your St. Johns County Commission meeting during which my application for St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Agency was discussed as an agenda item. To be frank, I believe the manner in which that agenda item was handled was shameful, and I deserve and demand to have the record immediately corrected to accurately reflect the true facts of that item.

Prior to my application for PZA, I was told that the deadline for application for Brad Nelson’s vacancy was November 30,. 2015 as Thanksgiving holiday closures dictated the choice of that date. My initial application to the PZA was submitted on November 30, 2015 with receipt confirmed by County employee Tom Filloramo on same date. Additionally, Mr. Filloramo explained (see attached email) the application/confirmation process. No mention was made of my application being submitted late…. because my application was not late.

My application was submitted for review to County PZA on December 17, 2015 and, after discussion, I was subsequently the ONLY applicant recommended for appointment. No mention was made by County staff or County legal counsel of my application being submitted late… because my application was not submitted late. 

I then had several conversations with Assistant County Attorney Paolo Soria in the few weeks just prior to yesterday’s meeting. During those conversations, Mr. Soria and I discussed in detail my plans to step down from St. Augustine Beach’s Planning and Zoning Board should your Commission appoint me to the County PZA. We discussed the process and procedure for that resignation and corresponding appointment. At no time was I told that my application for County PZA was submitted late… because my application was not submitted late.

At yesterday’s meeting, I was shocked to hear FOR THE FIRST TIME that County staff determined my application was late and therefore could not be considered UNLESS rules were suspended which interestingly would then allow Brad Nelson’s last-minute application to also be considered. It is my understanding that Mr. Nelson’s application for PZA was, in fact, submitted at the very last minute…. only a day or so prior to yesterday’s meeting. Clearly, Brad Nelson’s application WAS submitted late.

I made Paulo Soria aware, once the agenda item for PZA Board vacancies started, that I was in attendance at the meeting and would like to speak and answer any questions Commissioners may have of me. Since I part of the agenda item, it was not appropriate for me to speak during public comment on that item. I patiently waited for my turn to speak, all the while learning for the first time that County staff was now for the first time and incorrectly classifying my application as being submitted late…. which it was not. As a matter of decorum, I felt it best to respectfully await my turn to be called (as counsel clearly knew I was ready to speak) rather than disrupt procedures by coming to the podium without being introduced. To my shock and dismay, I was never introduced nor given opportunity to speak.

It was abundantly clear that at least one of the St. Johns County Commissioners, namely Commissioner Morris, had a very clear mission to see that Brad Nelson was appointed to County PZA again. As I see it, the only way in which this could be accomplished would be to somehow disqualify my application which then allowed the Commission to willfully disregard its own PZA’s recommendation to appoint me to PZA. Additionally, that opened the door to allow for consideration of Mr. Nelson’s last-minute application to PZA. Unfortunately, the fault in this lies in the fact that my application was not submitted late.

I had several conversations with Brad Nelson over the past few months. In each case except one, he repeatedly expressed his support for my appointment to county PZA. Mr. Nelson continually shared his viewpoint that my knowledge base and my perspective were desperately needed on the PZA and my appointment would correct a serious lack of diversity on the board. In fact, during a phone call on Tuesday, February 9, I asked Brad Nelson several times if he was interested in being reappointed to his PZA seat now that he had changed his mind about running for County Property Appraiser. Mr. Nelson emphatically told me, repeatedly, that his time on the board was over, that he had closed the door on that chapter, that he felt it was my time to bring fresh perspective, that he would support me 100%, and that he was absolutely sure that he was ready to move on to something different. 

Only three short days later, on Friday, February 12, I received an email from Brad Nelson stating that he had ONCE AGAIN changed his mind and wanted his PZA seat back. Is someone who clearly, in my opinion, cannot commit to a decision truly the right person to be seated on a St. Johns County board tasked with making very complex decisions with serious impacts to multiple stakeholders?

For the record, I was never made aware in any correspondence nor discussions with County staff or legal counsel that my application for PZA was submitted late… because my PZA application was not submitted late. Never in any previous materials provided to PZA was there any indication that my application was submitted late… because my PZA application was not submitted late. It was only when Brad Nelson decided, at the very last minute, to ask that he be re-appointed to PZA that any concerns about my application were raised. In fact, I believe the best way to ensure Mr. Nelson’s last-minute application to PZA could be considered would be to somehow create a way to disallow my application.


I trust that the St. Johns County Commission will immediately correct the official record to accurately reflect my application’s status as being timely submitted based upon dates I was given by County staff in November. Additionally, I trust that the Commission will immediately make the public and news outlets aware of this correction. Not doing so is a harm to my personal reputation and defames my professional reputation.


Karen S. Zander

Karen Zander, Realtor GRI, CIPS
Owner / Director International Sales
Local and International Real Estate

Mobile +1 904-673-4764
Office +1 904-297-3471

Your rating: None

St. Johns County Commissioners debate over delaying zoning board appointment
Posted: February 16, 2016 - 11:46pm | Updated: February 17, 2016 - 9:45am

County Commissioner Bill McClure said other commissioners were politicizing the appointment process by delaying a vote to fill Planning and Zoning Agency vacancies.

Board appointments are usually routine, but debate ensued at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting about whether to delay the process, in part so more people could apply.

Commissioner Jay Morris said it made sense to give an experienced former member — Brad Nelson — the chance to rejoin the board even though he had missed the application deadline. McClure disagreed.

“I do not want to lose him as a valuable member,” Morris said, adding that Nelson is one of the most experienced on the board.

“I am going to take that as a little bit of politicking,” McClure said. “As I understand it, this is black and white. We’re here today to make a decision.”

Commissioners ended up voting 4-1 to delay voting on filling the vacancies until mid-March, with McClure voting against the decision.

While McClure voiced support for Nelson, he said he was concerned about the process that he said Morris seemed to endorse.

“That you can quit the Planning and Zoning commission, put in your resignation, have us go through the process of applying and spending taxpayer dollars and qualifying all these people,” McClure said.

The board has three vacancies because of expired terms and a resignation by Nelson, who filed to run for St. Johns County property appraiser but withdrew from the race earlier this month. Nelson said Tuesday that he withdrew because he didn’t like campaigning and asking people for money, and he said the effort took too much time away from his commercial real estate appraisal business.

The county advertised the vacancies in October and set a November deadline. Five qualifying applications came in on time. There were two requests for reappointment.

Nelson and applicant Karen Zander missed the deadline.

(Ed's note: False and defamatory statement by Commissioners, rebroadcast by The St. Augustine Record without investigation. Ms. Zander's application was not late; Nelson applied on Monday
Still, Zander’s application made it to the PZA after it came in November, said Melissa Lundquist, assistant to the commission.)

The PZA recommended Zander for the open position and two members for reappointment. Nelson’s application is not dated.

The board had the option of suspending its rule on the deadline, considering just the applications that made it by the deadline or putting off the item to another hearing.

The matter was complicated after Commissioner Rachael Bennett said she received a phone call from another PZA member, who said he has plans to miss several meetings in the near future, she said.

Bennett made the motion to continue the item.

“I’d like to just reiterate that if you are for ... politicizing this event, then you vote for the motion,” McClure said.

“That’s so false,” Bennett said. “You have attributed an intent to other people’s vote. You can only attribute intent to your own vote. ... You cannot tell me what my vote means, Bill.”

In other business

o Commissioners unanimously approved requiring financial disclosures for members of the Cultural Resources Review Board.

o Commissioners unanimously approved the Veterans Parkway Planned Unit Development and a modification to the Durbin Crossing Planned Unit Development. The rezoning for the northwest St. Johns County property, which is planned for up to 146 homes, changes the land from Open Rural to Planned Unit Development.

The minor modification takes less than 3 acres from the Durbin Crossing Planned Unit Development for an access road for the Veterans Parkway development.

The commission voted at its last meeting 3-2 to approve a Comprehensive Plan amendment for the property.

The commission first turned down a request for the development in December and later voted to rehear the matter.

JOHN H. "JAY" MORRIS, St. Johns County Commissioner (R-Ponte Vedra), former EVP of RPM International, which settled False Claims Act Act qui tam case for more than $60,000,000.

Letters: St. Johns County political patronage abuses

David Brian Wallace
St. Augustine
Published Thursday, December 26, 2002
Editor: Kudos to Ms. Mary Kohnke for "blowing the whistle" (Dec. 13 Record) on the St. Johns County commissioners now requiring one be Republican to be appointed to county boards and commissions!
All are hurt by this narrow-minded, bigoted approach to government, which resembles the one-party misrule by the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union.
What a biased lot of First Amendment violating mandarins populate our St. Johns County government. Wake up!
It is illegal, corrupt and violates the First Amendment for the county to dole out jobs, contracts and other largesse on the basis of political affiliation.
The Supreme Court ruled (in Elrod v. Burns) that firing government employees for supporting the "wrong" candidate was illegal and unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled in another case (O'Hare Truck Service v. City of Northlake) that doling out government contracts based on political support violates the First Amendment and gives rise to damages.
In that case, an Illinois tow truck company's city contract was ended when the business owner backed the "wrong" mayoral candidate. Discriminating against one's political opponents is illegal, immoral and un-American.
Mullet-headed St. Johns County commissioners must think of themselves as partisans first and public officials second, as demonstrated by their all ducking out of a commission meeting early on Oct. 22 to attend a partisan fund-raiser for Rep. Mica at a resort where former President George Herbert Walker Bush was speaking.
Would the commissioners have bolted to hear our beloved Nobel Peace Prize winner President Jimmy Carter?
I seriously doubt it.
We need public officials who show bravery, integrity, honesty and dedication to public service, not partisanship and running off to meet-and-greet fat cat fundraisers, dropping their work with flea-like attention spans.
The ugliness stalking our county from tree-killing "developers" and their bulldozers, buzz saws and greenbacks threatens to turn St. Johns County into an unreasonable facsimile of Broward County (with so few trees left that it looks like a moonscape from the air).
If hindsight is 20/20, we should halt this corrupt process now before we must vigorously promote tree-planting to "replace" the trees "developers" kill.
As Martin and Susan Tolchin (who have spoken at Flagler College) wrote in "To the Victor," political patronage was part of the "old politics," greasing political party machines using your money. Across America, political patronage is now falling into disrepute. Elsewhere local public officials read and respect Supreme Court decisions and don't knowingly violate Constitutional rights.
Our county commissioners sound like they need a good swift kick in the only place where they will feel it -- the ballot box.
Our citizens' reform spirit -- which Nov. 5 ousted the backward fiefdoms in both the cities of St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach -- must now focus like a laser beam on our county government. Let's throw unreasonable, self-serving, developer-coddling incumbents out, replacing them with reformers, who care about our county, our people and our Florida environment.

1 comment:

Tom Reynolds said...

Amazed ! I was at that meeting and Jay Morris was completely Politicking. I really do think that there is more to all of this. This definitely needs an outside investigation into the conduct by Morris and Developer Puppet Rachel Bennett. Maybe this is some kind of KKK thing. Or maybe Morris and Bennett got the orders from the Godfather of Development Hutson. Either way the commission failed to do the right thing again. It is the norm in St Johns County Flor a Duh !