Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Developer lawyers took trips, Rolexes, money: Florida Bar investigation

GEORGE MORRIS McCLURE, partner in ROGERS TOWERS law firm from 1996-2006, admitted in sworn statements that he took $10,000 Rolex® watches, expensive vacation trips on private planes to Caribbean islands and cash as supposed "gratuities" from his developer clients.

Many of McCLURE's clients were -- and ROGERS TOWERS clients are -- dodgy Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) whose beneficial owners are not required to be disclosed. Billing statements filed by ROGERS TOWERS with the FLorida Bar with its complaints against McCLURE and another former lawyer with the firm give insights into the wacky world of Florida developers, who do not require licenses to land-scalp, while barbers, cosmetologist, fingernail painters and tattoo artists require licenses.

In 2006, attorney GEORGE McCLURE and fellow ROGERS TOWERS shareholder SUSAN BLOODWORTH left the 90-lawyer ROGERS TOWERS and formed the law firm of McCLURE BLOODWORTH, continuing to represent wetland-filling, clear cutting developers of the sort that former St. Johns County Commission Chairman Benjamin C. Rich, Sr. called "worse than any carpetbagger."

In 2008, ROGERS TOWERS reported McClure to The Florida Bar for dishonesty in taking money not shared with ROGERS TOWERS. The Bar concluded it was a "civil matter" and declined to pursue ethics charges. McCLURE had written the Bar on April 4, 2008 that, "I assume that the Bar does not perceive itself at (sic) the truth police. My perception of the Code of Professional Responsibility is that it is directed toward our responsibilites to the court, our clients, and the judicial system and not to our personal, employee or business relationships. If I am incorrect, than (sic) I assume that the Bar should be involved with every lawyer who is unfaith to his spouse or has any disagreement with his partners."

Although he was a partner, McCLURE claimed to be a mere "employee" of ROGERS TOWERS. He misused the term "Code of Professional Responsibility," when Florida has adopted the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

McCLURE continued, "I did not negotiate for and obtain a 'secret deal' for myself, and certainly did not do so for Ms. Bloodworth, as a condition for representing the Client."

McCLURE actually concluded: "it matters little as to whether the funds were a gratuity or a bonus. At heart, this is nothing more than a commercial dispute and [ROGERS TOWERS MANAGING PARTNER] Mr. Ward has done the Bar a disservice by the filing of the Complaint. His misguided attempt to malign the reputation of what were two of the Firm's most productive lawyer belies the fact that in my last full year of employment at Rogers Towers, I was among the top 5, in a Firm of over 90 lawyers, in remitted fees, client generation and income generated through delegated matters."

ROGERS TOWERS complained that McCLURE took a $45,000 fee, and BLOODWORTH $30,000, from Ascot Development, LLC and Ascot Pommes LLC, developers the Bar investigator found "lent him a considerable amount of money" to start his own law firm.  McCLURE told the Bar that the nature of his practice was incompatible with a large law firm.

McCLURE said "I would not jeopardize my 33-year career over $45,000."

ROGERS TOWERS had trouble collecting fees allegedly owed by Ascot, stating that it had written, threatened and cajoled, but that Ascot said it had already paid McCLURE and BLOODWORTH.

Feeling buyer's remorse Ascot later said that McCLURE did average legal work, was mostly a lobbyist, heavily relied on BLOODWORTH for legal drafting and that his alleged failings cost it some $1.5 million when its zoning was denied.

McCLURE denied having a fiduciary duty to ROGERS TOWERS, saying it was not his client and that he was not on the Board of Directors.

ROGERS TOWERS had no written policy requiring shareholders share all fees with their partners.

Even though it is basic partnership law that business partners share all partnership income with each other, The Florida Bar found no dishonesty or fraud, dismissing the charge.

Ironically, ROGERS TOWERS' standard client retainer agreements ask clients to waive all conflicts of interests with all other clients (unnamed), present and future.

McCLURE worked for the FBI during 2007-2008 in facilitating $60,000 in bribes to St. Johns County Commission Chairman Thomas G. Manuel, resulting in Manuel's arrest and conviction on bribery charges and incarceration in a federal penitentiary.

McCLURE died of cancer July 7, 2013.  His law firm webpage biography states he was former Mayor St. Augustine Beach, worked as counsel for the City of St. Augustine, served on Florida Bar committees.  McCLURE deserves credit/blame for much of the ugliness in the three counties (St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler) where he was a sinister force -- a threatening, gauche, louche, lying lickspittle for developers:


George McClure
George McClure was one of the founding partners for the McClure Bloodworth, P.L. law firm.  He first began practicing law in St. Johns County in 1975 in the area of acquisition, entitlement, development and disposition of real property. This included both the transactional components and zoning, land use and permitting components.  His experience included comprehensive planning, zoning, concurrency, impact fees, exactions, and related permitting matters for numerous developments, ranging from retail and hospitality sites within the historic districts of the Nation's Oldest City, to mixed-use developments of 20,000 acres.  George was well known for his experience in handling controversial matters, as well as trial and appellate practice. George McClure passed away July 7, 2013.

George had experience as a public official, having previously served as City Commissioner and Mayor of St. Augustine Beach. Although his practice had centered primarily on the private sector, George had been engaged as special counsel to the City of St. Augustine in connection with planning and development of City owned assets and submission and approval of EAR based comprehensive plan amendments to the Department of Community Affairs. George also was responsible for the development of specialized land use criteria during his representation of the St. Augustine-St. Johns County Airport Authority and for the recodification of its charter.
Land use is inherently local in nature. George focused his activities on just the governmental bodies in the Northeast Florida area, including the county and municipal governments in Duval, Nassau, Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns Counties. That experience has ranged over time from matters as simple as exceptions, variances and plat approvals, but more recently has typically involved the successful representation of developers and landowners in politically challenging large-scale projects including multiple multi-use developments of regional impact in St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler Counties. That representation included successful advocacy in front of the Northeast Regional Council and the Department of Community Affairs (now the Department of Economic Opportunity.) Of necessity, successfully representing clients in projects of that scale requires an understanding of the core issues of involved regulatory agencies such as FDOT, FDEP, SRJWMD, as well as the local government and local school boards.
Working successfully in the political atmosphere of land use requires the respect of the local government. That respect requires the attorney to demonstrate a willingness to challenge adverse decisions when there is a legal and factual basis to do so. George had experience in appellate work (including zoning appeals to the Circuit Court as well as reported decisions in the First, Fourth and Fifth District Courts of Appeal) and trial work in both jury and non-jury contexts.  That litigation experience included contested proceedings before the Department of Administrative Hearings.
  • The Florida Bar (1975)
    • General Practice Section Executive Council
    • Past member and chair of Seventh Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission
    • Past member and chair of Seventh Circuit Grievance Committee
  • American Bar Association (1976)
  • US District Court, Middle District of Florida (1977)
  • Former President, St. Johns County Bar Association
  • “AV” Rated by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Former General Counsel to St. Augustine-St. Johns County Airport Authority
  • Former Mayor and City Commissioner of the City of St. Augustine Beach
  • Flagler Hospital Board Member (1988-date) and current and previous chair
  • Former chair and advisory board member, Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida
  • Board member, St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum
  • Former Board member, St. Augustine Rotary Club
  • Co-Founder and Board Member, Deaf and Hearing Impaired Service Center of St. Johns County
  • Former Volunteer of the Year, St. Johns County Chapter of American Cancer Society
  • Former member St. Augustine St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce
  • Former member and chair, St. Johns County Economic Development Council

Occupation: Stereotypical cartoon villain

Species: Slobbus Americanus Vulgaris
Occupation: Stereotypical Villain (Northeast Florida Real Estate Speculator Mouthpiece)

Before he died, St. Augustinians and St. Johns Countians are winning the fight against wily GEORGE McCLURE and his clients, foreign-funded developers who have unlimited funds and what H.L. Mencken called "a libido for the ugly."

In 2009, every single one of the many witnesses who testified on a monstrous building planned for the corner of Cathedral Place and St. George Street was against it. Not even hiring controversial developer mouthpiece GEORGE McCLURE as its lawyer -- and hiring sitting St. Augustine Commissioner DONALD CRICHLOW as its architect helped an out-of-town developer to have its way with our historic City's downtown.

What a difference four years makes. Where once GeORGE McCLURE was invincible -- and citizens didn't bother to speak when he appeared, knowing he would always get his way -- last night diverse citizens beat McCLURE, again.

GEORGE McCLURE kept cloyingly invoking DONALD CRICHLOW's name, as if it were a shibboleth that would get him past the opposition of respected community leaders.

GEORGE McCLURE was a privileged character -- someone who felt comfortable blathering on for hours about a project that would have been a non-starter but for the Philistine City Manager, WILLIAM B. HARRISS.

GEORGE McCLURE was given unlimited time by his buddy (Mayor JOSEPH LEROY BOLES, JR.).

GEORGE McCLURE used the time to get all gushy about the project, repeatedly using the words "I," "me" and "my" and the royal "we." Mayor BOLES never bothered to swear in McCLURE or any of the public hearing witnesses, but it didn't matter.

In St. Augustine, GEORGE McCLURE met his Waterloo in 2009 in active, informed citizens, including a number of passionately concerned, good and decent people, among them former City Commissioner Raymond Connor (who modestly didn't mention his having served as a Comissioner. Others speaking against McCLURE's effort to trash the Plaza de la Constitucion with ugliness were architect Gerald Dixon, Charles Pellicer, Sandra Goode, Melinda Rakoncay, Hillary Bosza, William Smith, et al.

Every single one of the public hearing speakers said that the planned building is out of character with the downtown of our Ancient City, founded in 1565. McCLURE's usual disrespectful remarks about dissenting citizens did not carry the day.

Despite McCLURE's unlimited time and self-indulgent use of the words "I," "me" and "my," Commissioners asked good questions and were unconvinced by his plan to turn the historic intersection of St. George Street and Cathedral Place into an unreasonable fascimile of downtown Palatka (or any old South Georgia town).

Controversial corporate lawyer GEORGE McCLURE's influence in St. Augustine and St. Johns County lessened before he died.

After losing the Bishop's Building argument, has-been lawyer GEORGE McCLURE was so incensed that he stuck his finger in my face outside the meeting, showing as little class or panache as GEORGE McCLURE did when he first tried this tired old provocation with me in May 2005. (The definition of insanity is doing the same old things and expecting different results, GEORGE McCLURE). I wrote:

Give it up, GEORGE McCLURE -- especially in this saturated real estate market, your stable of developers are no match for today's St. Augustinians, who are no longer bossed and bullied by the likes of you and your pals.

You and your clients can just go to Palatka (or South Georgia) to build your ugly monstrosities.

Our Nation's Oldest City of St. Augustine is for beauty, not for beastly bullies and plug-ugly tactics (attempts to intimidate citizens by lawyers like McCLURE and City officials like HARRISS).

A pox on GEORGE McCLURE and his uglifying clients.

GEORGE McCLURE (and the corporate lawyer "Smirky Turkey Society" of which he is the Dean) may as well disband. We've got your number, GEORGE McCLURE.

We're looking forward to learning more about GEORGE McCLURE's having taped Republican County Commission Chairman THOMAS MANUEL in alleged bribe transactions.

We're especially looking forward to Federal Court cross-examination of McCLURE as to what led him to tape MANUEL, and whether GEORGE MCCLURE has ever provided any money or thing of value to any politicians in exchange for development "favors" of the sort his clients have inflicted on St. Augustine and St. Johns County for too long.

Cynical, sinister, slippery, supercilious, shallow, vacuous spellbinder GEORGE McCLURE is guilty, guilty, guilty of inflicting tree-killing and ugliness on our town and county.

Influence-peddling former ROGERS TOWERS lawyer GEORGE McCLURE has seen his influence decline. Is it the result of his bad karma? Even McCLURe's kids hate him for what he's done to our environment here in St. Johns County.

Examples of unsound, ill-advised GEORGE McCLURE projects abound, like the evisceration of Cooksey's Campground (in St. Augustine Beach) and of Red House Bluff (next to St. Augustine High School), where GEORGE McCLURE helped ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD destroy a 3000-4000 year old indigenous Native American village without proper investigation of possible human burials, as was suggested by the UF Acting Anthropology Chair in January 2006).

It's time for GEORGE McCLURE to come clean and tell the truth before a federal grand jury investigating St. Johns County corruption --- all of it (not just a dinky little piece of it).

What do you reckon?

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