Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Retroactive Republican Sneak Attack on First Amendment Protected Activity in St. Augustine Beach

St. Augustine Beach's serial First Amendment violators did it again on May 1, 2017. Waiting until Commissioners comments at the very end of the meeting, two Commissioners made retroactive attacks on perceived attacks on employees.
Citizens have a right to speak to governments about waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.
Citizens have a right to call lying public officials liars. Our Founding Fathers believe the answer to speech was more speech.
Rather than answer citizens' specific, reasoned and document concerns, City staff used two Commissioners as bullets in their gun.
Rancidly, their two tools did an end run around the Sunshine once again, running dangerously close to a "polling" violation of the Sunshine law, with two Commissioners engaging in conscious parallelism by "apologizing" to staff because they were criticized by citizens.
More than a dozen people spoke against restricting free speech rights.
Commissioners voted not to adopt such restrictions.
The City Attorney told me last month the revised public comment rules were "dead."
Yet two registered Republicans, Mayor RICHARD BURTT O'BRIEN and Commissioner SHERMAN GARY SNODGRASS, acted sneakily, stealthily and sub rosa, holding ex parte meetings with City staff, resolving none of the citizens concerns.
Then they acted like reactionary rebarbative retromingent Republican President DONALD JOHN TRUMP.  They acted like bullies -- chilling, coercing and intimidating free speech rights.
 And they waited until the end of the meeting to do so -- a meeting that was pleasant, and shorter, thanks to following citizen suggestions eliminating time-wasting long presentations.
The problem is not citizens calling staff liars or calling for them to resign or be fired.
The problem is the cult of personality associated with incompetent St. Augustine Beach City Manager BRUCE MAX ROYLE, who has held the job since circa 1989, and Planning and Zoning Director GARY LARSON, who view questions as threats to their continued employment.
It's time for them to go.
It's time for City Commissioners to appreciate criticism, for as Ben Franklin said, our critics are our friends because we can learn from them.
Time to embrace American values, and time to end unAmerican activities like the revolting display at the end of the May 1, 2017 St. Augustine Beach City Commission meeting.
The authoritarian approach to criticism that has prevailed here since 1565 is over.
Here's the one-sided St. Augustine Record's article on the asinine adjectival attitudinal sneak attack on First Amendment protected activity in St. Augustine Beach. Why no call for comment to First Amendment efforts or concerned citizens?

Due damaged for crews working for businesses owned and controlled by Mayor RICH O'BRIEN after Hurricane Matthew

Mayor RICHARD BURTT O'BRIEN's controversial mailer resulted in ethics complaint false advertising as "Republican's Choice" (also misusing police car images for political purposes)

Circuit Court Judge Howard O. McGillin
During the December 7, 2016 trial on O'BRIEN's stalking injunction, O'BRIEN claimed to be fearful because Mr. Reynolds wrote that O"BRIEN should "burn in hell" for destroying a dune amid environmental violations after Hurricane Matthew. Judge McGillin asked
Mayor O'BRIEN "Did you think Mr. Reynolds was the deity?"


Posted May 2, 2017 07:02 pm
St. Augustine Beach mayor, commissioner apologize for not stopping verbal attacks on staff

St. Augustine Beach Mayor Rich O’Brien said he’s not going to allow verbal attacks against city employees made by members of the public during City Commission meetings.

Commissioner Gary Snodgrass brought up the issue during commissioner comments at Monday night’s commission meeting, when he issued an apology to city staff for not doing something about the comments in the moment.

“I support freedom of speech,” Snodgrass said. “It’s central to our democracy and our liberty. But freedom of speech has a limit that ends, in my view, once a speaker’s words turn offensive, or derogatory or slanderous or abusive. And I met with city staff a few weeks ago at their request because of comments that had been made in recent City Commission meetings that they felt — and I did too — were derogatory, were offensive and abusive. One of our city employees was called a liar, and these kinds of comments are absolutely inappropriate in my view at our City Commission meetings.”

O’Brien said it’s really his job to maintain order at meetings and use his gavel when necessary, but he indicated he has hesitated.

“I won’t get into the details, but if you’ve been keeping track of things that have occurred in my life regarding my city duties and some things, and you had your hand slapped a little bit about free speech, you’re a little cautious. You’re cautious,” O’Brien said. “So I, too, would like to apologize to staff for allowing [the language] to happen. It was incorrect, and it will not happen again, no matter what.”

O’Brien didn’t bring the case up on Monday, but in October a judge dismissed his petition for an injunction against stalking filed against beach resident Tom Reynolds. Among other things, O’Brien cited a meeting where he had Reynolds escorted from the meeting because, according to O’Brien, Reynolds yelled and disrupted the meeting.

Reynolds said O’Brien filed the petition to silence him.

The judge said many of O’Brien’s allegations were about activities protected by the First Amendment.

In other business

O’Brien said the city will receive $1.5 million from the Florida Communities Trust, which the city will use to reimburse itself for part of the $4.5 million spent on 4.5 acres of land for Ocean Hammock Park. The city plans to use the funds to replenish savings.

n Commissioners agreed to move forward with keeping Advanced Disposal as the city’s recycling provider, and the contract will be in effect from June 1 to May 31, 2022, according to a memo from City Manager Max Royle.

The city plans to survey residents about whether they want to change from 18-gallon recycling bins to recycling carts and what size, according to Royle.

The contract allows for the city to switch to carts, which come in sizes such as 32 or 96 gallons, according to Royle. The survey will also ask whether people would support having recycling picked up every other week.

The city also plans to develop a fee to help pay for collecting recycling, household trash and special waste such as yard debris, according to Royle. That proposal and the survey results are expected to come before the commission in 2018.

n At Vice Mayor Undine George’s recommendation, commissioners voted unanimously to allow themselves to receive the city’s medical insurance coverage as provided to other employees who work 30 hours per week or more.

Per month, the cost of coverage for one commissioner is $634, Royle said. That’s about $38,000 a year for all five commissioners. The city is looking into when commissioners will be able to enroll, Royle said.


52 minutes ago
Thomas Cushman
The mayor still doesn't get it.  The First Amendment permits criticism of the government, including commissioners, and including employees, whether or not they like or approve of the criticisms.  It doesn't have to be "nice", nor does it even have to be fair.  It's  protected speech.  I still recommend that the mayor should read the Constitution that he has sworn to "preserve, protect, and defend". If he were to read it, he might even understand it.  

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