There's case-fixing at St. Augustine Beach, involving Mayor RICHARD BURTT O'BRIEN's code violation -- a 2.9 foot incursion on the mandatory setback of one of two McMansions he's building.
Prepared to sue the City of St. Augustine Beach, which he serves as Mayor, wealthy hotelier RICHARD BURTT O'BRIEN showed up at City Commission June 5th with a court reporter and two developer lawyers in tow.
Developer lawyer SIDNEY FRANKLYN ANSBACHER (LL.M., Arkansas) of UPCHURCH, BAILEY & UPCHURCH was there, representing Mayor O'BRIEN, while ELLEN AVERY SMITH was there representing his contractor. (ANSBACHER actually wore a tie last night -- I have previously offered to lend him one whenever he shows up representing devious developers at local government meetings).
ILLEGAL GAG ORDER? Under pressure from O'BRIEN, City Attorney JAMES PATRICK WILSON inflicted what one Commissioner called a "gag order," stating that Commissioners could listen to a hired-gun consultant hired by City Manager BRUCE MAX ROYLE, but not ask questions.
The putative basis for this unconstitutional gag order was that ANSBACHER and SMITH may file a request for a variance to the variance and the conditional use permit violated by their respective clients.
No one apologized for building an ugly McMansion at 16 F Street some 2.9 feet inside the setback.
Not his lawyers.
Not his contractor,
Not his contractor's lawyers.
Meanwhile, residents were almost unanimous in calling for a Code Enforcement hearing, on at least two citizen complaints. No one explained any principled reason why those complaints are not being heard. Jim Sutherland, with 40 years of banking and real estate in Washington, D.C., explained that in situations like this, buildings were typically torn down in Washington, D.C. Residents referred to the O"BRIEN building as a "sore thumb," calling for it to be torn down, including government watchdog Thomas F. Reynolds, Jr., who had supported O'BRIEN's building variance and conditional use permit ab initio before the Planning and Zoning Board and City Commission in 2016.
No one bothered to prepare a legal memo -- several Commissioners (and I) privately requested that WILSON prepare one.
WILSON was essentially AWOL -- you might as well have slapped a bumper sticker on his forehead stating, "I'd rather be sailing."
Earlier, in a belated budget amendment, St. Augustine Beach City Commissioners authorized after-the- fact a $2550 payment to the Jacksonville Beach based consultant, who was chosen in secrecy by ROYLE without competitive quotes, under a contract that contains an illegal confidentiality clause, a forum selection clause for enforcement in Duval County, and an arbitration clause in which ROYLE waived the City's sacred rights to jury trial --- all while keeping the St. Augustine Beach Commission in the dark.
Although WILSON claimed to have approved the contract in advance, no documents exist that showed he was ever shown the contract. No documents exist showing ROYLE obtaining any information on the consultant before hiring him. Apparently, he may have been suggested by O'BRIEN lawyer ANSBACHER, who let the cat out of the bag when he spoke at the podium (with tie on), admitting he knew the consultant but joking that he had turned down many of ANSBACHER's clients in prior dealings with the developer mouthpiece. Also, MARKS GRAY defense lawyer SUSAN ERDELYI suggested the hiring of the consultant to avoid liability.
Democracy dies in the dark, and last night at St. Augustine Beach, it looked pretty damn dark.
Controversial City Manager MAX ROYLE did not resign.
Controversial Planning and Building Director GARY LARSON was not fired.
Neither did Mayor RICHARD BURTT O'BRIEN.
City Attorney WILSON even discouraged Commissioners from discussing staff incompetence and reforms of the Building Department because they were not on the agenda. Actually, the consultant report embraced both subjects. But WILSON's caution extends in only one direction -- an insincere tilt to Mayor O'BRIEN, irrefragable when you consider he forbade Commissioners to take up any motion to refer the matter to Code Enforcement, deferring to the two corporate mouthpieces for O'BRIEN and his contractor.
It is, at best, facetious to call Mayor-Realtor®)-Hotelier-Unethical Campaigner RICHARD BURTT O"BREIEN's 2.9 foot encroachment on the setback he requested to be a "mistake" when no stop work order was issued, and no Code Enforcement proceeding was initiated.
GARY LARSON still refuses to issue a written stop work order, saying "I run the building department." Why? He fears a stop work order would support a Code Enforcement citation, hearing, fines, costs and a remedial order that could include demolition of the illegally built McMansion, which O'BRIEN admitted would be used for rentals.
This is blatant favoritism. toward a rich guy married into a billionaire family (the RINGHAVERS) -- a rich guy with a history of abusing the courts to harass First Amendment protected activity (bogus "stalking" charges against government watchdog Thomas F. Reynolds, Jr.).
The solution is for the Commission or the Planning and Zoning Board to stand on principle, reject a variance and send the Mayor to Code Enforcement for fines, costs and a possible demolition order, which was the remedy followed by a Florida Court of Appeals when another developer built condos illegally, in violation of the Martin County Comprehensive Plan.
"When government becomes a lawbreaker, it promotes disrespect for the law, and anarchy," Justice Brandeis said.
In the itty-bitty City of St. Augustine Beach, Florida (population 7000):
1. "Mistakes" always favor developers, never the residents.
2. Open Records requests are avoided and evaded, while ROYLE privately emits pejoratives against me for asking for records.
3. Laws are violated with impunity and immunity by developers and their toady, RICH O'BRIEN.
4. Citizens are harassed, intimidated and even arrested in retaliation for their First Amendment protected activity, as when O'BRIEN and Mr. Reynolds rousted in October 2016 for campaigning at City Hall, shortly after Judge Howard O. McMillen told O'BRIEN that Mr. Reynolds had a right to be at City Hall. Always remember what happened William Rosenstock, arrested at the behest of the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association and its big shot schnooks, including then-Commissioner and former Mayor ANDREA SAMUELS.
5. City Manager MAX ROYLE's incompetence, is never spoken of publicly, "like the crazy aunt who lives in the basement," as H. Ross Perot once said in his 1992 Presidential campaign.
6. Abuses of power by ex-Mayor ANDREA SAMUELS and SABCA President WILLIAM JONES, civil process for Sheriff DAVID SHOAR -- JONES' record of mendacity is one that even corrupt Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's internal affairs unit has documented, without effective punishment