Monday, October 21, 2019

This Emmett Till memorial was vandalized again. And again. And again. Now, it’s bulletproof. (WaPo)

Here in St. Augustine, the 1897 lynching marker in Orangedale was stolen by Ku Klux Klan and Tea Party types who practically bragged about it at City Commission.

We, the People have foiled them -- the lynching marker will be erected in the Plaza de la Constitucion, under 24/7 surveillance under the watchful eyes of the SAPD and FBI.

The FBI Domestic Terrorism Task Force is wise to your ways, Kluckers.

We're on the world stage now.  An international tourism Mecca.  And no racists or edneck peckerwood KKK, Tea Party or New Black Panther Party types are going to mess with our history.

From The Washington Post:

The new sign marking the spot in Tallahatchie County, Miss., where Emmett Till's body was pulled from a river in 1955. This is the fourth sign erected on the site; others have been repeatedly vandalized. (Emmett Till Memorial Commission)
The new sign marking the spot in Tallahatchie County, Miss., where Emmett Till's body was pulled from a river in 1955. This is the fourth sign erected on the site; others have been repeatedly vandalized. (Emmett Till Memorial Commission)

Legislators are proposing a first-in-the-nation bill to force cable companies to offer independent local news. (NY Times)

Neat idea.  Let's do it in Florida.

This could be achieved locally in Our Town, in our times, if the City of St. Augustine and St. Johns County restored their local cable channels to the status quo ante before 2007-2008, when there was local access programming. This was at the behest of MARK RUSSELL, a provincial Palatka manager for Time-Warner, before its takeover by Comcast. RUSSELL told Commissioners he did not like local access because it allowed Bubba Rowe and others to criticize the local governments, and some businessman might sit in his hotel room and decide not to invest here. (Of course, hotel rooms don't have cable television, they have satellite, but this shows the outrageous animus against First Amendment protected activity that underlies greedy Corporate America oligopolists. It's probably why Verizon shut down the NYC cable channel discussed in the NY Times column, below.

GANNETT and GATEHOUSE are about to merge, which means that the First Coast News tv news duopoly (ABC and NBC affiliates), the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, and the St. Augustine Record will all be under the thumb of the same out-of-state, out-of-touch, oligopolistic corporate masters.

St. Johns County and two itty-bitty cities' cable channels are now almost exclusively government programming, with a few exceptions like League of Women voters debates, boring propaganda outside of those meetings where We, the People occasionally get to ask questions, demand answers and expect democracy.

 From The New York Times:

Local News Is Dying. New York May Try to Pass a Law to Save It.

Legislators are proposing a first-in-the-nation bill to force cable companies to offer independent local news.

Vivian Wang
By Vivian Wang
Oct. 21, 2019
Updated 3:25 p.m. ET

[What you need to know to start the day: Get New York Today in your inbox.]
Hardly a week goes by, it seems, without another death blow for local journalism. Another beloved newspaper slashes its staff; another longtime radio program goes silent.

In New York, there might now be a novel solution: government intervention.

Two state lawmakers are proposing a requirement that any cable company operating in New York offer a local news channel with “news, weather and public affairs programming,” according to a draft of the bill. The programming would have to be independently produced; companies could not simply rebroadcast others’ existing news shows.

The bill, if passed, would be the first of its kind in the country. Policymakers elsewhere have considered other forms of intervention to save local news: Earlier this year, New Jersey’s governor, Philip D. Murphy, approved up to $2 million in state funds to support community journalism, making New Jersey the first state to allocate money to the local news landscape, despite concerns about media independence. Massachusetts is considering a study of the industry’s decline; federal lawmakers are debating making it easier for news outlets to become tax exempt.

But New York’s bill would be perhaps the most aggressive attempt by government officials to sustain local news in the long term.

It also would offer a concrete example of shifting attitudes toward corporate responsibility, as public officials, voters and even business leaders acknowledge the need for firms to think not only of profits but also of their impact on society.

“These companies don’t listen when it comes to us encouraging them to keep local programming,” said State Senator Kevin Thomas, a Democrat, one of the bill’s sponsors. “So there comes a time when the Legislature has to tell them. Leaving them to self-regulate, they do things for their own profit-making schemes.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Democrat-led State Senate have already signaled support for the idea, which stemmed from Verizon’s announcement that it would shutter Fios1 News, its hyperlocal news network that covers the Hudson Valley, Long Island and New Jersey, in November.

Verizon officials declined to give a reason for the closure, which will lead to about 150 layoffs. Around the country, plummeting profits have forced the closures of even outlets with fervent commitments to independent reporting.

After Verizon’s announcement, elected officials, including the Democratic leader of the State Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, asked the company to reconsider. Some politicians accused Verizon of prioritizing profits over jobs and public interest.

Disturbed by Verizon's plans to shut down #FiOS1News, a great source of local news & a blow to the already struggling local news landscape.

I encourage all NYers to support local journalism – it’s more important now than ever.

The new bill, which legislators plan to introduce on Monday, would make that much harder.

Under the law, New York’s Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities including cable, water and natural gas, would decide what qualified as local news. It would also dictate how long and how often each channel was required to show it; smaller companies could have less stringent requirements, said Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, the bill’s other sponsor.

Mr. Abinanti and Mr. Thomas said they were also considering whether to include online-only content providers, such as Hulu or Amazon Prime, in the rule.

There are legal and technical issues still to be worked out. The federal and state governments share oversight of telecommunications companies, which could limit the state’s ability to act alone. Cable companies could also seek to pass the cost of producing news on to customers.

“Requiring a cable company to run and staff a local news operation is a pretty audacious request,” said Jerry Ellig, a former chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission who now teaches at George Washington University. “This is pretty much a tax. It may not show up on your cable bill as a line item or anything, but if it’s a cost of doing business, they will certainly pass it on.”

Media experts also warned that such a law could effectively make the government an arbiter of news.

But supporters of the measure say that the bill is a direct response to the excessive deregulation of telecommunications companies and a declaration that companies can and should give back in exchange for the state’s permission to operate in New York.

Mr. Abinanti emphasized that while the Public Service Commission would ensure companies’ compliance with the local news requirement, it would not control the content of that news.

“We can’t tell them, ‘You have to cover what’s going on in Yonkers or Greenburgh,’” he said, naming two localities in Westchester County. “But we can give them a category, local news, and say ‘You go figure out what local news is.’”

A spokeswoman for Verizon said the company has agreed to carry News 12, the local news network run by Altice Optimum, thus maintaining subscribers’ access to a source of local news. She declined to comment on the bill.

Elected officials have often declared their support for a robust news environment, and some have even played a pivotal role in preserving it. In 1993, New York’s governor at the time, Mario M. Cuomo, helped persuade the F.C.C. to allow Rupert Murdoch to buy The New York Post, saving the tabloid from collapse.
Dying Gasp of One Local NewspaperAug. 1, 2019

Federal regulators have also long set regulations for broadcast networks, including an expectation that they promote a diversity of viewpoints, and “foster public understanding” of “important problems and issues facing their local communities,” according to F.C.C. documents.

But the internet has muddled traditional ideas about government’s role in regulating the news, said Martha A. Garcia-Murillo, a professor who specializes in information regulation at Syracuse University. The emergence of blogs and other alternative news sources has made it more difficult to say whether an area truly lacks local news and therefore needs government intervention, she said.

“Where do we draw the line? Can we say with certainty that these other outlets are not competitors?” Professor Garcia-Murillo said. She said the Legislature would have to show that the market is not being served.

Representatives for both Mr. Cuomo and the State Senate said they were committed to the bill’s goals.

“We are definitely in favor of the concept,” Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, said, though he added that the office needed to review the specific legislation.

Likewise, Mike Murphy, a spokesman for the State Senate, said the decline of local news was “obviously an issue we care deeply about, and it’s something we look to move forward on in the next session.”

A spokesman for the State Assembly, which is also led by Democrats, said the chamber would review the bill.

Despite potential legal concerns, Professor Garcia-Murillo said the bill was a welcome — and overdue — move by government to ensure a strong news economy.

“The government to a certain extent has a responsibility to ensure that the media is fair, is vibrant,” she said. “But if that is the case, that is something that they should have protected over time. They should have been more vigilant about a multitude of voices — not at this point, when you are reacting, but prior.”
Vivian Wang is a reporter for the Metro Desk, covering New York State politics in Albany. She was raised in Chicago and graduated from Yale University. @vwang3

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 22, 2019, Section A, Page 21 of the New York edition with the headline: Lawmakers Propose Requiring Cable Companies to Offer Local News

Did Exxon Deceive Its Investors on Climate Change? New York’s attorney general is about to square off against the oil giant in court. (NY Times)

I started loathing Big Oil as a child growing up in Southern New Jersey, where refineries polluted our air, land and water.

Then as an undergraduate, I studied antitrust law, Global Reach and the power of wicked evil monopolistic corporations to distort our economy and destroy our environment and lives.

One of my high school classmates was cleaning an oil company tank in South Philadelphia a year or two after we graduated; he wound up with burns over 60% of his body, I learned at one of our reunions, the direct and proximate result of being sent into harm's way as a human Q-tip in a tank that was supposed to be empty, but where a spark set him afire.  He survived and lived to tell me.

 As a young undergraduate Senate staffer in the office of Tennessee U.S. Senator James R. Sasser, I worked for horizontal divestiture, which got 30 votes in the Senate in 1977.   (It would have hurt anti-competitive Big Oil extension of control into coal, solar and geothermal.).

The right-wing lobby started by President William Howard Taft, the Chamber of Commerce, diabolically opposed horizontal divestiture.  So was the equally vile National Association of Manufacturers, whose Pennsylvania affiliate blacklisted my father for being a union organizer.  I was delighted to hang up on NAM as they were screaming into the telephone, demanding that the junior Senator from Tennessee oppose legislation designed to increase energy industry competition.

After horizontal divestiture failed, we were ready.  We wrote and got enacted into law a successful floor amendment designed to get data to make it happen. (Section 742 of the Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act of 1978), the exquisitely detailed "Coal Industry Performance and Competition Study," which helped fund a study that empowered activists in Appalachian states to demand fair property tax appraisals of vast mineral wealth.

(History starts with you.)

Read this article by Rockefeller Family Fund Director Lee Wasserman -- I love irony. The Rockefeller great-grandchildren have split with the evil legacy of John Davidson Rockefeller and Henry Morrison Flagler. How cool is that?

Mr. Wasserman concludes: "The industry is based on a deceit. The companies know the planet is headed toward a climate catastrophe, but they keep drilling away, trying to squeeze the last nickel from their deadly product. It will be up to the judge overseeing the New York case, Barry Ostrager, to determine whether Exxon’s misrepresentations violated New York’s securities law, but when it comes to the moral repugnancy of the company’s climate deception, the verdict is in."

This is one of the issues I raised in questions at a Flagler College forum on ocean level rise issues, apparently leading to my exclusion from the bogus "Keeping History Above Water" Conference funded by the City of St. Augustine and badly managed by Flagler College schoolmarms who have emotional problems about academic freedom and criticism of Big Oil companies, the source of the fetid fascit fortune of Henry Morrison Flagler's hoary heirs who founded and funded the place.

From The New York Times:

Did Exxon Deceive Its Investors on Climate Change?
New York’s attorney general is about to square off against the oil giant in court.

By Lee Wasserman
Mr. Wasserman is the director of the Rockefeller Family Fund.
Oct. 21, 2019, 3:12 p.m. ET

The New York attorney general’s office will take its case against Exxon Mobil to trial on Tuesday, arguing that one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies misled its shareholders and the public by misrepresenting the risks that climate change poses to the value of its oil and gas assets.

The lawsuit is one of several the company is facing that if successful, would force Exxon Mobil, which took in some $290 billion in revenue last year, to account for the true costs of its nature-crushing fossil fuel business, making it less competitive with wind, solar and other renewable energy sources and thus accelerating the transition to a clean-energy economy.

This is Economics 101. It’s cheap to pollute if you don’t include the costs of the damage on your books. And for the world’s oil companies, those current and future damages are nearly incalculable if you consider how climate change is leading to the collapse of the planet’s diversity, and the financial losses and human suffering that will result from rising seas and temperatures. One recent study estimates that the world’s top 20 fossil fuel companies are responsible for 35 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions since 1965. Exxon Mobil was the fourth-largest contributor on the list.

What makes this especially mind-numbing is that Exxon knew for decades that its business was altering the climate but repeatedly deceived the public, just as the tobacco companies knew their cigarettes caused cancer but denied it. The attorney general’s office, now under the command of Letitia James (her predecessor, Barbara Underwood, brought the suit) argues that to mislead the investing public, Exxon “erected a Potemkin village to create the illusion that it had fully considered the risks of future climate change regulation.” But “in reality, Exxon knew that its representations were not supported by the facts and were contrary to its internal business practices.”

Exxon had denied wrongdoing and called the case politically motivated.

But in internal memos dating back to the 1970s, Exxon predicted that the effects of fossil fuel emissions could “indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the world’s population).” In 1982 it estimated with stunning accuracy that the atmosphere would contain 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide this year and what that would mean for increased global temperatures. The parade of horribles foreseen by the company — sea level rise, more intense rain and snow, inundation, hotter temperatures, desertification, agricultural disruption — are now regular features of the nightly news. And it will only get worse.

But rather than warn the public,  Exxon spent over $30 million on climate-denying think tanks and researchers to confuse the public about climate science — a confusion that persists to this day — while doubling down on its destructive business model. More than half of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions were produced after Exxon heard the clarion call from its own scientists to change direction.

Exxon now concedes that climate change is happening because of the burning of fossil fuels, and it has spent a modest amount on low-carbon investments. Still the company plans to increase its oil output by 25 percent by 2025 at a time when the world should be sharply reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Actions speak louder than words.

New York is just one front in a legal struggle against the fossil fuel industry, one that the organization I direct has been involved in by financing legal advocacy groups representing plaintiffs in two other lawsuits against the oil giant. Altogether, Exxon and other oil and gas companies are facing at least a dozen other lawsuits, primarily from municipalities, including New York City and Baltimore, and one state, Rhode Island, which want help paying for the substantial climate damages the companies have already caused.

For coastal communities, the cost of defending against rising seas alone will exceed $400 billion, according to a recent study by the Center for Climate Integrity, which the Rockefeller Family Fund supports. This, of course, doesn’t include other enormous expenses. Puerto Rico, Houston and towns in the Midwest are still reeling from climate-juiced storm systems that ravaged homes and infrastructure and led to the deaths of thousands of people. The burden of these costs will fall squarely on all of us who pay taxes unless the responsible climate polluters are required to pay their fair share.
Editors’ Picks

These lawsuits are an important step for society to free itself from the grasp of this lethal industry. Most directly, the suits can provide the billions necessary for communities to repair climate damages and fortify their infrastructure for the storms ahead. And if these cases are successful, Big Oil will finally be forced to assume a greater portion of the costs they have foisted on taxpayers. Their business, which significantly lagged the S & P 500 over the past five years, will take another deserved financial hit.

These cases are also teachable moments. We’re not in this mess because we heat our homes or drive our children to school, which is what the fossil fuel companies want us to think. We’re victims of a small group of gargantuan companies that recklessly and deliberately ignored the implications of their own science and unabashedly worked to deceive the public.

If you don’t believe me, then consider the words of the chief judge of the United States District Court in Rhode Island, William E. Smith, a George W. Bush appointee. In a procedural opinion in the state’s climate case against Exxon and other major oil and gas companies, Judge Smith wrote in July that those companies have “extracted, advertised, and sold a substantial percentage of the fossil fuels burned globally since the 1960s.” He continued:

This activity has released an immense amount of greenhouse gas into the Earth’s atmosphere, changing its climate and leading to all kinds of displacement, death (extinctions, even), and destruction. What is more, defendants understood the consequences of their activity decades ago, when transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy would have saved a world of trouble. But instead of sounding the alarm, defendants went out of their way to becloud the emerging scientific consensus and further delay changes — however existentially necessary — that would in any way interfere with their multibillion-dollar profits. All while quietly readying their capital for the coming fallout.
That’s the case against Big Oil in a nutshell. The industry is based on a deceit. The companies know the planet is headed toward a climate catastrophe, but they keep drilling away, trying to squeeze the last nickel from their deadly product. It will be up to the judge overseeing the New York case, Barry Ostrager, to determine whether Exxon’s misrepresentations violated New York’s securities law, but when it comes to the moral repugnancy of the company’s climate deception, the verdict is in.

Lee Wasserman is the director of the Rockefeller Family Fund. Among its goals is to accelerate the transformation away from fossil fuels by opposing additional fossil fuel infrastructure, drilling, mining and exporting.

Facebook takedowns show new Russian activity targeted Biden, praised Trump. (WaPo)

More Russian fraudfeasing in our elections, caught and cutoff by Facebook. Now the Iranians are at it, too. Makes you wonder about the idiotic iterations coming out of the St. Augustine Tea Party, and those misguided folks on both sides who made August 28, 2017 a din of hostility about memorials to long-dead Confederate soldiers -- a "debate" The Muller Report reveals was stirred up on both sides by Russians.

 From The Washington Post:

Facebook takedowns show new Russian activity targeted Biden, praised Trump
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Georgetown University last week. (Nick Wass/AP)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Georgetown University last week. (Nick Wass/AP) 

WHO IS BARRY MARK BENJAMIN? Jacksonville Resident, Illegally Serving as Chair of St. Augustine Port, Waterway District, Claims to Live At 65 Lewis Blvd. Marina in St. Augustine?

Is this marina the legal voting residence of a local elected official, while others were told they could not vote or run for office without a bona fide residence on land?

Are you kidding me?

The Florida Secretary of State Division of Elections states
  • A business address is not a satisfactory legal residential address. However, although not the rule, if the person is able to prove residence there despite the zoning ordinance, a fact-finding body could determine that the business address is the person’s legal residential address.
Is St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District Chairman BARRY MARK BENJAMIN illegally serving as a member of the District?

Was BENJAMIN elected illegally?

BENJAMIN claims he resides at a marina, 65 Lewis Blvd.  where he once worked.

BENJAMIN may still have a boat there, but he does not live on board.

BENJAMIN resides with his mother and wife at homestead property in Jacksonville.

At least two other live-aboard boat owners were told by the Supervisor of Elections that they had to live on land

Was BENJAMIN treated differently by the Supervisor of Elections office, which told two other candidates that they must

and then-Governor CHARLES CRIST, whose staff blessed a dubious affidavit filed with the Clerk of Courts, swearing that BENJAMIN lived at commercial property, 65 Lewis Blvd., after he applied for homestead status for his then-residence in Palencia?

Does BENJAMIN live with his wife and mother in Jacksonville, at an address where he receives his voter information? 

Did BENJAMIN break the law when he used 65 Lewis Blvd., a marina where he once worked and sold yachts, as his "residence" address when he admits he "lived" in Palencia until 2013?  

I've obtained documents, requested more, and referred the matter to several prosecution agencies, and the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections.

I've asked for the SoE to investigate and make referrals for civil, criminal and administrative investigations.

Read. my October 21, 2019 letter to St. Johns Supervisor of Elections Vicki Oakes and Deputy Wayne Fusco, here:

Dear Ms. Oakes and Mr. Fusco:

Pursuant to F.S. 98.045(1)(h), may I urgently ask you, Ms. Oakes and Mr. Fusco, to inquire about a putative "live-aboard" boat voter's alleged voting residence on commercial property at a marina?

Please investigate St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District Commissio Chairman BARRY MARK BENJAMIN, who implausibly and illegally claims "residence" at 65 Lewis Blvd. pursuant to F.S. 98.045(1)(h). 

After your investigation, I believe that you will be persuaded to determine that Respondent BARRY MARK BENJAMIN "hhas provided an address of legal residence that is not his or her legal residence," and revoke his voter registration in St. Johns County, and make any appropriate referrals for civil, criminal and administrative investigations.
  2. Our Florida Secretary of State Division of Elections states in DE Reference Guide 0003 (Updated 07/2018):  "A business address is not a satisfactory legal residential address."
  3. How long has Respondent BARRY MARK BENJAMIN been improperly registered to vote in St. Johns County, Florida at a "business address?"  Ten (10) years?  Three (3) years?  Please investigate.
  4. Respondent BENJAMIN currently encumbers the elected position of Commissioner and Chairman of the St. Augustine, Port, Waterway and Beach District but lives at 3374 Waverly Dock Road in Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida with his wife and mother.  That is outside the Port District by more than twenty (20) miles.  It is outside St. Johns County.  
  5. This 3374 Waverly Dock Road, Jacksonville, Duval County address is the "mailing address" he provided to the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections on June 2, 2016 (attached) in Florida Ethics Form 1 financial disclosure, adding the word "only" in hand lettered printing in parentheses. 
  6. On October 15, 2019, Respondent BENJAMIN stated in a public meeting, response to Commissioner Sandy Flowers at the monthly meeting of the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach Commission District that he lives "part-time" on his boat at 65 Lewis Blvd.
  7. This is a binding, tape-recorded, admissible admission.
  8. The audio tape is a government record of the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District.
  9. BENJAMIN's statement about being a "part-time" resident is a declaration against penal interest.  
  10. Is Respondent BARRY MARK BENJAMIN's putative part-time "residence"  a valid voting address -- on a boat, on commercial property, which he does not own, where he does not work any longer?  No.
  11. The 65 Lewis Blvd.  address is commercial property under St. Augustine City zoning law.
  12. Have other persons who claim to be live-aboard boaters required by the SoE to have a residence on land to vote?  Yes.
  13. Was Sandy Flowers told she must live on land in order to vote?  Yes.
  14. Does the City of St. Augustine deny live-aboard boat residents in-County reduction in mooring ball fees without a bona fide residential address on land?  Yes.
  15. Does Florida law and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment require that BENJAMIN be treated equally with people who actually live aboard boats?  Yes.
  16. In truth and in fact, BARRY MARK BENJAMIN does not live at 65 Lewis Blvd.
  17. Since at least 2016, BENJAMIN no longer receives any mail from the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections (SoE) at this address
  18. SJC SoE records reflect Mr. Benjamin's mail is sent to an address in Jacksonville, 3374 Waverly Dock Road, in Duval County, where he resides with his wife and mother, 3374 Waverly Dock Road.
  19. BENJAMIN has no residence at the 65 Lewis Blvd. address.
  20. BENJAMIN has no business at the 65 Lewis Blvd. address.
  21. BENJAMIN formerly did business at the 65 Lewis Blvd. address as a business owner.
  22. BENJAMIN no longer owns the marina at 65 Lewis Blvd..
  23. BENJAMIN was formerly a yacht broker at the 65 Lewis Blvd. address. 
  24. As a formerly licensed Florida yacht broker, Respondent BENJAMIN was the subject of several boat owner complaints.
  25. In 2013, Respondent BENJAMIN's Florida yacht brokerage license expired.
  26. HISTORY OF COVERUPS, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AND UNETHICAL GOVERNMENT INACTION:  There is a history of government coverups in Tallahassee involving BENJAMIN's residence status, since 2009, involving both Governor Charles Crist and the Florida Elections Commission.  There is a history of conflicts of interest and unethical government inaction on BENJAMIN's residence status.
  27. An "investigation" involves taking sworn testimony under oath, in-person, and visiting the location in quo.
  28. No investigation ever occurred, 2009-date.
  29. In 2009, Florida Governor Charles Crist's maladroit and incurious staff resolved the matter based on a self-serving affidavit from Respondent BENJAMIN.  No investigation.
  30. In 2012-2013, the Florida Elections Commission claims it  "investigated" but it administratively dismissed -- without any kind of hearing -- three (3) sworn complaints about BENJAMIN's residency.
  31. In 2012, three (3) sworn complaints were filed by Messrs. Jay Bliss, Charles Thomas Meide and Brendan Burke, alleging that BENJAMIN really lived in Palencia, outside Port District boundaries.
  32. The three (3) complaints were closed after a few unsworn, untranscribed telephone interviews with information taken by an incurious Florida Elections Commission investigator, who neglected his duty and never checked local zoning laws.  The "investigator" acted as an amanuensis, not a real investigator.
  33. This sloppy investigative work resembles the approach by OSHA in performing phone/fax investigations, even of life safety hazards, despite Congressional and Government Accountability Office (GAO) findings that phone/fax investigations are inappropriate in cases of imminent life safety hazards.
  34. Where the integrity of our democracy itself is threatened by illegal voter registration of an elected official, the Florida Elections Commission has a duty to investigate, and not telephone and rely on self-serving assertions by the wrongdoer.
  35. The Florida Elections Commission investigator never visited the 65 Lewis Blvd. property to view the purported "mail slot" through which BENJAMIN allegedly received mail from Bank of America, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Residential Finance Corporation and that the business address was used for his 2007 Toyota automobile registration and driver's license address.  
  36. There is no proof that such "mail slot" ever even existed.
  37. The Florida Elections Commission's inept investigator relied on self-serving affidavits procured by Respondent BENJAMIN, or his conflicted counsel, JAMES EDWIN BEDSOLE (Florida Bar No. 500194), also the lawyer for the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District.
  38. The Florida Elections Commission General Counsel, Eric Matthew Lipman (Florida Bar No. 958247)  ended his FEC staff's incomplete, telephonic investigation without examining the facts or the law, including the fact that City of St. Augustine zoning for 65 Lewis Blvd. is for commercial property, and there is no residence on the structure.
  39. The Florida Elections Commission utterly failed and refused to enforce our Florida election laws.  
  40. FEC violated the rights of St. Johns County and Florida residents to honest, fairs elections, blowing off three (3) reasoned and documents filed by three (3) respected actual electors of the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District, one of them a Port Commissioner.  
  41. The three (3) sworn, verified complaints against Respondent BENJAMIN were filed with the Florida Elections Commission, bearing complaint numbers FEC12-174 (Jay Bliss, filed August 3, 2012), FEC-12-259 (Charles Thomas Meide, filed September 17, 2012), and 12-260 (F. Brendan Burke, September 7, 2012).
  42. Oddly, no hearing was ever held by either the Florida Elections Commission or by any any administrative law judge from the Department of Administrative Hearings in any of the three (3) complaints.
  43. The three (3) complaints were kept secret from the public during the putative "investigation," pursuant to Florida election law.  The moribund, do-nothing Florida Elections Commission voted 6-0 on May 14, 2013 to find that there was no probable cause on the three (3) complaints, at a meeting that routinely, rubber-stamped dozens of staff recommendations.  (See attachment).
  44. BENJAMIN was represented by counsel in those three (3) complaints.
  45. BENJAMIN was not represented by a private attorney, but by Port District counsel JAMES EDWIN BEDSOLE, who had no written engagement letter until October 15, 2019, after ten (10) years of serving as the Port District Attorney.
  46. BEDSOLE wrote the Florida Elections Commission and informed it that the Office of Governor Charles Crist had "investigated" in 2009 and that the "investigation" somehow approved his boat voting residence.
  47. No "investigation" was ever performed by Governor Crist's office, which refused to take action based upon a self-serving September 15, 2009 declaration affidavit filed by BENJAMIN. (See attached document from St. Johns County Property Appraiser, withdrawing BENJAMIN's previously approved homestead exemption for his homesteaded property outside the District boundaries, at 145 Oak Common Drive, indicating that once the declaration was received, Governor Crist's appointees dropped the matter. No other records have been located by our Florida State Library and Archives. In short, it appears that Commissioner Jay Bliss's complaint to the Governor was not investigated, and that this case was "fixed" by the office of then-Governor Crist, then a Republican.  That office performed no "investigation."
  48. Was JAMES EDWIN BEDSOLE's dual legal representation in 2009 or 2012-2013 properly approved by the Port District?
  49. Did BEDSOLE ever obtain any legal opinion from the State Attorney General or State Bar that his dual representation was ethical and authorized?
  50. Was BEDSOLE's dual representation in an Elections Commission complaint against one member of the District, of both the member and the Port District itself, a conflict of interest prohibited by Florida Bar Rules?
  51. At the time of the complaints, BENJAMIN admitted on the Port District's website in that he and his wife resided in Palencia, stating inter alia that "Barry enjoys meeting and maintaining contact with meeting and members of foreign port authorities.  They reside in Palencia."  (Emphasis added).
  52. BENJAMIN later blamed an unknown, unnamed staff member of the SOE for his moving outside the territorial limits of the Port District.
  53. Then BENJAMIN filed his affidavit of residency with the Clerk of Courts, implausibly asserting that he lived on his boat.
  54. Emboldened by the inaction, sloth and torpor of the Florida Elections Commission in 2012-2013 and the Office of Governor CHARLES CRIST in 2009, BENJAMIN now lives in Jacksonville, more than 20 miles from the northernmost boundary of the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District.  
  55. BENJAMIN on October 15, 2019 at the Port District meeting now claims to live on a boat in St. Augustine "part-time."
  56. BENJAMIN is currently under investigation by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) for possible unlicensed activity,
  57. DBPR is investigating whether BENJAMIN has retained advertising on the Internet as a yacht brokerage.
  58. DBPR mailed its first inquiry letter to its address on file for BENJAMIN. The letter came back unclaimed.
  59. DBPR sent its second inquiry letter to the Jacksonville address listed on the SoE website, 3374 Waverly Dock Road, where BENJAMIN lives with his wife and mother.
  60. Did BENJAMIN filed an inaccurate or misleading affidavit of residency with the St. Johns County Clerk of Courts before he moved to Jacksonville?  Yes.
  61. Has BENJAMIN corrected or revoked that 2009 declaration affidavit?  No.
  62. Is BENJAMIN relying on that affidavit in a continuing illegal effort to vote from a boat in St. Augustine?  Yes.
  63. Is BENNJAMIN relying on that affidavit in encumbering a seat on the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach Commission? Yes.
  64. Is BENJAMIN relying on that affidavit to continue encumbering a seat on the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District Commission?  Yes.
  65. Is BENJAMIN relying on that affidavit to continue serving as Chairman of the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District Commission?  Yes.
  66. BENJAMIN asserted in the affidavit that 65 Lewis Blvd. was his residence, based on assertions of living aboard a boat.
  67. BENJAMIN does not live aboard a boat at 65 Lewis Blvd.
  68. Yet BENJAMIN swore to SOE in his statement of candidacy on May 18, 2016 that his residence address was at 65 Lewis Blvd.  (See attachment).
  69. BENJAMIN gave the Jacksonville, Duval County, address where he resides with his wife and mother, 3374 Waverly Dock Road, as his mailing address. 
  70. Investigation by the SJC SoE will confirm that BENJAMIN does not live inside the territorial limits of St. Johns County or the St, Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District and does not live at 65 Lewis Blvd. on commercial property he no longer owns and where he claims, at best, to be a "part-time" resident of his boat.
  71. BENJAMIN did not live inside the territorial limits of the St, Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District when he filed a statement of candidacy in 2016 for his re-election.  
  72. BENJAMIN's seat is thus vacant, pursuant to F.S. 104.01(g). 
  73. BENJAMIN's election as Chairman in November 2018 was illegal, ultra vires, and void ab initio.
  74. Does BENJAMIN's May 18, 2016 statement of candidacy contain a false statement that violates F.S. 104.11(1) in connection with a political candidacy?  Yes.
  75. Has BENJAMIN received, and voted to disburse, state and local government funds based upon his May 18, 2016 statement of candidacy, which contain a false statement that violates F.S. 104.11(1) in connection with a political candidacy?  Yes.
  76. Are some of those government funds state funds, covered by the Florida False Claims Act?  Yes.
  77. Has BENJAMIN made repeated false statements to Florida government officials in connection with his residence?
  78. Is BENJAMIN voting illegally from commercial property at Lewis Blvd., when he receives his SoE mail in Jacksonville, where he resides with his wife and mother?  Yes.
  79. Is BENJAMIN serving illegally as Chairman of the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District?  Yes.
  80. I texted BENJAMIN on October 18, 2019 and I offered to read him the complaint in draft form.  He declined, asking me to text it to him.  I declined, explaining that I have arthritis.  He then wanted me to send him a photo of it.
  81. The facts are irrefragable.
  82. Benjamin is not a lawful voting resident of either St. Johns County or the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District.
  83. BENJAMIN has not advanced any evidence that 65 Lewis Blvd. is his current residence address.
  84. A call to the marina at that location will confirm that BENJAMIN does not live there.
  85. Interviews with live-aboard boat residents at that location will confirm that he does not live there.
  86. BENJAMIN's 65 Lewis Blvd. voting residence is a sham and a legal fiction, perpetrated by SAPWB counsel JAMES EDWIN BEDSOLE and tolerated by the staff of Governor Charles Crist and the staff of the Florida Elections Commission in the past.
  87. SAPWB Chair BENJAMIN issued illegal orders to me and other citizens at the October 15, 2019 meeting, as did Vice Chair Thomas Rivers, who is also the St. Johns County Republican State Committeeman.   The purpose of those illegal orders was to suppress free speech about this boat voting residence sham, and other instances of misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, waste, fraud, abuse by SAPWB.
  88. Those illegal orders by nonresident SAPWB Chair BENJAMIN prevented actual St. Johns County residents from discussing BEDSOLE's first-ever contract as attorney for the District.
  89. Those illegal orders included a retaliatory request that the St. Augustine Beach Police remove Mr. Thomas F. Reynolds, a resident of St. Augustine Beach and St. Johns County, an announced candidate for Sheriff, in blatant retaliation for his asking to speak about BEDSOLE's contract.  BENJAMIN has a custom, usage, practice and procedure of denying public comment before SAPWB decisions. 
  90. This violates F.S. 286.0114 and the First and Ninth Amendments to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. 1983. 
  91. Other persons calling out without being recognized were not ejected, including St. Augustine City General Services Director James Piggott, who called out information from the back of the St. Augustine Beach City Commission chambers without ever being recognized or going to the podium.
  92. Other persons at Port meetings frequently calling out information without being recognized; all of them are representatives of law enforcement or government entities, including the Florida Inland Navigation District, the St. Johns County Sheriff, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, and St. Augustine Police, and St. Augustine General Services Director.  
  93. None are ever gaveled or ordered removed.  
  94. Hence BENJAMIN's ordering Mr. Reynolds removed was illegal viewpoint discrimination, intended to further his scheme of illegally voting from a boat and encumbering the Chairman's seat on the Port Commission.
  95. Other illegal orders at the October 15, 2019 included Rivers' odd demand that I stop filing Open Records requests with the District.
  96. At least one of those requests related to BENJAMIN's residence.
  97. On October 15, 2019, one of those Open Records requests disgorged inculpatory documents on Florida Elections Commission files on complaints concerning BENJAMIN's residence, including facts set forth in this complaint.
  98. Thus, BENJAMIN and Rivers both would appear to have both obstructed justice and violated civil rights in connection with BENJAMIN's voting status.
  99. The SJC Supervisor of Elections is hereby respectfully requested to determine, without fear or favor, whether BENJAMIN is an eligible voter in 2019.
  100. The SJC Supervisor of Elections is hereby respectfully requested to determine, without fear or favor, whether BENJAMIN was an eligible voter in 2016 at the time when he admitted his residence in Jacksonville, long after he ceased having any business connection or  mailing address at the 65 Lewis Blvd. commercial property.
  101. The SJC Supervisor of Elections, Honorable Vicki Oakes, is hereby respectfully requested not to accept any correspondence from or lobbying by JAMES EDWIN BEDSOLE, the counsel for the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach Dstrict.
  102. JAMES EDWIN BEDSOLE cannot legally serve as BENJAMIN's counsel in civil, criminal or administrative investigations, as such would be ultra vires, and a prohibited conflict of interest.  Rules 4-1.7, 4-1.13, Rules Regulating the Florida Bar (September 19, 2019).
  103. Port District Attorney JAMES EDWIN BEDSOLE is now on notice about BENJAMIN's residency. Attorney BEDSOLE now has a mandatory legal duty under Rule 4-1.13 to take action concerning BENJAMIN's illegal voter registration.  Rule 4-1.13(b) states in pertinent part: "(b) Violations by Officers or Employees of Organization. If a lawyer for an organization knows that an officer, employee, or other person associated with the organization is engaged in action, intends to act, or refuses to act in a matter related to the representation that is a violation of a legal obligation to the organization or a violation of law that reasonably might be imputed to the organization and is likely to result in substantial injury to the organization, the lawyer shall proceed as is reasonably necessary in the best interest of the organization. In determining how to proceed, the lawyer shall give due consideration to the seriousness of the violation and its consequences, the scope and nature of the lawyer’s representation, the responsibility in the organization and the apparent motivation of the person involved, the policies of the organization concerning such matters, and any other relevant considerations. Any measures taken shall be designed to minimize disruption of the organization and the risk of revealing information relating to the representation to persons outside the organization. Such measures may include among others:
    (1) asking reconsideration of the matter;
    (2) advising that a separate legal opinion on the matter be sought for presentation to appropriate authority in the organization; and
    (3) referring the matter to higher authority in the organization, including, if warranted by the seriousness of the matter, referral to the highest authority that can act in behalf of the organization as determined by applicable law."
  104. Complaints concerning an elected official-voter's residence are personal to the individual and not against the government agency board on which they may serve illegally. 
  105. BEDSOLE's October 15, 2019 engagement letter with SAPWB does not provide for representation of individual board members in election, ethics or other potential civil, criminal or administrative matters.
  106. Sadly, there were blurred ethical lines during the 2012-2013 complaints against Respondent BENJAMIN.  It was, at best, unseemly for SAPWB lawyer JAMES EDWIN BEDSOLE to represent BENJAMIN before the Florida Elections Commission (or the Governor if that ever occurred).
  107. As an elected official, BARRY MARK BENJAMIN has no right or entitlement to a "free lawyer" to represent him before the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections, or any other government official on his voting residence. See Rules 4-1.7, 4-1.13, Rules Regulating the Florida Bar (September 19, 2019). 
  108. Respondent BARRY MARK BENJAMIN must either defend himself, or find independent counsel. 
  109. It would be an inherent conflict of interest and unethical for Port District attorney BEDSOLE to represent BENJAMIN before SoE in this matter.   See Florida Bar Ethics Opinion 77-30 (Reconsideration, September 29, 2006)(inherent conflict of interest for County Attorney to represent County Commissioner charged with an ethics violation --  any County Commission waiver of conflict of interest cannot be given by the County Commissioner in quo).
  110. BARRY MARK BENJAMIN cannot be represented by JAMES EDWIN BEDSOLE or any other government attorney before SoE, or otherwise, on his illegal voting address.
  111. It would be a contract violation of public policy, unseemly and patently unjust for non-resident SAPWB Chair BARRY MARK BENJAMIN to defend his actions by abusing the services of a government attorney paid by the taxpayers of the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District.  See October 15, 2019 representation agreement (attached); Restatement of Contracts, 2d, Sec. 178 (Contract Violation of Public Policy)
  112. No fact-finding body has ever actually determined that BENJAMIN is a resident of either 65 Lewis Blvd. or the St. Augustine Port Waterway and Beach District.
  113. "Secret law" is not susceptible of precedent, administrative-judicial notice, collateral estoppel or res judicata.
  114. "Secret law" on BENJAMIN's voting residence has allowed BENJAMIN's illegality to fester for ten (10) years without public scrutiny.  Secrecy has empowered BENJAMIN to remain a member of an elected Board ten (10) years after concerns were first raised and dismissed by insouciant staffers of then-Governor Charles Crist.  Enough flummery, dupery and nincompoopery on BENJAMIN's voting residency.
  115. "Democracy dies in darkness."  (Washington Post motto, coined by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Bob Woodward).
  116.  "[J]ustice may not be done in a corner nor in any covert manner,' 1676 Fundamental Laws of West New Jersey, Chapter XXIII,  cited in State ex rel. Herald Mail Co. v. Hamilton, 267 S.E.2d 544 (W.Va. 1980), citing 5 F. Thorpe, American Charters, Constitutions and Organic Laws, 1492-1908 (7 Vols. 1909), at 2551.  See also Jonathan Manes, "Secret Law," 106 Georgetown Law J. 803 (2018), at
  117. As John Adams said, in his closing argument to the jury in defense of the British soldiers accused of murders in the Boston Massacre, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” (John Adams, Argument in Defense of the British Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, December 4, 1770).
  118. Please investigate and kindly consider appointing an administrative law judge or a special magistrate to hold an open public hearing.
  119. Let justice be done at last, following years of coverups, ineptitude and desuetude (non-enforcement) by Florida's Governor and Florida Election Commission.
  120. Ms. Oakes and Mr. Fusco: Pursuant to F.S. 98.045(1)(h), the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and your Florida SoE oaths of office (pursuant to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution), please comply with, enforce and uphold our Florida election residency requirements, summarized by our Florida Secretary of State Division of Elections in DE Reference Guide 0003 (Updated 07/2018): 
    • "A business address is not a satisfactory legal residential address. However, although not the rule, if the person is able to prove residence there despite the zoning ordinance, a fact-finding body could determine that the business address is the person’s legal residential address.....Please note Supervisors of Elections have a duty per s. 98.045, F.S., to determine whether a person is eligible or not. If it appears that the address is not a residential address or cannot be determined to be a residential address, a Supervisor may ask the applicant for more information to determine if the applicant is a legal resident of the county.

What's next?
Please call me to discuss.
Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin


St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District:
P. O. Box 4512
St. Augustine, FL 32085-4512 (904) 824-0113
Elyse Kemper
3670 US 1 South, Ste. 290
St. Augustine, FL 32086
797-6660; Fax: 797-3009
Attn: Elyse Kemper

Board Members:

Barry Benjamin – Commissioner
65 Lewis Blvd
St. Augustine, FL 32084
W/C 669-6954 H: 824-7957

Tom Rivers - Commissioner 303 Porpoise Pt Rd
St. Augustine, FL 32080
C 904-347-6986


Matt Brown - Commissioner 19 Hope St
St. Augustine, FL 32084
C: 646-247-7837


Sandy Flowers - Commissioner 40 Water St
St. Augustine, Fl 32084
C: 904-429-5045


Chris Way - Commissioner 39 Avista Circle
St. Augustine, FL 32080
C: 904-669-1339

Mike Trudnak
W) 904-731-7040
Engineering Consultant:
Taylor Engineering Inc
10199 Southside Blvd Ste 310 Jacksonville, FL 32256
731-7040; Fax 731-9847 C) 472-9811 Email:

District Counsel
James E Bedsole
Law Offices of James E Bedsole 2450 Old Moultrie Rd. Ste 104 St. Augustine, Fl 32086
W: 797-8701 Fax: 797-8705 Email: