Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Cui bono? (Who benefits?)












President John F. Kennedy said, "here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own."

Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are the envy of the world and deserve strong defenders today.

Since 1787, all military service members, federal, state and local judges, appointed and elected officials, and civil servants, have sworn an oath to preserve, protect and defend our U.S. Constitution. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights survived and expanded
to end chattel slavery and indentured servitude, end Nazism, end Communism, end Jim Crow segregation, and protect the rights of women, ethnic and religious minorities and GLBT people, including our constitutional right to Gay marriage.

At a Memorial Day ceremony at our St. Augustine National Cemetery, more than 100 heroes, recently deceased departed local veterans, were honored May 27, including my mentor, Dr. Abraham Cohen, Ph.D., a retired psychology professor who studied under Abraham Maslow. Named after Abraham Lincoln, Abe Cohen bombed Munich as a member of U.S Army Air Corps at age nineteen. Abe was present at Nuremberg during trials of Nazi war criminals. Abe witnessed the evil of both Nazism and Jim Crow segregation.

Abe Cohen encouraged me to ask questions, to demand answers and to expect democracy. Like my father and mother, Abe supported human rights and spoke out against oppression. So did my mentor, longtime U.S. Department of Labor Chief Judge Nahum Litt, who taught me to ask often, "Cui bono?" (Who benefits?). So did my mentor, Senior Special Agent Robert E. Tyndall, retired EPA,, HUD and FBI criminal investigator of white collar crime and corruption.

On June 6, 1944, D-Day, my father arrived early, around 1 AM. Dad jumped out of what Abe Cohen later called "a perfectly good airplane," a C-47, into Nazi-occupied France, with the 82nd Airborne Division, F Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, helping capture Sainte-Mère-Église before dawn. Sole surviving son of a widow, my dad volunteered for military service the day after Pearl Harbor. The Navy rejected him because he was color-blind. Dad, a Polish-American, went to work machine-gunning Nazis after combat jumps in North Africa, Sicily and Normandy. He later spoke out against the coverup of President Kennedy's assassination after reading the Warren Commission report, discussing it with the eight top non-commissioned officers in the 82nd, all expert marksmen; all said they could not have made the shot that Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly made with an antique Italian mail-order rifle. Dad asked, "Cui bono?"

On January 31, 2019, Eli/Ellie Washtock was murdered at World Golf Village. Last year, Eli/Ellie watched PBS Frontline video about the September 2, 2010 Michelle O'Connell death, pronounced a "suicide" before dawn. Eli/Ellie spent tens of thousands of dollars of his own money hiring investigators to seek justice for Michelle O'Connell. Eli/Ellie's murder is being investigated by Putnam County Sheriff, NOT either FDLE or FBI. Cui bono?

Sheriff David Shoar, f/k/a "Hoar," spent hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars of your money attacking FDLE Special Agent Rusty Ray Rodgers and the Michelle O'Connell family and defending Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Banks, trying to get Special Agent Rodgers criminally prosecuted and fired, hit in 2013 with a meritless, harassing, retaliatory, costly "civil rights" lawsuit, which was finally dismissed after five years. Cui bono?

From 2013-2018, St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar's Finance Director allegedly embezzled some $700,000. That case is being investigated by Polk County Sheriff, NOT either FDLE or FBI. Cui bono?

St. Johns County Administrator MICHAEL DAVID WANCHIK has squandered more than $500,000 on the same conflicted lawyer-lobbyist (THOMAS MARTIN FIORENTINO) who also lobbies for Nocatee, PARC group, Davis family, other developers, St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar, the City of Jacksonville, JEA, JTA. Cui bono?

For $800,000,County deleted 40 acres of workforce affordable housing from Nocateee. Cui bono?

Dodgy developers contribute to Sheriff Shoar and other campaigns and get secret "ex parte" meetings with elected officials and virtually unlimited Commission meeting time to plump for their projects, without equal time for residents opposed to or questioning those projects. Too often, residents can't obtain answers and developer "testimony" is unreliable, unsworn and unquestioned. Cui bono?

No one ever answers citizen questions about who actually owns and invests in local projects that are destroying our wildlife, clearcutting our forests, devouring our agricultural land and destroying our wetlands. Cui bono?

Lobbyists are not required to register by local governments and are allowed to charge percentage contingency fees, which are illegal in our state and federal governments, and elsewhere in Florida. County Commission rejected a draft ordinance last year after lobbying by "stakeholders" a/k/a "snakeholders," like disgraced ex-Commissioner Priscilla "Rachael" Bennett, who argued in favor of continued contingency fees. Cui bono?

One incurious accounting firm (MASTERS, SMITH & WHISBY) has audited the City of St. Augustine's books for some 33 years, and mainly works for Jacksonville automobile dealers. Cui bono?

One conflicted corporate law firm (UPCHURCH, BAILEY AND UPCHURCH) has represented and advised the St. Johns County School for decades, for decades, for longer than anyone cares to remember, billing millions of dollars, instead of hiring in-house lawyers, like Flagler Counyt School Board, the City of St. Augustine and St. Johns County. Cui bono?

Despite growing evidence of maladministration, 30+year St. Augustine Beach City Manager BRUCE MAX ROYLE remains on the job. Despite the too-tall EMBASSY SUITES debacle, despite the Passport Labs, Inc. paid parking smartphone app debacle, despite covering up and failing to investigate sexual harassment and hostile working environment allegations, despite attacking activists, and despite admitting and joking in his monthly newspaper column about falling asleep in meetings, ROYLE's Reign of Error continues. Cui bono?

The City of St. Augustine has long resisted calls for national or statewide searches for jobs like City Manager and City Attorney, preferring to promote current employees like John Patrick Regan, P.E., and Isabelle Christine Lopez, of whom Commissioners Leanna Freeman and Nancy Sikes-Kline BOTH said, "She protects us." From whom, for whom? Cui bono?

There are no Ombuds or independent Inspectors General (Its) for local governments in St. Johns County, with powers to advocate for employees or citizens or to investigate potential wrongdoing. Other Florida counties have IGs and Ombuds. No response or discussion when I raise the issue, 2008-date. Cui bono?

On May 23, 1983, Oak Ridge, Tennessee City Council heard a presentation about what possessed our federal government to dump millions of pounds of mercury into creeks and groundwater and into workers' lungs and brains. I cross-examined Energy Department and Union Carbide officials for 20 minutes as Appalachian Observer Editor.

Here in Northeast Florida (God's country), government meeting public comment is limited and questions are left unanswered: Joe Boles and Andrea Samuels, former mayors of twin itty-bitty cities, candidly stated, "There's no dialogue here." Cui bono?

Work tirelessly to "defeat the wickedness and oppression of [freedom's] enemies," as General George S. Patton, Jr. prayed in 1944.

Decisions are made by people who show up early. Like my dad did in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

TIMOTHY J. BURCHFIELD RETIRING OCTOBER 14, 2019: ASST. CITY MANAGER COVERED UP WRONGDOING BY CITY OF ST. AUGUSTINE

As the parish priest of Ste.-Marie-Egliese told parishioners 75 years ago, "Redemption is near." Good people of St. Augustine, this is delightful news on both counts.

Meredith Breidenstein is a great choice.

I've been writing about bigoted bumptious bully BURCHFIELD' maladministration since 2006, when we broke the story of the City of St. Augustine dumping a landfill in a lake.

Local Briefs: Assistant city manager to retire
Posted Jun 4, 2019 at 4:10 PM
Updated Jun 4, 2019 at 4:10 PM
St, Augustine Record

New assistant city manager chosen

If the St. Augustine City Commission approves the move, city budget director Meredith Breidenstein will become the new assistant city manager on Oct. 15.

Current Assistant City Manager Tim Burchfield, who has worked for the city for about 30 years, plans to retire Oct. 14, according to a memo to commissioners from City Manager John Regan.

Regan has appointed Breidenstein as Burchfield’s replacement, but the City Charter requires Commission confirmation of the appointment, according to Regan. That item is on the consent agenda for Monday’s City Commission meeting, which means the appointment will be passed with other items on the consent agenda unless the Commission pulls it for discussion.

“Breidenstein has been with the city for 14.5 years, functioning in finance, budget (and) disaster recovery,” according to Regan. “She is a respected city director and has earned the trust of our entire organization.”

The city plans to conduct a national search to fill her current role of director of budget and performance management, according to Regan.











Appellate Judge Sees Criminal Neglect In U.S. Response To Climate Change (Forbes)

Then-Rep. Al Gore, Jr. held the first Congressional hearing on global warming in 1978.

The position of the Department that calls itself "Justice" is, at best, facetious.



Appellate Judge Sees Criminal Neglect In U.S. Response To Climate Change

Plaintiffs Kelsey Juliana, right and Vic Barrett, left, gather with other youth plaintiffs in the Juliana v. United States climate change lawsuit in a federal courthouse for a hearing in front of a panel of judges with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. The lawsuit by a group of young people who say U.S. energy policies are causing climate change and hurting their future faces a major hurdle Tuesday as lawyers for the Trump administration argue to stop the case from moving forward. (Robin Loznak/Pool Photo via AP)
Plaintiffs Kelsey Juliana, right and Vic Barrett, left, gather with other youth plaintiffs in the Juliana v. United States climate change lawsuit in a federal courthouse for a hearing in front of a panel of judges with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. The lawsuit by a group of young people who say U.S. energy policies are causing climate change and hurting their future faces a major hurdle Tuesday as lawyers for the Trump administration argue to stop the case from moving forward. (Robin Loznak/Pool Photo via AP)
One appellate court judge was impressed enough Tuesday by the case brought by 21 children, some now adults, suing the U.S. government over climate change that he said it may show criminal neglect.
But Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz remained less certain on the specific question before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: whether the judicial branch can do anything about it.
"You present compelling evidence that we have a real problem. You present compelling evidence of inaction by the other branches of government. It may even rise to the level of criminal neglect," Hurwitz told the children's attorney in a Portland, Or. courtroom yesterday. "The tough question for me—and I suspect for my colleagues—is, do we get to act because of that?”
At the time Horwitz thought the plaintiffs had sued the government for failing to act to prevent climate change. But their attorney, Julia Olson, swiftly corrected him:

"I want to emphasize that this case is not a failure-to-act case," she said. "The threat here is intensely affirmative.”
In Juliana vs. United States, Olson contends the government has worsened climate change by promoting the fossil-fuel industry, by allowing oil and gas development on public lands, by sharing in the revenues, by working interdependently with polluters, by being "so involved in private activity that it's constitutionally liable."
Further, the government's complicity in greenhouse-gas pollution is systemic, Olson argues, and it violates her clients' Fifth Amendment rights to life, property, equal protection under the law, personal security and family autonomy. She cited precedent in Brown vs. Board of Education, the decision that struck down school segregation. Her young clients are being deprived of their rights not because of their race this time, she argued, but because of their youth.
Representing the Trump Administration, Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark argued the court has no business intervening in administrative matters. He described the lawsuit as an attack on the separation of powers that would radically change how the government does business. Asked by Hurwitz what recourse people have if the executive and legislative branches fail to protect them from harm, Clark said they can vote the politicians out of office.
"The remedy, however painful it might be... is the political remedy of removing them from office," Clark said.
"Even if you would suffer all the damage before that can occur?" Hurwitz asked him.
"Yes, your honor, because that's the whole notion of the separation of powers. Each of the branches of government in our three-branch system have their own institutional competencies, and we have mechanisms to deal with executive malfeasance, executive misfeasance, but it's not for the judiciary to take over and make subsidiary the executive branch or the Congress."
Hurwitz is a former justice of the Arizona Supreme Court who was appointed to the appellate court in 2012 by President Obama.
The three judges who heard the hearing Tuesday may take six months to decide whether the courts can intervene, said Howard Learner, the lawyer who directs the Environmental Law & Policy Center. The case, if victorious, could take a year and half to return to the District Court judge who originally found merit in the students' claim. That judge, Ann Aiken, has written, “Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”
The plaintiffs are asking Judge Aiken to force the U.S. government to develop a plan to transition the country's energy system off of fossil fuels.
Watch the hearing:
By Jeff McMahon, based in Chicago. Follow Jeff McMahon on FacebookGoogle PlusTwitter, or email him here.
I've covered the energy and environment beat since 1985, when I discovered my college was discarding radioactive waste in a dumpster. That story ran in the Arizona Republic, and I have chased electrons and pollutants ever since, for dailies in Arizona and California, for alternative weeklies including New Times and Newcity, for online innovators such as The Weather Channel's Forecast Earth project, The New York Times Company's LifeWire syndicate, and True/Slant—the prototype for the new Forbes. I've wandered far afield—to cover the counterrevolutionary war in Nicaragua, the World Series Earthquake in San Francisco, the UN Climate Change Conferences in Copenhagen and Paris. For the last several years I have also been teaching journalism and argument at the University of Chicago. Email me here: jeffmcmahon.com/contact-jeff-mcmahon/

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Clara Waldhari GUEST COLUMN: Our bodies, our decision, and now our fight (St. Augustine Record)

Epic Churchillian column by the incomparable Clara Waldhari, who earned her advanced degree in journalism at the University of Arizona, where she met and married sagacious  Carl Halbirt, our  City of St. Augustine's  first City Archeologist, 1990-2018.

By Clara Waldhari / St. Augustine
Posted May 25, 2019 at 7:44 PM
GUEST COLUMN: Our bodies, our decision, and now our fight (St. Augustine Record)

Forget The Handmaid’s Tale, a work of fiction written by the inestimable Margaret Atwood in 1986. Truth is stranger than fiction.

It is also amoral and outrageous that, in 2019, women face losing control over their reproductive health care. This is the right to make decisions about our own bodies. We are to be legislated by OWGs (Old White Guys) who have done in their lives nothing but contribute sperm. And not always in the way God intended.

The Republican Party has been working assiduously to take Roe v. Wade out of federal hands and place decisions for reproductive health care only in the hands of each state. We’ve seen in these past few weeks the degree to which women are reviled for their ability to continue the species. We should be exalted and celebrated.

Instead, the Evangelical Right has been the ants to our grasshoppers. We mostly coalesce when big hits threaten our dominion over our own bodies.

Medical ethicists don’t agree when life begins. Many do agree it is when the fetus is viable outside the womb. Until then, although it might be formed in human shape, aborted fetuses have not the developed systems to live. You might ask, “Why wait so long?” That is never an easy question. There are as many responses as there are unwanted pregnancies.

Some women don’t test positive. It’s too early. Others might be unaware or in denial or shock. Yet the choice to end an unwanted pregnancy is no one’s right or business but the pregnant woman and her doctor. This is not a matter for God or his poor, deluded, hateful minions on Earth to decide for us. Women can, should, and shall make their own decisions about what happens to their own bodies.

If you don’t like abortion, then don’t have one. Better, why not adopt some of those children born unwanted? Where are you all who profess to love God and Jesus and are taught to treat people (including women) in the Christian way? You are hypocrites. You have no comprehension of what a woman endures when faced with the choice of an abortion. Contrary to popular belief, the number of abortions has gone down in the United States. Many countries in Eastern Europe and other countries use abortion as birth control. Because we have access to the pill and other contraceptive devices (for men, which they refuse to use), abortions here have diminished.

The most brutal of all is to waive the right for victims of rape and incest. Have you Christians no comprehension? No empathy? Are you so stupid as to think rape is sex and not power? Are you so stupid as to ignore, despite your Biblical teachings, that incest is evil? Pitiable.

I believe now that Roe well could be overturned, given the demonic Supreme Court appointees made by your “president.”


We will be there. We will be everywhere. We will not take “no” for an answer. Your ilk is what is wrong with our species and each one of you in favor of recent states’ proscriptions should be extirpated with haste.

Tea Party-ers, you are included. OWGs know nothing about equality under the law.

I’ve been saying, “Stay Out of Our Wombs” for 50 years. I will use every day given to me by this universe to fight you to the figurative death.

Pro-Choice women will run for office, win, and be in positions to restore our reproductive health care. We shall never forget. We shall never again return to coat-hanger abortions and death by sepsis. We remember. And we shall win.

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Saturday, June 01, 2019

Ed Slavin GUEST COLUMN: "D-Day freed Western Europe: Truth frees us all." (St. Augustine Record, Sunday, June 2. 2019)

By Ed Slavin / St. Augustine
Posted Jun 1, 2019 at 6:52 PM
Updated Jun 1, 2019 at 6:52 PM

John F. Kennedy said, “Here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”

Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are the envy of the world, and deserve strong defenders today.

Since 1787 all military service members, federal, state and local judges, appointed and elected officials and civil servants have sworn an oath to preserve, protect and defend our U.S. Constitution. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights survived and expanded to end chattel slavery and indentured servitude, end Nazism, end Communism, end Jim Crow segregation and protect the rights of women, ethnic and religious minorities and GLBT people — including our constitutional right to Gay marriage.

At a Memorial Day ceremony at our St. Augustine National Cemetery more than 100 heroes, recently deceased departed local veterans, were honored May 27, including my mentor, Dr. Abraham Cohen, Ph.D., a retired psychology professor who studied under Abraham Maslow. Named after Abraham Lincoln, Abe Cohen bombed Munich as a member of U.S. Army Air Corps at age 19. Abe was present at Nuremberg during trials of Nazi war criminals. Abe witnessed the evil of both Nazism and Jim Crow segregation.

Abe Cohen encouraged me to ask questions, to demand answers and to expect democracy. Like my father and mother, Abe supported human rights and spoke out against oppression. So did another mentor, longtime U.S. Department of Labor Chief Judge Nahum Litt, who taught me to ask often, “Cui bono?” (Who benefits?)

On June 6, 1944, D-Day, my father arrived early — around 1 a.m. Dad jumped out of what Abe Cohen later called “a perfectly good airplane,” a C-47, into Nazi-occupied France, with the 82nd Airborne Division, F Company, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, helping capture Sainte-Mère-Église before dawn. Sole surviving son of a widow, my dad volunteered for military service the day after Pearl Harbor. The Navy rejected him because he was color-blind.

Dad, a Polish-American, went to work machine-gunning Nazis after combat jumps in North Africa, Sicily and Normandy. He later spoke out against the cover-up of President Kennedy’s assassination after reading the Warren Commission report, discussing it with the eight top non-commissioned officers in the 82nd, all expert marksmen. All said they could not have made the shot that Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly made with an antique Italian mail-order rifle. Dad asked, “Cui bono?”

On Jan. 31, 2019, Eli/Ellie Washtock was murdered at World Golf Village. Last year, Eli/Ellie watched PBS Frontline video about the Sept. 2, 2010, Michelle O’Connell death, pronounced a “suicide” before dawn.

Eli/Ellie spent tens of thousands of dollars of his own money hiring investigators to seek justice for Michelle O’Connell. Eli/Ellie’s murder is being investigated by Putnam County Sheriff, not either FDLE or FBI. Cui bono?


From 2013 to 2018, St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar’s Finance Director allegedly embezzled some $700,000. That case is being investigated by Polk County Sheriff, not either FDLE or FBI. Cui bono?

On May 23, 1983, Oak Ridge, Tennessee City Council heard a presentation about what possessed our federal government to dump millions of pounds of mercury into creeks and groundwater and into workers’ lungs and brains. I cross-examined Energy Department and Union Carbide officials for 20 minutes as Appalachian Observer Editor.

Here in Northeast Florida (God’s country), government meeting public comment is limited and questions are left unanswered: Joe Boles and Andrea Samuels, former mayors of twin itty-bitty cities, candidly stated, “There’s no dialogue here.” Cui bono?

Work tirelessly to “defeat the wickedness and oppression of [freedom’s] enemies,” as General George S. Patton Jr. prayed in 1944.

Decisions are made by people who show up early — like my dad did in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Federal subpoenas demand Gillium campaign records (Tampa Bay Times)



Federal subpoena demands records on Andrew Gillum and his campaign for governor

A recent federal probe sought information related to the Florida Democrat and people in his orbit, signaling a shift in the Tallahassee FBI investigation
Florida Gubernatorial Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum interviews with the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg, Florida on Friday, October 19, 2018. Gillum is named in a recent federal grand jury subpoena that demanded information on the former candidate, his campaign and his political committee. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Andrew Gillum is a focal point of a recently issued federal grand jury subpoena that demands information on the former Democratic candidate for governor, his campaign, his political committee, a wealthy donor, a charity he worked for and a former employer.
The subpoena, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times and previously unreported, could reflect a new level of federal inquiry into Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee who narrowly lost to Republican Ron DeSantis last year.
Throughout his campaign last year, Gillum insisted he was not a target of a sprawling FBI investigation of Tallahassee City Hall, which has taken at least three years and resulted in three arrests. Last year, he told the Tallahassee Democrat: “Twenty-plus subpoenas have been issued and not one of them has anything to do with me.”
But the recent one does. Previously, the investigation had centered on corruption inside Tallahassee government, including during Gillum’s time as mayor. The newer subpoena is more focused on Gillum’s 2018 campaign and people and organizations with clear ties to him, but with less obvious connections to Tallahassee City Hall.
Gillum, now a CNN contributor, declined to answer specific questions about the subpoena or say whether a subpoena was issued to him. In a statement to the Times, Gillum said: "We stand ready to assist any future review of our work, because I am confident we always did the right thing and complied fully with the law.”
“We ran an open and honest campaign. A campaign powered by thousands of volunteers and supporters. A campaign that captured imaginations and earned over four million votes,” Gillum said. “When you run a campaign that puts the power in the hands of the people, and fights for change, it inevitably invites close scrutiny, regardless of the facts.”
As a policy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not confirm or deny the existence of a matter before a grand jury, or whether a subpoena has been issued, the agency’s press office said.
If someone is named in a subpoena, it does not mean an individual or entity is under investigation. Rather, subpoenas are a tool for prosecutors to gather information that they could later present as evidence to a grand jury.
Issued in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee, the subpoena demands “documents, electronically stored information, or objects” dating back to January 2015 about Gillum, his 2018 gubernatorial campaign and his political committee, Forward Florida. It requests documents be turned over at either a Tallahassee courthouse or to the FBI by May 7.
The subpoena also demands information on:
  • John H. Jackson, the president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit. Gillum was listed as a board member on the nonprofit’s website until March 2017. Also on the subpoena is a related organization: Opportunity to Learn Action Fund. Gillum was president of that nonprofit as recently as 2017, according to its tax documents.
  • Donald Sussman, an investor and philanthropist who donated $1.5 million to Gillum’s bid for governor. Harris Parnell, a donor adviser who has worked for Sussman, also is named.
  • Sharon Lettman-Hicks, a long-time friend and adviser to Gillum who is currently the CEO of the National Black Justice Commission, a black LGBTQ advocacy group. She served with Gillum on the board of the Schott Foundation. Her public relations firm, P&P Communications, is also listed in the subpoena.
Little has been reported about Gillum’s work for the Schott Foundation for Public Education. It is a well-regarded charity that focuses on racial and economic justice through education equality, especially in the Northeast. It has about $10 million in assets and it has distributed millions of dollars in grants to education organizations around the country.
Gillum, who campaigned on a platform of raising teacher pay and investing $1 billion in public schools, didn’t draw attention to the years he served on the board of an education charity. He declined to say what years he served but he is listed on the Schott Foundation’s tax records as a board member from as early as 2013 to 2017.
Jackson, its president, is the former national director of education and chief policy officer for the NAACP and has served as the Schott Foundation’s leader since 2007. Jackson posted a glowing congratulatory letter about Gillum on the foundation’s website after the Democratic primary.
“I’ve known Andrew Gillum for close to two decades, as a friend, staunch advocate for an opportunity to learn for all students and ultimately as a colleague as a member of the Schott Foundation Board of Directors,” Jackson wrote. “All of us at Schott are proud of what our colleague and friend has accomplished, and can’t wait to see what Andrew Gillum, Florida voters and the growing movement for public education in Florida achieve next.”
When asked about the subpoena, Jackson declined to comment through his lawyer, Ron Meyer of Tallahassee.
Opportunity to Learn Action Fund is a separate, much smaller entity controlled by the Schott Foundation. Gillum was the president from as early as 2014 until at least 2017, according to publicly available tax documents, when the organization reported expenses ranging from $50,000 to $125,000. Gillum did not take a salary.
Unlike the Schott Foundation and other traditional charities, Opportunity to Learn is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, meaning up to 50 percent of its expenses can go toward political purposes. Its mission, according to tax documents, is “promoting improvement in America’s public education systems and advocating for educational policy reforms.”
Florida Gubernatorial Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum gives a campaign speech at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, on Thursday, October 25, 2018. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Florida Gubernatorial Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum gives a campaign speech at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, on Thursday, October 25, 2018. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Lettman-Hicks, who is a close friend and mentor to Gillum since his days at Florida A&M University, remains listed as a board member for the Schott Foundation on the organization’s website.
In a brief phone conversation Tuesday, Lettman-Hicks acknowledged she served on Schott Foundation’s board but said about the subpoena: “I’m not at liberty to discuss that.” She declined to say whether she spoke with authorities or was asked to turn over documents.
“You’re asking me some deep information,” she said. “If you’d like to send it to me, I can have a point of reference of what you’re talking about. But I can’t be of further assistance sight unseen.” She then hung up.
Gillum’s relationship with Lettman-Hicks was a point of controversy during last year’s governor race. Gillum reported income in 2017 of $71,000 from Lettman-Hicks’ firm on a state financial disclosure report. Meanwhile, his campaign rented space from her Tallahassee public relations firm, P&P Communications, at a cost of nearly $45,000.
Gillum has repeatedly dodged questions about his work for Lettman-Hicks, which started soon after he left his job at the People For the American Way. In one interview with the HuffPost, he declined to name his clients. Lettman-Hicks later told a Tallahassee Democrat reporter that she was Gillum’s only client.
It is unclear what connection, if any, exists between these nonprofits and Donald Sussman. The Connecticut financier donated $1 million to Forward Florida two days after Gillum became the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor, and he followed it up with another $500,000 check in October. Sussman was previously a large contributor to Democratic causes in Maine and donated $21 million to a super PAC supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.
Sussman did not respond to a message left for him at his investment firm, Paloma Partners. Attempts to reach Harris Parnell were unsuccessful.
FBI investigators first arrived in Tallahassee in August 2015. The undercover operation has led to the arrest of three individuals: suspended City Commissioner Scott Maddox, his former chief of staff Paige Carter-Smith and businessman J.T. Burnette. A superseding indictment of the three made public earlier this month lists 47 charges, and it alleges Burnette was the middleman in a shakedown and bribery scheme that netted Maddox and Carter-Smith hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Undercover FBI agents were the ones who gave Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum a ticket to the Broadway show Hamilton during a trip to New York City in 2016, according to a trove of records given to the ethics commission and released to the public in 2018. Text messages between Gillum and former lobbyist Adam Corey, who arranged outings with undercover agents looking into city corruption, were among more than 100 pages of records Corey gave the ethics commission, which is investigating trips to Costa Rica and New York that Gillum took in 2016.
Undercover FBI agents were the ones who gave Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum a ticket to the Broadway show Hamilton during a trip to New York City in 2016, according to a trove of records given to the ethics commission and released to the public in 2018. Text messages between Gillum and former lobbyist Adam Corey, who arranged outings with undercover agents looking into city corruption, were among more than 100 pages of records Corey gave the ethics commission, which is investigating trips to Costa Rica and New York that Gillum took in 2016.
During that investigation, FBI agents posing as developers met Gillum and a friend, lobbyist Adam Corey, in New York City, where they took a now-infamous boat ride around New York Harbor and attended the hit Broadway show Hamilton. A trove of records released two weeks before the election allegedly showed that FBI agents paid for Gillum’s hotel room and his ticket to the musical.
There does not seem to be much connection between the players in that probe and this recent subpoena — except for Gillum. The previously reported investigation focused on city business and contracts with developers; the newer subpoena centers on people and entities in Gillum’s political and professional orbit.
Grand juries do not determine guilt or innocence, only whether there's probable cause to believe someone committed a crime. Federal grand jury proceedings are typically secret and closely guarded, but witnesses can disclose they have been summoned, unless explicitly prohibited. Many choose not to.
It is unclear whether the federal grand jury is the same that has reviewed evidence and indicted the three individuals in the Tallahassee corruption probe.
Gillum has not been charged with any crime. In January, the Florida Commission on Ethics unanimously found probable cause that Gillum, while Tallahassee mayor, violated state ethics laws by accepting gifts from Corey and the undercover FBI agents. Gillum reached a settlement agreement with a commission lawyer in April to pay a $5,000 fine in exchange for dropping four of the five ethics violation charges.
Gillum has sought to move on from the cloud of the investigation and get on with his political career. Through his political committee Forward Florida, he is leading an effort to recruit 1 million more Democrats to vote in the 2020 election.
In an interview with the Times on May 16, Gillum said of the FBI investigation: “I’m not waiting for any shoes to drop.”
“I do hope that whatever the FBI is up to that they bring it to a speedy conclusion,” Gillum said then. “I think that would be in the best interest of my city, but also for the individuals involved.”
Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Steve Contorno at scontorno@tampabay.com. Follow @scontorno.

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