Saturday, September 21, 2019

COME QUESTION SA PORT DISTRICT PRIORITIES AT BUDGET MEETING: OUR QUESTIONS MUST BE ANSWERED -- October 3, 5:05 pm meeting of St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District

I've been working with reform St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District Commission Sandra Flowers, et al. helping hold our Port District accountable to the Rule of Law and fiscal responsibility laws.

On September 17, 2019, I became the first person in nineteen (19) years to attend a budget meeting and ask questions.

The Board lacks a welcoming spirit and almost passed the budget before allowing public comment.  But there's more.  Since July, I've learned that:

  1. Port District won't answer questions about why there's no Port tax money for pumpout boat, dinghy docks or boat ramps.
  2. SA Port District improvidently and illegally spends money on flubdubs, without proof of spending or fiscal responsibility:
    1. $197,000 for dumping concrete miles out in the ocean, off Flagler County, calling it an "offshore reef, outside its territorial jurisdiction and without legal authority:
    2. doling out checks for City projects, without accountability.
    3. underwriting an annual boat parade, 2008-date. without a legal opinion, grant proposals or accountability on spending, to the tune of $71,727.02.
  3. Port District won't consider buying or renting a dredge to keep inlet navigable.
  4. Port District has no staff, relying exclusively on government contractors.
  5. Port District, claiming to "save money," may be violating tax, labor and government accountability laws by hiring an alleged "independent contractor," ELYSE KEMPER, as "Secretary-Treasurer,: with no timesheets.
  6. Port District "independent contractor" Secretary Treasurer, writes checks to other contractors. drawing annual audit exceptions about conflict of interest, with no interest in the Board hiring a staff.
  7. Port District lawyer JAMES BEDSOLE has never had a contract or retainer agreement, billing tens of thousands of dollars since 2009, including charging to write the Board's minutes.
  8. Port District has not voted to reappoint Secretary-Treasurer or lawyer in several years, meaning they are serving illegally,
  9. Port District engineer contract expired in 2018.
  10. Port District lawyer, JAMES BEDSOLE is insolent, insulting Commissioner Flowers, saying during a break between two meetings September 17, 2019, "you don't pay property taxes."
  11. Port District lawyers JAMES BEDSOLE and Secretary-Treasurer ELYSE KEMPER have no records of any state open records or ethics or Sunshine training.
  12. Port District Chair and Vice Chair overrule Commissioner Flowers and citizens: they illegally forbids public comment on agenda items, cabining public comment to the end of the meeting, after decisions are made.  This violates F.S. 119.0114(2).
  13. Port District has no plans for ocean level rise.
  14. Port District spent millions of dollars on Summer Haven River project without adequate oversight or inspections.
  15. Port District contractor, TURNBILL ENVIRONMENTAL, INC. under investigation by Florida Department of Environmental Protection for possible lawbreaking.
  16. Port District voted September 17, 2019 to allow St. Johns County to work "under" its U.S. Army Corps of Enginees permit, with no written resolution, no written request, and public comment forbidden, on a project to fill in an Atlantic Ocean breach that has happened three times before.  St. Johns County Commissioners narrowly approved the work 3-2 (Commissioners Jeb Smith and James K. Johns dissenting).  
  17. Our governments have spent millions of dollars, 2008-2019, mucking with the Summer Haven River, with no end in sight, and no environmental science peer review.
  18. Port District is steeped in a culture of secrecy and corruption, keeping the same engineering company for 29 years, without seeking bids.
  19. Port District charged $400 to Sandy Flowers to watch her read records, illegally, before she was elected Commissioner.
  20. Port District attempted to charge me $50/hour (in advance, by check) for illegally-serving Secretary 
  21. Port District Chair BARRY BENJAMIN has served as "liaison" to Guana-Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve since 2000 without recent annual appointments or reports to Commissioners on GTM-NERR work
  22. Port District Chair BARRY BENJAMIN  has served as "liaison" to Florida Inland Navigation District since 2000 without recent annual appointments or reports to Commissioners on FIND work.
  23. Port District Chair BARRY BENJAMIN and Vice Chairman THOMAS J. RIVERS behave arrogantly, talking down to reform Commissioner Sandra Flowers and citizens; I called out RIVERS for his sexism and misogny at the 9/17 meeting debacle.

September 17, 2019 (Constitution Day) was the first time anyone asked Budget questions at the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach Commission in nineteen (19) years. Our rights were violated by Vice Chairman THOMAS J. RIVERS, in the inexplicable absence (still unexplained) of Chairman Barry Benjamin. Final budget hearing is at October 3, 2019, 5:05 PM, at St Augustine Beach City Hall. Let's scrutinize, analyze expose and reform this badly mismanaged agency. Come join Commissioner Sandy Flowers, other concerned citizens and me. It's our money. Despite effrontery, condescension, denial and absurdities, we shall continue ask questions, demand answers and expect democracy. It's our Port, Waterway and Beach Commission. It is up to us.

Where: St. Augustine Beach City Hall.
When: Thursday, October 3, 2019
What; Final FY 2020 budget hearing
Why: You have a right to ask questions and speak on the budget.

Contact for your records requests and concerns:

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:

The St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District Commission's Vice Chair, Realtor THOMAS J. RIVERS (born December 1, 1942), acted illegally September 17, 2019 (Constitution Day) when he forbade me to speak in public comment on matters voted on by the Commission before they were voted on.  

Though several Board members wanted to hear my comments, THOMAS J. RIVERS arrogantly violated Florida's Sunshine Law and thereby rendered illegal their purported vote to allow St. Johns County to work under the Port's existing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit.

RIVERS also refused to provide answers ton any budget questions in the budget meeting, saying that answers to questions were not on the agenda. 

During a break, I told THOMAS J. RIVERS that his attorney had given him bad legal advice.  When I went to shake his hand, we fist-bumped because he broke his "pinky" in a fall at a University of Florida football game last week.  RIVERS appeared hungover during the meeting, dazed, confused and barking commands, even gaveling Commissioner Flowers as she tried to speak her mind.  

THOMAS J. RIVERS might as well have had a sign in front of him saying, "I'd rather be sailing." (In a text message, RIVERS stated that his middle initial, J., does not stand for Jefferson.)

When I was finally allowed public comment, Port District attorney JAMES BEDSOLE yelled, "Time's up.  Time's up." Twice. Twice. How rude, gauche and louche.

Illegally-serving Port District Secretary-Treasurer ELYSE KEMPER whined in exasperation during the 5:05 pm budget meeting that it was the first time in nineteen years that anyone had spoken in public comment at a Port District budget meeting. (Is there martyrdom involved?)

During a break between two meetings, illogical, ill-mannered illegally-serving Port District attorney JAMEES BEDSOLE called me an "ass," as did KEMPER.  

In July, ELYSE KEMPER illegally demanded $50/hour in advance for watching me look at documents, an illegal demand in violation of a 2016 Florida Supreme Court ruling. 

During that break, an angry, enraged insolent, vulgar attorney JAMES BEDSOLE insulted Port District Commissioner Sandra Flowers and me, falsely and irrelevantly claiming that we were not taxpayers or property owners, I've asked for his files on Ms. Flowers and me.

KEMPER has never apologized. 

BEDSOLE has never apologized.

Does being the Port District mean never having to say you're sorry?

It's time for them to go.

As Harry S Truman said, "If you can't stand, the heat, get out of the kitchen."

BEDSOLE has never had a retainer agreement or engagement letter with the District. KEMPER is an "independent contractor," illegally writing checks for a government agency that has not voted to rehire her in years.  

The nongovernmental employee putative independent contractor has been repeatedly gigged by annual audits for years for conflicts of interest.  

Those concerns fell on uncaring ears for years, when JOHN CARL BLOW and the late JERRY DIXON ran the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District as their personal fiefdom, as if it were theirs.

During the regular meeting, I called out RIVERS for his Sunshine violations and for his sexist, misognist behavior at every meeting toward Commissioner Sandra Flowers, the first woman. to serve on the District Board. 

(No sign of Port District Chair BARRY BENJAMIN, who was absent without explanation.  I've written previously about BENJAMIN's misrepresenting himself as a yacht broker (license expired after customer complaints) and a St. Johns County Code Enforcement inspector (no documents support this claim produced by County Attorney).

During the budget meeting at 5:05, RIVERS could not resist trying to pass a tax increase without hearing public comment.  RIVERS' colleagues prevailed, and public comment was heard.  

RIVERS was so out of it that he called for adjournment before the budget business was completed.  Color this Trump-loving dull Republican clueless, as well as unconstitutional.  What a louche lugubrious goober.

RIVERS wants to cut off discussion of possible fraud, waste, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance, noneasance, flummery, dupery, nincompoopery, no-bid contracts, expired contracts, ultra vires acts, legal malpractice and domination of the district's business by engineering and. construction contractors.

COME QUESTION SA PORT DISTRICT PRIORITIES AT BUDGET MEETING QUESTIONS MUST BE ANSWERED; October 3, 5:05 pm meeting of St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District

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