Sunday, September 22, 2019

NO MORE COVERUPS -- DESTROYING HISTORY, CENSORING THE TRUTH? -- Did City Managers Censor Archaeologist on Disturbance of Dead Human Bodies on Charlotte Street?

Dead human bodies were disturbed in the City of St. Augustine last month.

Thanks to former City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt for raising the alarm to City Commission September 9, the day after the founding of the City of St. Augustine 454 years ago.  After winning the City's highest award after his retirement, Mr. Halbirt came back to report his concerns, citing to Florida Statute 872 and using the word "felony."

Once called "The Minister of Propaganda" by a former City Attorney, John Patrick Regan, P.E., our City Manager, at first seemed more concerned about public relations than truth, avoiding and evading efforts to learn what the City's water utility contractor did and why.

Felony crimes, torts or contract violations may have been committed, but there are apparently no civil or criminal investigations, yet.  There may be a coverup.

This may be the worst environmental violation by the City since it dumped a landfill in a lake in 2005-2006: we caught them then and we're exposing them now.

Our history must be preserved and protected: The first parish church in what is now in the United States had the first European burials in the United States.

After 1702, when the British burned the City to the ground, the church moved. The bodies remained.  Then, the 1573 City Plan was modified, without notifying the Spanish King, extending Charlotte Street to King Street, over top of the bodies.  Buildings were built.  Time forgot them, until road and pipe work during Henry Flagler's

The  bodies of St. Augustine's first European and first African residents are now underneath Charlotte Street and adjoining buildings, including the A1A Aleworks buildings at King and Charlotte Street, which allowed then City Archaeologist, Mr. Carl Halbirt, and retired UF Archaeologist Dr. Kathleen Deagan to explore after Hurricane Matthew.  Here they are, to the right:

When Charlotte Street's ancient pipes were being replaced, bodies were found, and an agreement was made between the City and Church on archaeological preservation and respect for the dead.

Then, almost 454 years to the day that St. Augustine was sighted and named by the Spanish in 1565, a City contractor, G & H Underground Construction, Inc., with a history of OSHA fines totaling $31,592 in 2018 for "serious" and "willful" violations allegedly violated its instructions.  Or did City managers authorize it to do what it did?

We don't know yet.

What happened: On a weekend night in late August, the City's underground utilities contractor was allowed to work without an archaeological supervisor, outside of the approved area where archaeological surveys had been done, below the two foot limit approved by the City.   No City archaeological supervisor was present. Why?

Roman Catholic Church concerned: On September 17, I spoken with Ms. Ellen Avery-Smith, RogersTowers law firm, who tells me that her client, the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine, is concerned and waiting, as am I, for truthful, candid answer.  I have shared my e-mails with Ms. Smith, Roman Catholic Church officials, and the Papal Nuncio (Ambassador from the Vatican) in Washington, D.C.

What's next: The issue will be on the City's agenda on Monday, September 23, 2019 at 5 PM.  Come speak out in favor of a stronger archaeological ordinance, with stronger penalties.

Coverup ongoing?: Is someone in City Hall is apparently pressuring Dr. Andrea White, Ph.D. to trim her sails and not speak the whole truth?  Her testimony, and those of other witnesses, needs to be under oath.

Whistleblower protection needed; City and contractor employees must be protected from retaliation with a strong local whistleblower ordinance, which I have been advocating since 2006.

In 2006, the City dumped a landfill in a lake and City Commissioners promised their fealty and undying loyalty to City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS in the midst of pending federal and state environmental crimes investigations. This chilled cooperation with federal and state investigators, and helped HARRISS avoid prosecution.

Structural reforms needed:  The City Archaeologist and other environmental regulatory personnel need to be in a separate department, not reporting to the Director of Building and Planning, David Birchim, who functions as a cat's paws for developers.  I've proposed a Department of Environment, Safety, Health and Archaeology (ESHA)

No more coverups, please.

City Archaeologist Dr. Andrea White has not yet responded to a telephone message left last week.  I am waiting for a substantive discussion with City Manager John Patrick Regan, P.E.,who appears especially evasive and anxious on the City's contractor disturbing dead human bodies on Charlotte Street, locus in the 16th century of the very first parish church in what is now the United States.

But there is a major discrepancy, a material alteration, if not falsification, between the candid report that Dr. White provided to State of Florida history officials on August 28, 2019 and the self-serving City defending memo that is being presented in her name at the Monday, September 23, 2019 City Commission meeting.

Here's my September 22, 2019 e-mail requesting some of the pertinent records.

Dear Mr. Regan, Ms. Breidenstein, Ms. Fountain, Dr. White, Ms. Galambos, Ms. Lopez and Messrs. Cullum,  Birchim,  Piggott, Grant, Cary and Williamson:

1. Concerning the City contractor's  alleged illegal disturbance of dead human bodies from Nuestra SeƱora de Los Remedios on Charlotte Street outside the approved work zone, please explain and provide the document(s) showing the date, time and editor(s) responsible for the material alterations in Dr. Andrea White's chronology of the events involving dead human bodies disturbed on Charlotte Street between two versions of it:
A. Dr. White's August 28, 2019 complete, candid memo for the State of Florida and 
B. Dr. White's memo for the City Administration bearing the date of September 23, 2019, to be presented to City Commission at the September 23, 2019 meeting.  

2. Specifically, I am wondering about words that do not show up in the September 23, 2019 document:

From August 28 memo:  
  • Construction work did not resume on Charlotte Street until August 12, 2019.
  • Since that time, a new water line has been successfully installed within the footprint previously investigated by the City’s Archaeology Program without any impacts to burials.Over this past weekend, construction work occurred without archaeological monitors present. This included removing approximately 20 feet of an 8” pipe from an area previously uninvestigated. Disturbance likely extended beyond two feet in depth. We do not know what, if any, impacts to internments and archaeological deposits occurred, and this area has already been backfilled.
  • Now, there has been a change to the scope of work. To ensure the new roadbed will not slump, engineering requirements now necessitate the removal of the old 8” waterline within the uninvestigated area, which sits below 24” in depth. It is the removal of this old pipeline that is exposing/impacting additional burials.

From September 23, 2019 memo:  
  • SundayAugust 262019construction work resumed. This work included connecting the old and new waterlines, conducted overnight to minimize disruption of water service.
  • Tuesday morningwhen work resumed with archaeological monitors present, additional burials were observedand work ceased.
3. The second version omits the fact that G & H Underground Construction worked without archaeological supervision and worked below two feet.  

4. Who edited, altered and censored Dr. Andrea White's August 28, 2019 memo to make her chronology incomplete in the September 23, 2019 version?  Why?

5. Please provide all versions of both memos, and intermediate memos, bearing edits, including metadata.

6. Please provide copies of the relevant appointment calendars establishing with whom Dr. White met and spoke, August 28-date, on the Charlotte Street project.

7. No more coverups, please.  Scientific integrity must be protected and encourged.

Thank you.

With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin


Here is the full text of the memo from Dr. Andrea White, dated September 23, 2019 (tomorrow), included in Commissioners' packets:

City of St. Augustine 
To: John P. Regan, P.E. City Manager
DATE: September 232019RE: Charlotte Street and compliance with Section 872.05, Florida Statutes
Starting in 2016, the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Program has been conducting archaeological investigations in support of the Charlotte Street Utility Improvement Project. During this archaeological work, numerous burials were encountered that are associated with the first parish church in St. Augustine, Nuestra Senora de los Remedios (ca. 1574 to 1702). Section 872.05, Florida Statutes is the section of law concerning unmarked burials and stipulates it is a third-degree felony if a person willfully and knowingly disturbs unmarked burials. Equally important, the law outlines the protocols for the discovery ofhuman burials, especially in an archaeological context such as Los RemediosAs part of the City Archaeologist's duties, both former City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt and myself have assisted the City's observance of this law and ensured the respectful treatment of the deceased. Since 2017,therehavebeen established protocols created in full coordination with the State Archaeologistthe designated descendant representatives-the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustineand other esteemed community members and scholars. Below is a synopsis of events related to the project and coordination efforts made with the State Archaeologist to ensure City compliance with Section 872.05, Florida Statutes.
  • In early 2017, the City Archaeology Program began to investigate the areas of proposed impacts associated with the Charlotte Street Utility Improvement Project and uncovered burials associated with Los Remedios both within Charlotte Street and underneath 1 King Street. Pursuant to Section 872.05Florida Statutesthe State Archaeologist was notified of the discovery of human remains. In accordance with Section 872.05(6)(c),Florida Statutes, a committee was formed that outlined the protocols to determine the respectful disposition of the remains.
  • In February 2018, construction work commenced on the Charlotte Street Utility Improvement Project. In May 2018, I notified State Archaeologist, Dr. Mary Glowacki,via phone call that work within the area of the Los Remedios church/cemetery footprint was about to occur and a professional archaeologist would monitor construction work. We reviewed the protocols regarding the discovery of human remains should they be encountered.
  • On May 31, 2018, construction work uncovered additional burials as a result of a slight shift in the construction footprint. These remains were located in an area not archaeologically tested in 2017 or disturbed by previous utility trenches and would be impacted if construction were to proceed. All work ceased and the State Archaeologist was notified.
  • On June 20, 2018, a conference call was held, reconvening the 2017 committee, which included representatives from the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research/State Archaeologist, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, and the City of St. Augustine. The committee outlined protocols for exhuming the remains that would be impacted by proposed construction and ways to minimize disruption to those interred.

    (page 2)

    • During the summer of 2018the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Program investigated the footprint o f the waterline installation trench and exhumed burials which would be impacted by proposed constructionWork followed the protocols outlined by the committee and was completed at the end of September.
    • Another committee conference call was held on October 3, 2018to discuss the remaining construction work and ways to prevent uncovering additional burials, including minimizing impacts by avoiding excavation deeper than 24 inches.
    • During late fall of2019, the City's Public Works Department placed temporary asphalt over the street to reopen the road for the holiday season, effectively suspending any construction for 9 months.
    • In mid-August 2019construction work resumed on Charlotte Street picking up where work ceased in June 2018. Between August 12 and 132019the new water line was successfully installed within the footprint previously investigated by the City's Archaeology Program without any impacts to burials.
    • SundayAugust 262019construction work resumed. This work included connecting the old and new waterlines, conducted overnight to minimize disruption of water service.
    • Tuesday morningwhen work resumed with archaeological monitors present, additional burials were observedand work ceased.
    • In accordance with Section 872.05Florida StatutesI informed the State Archaeologist,Dr. Mary Glowackiabout the new discovery via email on August 282019summarizing the level of ground disturbance monitored by professional archaeologistsnoting it was unknown what, if any, impacts may have occurred in unmonitored areasand asked for guidance regarding the next steps. Dr. Kathryn Miyar, who has been designated by the State Archaeologist to oversee Ch872 casesplanned to visit the site. However, Hurricane Dorian prevented the visit. In order to protect the remains and ensure public safety, the utility trench containing exposed burials was backfilled prior to the storm.
    • The burials continue to be protected and all work has ceased. No work will recommence until there is a plan in place in ensure the respectful disposition ofthe remains.
    • A conference call with the designated committee including representatives ofthe City,State Archaeologistand the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine is being organized for the week starting September 16, 2019, with the goal of outlining a work plan to ensure the respectful disposition of Los Remedios burialsI hope to be able to share the outcome ofthe call at the September 26 Commission Meeting.
      The timeline above should demonstrate the actions taken to comply with state law. I f you have any questions or need additional informationplease let me know.
      Andrea WhitePh.D.
      City Archaeologist
      Planning and Building Department

No comments: