The City of St. Augustine was conned on its purchase of swampland at 91-93 Coquina. The Florida Ethics Commission may have been conned, too. The reflexive rodomontade emitted by St. Augustine City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E. and Public Works Director MICHAEL G. CULLUM, P.E. -- freighted with animus, unethical and retaliatory? You tell me.
Waiting on documents, but what I've read suggests that some more thin baloney was sliced in Tallahassee, by Republicans, to benefit Republicans, in that mythical beast they call the Florida Ethics Commission. What do you reckon?
Shockingly one-sided, shallow coverage in the St. Augustine Record today (below) on dismissal of ethics complaints against City officials.
It's hard to discuss it intelligently when the Record breaches its duty to investigate rather than serve as amanuensis. I've requested all the state files.
But I will say: attacking two ethics complainants in the news media is unethical. That's what City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E. and Public Works Director MICHAEL G. CULLUM, P.E. have just done, in the Halloween 2019 edition of the St. Augustine Record, in lurid hostile page one quotes. That's wrong.
In contrast, there's no such quote from Vice Mayor LEANNA FREEMAN, who touted her bona fides as an ethical lawyer, but cast no aspersions (or asparagus) in the direction of former Commission election opponent Ms. Susan W. Rathbone.
It looks like the case turned on whether there was a benefit to FREEMAN and REGAN property values from the purchase.
An incurious State AG advocate relied on an academic journal article, not actual appraisals of the prospective alleged increase in value of City Commissioner LEANNA FREEMAN and City Manager JOHN REGAN from creating the passive park at 91-93 Coquina.
JOHN PATRICK REGAN's rude reflexive rodomontade, his TRUMPlike, complaint -- the complaints were "politically motivated" -- shows his narcissism, his delusions of adequacy and his lack of respect for the process.
Likewise, MICHAEL G. CULLUM's frivolous accusation of frivolity shows he lacks character.
Like two drunken fratboys high-fiving one another after a football game, the nasty mean-spirited, unethical CULLUM/REGAN quotes dispel any notion that the City Manager does not need oversight or checks and balances.'
Watching MIKE CULLUM try to be diplomatic is like watching a duck try to fornicate with a football, and just as entertaining. This low-ethics individual threatened me publicly over questions on the 91-93 Coquina swampland purchase, asking me to "step outside" after I asked a few tough questions he and his satellite, Assistant Public Works Director TODD GRANT, P.G. refused to answer on-camera January 31, 2019 at a pre-meeting before the secretive "Keeping History Above Water" conference.
Left to their own devices, do you reckon these two boorish Gator-goobers would get the City of St. Augustine into other peccadilloes, waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery?
RFK said, "it is not enough to allow dissent, we must demand it, for there is much to dissent from." We demand:
- data, not derision;
- ethics, not excuses and evasions;
- good science, not "dry-labbing"
- sound engineering, not lies and "warm fizzes."
I've filed Open Records requests for data the Record's shallow reporting denies us.
Ethics complaints dismissed against St. Augustine officials
By Sheldon Gardner
Posted Oct 30, 2019 at 6:45 PM
Updated Oct 30, 2019 at 7:02 PM
The Florida Commission on Ethics recently found no probable cause that ethics laws were violated after investigating complaints against three city officials, according to a news release from the ethics commission.
The complaints were filed against City Manager John Regan, Public Works Director Mike Cullum and Commissioner Leanna Freeman.
The complaint filed against Regan focuses on a city bayfront project and a tour involving a firm employing Michelle Regan, John Regan’s daughter.
Matthews Design Group supervised the project and used REG Architects as a subcontractor. REG hired as a subcontractor Cotleur & Hearing landscaping company, where Michelle Regan worked as a landscape architect and provided some work on the bayfront project.
During an investigation by the Florida Ethics Commission, Regan said he didn’t direct the city subcontractor to hire the firm.
18007 Advocate’s Recommendation.pdf
18007 Public Report.pdf
19021 Advocate’s Recommendation.pdf
REG President Rick Gonzalez said that neither Regan nor Matthews Design Group suggested Cotleur and Hearing for the project, and that it was his decision.
After Regan learned of the firm’s involvement, he eventually asked for REG to remove Cotleur and Hearing from the project because ”‘the optics weren’t good,’” according to the investigation. He was advised by the city attorney, who followed up with an Ethics Commission attorney to confirm, that the arrangement appeared to not violate ethics laws.
He also disclosed the relationship at a March 2015 Commission meeting.
Another focus of the complaint was that Regan led a tour of the city with officials from Cotleur & Hearing, including his daughter, and others. Regan said he gave the tour because the firm had a client who was interested in landscape designs used by the city, and he said the the tour wasn’t related to any city project, according to investigation documents.
According to the documents, Regan “said he believed leading the tour was a recruiting tool that could generate future development in the City of St. Augustine and allow him to make business connections.”
Regan said it is a routine thing to provide tours to developers and others.
Another complaint focuses on the city’s purchase of 91 and 93 Coquina Ave. in Davis Shores.
Complaints say that Regan and Cullum provided misinformation to the Commission about purchasing the land and that the purchase would have benefited Regan and Freeman because they live in the area. Everyone denied there was any intent to provide misinformation or benefit any public official.
The information presented to the Commission was that purchasing the property would provide access to make flooding improvements and that a property owner had told the city to leave when crews tried to make improvements.
But after speaking with the Commission, Regan learned that the person was not a property owner. Also, he learned the city had an easement over a creek to do work at one point, though it had disappeared because of erosion.
The investigation found that Freeman and Regan wouldn’t receive a property value increase and that there was no probable cause behind the complaints against them and Cullum.
St. Augustine resident Susan Rathbone made the complaints about the Coquina Avenue purchase, and attorney Zachery Kellery, of Palatka, filed the complaint about the contract issue and city tour involving Regan and Regan’s daughter.
In an email to The Record on Wednesday, Rathbone stood by her complaints and wrote that she believes the officials’ actions diminished public confidence.
“I put my trust in the justice system, and this time, was let down, as they claimed their actions did not violate any law over which the Ethics Commission has jurisdiction,” Rathbone wrote. “This will not keep me from trying to hold our public servants accountable in the future.”
Kellery couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
On Wednesday, Regan described the complaints against him, Freeman and Cullum as “politically motivated.”
“I’m just glad that the state of Florida did a thorough investigation,” Regan said.
Freeman said Wednesday that she’s been practicing law in Florida since 1996 and has never had a bar complaint.
“Personally, I very much value our ethics rules and responsibilities, and they are a very important part of my professional life,” she said.
Cullum said residents are welcome to ask city officials questions if they have concerns.
“I want to encourage residents to touch base ... with city staff to talk about the facts of projects before they decide to file a baseless and frivolous ethics charges in the future,” he said.