Thursday, July 02, 2020

July 2, 1964: President Lyndon Baines Johnson Signs 1964 Civil Rights Act, Thanks to Courage of Our Neighbors and Friends in St. Augustine

Future UN Ambassador Andrew Young, future Nobel Prize winner Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Robert S. Hayling, D.D.S., who started the St. Augustine movement and won national support, leading to enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Upon learning of passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hugged by Lennette Pemberton in the Iceberg Restaurant, owned by she and her husband on Bridge Street in St. Augustine

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrested by Police Chief Virgil Stuart in St. Augustine for seeking service in segregated restaurant at Monson Motel (Stuart, a KKK member/sympathizer, blamed "outside agitators" for unrest -- our City government has named police headquarters against the racist police chief)

Rev. Ralph David Abernathy & Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in St. Augustine Jail
(Dr. King said it was the nicest jail he'd ever been in and wrote rabbis from his jail cell about how St. Augustine is the "most lawless" city in America.

African-Americans denied service and arrested at Woolworth's, St. Augustine, 1964
(This holy place in our Nation's civil rights and African-American history, owned by an Episcopal Church, is currently a bank and gallery. It could become part of a national civil rights museum under proposed St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and National Scenic Coastal Parkway Act of 2009)

Civil rights protesters in Slave Market Square, June 1964

Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



Healing the scars of racism in St. Augustine brought two Civil Rights monuments in our Slave Market Square – one to Rev. Andrew Young and the other to the civil rights footsoldiers who made possible the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Dr. King was here in St. Augustine during 1964, where he and local residents helped change world history. The 1964 Civil Rights Act enacted as a result of what happened right here, in our Nation's Oldest European-founded City.
Dr. King called St. Augustine "the most lawless city in America" in his June 11, 1964 letter to reform rabbis. One week later, St. Augustine saw the largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history.

Here's more courtesy of the ACCORD website:
Local and National Background

Through most of the southern United States, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century and becoming the entrenched law of the land by the early years of the 20th century, segregation by race was the legal system. That is, by law, blacks and whites were separated in all public facilities. Blacks could not eat in restaurants, stay in hotels or motels, swim in public beaches or pools, or attend the same schools or churches if any of these facilities or institutions were used by white people. In St. Augustine, a black person could not get a drink of water from a public fountain or use the restrooms in public facilities. Although they could purchase goods from the local stores, they could not sit at the lunch counter and order food in the same store. State and local police forces as well as the courts of the state were all required to uphold and enforce these laws. Educational and job opportunities- although the law did not require it-were restricted on the basis of race.

In 1954, The Supreme Court of the United States declared that the "separate but equal" legal status of public schools made those schools inherently unequal and ordered the desegregation of all public schools in the United States. In St. Augustine, by 1964 — ten years later — only 6 black children had been admitted to white schools, and the homes of two of the families of these children had been burned by local segregationists and other families had been forced to move out of the county because the parents had been fired from their jobs and could find no work.

In the spring of 1964, a major Civil Rights Bill was pending in the United States Senate. This bill — if made into law — would outlaw all segregation on the basis of race in all public facilities. That is, if the facility, such as restaurants, hotels, beaches, buses, trains, restrooms, etc, were open to public use, no one could be denied the right to use it on the basis of race. Major civil rights demonstrations in many southern cities had convinced most Americans that the laws of segregation violated the constitution of the United States and were morally wrong. The house of Representatives had passed the Civil Rights Bill on February 10, 1964, and a majority of senators had declared they would vote in favor. A group of senators from southern states began a filibuster — a non-stop speech preventing any action on any bill from taking place. Senate rules require a 2/3rds vote to halt a filibuster. There were not enough Senators willing to do so. Teams of Senators had kept the speech going for months. The Civil Rights movement seemed stalled, hopes for the passage of this bill began to dim. It was in that atmosphere that demonstrations in St. Augustine played a major role in securing the needed votes to stop the filibuster and pass the Civil Rights Bill.

Origins of the St. Augustine Movement

JUNE 1963. Dr. Robert Hayling, a black dentist in St. Augustine, organized the Youth Council of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). They began street protests in front of Woolworths on King Street, in front of the Plaza. They carried signs that asked "If We Spend Money Here Why Can't we Eat Here?"

JULY 1963. A "sit-in" at a local pharmacy (young people sat down on the stools of the lunch counter and asked for service, refusing to leave when told to do so) led to the arrest of 16 young blacks, including 7 juveniles. The county judge, Charles Mathis, told the parents of the juveniles he would release the children into their custody only if they pledged to keep them away from further demonstrations. The parents of three of the children agreed; the others said "no." Mathis then sent the four young people to state reform school where they remained for six months.

SEPTEMBER 1963. Anger at such treatment of their children brought on the first mass demonstration which protested the city commission's refusal to appoint a biracial commission to discuss the problems of race relations in the city.

In that same month, the Ku Klux Klan, an organization of white segregationists, held a rally outside of town. Dr. Hayling and three others tried to observe the rally, were seen, seized, beaten, and saved from being burned to death only at the last minute. Dr. Hayling and others continued their efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution, with no success.

FEBRUARY 1964. Local segregationists fired a shotgun into Dr. Hayling's home, narrowly missing his wife and children, killing his dog.

MARCH 1964. Dr. Hayling, Henry and Katherine Twine, and other local civil rights leaders, asked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his organization — the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) — to come to St. Augustine to help.

St. Augustine, SCLC, and Dr. King

APRIL 1964. Dr. King and SCLC, fearing the proposed Civil Rights Bill being filibustered in the U.S. Senate would be defeated, decided to come to St. Augustine and make a stand here. He rallied northen supporters to come and help

Two of these supporters who came were Mrs. Malcolm Peabody, the mother of the governor of Massachusetts and Mrs. John Burgess, wife of the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts. The two women joined a sit-in at the Ponce de Leon Restaurant, led by Dr. Hayling along with other blacks, requesting service, and refusing to leave. Their arrest and jailing brought national attention to St. Augustine. All of the major newspapers of the nation as well as television and radio stations began to cover events here and broadcast them to the nation and the world.

MAY-JUNE 1964. Among the activities told to the world: Dr. King spoke in local churches, rallying supporters and teaching his methods of non-violent resistance. No matter how demonstrators were abused, beaten, or verbally assaulted, they were not to fight back nor resist arrest in any way.

Nightly marches down King Street, around the Plaza and the "Slave Market" and back up King street were met by white segregationist and verbal and physical assault on the marchers and resulted in hundreds of arrests and jail sentences (of marchers only). The City banned the night marches and ordered large bonds of $1500 to $3000 be paid to be released from jail. There were so many demonstrators in the jail — both local people and others who had come to help, both black and white, — that there was no room in the jail, and people were kept in a stockade during the day, in the hot sun with no shade.

Mrs. Katherine Twine, who came to be known as the "Rosa Parks of St. Augustine " for her leadership in the movement, was arrested so many times that she began to carry a large-brimmed hat which she called her "Freedom Hat" with her whenever she thought she would be arrested in order to have some shade from the sun in that stockade. The hat had "Freedom Now" printed on it and a button from the 1963 March on Washington, and has been preserved as a precious artifact of those times. Young and old, black and white shared the dangers of the marches, the assaults and the jails.

Attempts were made to integrate the beaches of Anastasia Island — demonstrators were driven into the water by police and segregationists, some could not swim and had to be saved from drowning by other demonstrators.

A small group of women attempted to enter a white church on King Street on a Sunday morning, wishing to take part in the service. They were met by a group of whites, arms linked together to prevent them from worshiping with them.

St. Augustine & Passage of the Civil Rights Bill

JUNE 9, 1964. Federal Court Judge Simpson signed orders reducing the amount of bonds that could be imposed on arrested demonstrators to $100, limited the length of jail terms, and declared night marches to be legal. Local officials were ordered to allow the marches and keep order.

JUNE 10, 1964. The constant coverage of the nightly marches and assaults in the nation's news media brought on a vote in the United States Senate to invoke "cloture" — the vote to end the filibuster. The way was now clear to pass the Civil Rights Bill, after each senator had been given a chance to speak to it. It was the courage and determination of the demonstrators in St. Augustine that had finally convinced the people of the United States that segregation must end.

But on that night, despite Judge Simpson's orders, the nightly march was met by an angry crowd of more than 100 white men who broke through police lines and attacked the marchers.

JUNE 11, 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other members of the SCLC were arrested and jailed for trying to eat lunch at the Monson Motel Restaurant on the bay-front in town.

JUNE 18, 1964. A group of black and white protesters jumped into the swimming pool at the Monson Motel — the resultant photographs of the owner pouring muriatic acid into the pool and a policeman jumping into the pool to arrest them were broadcast around the world — and became some of the most famous images of the entire Civil Rights Movement.

JUNE 19, 1964. The United States Senate passed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing segregation in all public places and facilities. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, 1964.

Aftermath of the St. Augustine Movement

SUMMER OF 1964 IN ST. AUGUSTINE. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act, there was still strong resistance in St. Augustine to implementing its provisions and further demonstrations and violence continued. But such resistance was doomed. The law of the land would prevail in time.

Many of the demonstrators lost their jobs because they asked for their basic human rights, many were physically assaulted, some lost their homes. Each night they had to face their fears and agree to once again march down King Street.

But they prevailed. Not only the city of St. Augustine and all of its residents, no matter their color, are the better for it, but the entire nation is indebted to them. Their courageous actions had a direct impact on the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These brave people deserve our respect, and our thanks.

Saint Augustine Florida — population 15,000 (roughly 75% white, 25% Black) — is still thoroughly segregated in 1963. Founded in 1565 by Spanish colonizers, it claims to be "the oldest city in America" — meaning, of course, the oldest city settled by Europeans because some of the pueblo towns of the Southwest date back to the 11th Century or earlier. Until the Civil War, St. Augustine was a slave trade center, and when the town became a vacation destination in the 1890s the old slave market was turned into a tourist attraction.

Lincolnville is St. Augustine's Black neighborhood and Mrs. Fannie Fullerwood — who works as a maid for a white family — is president of the local NAACP. In March of 1963, she sends a letter to President Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson asking that they reject a $350,000 grant to the city for a segregated celebration of its 400th anniversary. With Greenwood and Birmingham on front pages around the world, LBJ replies that: "No event in which I will participate in St. Augustine will be segregated." But what does that mean? Does it mean that places and events will be temporarily desegregated while he is present, or does it mean he will only participate in locations that have been permanently integrated?

Intense negotiations between the local NAACP, St. Augustine's white power structure, and LBJ's representatives ensue. LBJ comes to town for a banquet, and for the first time in history, Blacks enter the lavish Ponce de Leon Hotel ballroom as guests rather than maids or bus boys (they are seated by themselves at two "Negro" tables). But St Augustine's lunch counters, rest rooms, and other facilities remain segregated, as does the Ponce de Leon after the Vice President leaves. And the next day when NAACP leaders show up for a promised meeting with the City Commision, they are shown to an empty room with a tape recorder. They are told to record their complaints because no white official will meet with them in person.

By early June, the hope that had soared at the time of LBJ's visit is dying. Nothing has come from the tape-recorded grievances, and so far as the city is concerned, the 400th anniversary celebations are going to be on a segregated basis. Dr. Robert Hayling, a young Black dentist recently arrived in the city, becomes head of the St. Augustine NAACP Youth Council (SAYC). He announces that unless there is some tangible progress, the young people of St. Augustine are ready to begin nonviolent direct-action like the children of Birmingham. A few days later he leads small groups of pickets at the local Woolworths to protest segregation. They carry signs reading: "If We Spend Money Here Why Can't We Eat Here?"

The Klan threatens to kill Hayling. Hayling tells a reporter: "I and others have armed. We will shoot first and ask questions later. We are not going to die like Medgar Evers." The press, which has ignored the Black community and issues of segregation, seize on his remark, sensationalizing it to mean that Blacks are arming to attack innocent whites. National leaders of the NAACP repudiate Hayling's statement as a provocation. They assure the FBI that they are working to silence Hayling.

In July, sixteen SAYC members sit-in at the segregated counter and are arrested. Seven of them are younger than 17 and thus legally classified as juveniles. Charles Mathis, the local judge, denies them bail. He refuses to release them unless their parents sign a promise that they won't demonstrate until they reach age 21. Four of the families refuse to agree, and the "St. Augustine Four" — JoAnn Anderson Ulmer, Audrey Nell Edwards, Willie Carl Singleton, and Samuel White — are sent to state reform schools. When an NAACP attorney tries to free them, Judge Mathis claims that they are beyond the jurisdiction of the legal system. The young teenagers remain locked up, away from their parents and out of school, until January when pressure on the Florida governor finally wins their release.

Outraged at the indefinite incarceration of the St. Augustine Four and the continued refusal of the city to appoint a bi-racial commission or meet with Black leaders, Dr. Hayling leads a mass march of more than 100 adults towards the Old Slave Market on Labor Day. The police attack, arresting Hayling and 26 others.

Two weeks later, shortly after the Birmingham church bombing, the Ku Klux Klan holds a rally and cross-burning in a nearby field. Rev. Lynch, head of the National States Rights Party, addresses 300 racists, telling them that the four young girls slain in Birmingham were: ".. old enough to have venereal diseases," and were no more human or innocent than rattlesnakes. "So kill 'em all, and if it's four less niggers tonight, then good for whoever planted the bomb. We're all better off!"

Suddenly the cry "Niggers! Niggers!" goes up from the crowd who push forward Dr. Hayling and SAYC activists Clyde Jenkins, James Hauser, and James Jackson who have been caught observing the rally. They are brutally beaten unconscious with fists, chains, and clubs. Only the arrival of Highway Patrol officers prevent them from being burned alive. St. Johns County Sheriff L.O. Davis — a Klan sympathizer — arrests four whites for the beating and also arrests the four unarmed Blacks for "assaulting" the 300 armed Klansmen. Charges against the Klansmen are dismissed, Hayling is convicted of "criminal assault."

Over the following weeks, tension escalates. The home of a Black family whose child has integrated a white school is burned. A carload of KKK night riders races through Lincolnville shooting into Black homes. Blacks return fire, killing one Klansman. NAACP activist Rev. Goldie Eubanks and three others are indicted for murder. Meanwhile, disturbed by Hayling's militancy, the national NAACP removes him as head of the Youth Council. Hayling, Eubanks, Henry & Kathrine Twine, and other freedom fighters leave the NAACP and contact SCLC for assistance.

Dr. Robert S. Hayling, D.D.S.
The young veteran and dentist who started the St. Augustine movement

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

No BBC, Andrew Jackson was NOT President 1865-1869

Slipping again on fact-checking, BBC said several days ago that Andrew Jackson was President 1865-69.  Any schoolgirl knows that would be Andrew Johnson.

BARRY MARK BENJAMIN, illegal, non-resident St. Augustine Port, Waterway & Beach District Chair Resigns, writes: "Drop dead dirt bag never text me again."

BARRY MARK BENJAMIN, illegally-serving, illegally-voting non-resident Chair of the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District, resigned.  His letter to Governor Ron DeSantis admits he is a non-resident, but claims he has moved.  Wrong.  He's lived in Jacksonville for at least four years.

Yet for years, BENJAMIN has falsely claimed voting residence on a boat at the marina at 65 Lewis Blvd in St. Augustine.  BENJAMIN cheated his way into being elected in 2016, with no opponent, as an illegally-voting non-resident who lives in Jacksonville and claims to vote from a boat here.

On May 27, 2020 BENJAMIN filed paperwork with the Supervisor of Elections, saying he intended to qualify to run for re-election for the position he has encumbered for 20 years.

On June 6, 2020, BENJAMIN sent an e-mail stating he was moving temporarily out of the area.  BENJAMIN never signed it.

St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections Victoria Oakes nevertheless persisted, getting a signed resignation letter to the Governor.  I received it today.

Good riddance to Port and Waterway District Chhairman BARRY MARK BENJAMIN, another louche lawbreaker in corrupt St. Johns County, a barnacle on the underbelly on the ship of life.

Earlier this week, before BENJAMIN resigned by July 1, 2020 letter to the Governor:
  • One of the lawyers for BARRY MARK BENJAMIN, a Jacksonville resident voting from a boat at a 65 Lewis Blvd. marina in St. Augustine since 2016, informed St. Johns County Election Supervisor Victoria Oakes that BENJAMIN has resigned as a member of the St. Augustine Port, Waterway & Beach District.  (That lawyer was JAMES EDWARD BEDSOLE, the deeply conflicted and maladroit lawyer for the Port and Waterway District, who represented BENJAMIN in prior cases involving his non-residency, preventing any action from being taken by the slothful Florida Elections Commission.
  • When I texted BENJAMIN June 30, asking him for a copy of his resignation letter, bumptious bully BENJAMIN wrote me, "No.  Drop dead dirt bag never text me again."  He added, "No longer chairman. I'm a private citizen. So watch what you say, govern yourself accordingly....  I'm notifying you to stop texting me.  You are harassing me.... I'm feeling harassed and uncomfortable, I'm asking you to stop."
I can just feel the love.

"Uncomfortable," unctuous, unkind, uncouth, rude, crude BARRY MARK BENJAMIN habitually violated citizen legal rights to speak in public comment, until citizens, including Thomas F. Reynolds, Merrill Paul Roland and me, started showing up at meetings, asking questions and expecting democracy.  Another victory for democracy on the march in corrupt St. Johns County.

Does his profligate spending on his own-say violates District Charter and Florida law?

We shall soon learn more.  There needs to be a forensic audit.

Now, will BARRY BENJAMN be charged with illegally voting in St. Johns County elections since 2016?

Stay tuned.

Earlier coverage from this blog:

Sunday, June 14, 2020


Missed by GANNETT's incredible shrinking St. Augustine Record:  Port, Waterway and Beach District Commission Chair BARRY MARK BENJAMIN failed to qualify to run for re-election.  

While Chairman BENJAMIN signed paperwork on May 27, 2020, he never returned to complete it.  

Wonder why?  

BENJAMIN is righty being scrutinized for illegal voting, claiming to vote from a boat, when he actually lives in Jacksonville with his wife and mother.

Did Florida government officials finally enforce the law on illegal voting?  We will request records.

Another victory for the forces of reform in St. Johns County.

Here's my October 21, 2019 blog post, including the complaint I filed last year with St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections VICTORIA OAKES a/k/a "VICHY," who initially did nothing but stick her nose in the air and refuse to do her job without or favor.

Monday, October 21, 2019

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:

Like a Cult, St. Johns County Commission Eschews Masks

Anti-mask cultists drove the bus off the cliff in St. Johns County June 30, 2020, a date that will live in infamy.

Some selfish solipsistic citizens and somnambulant St. Johns County Commissioners disdain public health protection in the midst of a surge in coronavirus.  

Commissioners June 30 rejected mask requirements. 

While the City of St. Augustine voted a resolution, resulting in the City Manager's mask order and threatened $500 fines, St. Johns County mucked it up on masks.  

See stories and columns below my thoughts:

In East Tennessee, a 12-year old cancer patient, Pamela Hamilton was tortured by her parents,  cultists who believed in withholding medical care.  Tennessee courts stepped in and ordered chemotherapy, finding Pamela was a "dependent and neglected child."   In re: Hamilton, 657 S.W.2d 425 (Tenn. App. 1983). Her fundamentalist minister father, Rev. Larry Hamilton, cruelly refused treatment, and a tumor in her left leg grew to the size of a football before the State of Tennessee won a legal victory for custody.

Will courts step in here and vindicate public health?

While Commissioner I. Henry Dean sought to require masks indoors, there was no support.

Then Commissioner Jeremiah Ray Blocker moved to require masks on county property, and the vote was 3-2.

What happened?

Ask the author of the Michelle O'Connell and Eli Washtock murder coverups.  Ask rebarbative reprobate Republican St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, who legally changed his name from "HOAR" in 1994.

Sheriff S/HOAR did not even appear, but spoke to all Commissioners, ex parte, saying he lacked "resources" to enforce a County mask ordinance.  That's also what Commission heard from SHOAR's hey-boy, illegally-hired County Administrator HUNTER CONRAD.

But Commissioners would not even pass an ordinance application to county buildings and employees!

Phoning it in, dueling drooling ideologues were mocking medical recommendations, one ending his schpiel by saying 20/20, and another making sheep noises on the telephone line.

County Commission Chair Jeb Smith is a moral man who hates corruption.  But his ideology has led him astray.  Sometimes he does the right things for the wrong reasons (opposing slot machines based on Bible, rather than non-sectarian public policy considerations).  Sometimes he does the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

In the Bible,  after Cain murdered his brother, Abel, God asked him where his brother was. Cain answered, “I know not; am I my brother's keeper?” 

Essentially, Commission Chair Jeb Smith and the anti-maskers ask: "Am I my brother's keeper?"

The answer is yes.   Read your Bible, Rev. Smith.

As far as Commissioners saying, "I know not," the answer is education.  Now.

Commissioners need to schedule a workshop, with medical experts, then vote again after their questions and the public's questions are answered.  Don't make Dr. Dawn Alicock wait around for hours -- be respectful of her time, and ours.  Protect public health.  Now.

While we have a health department and a medical examiner, we have no science or technical advisors.  These lacunae are common in the know-nothing era of DONALD JOHN TRUMP.  Things have been going downhill ever since House Speaker Newt Gingrich abolished the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment in 1995.  

St. Johns County is making itself the laughingstock of the United States by this vote.

The County's languid efforts at corporate employer recruitment are dashed by this vote.

Tourism is hurt by this vote.

The City of St. Augustine got this one right.  No one from SAPD disdained their duties to protect health.  St. Augustine is crowded with tourists.  People need to wear masks to protect each other.

We are all in this together. 

From The St. Augustine Record:

St. Johns County Commission rejects mask mandates for public, county employees By Sheldon Gardner
Posted Jun 30, 2020 at 12:39 PM
St. Augustine Record

St. Johns County commissioners turned down two motions on Tuesday that would have moved forward with separately requiring masks to be worn by the public and county employees because of the coronavirus.

Commissioner Henry Dean called for moving forward with crafting a mask mandate for the public, citing a spike in COVID-19 cases. But his motion received no support from the other four commissioners.

“Personally I would like a mandatory mask ordinance to take effect as expeditiously as possible,” Dean said.

The county had 260 cases on June 1. The county had 948 on Tuesday.

Based on data available Tuesday morning, St. Johns County had seven deaths. The county had 20,755 tests with 4.57% positive, up from 4.39% the day before.

Commissioners also voted on Tuesday to use federal funding to expand testing, and details of the expansion hadn’t been worked out.

The increased cases are not just the result of more testing being done, said Dawn Allicock, director of the Florida Department of Health in St. Johns County.

Allicock said the number of positive cases compared to tests given in recent days indicates “substantial community spread.”

More testing is needed to help find and isolate people who are infected, Allicock said.

“My humble opinion, bottom line, more than four months after the first recorded COVID-19 cases, the virus is still outpacing our ability to track it and contain it,” she said. “We must do better.”

Allicock said people should wear cloth face coverings where social distancing is difficult, but even with masks people should stay 6 feet away from others, stay home when sick and follow other CDC guidelines.

After Dean’s motion failed, Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker made a motion to require mask wearing by county employees and the public in county facilities when social distancing isn’t possible. He supported having the county provide masks to the public, as is the case at the St. Johns County Clerk of Courts office, he said.

Blocker said he believes that face masks can be effective, but he was concerned that a countywide face mask would not be enforceable.

Based on a conversation with Sheriff David Shoar, Blocker said it was his understanding that the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have the resources or the ability to enforce a countywide mask mandate.

County Administrator Hunter Conrad said the county also doesn’t have the resources to enforce a mandate through its code enforcement officials.

But Blocker said setting an example at the county’s own facilities would be a good starting point.

Commissioners voted 3-2 against that motion. Dean supported Blocker’s idea, but all other commissioners voted against it.

Commissioner Jimmy Johns said there were questions surrounding mask use, such as the types of masks that should be worn and what is healthy and enforceable.

“We’re having this conversation because I think all of us care about our residents’ physical health, mental health and financial health,” he said.

Johns said he had questions for Allicock, who had left the meeting before he had the chance to ask them. Lengthy public comment extended the meeting.

Dozens of people called into comment. Some of them urged the county to pass a mask mandate, pointing to a huge spike in coronavirus cases.

Some were strongly against a mask mandate, saying it would be an infringement on their rights.

Others had concerns about whether masks were effective in stopping the spread and whether people who couldn’t wear masks would be discriminated against.

The discussion took a political turn for some people.

One man who opposed mask wearing ended his comments in part with with “Trump 2020.”

Another caller cut into the comments of another person, who supported the mandate, making sounds that appeared to mimic a sheep.

“Is the sheep for or against it?” Johns asked.

The city of St. Augustine has implemented a mask mandate indoors when social distancing isn’t possible, with some exceptions.

Jacksonville officials announced Monday that people will be required to wear masks in public and indoor locations as a measure to guard against the coronavirus pandemic. The mandate, which took effect at 5 p.m. Monday, also applies to other locations in which social distancing is impossible.

Johns said that isn’t being uniformly enforced, and he doesn’t want to mandate something that won’t be effective and gives people a false sense of security.

Commissioner Paul Waldron said he wanted answers on which types of masks are better and whether the county has the ability to provide masks to both employees and the public. He raised the possibility of pushing the discussion off a week.

Commission Chair Jeb Smith said the intent of the initial shutdowns were to flatten the curve and spread out the transmission of COVID-19 over time so as not to overburden the hospital system. He said it appears that has been done in the county, and he noted that Flagler Hospital’s presentation to the Commission showed there was no current overburdening at the hospital.

“The people of St. Johns County have given much and they’ve sacrificed much to flatten the curve,” he said.

The economy has been devastated and many jobs have been lost, he said. He said he wouldn’t vote to add another regulation when he heard on Tuesday that there was no need for it.

Flagler Hospital CEO and President Jason Barrett told commissioners that there had been 23 inpatient admissions at Flagler Hospital for COVID-19 in June, compared with three in May, seven in April and eight in March.

Barrett’s presentation to the Commission said the hospital has the “supplies, resources and capacity” to meet the community’s needs. Barrett said his intent was not to downplay the risk of the virus.

Barrett also shared in his presentation that physicians published in The New England Journal of Medicine “strongly support the calls of public health agencies for all people to wear masks when circumstances compel them to be within 6 (feet) of others for sustained periods.”

He said that there is community spread of the virus. And if the coronavirus cases increase at an “exponential clip,” health resources could be strained.

County commissioners recently agreed to strongly encourage business owners to require masks at their facilities.