Sunday, August 13, 2006

Did City Of St. Augustine and Lawyer William Pence Brag Too Soon?

I learned a new word last week thanks to the City of St. Augustine. It is "de micromis," which is a smaller size than "de minimis," which is what the City's environmental crime defense lawyer, William Pence (photo below) had called our City's illegal dumping.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)) rejected our City's "de minimis" excuse." Now our City asserts the Old City Reservoir is actually a mining operation and that the City intends to resume mining operations (although it also claims it seeks to fill in the Old City Reservoir). Under each, our City asserts it need not comply strictly with environmental laws, as FDEP orders.

"De micromis" may also describes the thought that went into our City's illegal dumping, in the wake of indictments in Clay County for similar actions by unaccountable public officials.

Mr. Pence and City officials evidently bragged too soon last year about their fine accomplishments at the Sebastian Inner Harbor project. See

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


My friend J.D. Pleasant, the documentary producer, videographer and community activist, had a brilliant inspiration after this morning's Council on Aging candidates' forum: a St. Augustine Jazz/Music Festival. Why not?

Newport, Rhode Island, Jacksonville, Florida and other cities already have Jazz Festivals.

It has been reported that St. Augustine has more retired jazz musicians per capita than any other place in America.

St. Augustine needs its own St. Augustine Jazz Festival (perhaps also featuring some stages for classical, reggae and country music for those who might prefer a change of pace -- variety is the spice of life, whether jazz, bluegrass, Charpentier or Mozart).

To show our City's appreciation for working people -- and to underline our desire to protect worker rights and help working people live where they work -- why not make our St. Augustine Jazz Festival correspond with Labor Day Weekend, targeting the first St, Augustine Jazz Festival for Labor Day 2007?

Proceeds from advertising would help make St. Augustine more liveable for everyone, perhaps benefitting the Habitat for Humanity.

We could have multiple venues across town, from the Amphitheatre to the Plaza de la Constitucion (a/k/a Slave Market Square). We could have a big revival-style tent on top of the new parking garage and another stage at the Special Events Field. Flagler College could volunteer its auditorium. Restaurants and bars could join in the fun, hosting jazz musicians to play in their indoor and outdoor venues.

Our City can build on its strengths, build community and grow a national reputation as a force for good and a fun place to visit for music.

Our City Manager, WILLIAM B. HARRISS, gave our City a black eye by working to eject the musicians, artists and entertainers from St. George Street. What better way to empower this vibrant community than by commencing a jazz festival and doing it every Labor Day Weekend.

Let freedom ring.

Let's do it.

What do you think?


This morning I was honored to speak to some 80 people at the Council on Aging (COA) at their first candidates' forum, addressing what we need more of from our City of St. Augustine government -- Listening, Openness and Thought, talking about just a few of the issues outlined below in this blog.

I was inspired by the people I met and spoke to at the COA. I would be honored to serve as a St. Augustine City Commissioner. Incumbent District Four City Commissioner Donald Crichlow did not attend and his spokesman did not speak in rebuttal.

This year's election is about "consequences," as Sir Winston Churchill so aptly said. (See below). Incumbent County Commissioner Bruce Maguire received no applause when he stepped up to defend his pro-developer record, and reform County and City Coommission candidates Ken Bryan, Peter Romano, et al. were warmly received.

Our City of St. Augustine is worth saving. It is being ruined faster than a speeding developer's dump truck.

As Robert Kennedy said 39 years ago, "it is not enough to allow dissent, we must demand it, for there is much to dissent from."

We dissent from illegal dumping of the entire contents of the old illegal city landfill in the Old city Reservoir.

We dissent from mismanaged growth and overdevelopment (without roads, parks, schools and services).

We dissent from harassment of artists and entertainers, running them off St. George Street.

We dissent from document withholding. We dissent from Sunshine violations and junkets. We dissent from white elephants and waste in a $45 million annual budget, while persistent drainage problems persist, threatening inundation, while our city mindlessly allows developers to build underground parking garages, threatening flooding and subsidence in a future hurricane.

Shouldn't new development result in repaving of bumpy streets? Do our cars have to "shake, rattle and roll" like a 1970s garage band on wheels?

Shouldn't our City be accessible for persons with disabilities, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Shouldn't there be sidewalks that can traversed by wheelchairs, as the late Robert Jones eloquently and diligently sought?

Mayor Gardner and City Commissioners Crichlow, Jones, Burk and Boles, why are our streets so bumpy? Why are there still dirt streets in some of our neighborhoods?

This is a beautiful city and we're going to make it a better place for all of our citizens.

We dissent from City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS refusing to pay for a civil rights monument after what our city did to its citizens in 1964. -- these are the works of our City Manager, WILLIAM B. HARRISS. Mr. HARRISS is routinely rubberstamped by our Commissioners.

We dissent from City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS obstructing Gay Pride flags on the Bridge of Lions (resulting in federal court judgment against our City for its First Amendment violations).

We dissent from our City's sweetheart contract with Time-Warner (ten year franchise) against the express wishes of every single one of the public hearing speakers, refusing to provide adequate public access (and refusing to carry local low power Channel 22), refusing to hold a promised workshop or revise TWC's unconscionable form contract.

We dissent from discriminatory levels of services provided to communities, without accountability, particularly in Lincolnville and West Augustine and North City.

We dissent from discrimination against our citizens, including police abuses and unequal services.

We dissent from incumbents who said they were reformers and who have reformed nothing and who have become the rubberstamps for WILLIAM B. HARRISS that they campaigned against when they were elected (see bellow).

Mayor George Gardner, descended from upstate New York city government reformers, had our support in 2002 when he ran for Mayor of St. Augustine. He and the current crew of St. Augustine Commissioners have reformed nothing. Worse, they can't stand criticism. As Harry S Truman said, "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

Robert Kennedy was right 39 years ago and right today: "It is not enough to allow dissent, we must demand it, for there is much to dissent from."



Our local health care system can be improved.

I was up until 2 AM this morning (and woke up before 7 AM), helping friends cope with the local health care system and a cancer diagnosis. I spoke to the Council on Aging this morning and then had to leave before lunch. At noon today, I called up a friend who is a cancer expert in another state, obtaining his kind assistance in helping the local family find answers and treatment. Some North Florida doctors were pushing the family into hospice, instead of providing and researching standard of care cancer therapies like monoclonal antibodies.

Albert Camus once said, :"we must first posit denial and absurdity because that is what our generation has encountered."

President Harry S Truman called for national health care in the 1940s. Every other industrialized country has health care as a right, except the United States. As a result we squander vast sums on corporate insurance bureaucracies, while doctors are turned into serfs, reporting to corporate oligarchs. Lives are lost needlessly as a result.

On Cape Cod, Massachusetts, doctors, hospitals, patients, employers and the Chamber of Commerce all agree -- there should be a single payer system, at the county level, protecting doctors and patients and saving money and providing care for everyone

For up-to-date information on Cape Cost's efforts to end the system of "mangled care" that kills Americans daily, see

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

OPEN RECORDS VICTORY: City of St. Augustine Provides 45 Pounds of Documents They Swore Did Not Exist

This afternoon in the third floor of our St. Johns County Courthouse was one of those great shining moments that vindicates American democracy and freedom and our judicial system.

Shortly before 3 PM, in Judge Watson's courtroom, lawyers for the City of St. Augustine provided 45 pounds of documents to the lawyer for investigative journalist (and retired university) Dr. Dwight Hines' lawyer, Mr. Tanner Andrews of Volusia County (a recent law graduate with 20 years' work experience and expertise in computers).

Two large boxes of documents, weighing 45 pounds, embody some of the records that Dr. Hines is seeking -- records on the City's use of City vehicles.

St. Augustine City officials rudely refused to provide the records when requested by Dr. Hines.

St. Augustine City officials filed affidavits claiming the records don't exist.

St. Augustine City officials refused to mediate with Dr. Hines, even when the State Attorney General's office offered to provide a mediator.

St. Augustine City officials angrily reacted to Dr. Hines' lawsuit when filed in April.

St. Augustine City Attorney JAMES PATRICK WILSON threatened Dr. Hines and Ed Slavin with arrest in connection with purchasing record document requests. (See below.

In response to Dr. Hines' lawsuit, St. Augustine City Commissioners showed their animus to open government.

In fact, Commissioner and Mayor candidate Joseph Boles (a lawyer) made a motion, seconded by Vice Mayor Susan Burk (a lawyer) to seek attorney fees from Dr. Hines, falsely claiming that Dr. Hines had filed a frivolous lawsuit, with Boles saying Dr. Hines should be made to "pay the piper" to discourage such lawsuits from being filed. The motion passed.

The St. Augustine City Clerk's office later revealed that City Commissioners were not provided a copy of Dr. Hines' lawsuit in their agenda packet for that meeting. This makes the meretricious effort to seek fees no more than a SLAPP lawsuit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), which Dr. Hines contends violates Florida law.

To their credit, the City outside defense lawyers evidently thought better of it -- no such SLAPP motion has been filed by the City's defense lawyer, Sid Ansbacher of Upchuch, Bailey and Upchurch. City Commissioners showed their defensiveness of Mr. HARRISS once again by passing an in terrorem motion, attempting to intimidate Dr. Hines (then representing himself pro se).

Some St. Augustine Commissioners would rather shoot first and ask questions later.

Some St. Augustine Commissioners would rather fight than switch -- fighting to protect the ancien regime of WILLIAM B. HARRISS, City Manager, from citizens' request.

45 pounds of documents proves that the City of St. Augustine's affidavits were untrue, its refusal to mediate was in bad faith and St. Augustine City Commissioners' kneejerk effort to seek attorney fees from an inquiring reporter was morally and legally wrong.

Our City of St. Augustine is at a crossroads -- will we practice listening, openness and thought -- or will we continue electing leaders who back controversial St. Augustine City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS and his unaccountable $45 million/year machine, which spends $4300 for every adult and child in St. Augustine?

It's your money.

They're your documents.

They're your trucks.

Some of the records said not to exist may touch upon the City's illegal dumping, under investigation by the FDEP.

Tonight, Dr. Dwight Hines is reading 45 pounds of records -- records our City previously claimed to be nonexistent.

How sweet it is.

Like President Richard Nixon's estimable spokesperson Ronald Ziegler, our City's contention is now "inoperative." 45 pounds of records do exist. "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

My hat is off to Dr. Dwight Hines and lawyer Tanner Andrews, true patriots.

There is cause for jubilation tonight. Good and decent people love this beautiful town. They want our government to work for the people, not against them. Like any good diplomats, they're not taking no for an answer.

Letters: Seeks leadership change

Letters: Seeks leadership change
Publication Date: 08/06/06

Editor: I voted for George Gardner for mayor in 2002. He was elected mayor by 10 votes. Today, George Gardner's out of touch. (July 27 Record column).

I don't think St. Augustine is moving in the right direction. Crime is up 8.2 percent, our budget is rising 21 percent, FECI is leaving, workers can't afford to live here.

An iron triangle misrules: Commissioners, developers and City Manager Harriss.

In 2001, Harriss said St. George Street protesters had "no valid purpose," claiming "the (ir) only purpose ... is to bring shame on the city." (March 20, 2001 Record).

Harriss habitually brings "shame" on our city: ordering illegal dumping of the old illegal city landfill into the Old City Reservoir, engineering Sunshine violations (including a three-day, over $8,100 trip for 12 to NYC in 2005 and earlier "class trips"), while ejecting musicians and "buskers" from St. George Street.

Commissioners wrongfully revoked rights to speak both at the beginning and end of the meetings: people were questioning our city's illegal dumping and its attempted ruination of the 3000-4000 year old Indian village for condos and strip malls.

Now, some commissioners seek to terminate our rights to elect our mayor. Come speak on August 14. Better bring food. Commissioners have started interrupting meetings by hunkering down and hiding on City Hall's fourth floor, taking dinner breaks, with no "place (for citizens) at (that) table."

We're wasting money on white elephants and junkets, with uncompetitive contracts and selective franchise favoritism (like Time Warner's lucrative 10 year cable franchise).

Secretive officials can't/won't answer questions. Gardner admits "there's no dialogue here."

Our city deserves informed, mature, inquisitive, intelligent, ethical, compassionate and caring leadership.

That's why I support Peter Romano of Lincolnville for both commissioner and mayor. Vote twice.

David Brian Wallace

St. Augustine

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Letters: Competent leadership needed for St. Augustine

Letters: Competent leadership needed for St. Augustine
Publication Date: 08/06/06

Editor: After 111 years, Florida East Coast Industries is moving its corporate headquarters out of St. Augustine.

What has our city government done to persuade FECI to stay, to keep good-paying jobs (and other local jobs that depend on them)?

Whenever employers plan to move headquarters or close plants, motivated local governments mobilize, taking action. As a result, both Ring Power and Tree of Life stayed in our county. Likewise, when New York Stock Exchange and other employers contemplated leaving NYC, mayors persuaded them to stay.

To paraphrase H. Ross Perot, "that gigantic sucking sound you hear" is good jobs leaving this beautiful town. Loss of FEC is devastating to our economy, another symptom of a rudderless government.

Some misguided Commissioners seek to revoke your legal right to vote for mayor -- come speak August 14 to protect your right to elect your mayor.

Commissioners took possible Sunshine violation trips to NYC in 2005 and 2002 (under criminal investigation by FDLE). Commissioners haven't explained why managers dumped the contents of our old illegal city landfill into the Old City Reservoir (under criminal investigation by FDEP).

Our historic area is now threatened with chain t-shirt shops.

All current commissioner were elected as "reformers." They've reformed nothing.

Illegal dumping and FECI leaving town show them to be unjust stewards.

We need competent leaders who care about our city, people and future.


I'm supporting Peter Romano for City Commissioner (vs. Commissioner Gardner) and for mayor (vs. Commissioner Boles).

Lincolnville community leader Peter Romano is a former CFO and a forensic accountant, an expert in detecting fraud. No current commissioner has expertise in finance/accounting (and it shows). Peter Romano champions "new urbanism" planning to restore the beauty, peace and tranquility of the Nation's Oldest City.

Ed Slavin

St. Augustine

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© The St. Augustine Record

City's Response to FDEP Due Today: Will There Be Indictments of St. Augustine City Government Officials?

Our Ancient City's latest response to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is due today.
St. Augustine city officials and outside counsel William Pence unsuccessfully tried to provide a defective sampling plan unadorned by water testing or other meaningful tests, while claiming that it was "de minimis" to dump 30 million pounds of materials on ten acres of land and refusing to clean up the Old City Reservoir as ordered.
The ancient Latin maxim is "de minimis non curat lex" -- the law does not worry about trifles.
Our City's bankrupt leadership trifles with DEP and SJRWMD, polluting our water and land, risking our groundwater and aquifer. St. Augustine city Manager WILIAM B. HARRISS and his minions continued their illegal dumping two days after criminal investigators arrived February 27, after three months of iolating SJRWMD orders not to dump (never answering SJRWMD's questions about a questionable permit application, dumping illegal instead). Our City is now guilty of wasting over six months on flummery and dupery, instead of cleaning up their mess as ordered.
Meanwhile, our City government continues trifling with open records requesters, requiring retired university professor Dr. Dwight Hines to go to court today seeking truck use and other computer and paper records that have been superciliously withheld by City officials (who provided over 100 pages of such records to FDEP in its investigation of illegal dumping).
A Grand Jury investigation is desired and required, as after Clay County's illegal dumping. There must be consequences for the environmental crimes in our community.
No more coverups. We have a right to Environmental Justice now.