Friday, March 27, 2009

Whistleblowers must be protected by governments, industry

Space Shuttle launch as seen from St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine Record photo by DARON DEAN

Crossing the Bridge of Lions March 15, 2009, I saw the most beautiful Space Shuttle launch I had ever seen here in Florida. I thereupon reflected upon my work since the 1970s to expose governmental wrongdoing and assist ethical employee whistleblowers. We've come a long way, baby, but there is more to be done. In the words of poet Robert Frost, "I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep."

That Space Shuttle has special meaning for me, because I won a precedent in the Department of Labor protecting the right of NASA contractor employees to speak their truths about contaminants in Space Shuttle cabin air -- specifically ethylene oxide.

NASA did not want to see its whistleblowers protected. We fought and won jurisdiction in that case, with the Secretary of Labor reversing a mossback old Administrative Law Judge thrice, just so one ethical Martin Marietta employee could enjoy her civil and constitutional right to a hearing.

Our Nation has a long way to go. Since that 1996 Clean Air Act whistleblower victory, another Space Shuttle has blown up, killing another seven astronauts.

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

Scientists from around the world are coming to St. Augustine for a program on mosquito borne diseases. I am invited to speak to them on vindicating their free speech rights.

The answer to many of the world's problems is to be found in allowing scientists to practice the scientific method without fear or favor. That means no fear of governments or corporations that retaliate. It is up to all of us to speak out whenever a scientist's independence or integrity is threatened, whether by the Bush Administration's intimidation of EPA scientists concerned about pesticides or the City of Boca Raton, Florida's intimidation of wster department employees concerned about possible contamination due to low water pressure.

On November 20, 2008, the Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County adopted a whistleblower protection policy. St. Johns County history was made when the AMCD adopted a policy to protect employee whistleblower rights to raise concerns:


Statement of Principles: The Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County (AMCD) encourages employees to raise concerns rather than let them fester, to ask questions and make suggestions, and to work together to solve problems and make AMCD a safe, healthy, happy workplace by respecting principles of equality, openness, transparency and a good day's work for a good day's pay.

AMCD is committed to the highest standards of moral and ethical behavior by all its employees and in all business dealings. Employees are expected to conduct AMCD business in an ethical manner and in compliance with all appropriate laws and regulations. Further, employees have a responsibility to report suspected dishonest acts and/or fraudulent activity to appropriate AMCD officials. Employees acting in good faith to report suspected dishonest acts and/or fraudulent activity ¬will be protected against retaliation for making such report.

A. Environmental, Safety and Health Protection

1. AMCD will control mosquitoes safely and prudently at the lowest feasible cost, favoring natural methods (like reducing standing water), protecting and advancing environmental, safety and health protection.
2. All employees and citizens are encouraged to ask questions, raise issues and report concerns, including concerns about environment, safety and health, accountability or other AMCD governance issues.
3. Persons raising concerns will be respected and treated with courtesy. Concerns will be discussed with respect for individual rights.
4. Employees and supervisors are empowered to report their environmental, safety and health protection concerns to the Board of AMCD and to individual Board members without fear or favor.

B. Standards

1. AMCD expects high standards in protecting employees and the public. Employees are expected to report environment, safety and health concerns and management shall act upon them expeditiously.

C. Knowingly False Allegations Not Protected

Knowingly false allegations are not protected under this policy and AMCD may discipline and terminate employees making false allegations and otherwise defend itself in the event that employees report false allegations.

D. Florida Law For Other Types of Employee Concerns

Concerns other than environmental, health and safety concerns are protected by Florida’s whistleblower law, which provides:


112.3187 Adverse action against employee for disclosing information of specified nature prohibited; employee remedy and relief.—
(1) SHORT TITLE. – Sections 112.3187 – 112.31895 may be cited as the “Whistle-blower’s Act.”
(2) LEGISLATIVE INTENT.—It is the intent of the Legislature to prevent agencies or independent contractors from taking retaliatory action against an employee who reports to an appropriate agency violations of law on the part of a public employer or independent contractor that create a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare. It is further the intent of the Legislature to prevent agencies or independent contractors from taking retaliatory action against any person who discloses information to an appropriate agency alleging improper use of governmental office, gross waste of funds, or any other abuse or gross neglect of duty on the part of an agency, public officer, or employee.
(3) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this act, unless otherwise specified, the following words or terms shall have the meanings indicated:
(a) “Agency” means any state, regional, county, local, or municipal government entity, whether executive, judicial, or legislative; any official, officer, department, division, bureau, commission, authority, or political subdivision therein; or any public school, community college, or state university.
(b) “Employee” means a person who performs services for, and under the control and direction of, or contracts with, an agency or independent contractor for wages or other remuneration.
(c) “Adverse personnel action” means the discharge, suspension, transfer, or demotion of any employee or the withholding of bonuses, the reduction in salary or benefits, or any other adverse action taken against an employee within the terms and conditions of employment by an agency or independent contractor.
(d) “Independent contractor” means a person, other than an agency, engaged in any business and who enters into a contract including a provider agreement, with an agency.
(e) “Gross mismanagement” means a continuous pattern of managerial abuses, wrongful or arbitrary and capricious actions, or fraudulent or criminal conduct which may have a substantial adverse economic impact.
(a) An agency or independent contractor shall not dismiss, discipline, or take any other adverse personnel action against an employee for disclosing information pursuant to the provisions of this section.
(b) An agency or independent contractor shall not take any adverse action that affects the rights or interests of a person in retaliation for the person’s disclosure of information under this section.
(c) The provisions of this subsection shall not be applicable when an employee or person discloses information known by the employee or person to be false.
(5) NATURE OF INFORMATION DISCLOSED.—The information disclosed under this section must include:
(a) Any violation or suspected violation of any federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation committed by an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor which creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare.
(b) Any act or suspected act of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, suspected or actual Medicaid fraud or abuse, or gross neglect of duty committed by an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor.
(6) TO WHOM INFORMATION DISCLOSED.—The information disclosed under this section must be disclosed to any agency or federal government entity having the authority to investigate, police, manage, or otherwise remedy the violation or act, including but not limited to, the Office of the Chief Inspector General, an agency inspector general or the employee designated as agency inspector general under s. 112.3189(1) or inspectors general under s. 20.055, the Florida Commission on Human Relations, and the whistle-blower’s hotline created under s. 112.3189. However, for disclosures concerning a local governmental entity, including any regional, county, or municipal entity, special district, community college district, or school district or any political subdivision of any of the foregoing, the information much be disclosed to a chief executive officer as defined in s. 447.203(9) or other appropriate local official.
(7) EMPLOYEES AND PERSONS PROTECTED.—This section protects employees and persons who disclose information on their own initiative in a written and signed complaint; who are requested to participate in an investigation, hearing, or other inquiry conducted by any agency or federal government entity; who refuse to participate in any adverse action prohibited by this section; or who initiate a complaint through the whistle-blower’s hotline or the hotline of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Department of Legal Affairs; or employees who file any written complaint to their supervisory officials or employees who submit a complaint to the Chief Inspector General in the Executive Office of the Governor, to the employee designated as agency inspector general under s. 112.3189(1), or to the Florida Commission on Human Relations. The provisions of this section may not be used by a person while he or she is under the care, custody, or control of the state correctional system or, after release from the care, custody, or control of the state correctional system, with respect to circumstances that occurred during any period of incarceration. No remedy or other protection under ss. 112.3189-112.31895 applies to any person who has committed or intentionally participated in committing the violation or suspected violation for which protection under ss. 112.3187-112.31895 is being sought.
(a) Any employee of or applicant for employment with any state agency, as the term “state agency” is defined in s. 216.011, who is discharged, disciplined, or subjected to other adverse personnel action, or denied employment, because he or she engaged in an activity protected by this section may file a complaint, which complaint must be made in accordance with s. 112.31895. Upon receipt of notice from the Florida Commission on Human Relations of termination of the investigation, the complainant may elect to pursue the administrative remedy available under s. 112.31895 or bring a civil action within 180 days after receipt of the notice.
(b) Within 60 days after the action prohibited by this section, any local public employee protected by this section may file a complaint with the appropriate local governmental authority, if that authority has established by ordinance an administrative procedure for handling such complaints or has contracted with the Division of Administrative Hearings under s. 120.65 to conduct hearings under this section. The administrative procedure created by ordinance must provide for the complaint to be heard by a panel of impartial persons appointed by the appropriate local governmental authority. Upon hearing the complaint, the panel must make findings of fact and conclusions of law for a final decision by the local governmental authority. Within 180 days after entry of a final decision by the local governmental authority, the public employee who filed the complaint may bring civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction. If the local governmental authority has not established an administrative procedure by ordinance or contract a local public employee may, within 180 days after the action prohibited by this section, bring a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction. For the purpose of this paragraph, the term “local governmental authority” includes any regional, county, or municipal entity, special district, community college district, or school district or any political subdivision of any of the foregoing.
(c) Any other person protected by this section may, after exhausting all available contractual or administrative remedies, bring a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction within 180 days after the action prohibited by this section.
(9) RELIEF.—In any action brought under this section, the relief must include the following:
(a) Reinstatement of the employee to the same position held before the adverse action was commenced, or to an equivalent position or reasonable front pay as alternative relief.
(b) Reinstatement of the employee’s full fringe benefits and seniority rights, as appropriate.
(c) Compensation, if appropriate, for lost wages, benefits, or other lost remuneration caused by the adverse action.
(d) Payment of reasonable costs, including attorney’s fees, to a substantially prevailing employee, or to the prevailing employer if the employee filed a frivolous action in bad faith.
(e) Issuance of an injunction, if appropriate, by a court of competent jurisdiction.
(f) Temporary reinstatement to the employee’s former position or to an equivalent position, pending the final outcome on the complaint, if an employee complains of being discharged in retaliation for a protected disclosure and if a court of competent jurisdiction or the Florida Commission on Human Relations, as applicable under s. 112.31895, determines that the disclosure was not made in bad faith or for a wrongful purpose or occurred after an agency’s initiation of a personnel action against the employee which includes documentation of the employee’s violation of a disciplinary standard or performance deficiency. This paragraph does not apply to an employee of a municipality.
(10) DEFENSES.—It shall be an affirmative defense to any action brought pursuant to this section that the adverse action was predicated upon grounds other than, and would have been taken absent, the employee’s or person’s exercise of rights protected by this section.
(11) EXISTING RIGHTS.—Sections 112.3187-112.31895 do not diminish the rights, privileges, or remedies of an employee under any other law or rule or under any collective bargaining agreement or employment contract; however, the election of remedies in s. 447.401 also applies to whistle-blower actions.

AMCD is about to celebrate its 60th anniversary next week and we need to celebrate its wisdom in protecting whistleblowers and urge all other governments in the world to follow its example.

Under construction

Under construction

Publication Date: 03/27/09

The Bridge of Lions, currently under construction [by SKANSKA USA], is seen at sunset.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Reprobate JOHN LUIGI MICA Votes NO ont Expanding National Parks, Won't Comment on St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Coastal Highway

Reprobate JOHN LUIGI MICA Votes NO ont Expanding National Parks, Won't Comment on St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Coastal Highway

Controversial Congressman JOHN LUIGI MICA voted NO on H.R.146:

The House passed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 by a vote of 285-140. But of course, as the true economist rouality and loyalist to the Party of NO, JOHN LUIGI MICA voted NO.

"After nearly a decade during which our parks were taken for granted and our range lands were scarred by a spider-web of roads and (drilling) well pads," the bill "represents a new dawn for America's heritage and American values," said Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

JOHN LUIGI MICA voted NO to protecting two million acres of wilderness in nine states: California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Michigan, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

JOHN LUIGI MICA voted NO to protecting more than 270,000 acres along more than 1,000 miles of rivers in Oregon, California, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, and Massachusetts,

JOHN LUIGI MICA voted NO to adding 2,800 miles of new hiking trails in public lands.

JOHN LUIGI MICA has never responded to the proposed St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Highway. All he wants to do is build a brand new visitor center for $10 million. He doesn't give a hoot in Hades about S.t Augustine and St. Johns County and our destroyed tourist economy, in shreds because of the twin perils of Corporate Greed on Wall Street and Corporate Greed in St. Johns County, which is destroying our beaches, marshes, vistas and way of life -- destroying the reasons why tourists want to spend time here in the first place.

JOHN LUIGI MICA is the Abominable No Man.

It's time for the Abominable No Man to GO!


JOHN LUIGI MICA is the "ABOMINABLE NO MAN" -- he's a mediocre Mussolini who runs as if he were a Democrat and votes as if he were a plutocrat. This other-directed member of the Republican Attack Dog Machine is our 7th District Congressman.

Vote him out.

Questions for Anastasia Mosquito Control Commission of St. Johns County on Consultant's Tepid, Timid "Work" -- We Need Answers, not Obfuscations!

1. How does the Anastasia Mosquito Control District determine when and where to apply adulticides? Does this process comply with the applicable standard of care? What peer review and internal controls could be added? How can the process be improved?

2. How does the Anastasia Mosquito Control District determine when and where to apply larvicides? Does this process comply with the applicable standard of care? What peer review and internal controls could be added? How can the process be improved?

3. How does the Anastasia Mosquito Control District determine when to perform aerial spraying does this process comply with the applicable standard of care? What peer review and internal controls could be added?

4. How can the Anastasia Mosquito Control District reduce its use of pesticides altogether?

5. What regulatory program can the Mosquito Control District establish to warn, fine and enjoin landowners with standing water on their property? Should the Mosquito Control District follow the example of Los Angeles, California and other jurisdictions by using aerial surveillance, to detect, deter and prevent stagnant water (e.g., in unused swimming pools and vacant land), to keep mosquitos from breeding and save money and avoid pesticide use?

6. How does the Mosquito Control District comply with Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection and Due Process requirements? Are low-income and minority areas receiving equal service? Is there a procedure for resolving residents' complaints?

7. How does the Mosquito Control District inform our employees of their rights under the District's November 20, 2008 whistleblower protection policy and federal environmental whistleblower laws?

8. What improvements can be made in the Mosquito Control District's policies regarding transparency, Sunshine and Open Records?

9. What improvements can be made in the Mosquito Control District's use, storage and application of chemicals with an eye toward avoiding use of organophosphates (OPs) except in bona fide emergencies, pursuant to District policies?

10. How does the Mosquito Control District determine when to purchase capital items? Does this process comply with legal requirements and the applicable standard of care?

11. How did the Mosquito Control District determine to close the PV/PV station and did this process comply with the applicable standard of care?

12. How did the Mosquito Control District determine to purchase $1.2 million worth of land that was not advertised on the open market, not subject of competitive bidding, without an appraisal, survey or title search, while paying half the real estate commission? Did this comply with the applicable standard of care?

13. Will you please provide the detailed c.v. and client list for each of the consultants?

14. What work has each the consultants done for each of the organizations listed in their solicitation and proposed scope of work?

Mosquito Control study questioned

Mosquito Control study questioned

Publication Date: 03/27/09

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH -- Two long-time mosquito control experts -- with a combined 78 years of experience -- offered a verbal preview of their recent analysis of Anastasia Mosquito Control District operations Thursday, but not everyone on the district's board welcomed the information.

David Dame and John Beidler of Entomological Services praised the administration and staff of the district. They said the staff works at "150 percent" and that consolidating the four stations is a good idea.

They recommended the district write a procedure manual and said it needs to hire eight more inspector-sprayers.

They also recommended that the district look into buying or contracting with a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft company to perform aerial spraying of difficult-to-reach areas.

Board member Jeanne Moeller said, "What our staff is hearing is, 'Job well done!'"

Retired board member Mary Tarver Willis supported consolidation, saying, "There's a lot of duplication. You'd save on insurance, utilities and maintenance."

Board member Col. Ron Radford said the public's health is the district's number one concern.

"Everything else is secondary," he said.

But less positively, the two consultants recommended that the district switch from using organo-phosphate chemicals to ones used by most other Florida counties but banned in Europe.

The two consultants also reported that the Ponte Vedra Beach station facility, now closed, was not repairable due to rust, and that staff morale was down due to press reports of board infighting.

Activist Ed Slavin of St. Augustine attacked the report, saying Dame and Beidler had performed "an exercise in good-old-boy issues" and were practicing "junk science" because they had avoided taking on developers by not addressing vacant land that contains ponds or other waterways.

Slavin said he was denied a copy of the report, which the board said has not been printed yet.

Board member John Sundeman also attacked the report's recommendation to hire more sprayers, saying that last year, there were 6,000 hours of idle time billed by district staffers.

"One of the morale problems here is the excess idle time problem," he said.

Dane said the study was not a fiscal study, just a look by experienced consultants at the district's operations, "what you need and how it's being done to meet your needs."

District chairwoman Janice Bequette said there have been a "few system failures. I'm not getting a sense from the study that we are meeting our needs as well as we could.

"(But) I do believe we need some hard numbers."

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© The St. Augustine Record

Two Arrogant Superficial Mosquito Control "Experts" Hired by AMCD Did Shallow, Superficial "Study"

Contrary to Peter Guinta's article, Entomological Services "experts" DAVID DAME and JOHN BEIDLER want AMCD to use organophosphates (OPs), using the fallacy of comparison, claiming every other mosquito control district uses them (wrong).

At least five other Florida Districts don't use OPs -- yet these lazy ancient chemical-heads demand AMCD use OPs, without citing one scientific study.

The lacunae in DAME's and BEIDLER's knowledge about biological controls is big enough to fit the Grand Canyon, with or without their considerable egos. They said only little fishies work (Gambusia), ignoring Bti (a Bacillus developed in Israel), used by AMD for larviciding, as well as irngoring bats (and bathouses).

These two misguided old fruitbats were unable to answer questions from the public and Commissioners, particularly Commissioner John Sundeman, who did one of the best short cross-examinations I've ever seen by a non-lawyer public official. When one of the lugubrious goober "gentlemen" gave "it depends" as the answer to a basic question, one thought he might have just soiled his Depends(R) diaper.

When they expressed uninformed preferences and opinions about the desirability of moving offices, consolidating field stations, using helicopters and other desiderata of Dr. Xue without any economic analysis, they resembled the sort of propeller-heads at Oak Ridge Nazi Laboratory and Union Carbide, who poisoned people while celebrating their "expertise."

When they said AMCD employees shouldn't perform maintenance, they were uninformed.

When they claimed all AMCD employees supported management, they were propagandists.

When they couldn't answer questions about peer review and internal controls (and asked what Commissioner Sundeman meant by "internal controls," one felt sorry for them for taking government money under false pretenses -- the phony mystique of "expertise."

Commissioner Sundeman noted thay had no mathematical evidence for any of their suggestions, including the "advise" to poison our marshes, which was based upon helicopter rides provided by Sheriff DAVID SHOAR. Commissioner Sundeman said, "I hope you enjoyed your time here and enjoyed your helicopter ride."

The "gentlemen" refused to address ways of reducing chemical use, apparently viewing chemicals as their friends. (Old DuPont slogan: "Better living through chemistry.")

The "gentlemen" ignored my suggestion to them after an earlier meeting and their report said nothing about eliminating the large areas of standing water left by developers who hack our forests and leave denued land with standing water. My suggestion: find swimming pools with stagnant water --- and land with standing water -- and educate the landowner. If that doesn't work, come back and fine them and give them the right to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

(Note to Peter Guinta of the Record -- you must listen. You said I spoke of "vacant land that contains ponds and other waterways." That's not what I said. Lissenup, dude -- your coverage of public meetings is execrable).

The "gentlemen" said they "were not interested" in talking to members o the public as part of their quick and dirty (and overpriced) "study."

The "gentlemen" did not provide a copy of their c.vs., one cutely saying he did not have it in his pocket. I asked for a copy of their c.v. at the last meeting. They promised their c.v.s last night, They still have not been provided today.

The "gentlemen" had no response on organizational conflict of interest and their longtime work for the organophosphate industry, whose killer products are banned in Europe and laxly regulated by EPA.

One of the two "gentlemen" left what appeared to be a handout on the podium, then refused to let me have a copy -- even though it is being produced as a deliverable by a government contractor. One of them whined lick a stuck pig as I handed the silly two page precis to our District's attorney, Doug Wyckoff.

The "gentlemen" did a lousy job, not even viewing the MACTEC study findnig dozens of violations of law and best management practices by AMCD.

The "gentlemen" had the temerity to make political statements, such as the ululating ukase that the AMCD's "morale problems" are the fault of the "news media" and "the public."

Nope. Nope. Nope.

"The public" in our righteous wrath elected John Sundeman and Jeanne Moeller to the AMCD Board, stopping organophosphate use (except in emergencies) and cancelling Mary Tarver Willis' tawdry $2 million no-bid helicopter contract in its tracks, winning a refund of the $81,000 deposit.

"The news media," fulfilling the function assigned to them by the genius of our Founders,

The "gentlemen" don't have enough sense to come in out of the rain.

They don't know peaturkcy about a durn thing.

They even suggested that AMCD return to the use of Golden Bear pesticide near wetlands, which would be illegal, because it is EPA labeled "do not contaminate water, food or feed." The two "experts breached the implied warranty of expertise by inviting AMCD to commit an enviromental crime, to wit, an oil spill on advise of "credentialed" cretins.

But they do have one thing -- credentialism. As they intoned their "experience" in response to a softball question from AMCD Board member Ronnie Radford, one of the two "gentlemen" said he had "perfect attendance" at state and national mosquito control association meetings for 51 years.

"Perfect attendance" at chemically-laden cartel meetings. It boggles the mind.

That's not a qualification.

There is no environmental impact statement for Florida mosquito control. With the advent of NEPA and state little NEPAs, the time for such guesswork is over. Florida needs a little NEPA and tough environmental enforcement.

AMCD needs a real environmental committee, with real environmental experts, to advise it. AMCD Board members are all sensitive about environmental issues, including the need to eliminate standing water and start a regulatory program.
They should listen to their own wisdom.

To hell with peckerwood petroleum-induced puffery, flummery and dupery.

Letter: Another hotel is not needed downtown

Letter: Another hotel is not needed downtown

Nancy Chrisse
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 03/27/09

Editor: In response to the proposed hotel to be built in the Bank of America lot. First, why does the Ancient City need another hotel downtown? There are so many B&B's and hotels just a few blocks north of town.

Second, where do the handicap and elderly plan to park when going to church for Mass? I would love to go to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine more but there is never anywhere to park.

Others would go there, if they had places to park. Now, St Augustine is going to be ruined once again by building unnecessary hotels. And as for the parking problem, I'm surprised anyone goes down town.

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© The St. Augustine Record

THOMAS COGHILL -- the man whom ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD worked with to buy the Conch House, is indicted again

See below.

Va. man claims his innocence

Va. man claims his innocence

Failed Conch House bidder indicted again

Publication Date: 03/27/09

A Virginia man who tried to buy St. Augustine's Conch House Marina Resort while he was under indictment, and later imprisoned, for fraud has been indicted again, this time on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Thomas E. Coghill Jr., who reportedly made millions over the years in real estate transactions, will be represented by a public defender at his April 9 arraignment in U.S. District Court, Lynchburg, Va.

"I don't have any money," said Coghill, a native of Richmond, Va., who now lives in Virginia Beach.

He sounded perplexed at the new indictments and insisted repeatedly that he has done nothing wrong.

"What I went to prison for, I did do," he said. "But I haven't done anything since.

"And I don't want to say anything to make (the prosecutor) mad any more. I just want to go on with my life."

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia indicted Coghill in November 2004 on a single charge of wire fraud. He was released on bond Dec. 4, 2004.

A grand jury issued another indictment in January 2005. That one included six fraud counts based on his real estate dealings in Virginia.

The U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Coghill reportedly said the defendant lied about building houses so he could get more bank loans.

The indictment also charged him with falsifying more than 30 certificates of occupancy, home inspections and surveys, according to a Charlottesville, Va., news magazine.

Coghill's 2005 bond was continued - with one provision. He had to get the approval of his probation officer before entering into any personal or business financial obligations, according to the newest indictment, filed March 12.

He was allowed to go to Florida to help his father, a general contractor, complete two homes, according to several reports.

While in St. Augustine, Coghill arranged to buy the Conch House Marina Resort on Comares Avenue from David M. Ponce Jr. and his family in December 2005.

Financial problems with the attempted purchase quickly developed. Those problems mounted until the Ponces had to file for bankruptcy. A New York bank filed a foreclosure suit on the property.

A federal judge in Jacksonville ruled in the Ponces' favor last December, giving the owners time to pay off their debts and get the property out of bankruptcy.

The most recent indictment against Coghill lists the Conch House deal and 15 other financial transactions Coghill is said to have conducted in and around St. Augustine between March and December 2005.

The defendant allegedly didn't notify his probation officer about those deals or any other transactions.

That failure makes up the obstruction of justice charge because it kept the court "from determining and imposing an appropriate sentence that would afford adequate deterrence, protect the public from further crimes of the defendant and provide restitution to victims. ...," according to the indictment.

The indictment also alleges that Coghill continued to conduct business while he was in prison.

In a phone conversation this week, Coghill focused on one of those 16 transactions, his former ownership of Coastal Condominiums in Vilano Beach, in denying he committed perjury.

He said he testified at his March 2006 sentencing for wire and bank fraud that he was not a partner in Coastal Condominiums.

"There was an operating agreement from Nov. 28, 2005," he said. "I resigned on that date.

"I was 100 percent accurate on the stand. It was not perjury."

He also denied obstructing justice.

"I got the maximum sentence you could get for the amount of money that was lost," Coghill said. "I was ordered to pay $3.9 million in restitution.

"I can't really understand how I obstructed anything."

Coghill was sentenced to prison in March 2006 and served his time at Forrest City Federal Correctional Complex in eastern Arkansas. He was released from prison in June 2008.

Don Melcher, who owns a screen printing and embroidery business in Charlottesville, Va., said he loaned money to Coghill to build and sell homes from 1991 to 1999.

"It worked fine, very smoothly, for about five to seven years," said Melcher. "Every time he'd sell a home I'd get money back."

Not only did the houses stop selling, Melcher said. But Coghill's asking prices were less than the cost of building the home.

"He overpaid for everything and undersold the homes," he said. "He was a terrible manager of his business."

Melcher said he began hearing that Coghill wasn't paying bills he owed. He learned of allegations of forged documents and reports.

Then Coghill allegedly defrauded Melcher and another lender on a deal.

Melcher eventually took his records and accusations to the FBI. They already had a file open.

"I lost a half million dollars -- pretty much everything I had," said Melcher. "It crushed me financially. I'm just now crawling out from under it all."

Melcher said that Coghill was paying restitution but not at a rate that would do him much good.

"I heard he was paying $200 a month in restitution," said Melcher. "I got a check this week for $33.

"A friend of mine figured out it'll take more than 1,000 years for him to finish paying me back."

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© The St. Augustine Record




MARCIA MURPHY at 410-209-4885
OCTOBER 26, 2007



Greenbelt, Maryland - Robert Langill, age 45, of Woburn, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty today to violating the Clean Air Act in connection with asbestos abatement at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“Robert Langill intentionally violated federal work practice standards established to protect people and the environment from harmful exposure to asbestos,” said United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "We will continue to prosecute individuals who violate the very laws that they are entrusted to comply with."

“Robert Langill violated federal standards when he directed his employees to improperly remove materials containing asbestos causing the hazardous fibers to be dispersed into the air,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ronald J. Tenpas. “Exposure to asbestos is hazardous and known to cause cancer. Today’s guilty plea should serve as a strong reminder that those who choose to ignore asbestos abatement regulations will be prosecuted.”

According to the plea agreement, from 2001 to 2004, Langill was employed with a Maryland asbestos abatement company as an asbestos abatement project supervisor. In 2003, the company entered into an agreement with the United States Navy to remove asbestos-containing material from several buildings undergoing renovation or demolition at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland.

From October 2003 to January 8, 2004, Langill directed the removal of transite panels containing asbestos from Buildings 692, 213 and 425 in a manner which violated federal asbestos practice standards. Workers were instructed to remove the panels by smashing them with hammers and crowbars and allowing the transite to fall to the ground and break, thereby causing a release of asbestos fibers into the environment. The transite panels from Building 692 were not adequately watered, which would have reduced the risk that asbestos would be released into the air, nor was notification of the abatement activity given to the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE), the state authority delegated to receive such notification, prior to the commencement of the abatement activity. In addition, unlabelled, improperly sealed bags of the broken asbestos-containing transite panels from Building 692 were stored on the grounds of the naval facility overnight in a truck owned by the company.

“Asbestos, a known carcinogen, can risk public health if not removed properly and the EPA will not tolerate illegal activity which puts the public at risk," said David Dillon, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division in Philadelphia. “Those who endanger human health and the environment will be vigorously prosecuted.”

"The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is committed to ensuring a safe and healthy environment for our military personnel and their families, " said Chuck Howard, Special Agent in Charge of the NCIS Washington Field Office. "We will continue to aggressively pursue any and all violations of the law affecting the Department of the Navy."

Langill faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the pecuniary gain derived from the crime, or twice the pecuniary loss caused to the victim of the crime. U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte has scheduled sentencing for January 10, 2008 at 9:30 a.m.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Criminal Investigation Division and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Gina L. Simms and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Noreen McCarthy, who are prosecuting the case.


(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON — A former Vice President of Business Development for a Canada- based company that treats and disposes of contaminated soils pleaded guilty today to participating in a fraud conspiracy at an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-designated Superfund site located in Manville, N.J., the Department of Justice announced.

Zul Tejpar pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the EPA by inflating the prices the company charged to a prime contractor of the EPA and providing kickbacks to employees of that prime contractor at the Federal Creosote Superfund site. Tejpar pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey. As part of the plea agreement, Tejpar has agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Tejpar's former employer, Bennett Environmental Inc. (BEI), pleaded guilty to participating in the same conspiracy to defraud the EPA on July 31, 2008, and today was sentenced to pay a $1 million criminal fine.

The cleanup at the Federal Creosote site is partly funded by the EPA. Under an interagency agreement between the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, prime contractors oversaw the removal, treatment and disposal of contaminated soil, as well as other operations at the site.

According to the charge, from approximately December 2001 until approximately the Spring of 2004, Tejpar and his co-conspirators frustrated the competitive bid process and defrauded the EPA at the Federal Creosote site. Tejpar and his co-conspirators were given confidential bid information and then inflated invoices to cover approximately $1.3 million in kickbacks to employees of the prime contractor, who were co-conspirators. These kickbacks were in exchange for the prime contractor's assistance in allocating at least $27 million in sub-contracts for the removal, treatment and disposal of contaminated soil at the site. The kickbacks were in the form of money wire transfers to a shell company, lavish cruises, various entertainment tickets and home entertainment electronics. As a part of the fraudulent scheme, BEI and its co-conspirators also included amounts it kept for itself in the inflated invoices.

"The competitive bid process is designed for the protection of taxpayers. We will continue to prosecute those who subvert the competitive process, particularly where taxpayer dollars are involved," said Deborah A. Garza, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department's Antitrust Division.

As part of the same investigation, on July 23, 2008, JMJ Environmental Inc., a Laurel Springs, N.J., wastewater treatment supply company, its owner John Drimak Jr., and Norman Stoerr, a former contracts administrator at the Federal Creosote site, pleaded guilty to related bid rigging charges at Federal Creosote. Drimak and Stoerr also pleaded guilty to fraud charges related to both the Federal Creosote site and another New Jersey Superfund site, Diamond Alkali in Newark, N.J. Drimak and Stoerr pleaded guilty to tax related charges as well. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 9, 2009.

The fraud conspiracy that Tejpar is charged with carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine. Tejpar is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23, 2009.

Today's charges reflect the Department's commitment to protecting U.S. taxpayers from procurement fraud through its creation of the National Procurement Fraud Task Force. The National Procurement Fraud Initiative, announced in October 2006, is designed to promote the early detection, prosecution and prevention of procurement fraud associated with the increase in contracting activity for national security and other government programs.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division's New York Field Office, the EPA Office of Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. Anyone with information concerning bid-rigging charges related to contracts at Federal Creosote should contact the New York Field Office of the Antitrust Division at 212-264-9308.



Thursday, March 26, 2009

USEPA Press Release: Illegal Construction Activities in Dutchess County Net EPA Fines for Two Companies

Illegal Construction Activities in Dutchess County Net EPA Fines for Two Companies

Contacts: John Senn, (212) 637-3667, or Elias Rodriguez, (212) 637-3664,

(New York, N.Y. – March 26, 2009) Wetlands are valuable resources that can’t be altered or filled for convenience sake, a lesson that two land owners in Dutchess County learned recently. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached an agreement with Cogi, LLC and Quaker Hills, LLC to settle violations of wetlands rules under the federal Clean Water Act related to the illegal development of wetlands on their land in Pawling, N.Y. The companies filled and disrupted part of a large tract of wetlands, which help supply New York City’s drinking water. In the settlement, the two companies will pay a $50,000 fine, and create two acres of new wetlands and a new stream.

“Wetlands are particularly critical when it comes to filtering water that is used as drinking water and EPA remains vigilant in protecting New York City’s drinking water supply,” said Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “Wetlands help filter out contaminants, and even small sections are important, particularly in this case, where much of the water filtering through these wetlands ends up at the taps of eight million people in New York City.”

The companies filled in a 0.75-acre portion of wetlands and relocated a 630-foot segment of a stream without first getting proper authorization, which would have required them to assess alternatives to destroying the wetlands and also ways to make up for their loss, if deemed unavoidable.

The wetlands and stream are part of a 20-acre wetland near Brady Brook, a stream that flows to the east branch of the Croton River and the Great Swamp wetlands. The portion either filled or, in the case of the stream, moved is located at Cogi Farm, an equestrian center in Pawling, N.Y. Cogi, LLC and Quaker Hills, LLC, own the property on which Cogi Farm sits. The owners violated the Clean Water Act when building a level field for equestrian activities, including polo. The work took place during 2004 and 2005.

For a Google Earth aerial view of Cogi Farm, visit (Please note that you must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map.) To download Google Earth, visit For more information on EPA’s New York City watershed protection work, visit

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From Ripoff Report: Please do not waste the $10 to take the Flagler College public tour

Please do not waste the $10 to take the Flagler College public tour. This is a popular stop for visitors to St. Augustine. We went there in May of this year and were sorely disappointed. The main building is a converted 1880's grand hotel. Unfortunately, all the public gets to see is 3 rooms. There is no access to the upstairs rooms (former hotel guest rooms) as this building is now a female-only dorm, and no men are allowed upstairs. The tour also counts the lobby as one room of the tour! They take you to the upstairs dining room, which is very large and beautifully decorated. They then take you to the third and final room, the parlor. That's it. Oh, and they also count the courtyard as part of the tour.

Not worth it!

Orlando, Florida

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No Answer (Yet) to 15 Questions of City of St. Augustine About Environmental Racism on Riberia Street -- Why Does Baloney Reject the Grinde

Institutional Racism in St. Augustine, Florida

Our City of St. Augustine was found in the 2000 Census to be: 81.2% white; 15.1% African American/black; 0.4% American Indian/Alaska Native; 0.7% Asian; 0.1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander; 0.9% other; 1.6% two or more races; 3.1% Hispanic/Latino origin (of any race).

In its latest (2007) Federal Form EEO-4 report to the EEOC, St. Augustine 319 Full-Time employees, of whom 21 were black, 1 was Asian and 10 were Hispanic, with every single minority employee less than $33,000 in annual salary.

There were 84 women (five black, three Hispanic and one Asian), every single none of them paid less than $33,000.

There's not just a glass ceiling -- there's an iron heel.

Only white men -- thirteen (13) white men -- received salaries of $70,000 or more per year.

St. Augustine is guilty of institutional racism and needs to be prosecuted.

No federal funds should be doled out to St. Augustine until it fires City Manager WILIAM B. HARRISS and adopts a meaningful EEO/Affirmative Action plan, such as the one from Nantucket (see below).

Feds should deny funds to City of St. Augustine until racism is remedied and WILLIAM B. HARRISS is fired

WILLIAM B. HARRISS, the racist excuse for a City Manager sent one of his minions to a public meeting last night, giving excuses for why the City staff wants to start first with the North (white) end of Riberia Street and delay (like pie in the sky in the sweet bye and bye) repairs of the South (African-American) end of Riberia Street until who knows when.

Claiming the City has some $3 million "in its pocket" for the North end is errant nonsense.

The City of St. Augustine squandered $25 million of CRA funds on its White Elephant Parking Garage, but won't spend anything in African-American neighborhoods like West Augustine and Lincolnville.

Our City of St. Augustine is violating the 14th Amendment.

Congress should reject any funding for the City of St. Augustine's 450th Anniversary until a non-racist City Manager is hired. Just as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. urged here in 1964, no federal funds should be given the City until it stops its discriminatory practices.

The St. Augustine City Commission must fire the racist City Manager, WILLIAM B. HARRISS. Otherwise, the Ribeira Street project must be put on hold until the entire project can be done first, instead of just the portions bordering King Street.

All or none.

Controversial St. Augustine City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS Presides Over Racist City Administration, Which Cruelly Delays Riberia Street Repairs

Controversial St. Augustine City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS
Photo credit: J.D. Pleasant

Riberia plan draws L'ville in criticism -- Only enough money for roadwork up to Bridge St.

Riberia plan draws L'ville in criticism -- Only enough money for roadwork up to Bridge St.

Publication Date: 03/25/09

St. Augustine's plan for Riberia Street's renaissance -- given enough money -- includes new water mains, fire protection hydrants, new drainage pipes and outflows, repaving the entire roadway, reducing the number of overhead electric lines and building a sidewalk from King to Cerro streets.

City officials outlined a preliminary engineering plan at a packed educational presentation Tuesday night at City Hall, but the Lincolnville community was not especially happy about what they heard.

Public Works Director Martha Graham fielded questions and kept calm and on message, though some jabs were political and some argumentative.

"Riberia is a heavily used road and fairly narrow," she said. "(During construction) there will be impacts and detours."

But residents quickly learned there's no money to pay for work south of Bridge Street. Voices called out in protest at that.

Graham said the city had $3.1 million in its pocket, enough to pay for Phase I. That covers Riberia to Bridge. But residents said that doesn't affect them, because, they said, Lincolnville starts south of Bridge.

Theresa Segal, a photographer, said she rides her bicycle everywhere "but not on Riberia because it's too dangerous."

Residents were told that the four other phases must wait for funding. If that comes in, they'll wait years more for the work to be completed.

Jim Hagarty of South Street said, "Lincolnville again is left by the wayside."

Joseph Eubanks added, "The people of Lincolnville will be held hostage while construction is going on. Start at the other end."

Jason Hall, an engineer from England, Timms & Miller of Jacksonville hired by the city, outlined the entire plan, saying that the first phase could begin as early as six months and take up to 12 more months to finish.

"We explored putting in underground utilities," Hall said. "It would cost $1 million to $1.5 million per mile. That would also require 10 feet (of property). We're very tight on Riberia. We can't put the lines underground. But we can clean up the overhead corridor."

Utility lines running over Riberia could be placed underground, he said.

Graham said the money for the first phase will come from Community Redevelopment Agency and Storm Water Utility funds.

But, after that, there's no specific funding source. Stimulus funds are being sought, she said.

Hall outlined the phases and their cost.

Phase II, from Bridge to Moore Street, $1.9 million; Phase III, from Moore to Pomar Street, $700,000; Phase IV, from Kings Ferry Way to Lincoln Street, $1.4 million; and Phase V, from Lincoln to the Community Center, $1.9 million.

Hall said each phase would take nine to 12 months.

One resident said, "There's no consideration being given to those of us who live south of South Street."

But, he added, the project cannot be done backwards from South Street to King Street because water flows from north to south, then out to the river.

"Eighty acres drain through Riberia," he said. "That's why it always floods when it rains."

Some residents said they didn't want any part of the plan if they can't have it all.

But one man said, "Let's get started on something!"

Graham said that, even without a dedicated source of funding for Riberia's southern end, "The city has the full intent to move forward with the rest of the work that needs to be done."

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© The St. Augustine Record

USDOJ CIvil Rights Division: Notice on Civil Rights Obligations Applicable to the Distribution of Stimulus Funds

Notice on Civil Rights Obligations Applicable to the Distribution of Funds under the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Federal Agency Obligations
Federal agencies will shortly begin distributing funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). They must do so in accordance with all
nondiscrimination and equal opportunity statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders that apply to the distribution of funds under the Recovery Act. Agencies that grant funds also must ensure that their recipients and subrecipients comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting race, color, and national origin discrimination including language access for limited English proficient persons), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (prohibiting disability discrimination), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (prohibiting sex discrimination in education and training programs), the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (prohibiting age discrimination in the provision of services), and a variety of program-specific statutes with nondiscrimination requirements.

Recipient and Subrecipient Obligations
Recipients and subrecipients of Recovery Act funds or other Federal financial assistance must comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and a variety of program-specific statutes with nondiscrimination requirements. Other civil rights laws may impose additional requirements on recipients and subrecipients. These laws include, but are not limited to, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting race, color, national origin, religion, and sex discrimination in employment),
the Americans with Disabilities Act (prohibiting disability discrimination in employment and in services provided by State and local governments, businesses, and non-profit agencies), and the Fair Housing Act (prohibiting race, color, national origin, age, family status, and disability discrimination in housing), as well as any other applicable civil rights laws.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Letter to City of St. Augustine Chief Operating Officer JOHN REGAN on City's Environmental Racsim on Riberia Street

City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS' hey-boy (JOHN REGAN), right, with "pipe" that emitted semi-treated sewage effluent into our saltwater marsh for years without notifying the people, while HARRISS illegally briefed Commissioners, polling in violation of the Sunshine Law.

City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS has never had a performance evaluation in 11 years!
Photo credit: J.D. Pleasant

King and Riberia Streets
Photo credit: Marie Hardage

Riberia Street floods after short rains
Photo credit: Marie Hardage

Riberia Street floods after short rains
Photo credit: Marie Hardage

City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS has never had a performance evaluation in 11 years!
Photo credit: J.D. Pleasant (and Photoshop)

Dear Mr. Regan:
A. I travel on Riberia Street at least twice a day, five days a week, I have first-hand knowledge of the bad conditions of this street, which is the worst in St. Augustine. The condition of Riberia Street exemplifies the Environmental Racism of our Nation's Oldest (European-founded) City of St. Augustine.
B. Riberia Street is poorly maintained. It often floods with the slightest rain. There are no sidewalks. There is no law enforcement against speeding vehicles. Pedestrians, drivers and passengers risk our lives every time they travel this dangerous street.
C. City trucks dangerously speed down Riberia Street n violation of speed limits, with no law enforcement. Global Wrap CEO Mrs. Judith Seraphin and I were nearly killed here last May upon Global Wrap moving to 218 Riberia Street -- a city garbage truck was careening down the street at an excessive rate of speed and nearly murdered both Mrs. Seraphin and me. In response to concerns from Leonardi Street residents, our CIty Manager has erroneously opined that City trucks (not emergency vehicles) are free to exceed the speed limit.
D. Riberia Street needs to be fixed now, and not with "all deliberate speed." Otherwise, our City could be sued for civil rights violations. If sued for civil rights violations over unequal infrastructure, our City would likely lose, while wasting large sums on legal defense.
E. The City of St. Augustine's denial of equal services to the traditionally low-income and African-American community of Lincolnville is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which is remediable under 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1983, 1985 and 1988.
F. I will be attending a fundraiser tonight and will be unable to attend your presentation on Riberia Street.
G. Would you and the City Manager kindly address the following questions tonight:
1. Why wouldn't the City start the resurfacing of Riberia Street at the most logical place -- the South end?
2. Wouldn't this be more convenient for staging construction equipment/trailers/personnel?
3. Isn't it a confession of Apartheid and Environmental Racism to do otherwise?
4. What engineering considerations/assumptions (if any) resulted in the plan to start at the North End of Riberia Street?
5. What political/developer/property owner considerations resulted in the ill-advised plan to start at the North End?
6. Where else in the City is there a street that bad?
7. How can City managers, year after year, spend our money on flubdubs (like a skate park, $25 million White Elephant Parking Garage, $1.2 million Financial Services (utility bill paying) building, Noche de Gala, annual trips to Spain) while neglecting the low-income and minority community of Lincolnville, an overt act of Environmental Racism consistent with the illegal dumping in Lincolnville and West Augustine of solid waste and sewage effluent (resulting in fines and consent orders twice in the last year)? How do you look in the mirror knowing that you are a part of outrageous, invidious discrimination?
8. Would the City of St. Augustine's National League of Cities insurance policy cover a substantial punitive damages award for negligence in the event of deaths or injuries due to speeding City trucks or a civil rights suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983? Or would the City be "bare," if there were a large judgment? That's how was when after Marshall Burns 42 U.S.C. 1983 settlement (police tackling man into quadriplegia), which required $1.5 million of tax money over the amount paid by insurance? How would our City respond if the Justice Department Civil Rights Division was forced to bring an action to remedy the City of St. Augustine's violations of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments (as it did in Memphis, Tennessee in 1989)? Would it have to declare bankruptcy if a civil judgment were big enough?
9. Isn't it less expensive (and less intrusive) to fix Riberia Street starting at the South end, avoiding civil rights litigation and ending the Apartheid and de facto segregation to which the City of St. Augustine has subjected the community of Lincolnville since 1866?
10. Wouldn't fixing Riberia Street commencing at the South end send a message of reconciliation to the community? Wouldn't it also keep federal funds for the 450th Anniversary from being deleted in a House-Senate Conference Committee based on the City's Environmental Racism, Apartheid and de facto segregation?
11. What principled reason (if any) exists for the backwards proposal to start at the North end and work south ("like pie in the sky in the sweet bye and bye" as the late John L. Lewis of UMWA would have called it)?.
12. What's the point of tonight's meeting if (as signaled by ex-Mayor Gardner's newletter, for which we pay $1250/month) the City's plans are a "done deal" and the meeting is only a PR exercise?
13. Why isn't this meeting being held in Lincolnville? You have several churches available that would have been happy to host the meeting, with a greater likelihood of informing the community.
14. Isn't the City of St. Augustine's discriminatory refusal to hold the meeting in Lincolnville for the convenience of the residents freighted with the confession of the City's continuing Environmental Racism?
15. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote (in his famous June 12, 1964 letter to Rabbi Israel S. Dresner of Springfield, NJ), that our City of St. Augustine is the "most lawless" city in America. What about the Riberia Street plans indicates any plans by the City of St. Augustine to change this perception?
Thank you in advance for answering each of my foregoing questions by tonight's meeting.
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin
P.O. Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085
904-829-3877 (o)
904-819-5817 (o-fax)
904-471-9918 (h-fax)

Environmental racism and Riberia Street

See below.

Instead of starting Riberia Street construction on King Street and stopping at Bridge Street (a/k/a Mason-Dixon Line), why not start Riberia Street construction at the far south end of Riberia Street, adjoining the scene of two of our City's environmental crime (Riberia Street dumpsite and Sewage Treatment Plant)?

That would allow use of the city owned property as a staging area for road-building equipment.

SLEM GARDNER's $1250/month City of St. Augustine newsletter: Riberia Street plans to be detailed tonight

Riberia Street plans to be detailed tonight
Plans for long awaited improvements on Riberia Street will be described by city staff at a public meeting Tuesday, March 24 at 7 p.m. in the Alcazar Room at City Hall. Funding is in place for utilities and resurfacing from King to Bridge Street, but officials are hoping for stimulus funding to do the entire length of Riberia from King Street south.
City Chief Operations Officer John Regan told commissioners Monday night that, while undergrounding all power lines will be too expensive ($1 million a mile), the design does call for undergrounding lines that cross Riberia Street.

With a name like "Rat Mouth" and petty pompous people running the place, what do you expect from Boca Raton, FLorida?

In Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, Florida the United States Supreme Court found that the City of Boca Raton, Florida violated sex discrimination laws with its co-ed lifeguard locker room, resulting in a culture of sexual harassment.

Boca Raton appealed from a de minimis federal court judgment through two appeals.

Boca Raton thereupon got what it deserved -- a famous federal court judgment with its name on it, like Bob Jones University and other discriminators before it.

Now the City of Boca Raton has retaliated against environmental whistleblowers for "committing truth" about low water pressure and resulting contamination. May the jury find the City of Boca Raton guilty, guilty, guilty (again).

What swinish gooberishness! Boca Raton is a pompous place whose itty bitty ninny city government is like many in Florida -- corrupt! It states on its website that a photo ID is required to enter City Hall -- how indescribably boring and pompous! I suppose that's to keep the poor people out.

How amazing that such a pampered luxurious sybaritic city's government should behave like a bunch of goons in suppressing free speech by city employees, firing two of them for raising concerns about low water pressure, which city managers treated as funny!

Florida's whistleblower law is not working. OUr federal whistleblower laws aren't working either, but at least there's a new U.S. Secretary of Labor who cares.

PEER Press Release: BOCA RATON TAP WATER VIOLATIONS TRIGGER HEALTH PROBE -- Chronic Low Pressure Problems Risk Microbial Contamination and Boil Orders

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Contact: Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337

BOCA RATON TAP WATER VIOLATIONS TRIGGER HEALTH PROBE -- Chronic Low Pressure Problems Risk Microbial Contamination and Boil Orders

Washington, DC - The Palm Beach County Department of Health is now looking into low pressure problems that compromise the drinking water supplies of Boca Raton, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The South Florida city had fired two of its key water Quality Control staff members this past December 17th for raising similar concerns.

To protect drinking water in its distribution system from backflows of contaminated water the City of Boca Raton must maintain pressure in its water pipes of at least 20 pounds per square inch (psi). Yet city records show that pressure fluctuates, falling to as low as 10 psi for long periods - and at some points falling close to zero psi. State regulations require that public advisories to boil tap water before using be issued if system pressure falls below 20 psi due to risk of microbial contamination of water.

In a November 5, 2008 memo from Christine Ferrigan who had served as Utility Coordinator for Boca Raton for 23 years until she and Angela Romero, an inspector, were terminated days later:

"Many residents have complained about low water pressure and a foul smell coming from their faucets, but the City of Boca Raton has never addressed this serious problem. Jokes have been made in staff meetings about the problem of low water pressure…"

In a February 20, 2009 letter, the Palm Beach County health Department formally notified the city that it was looking into a number of low pressure reports covering a ten-month period from April 2007 to February 2008. That investigation is still ongoing but does not include operational concerns at the city water agency, such as -

Failure to test backflow prevention devices (to keep contaminated water out of the distribution system), inadequate backflow devices in many areas using reclaimed water and deceptive reports files with the state;

A spotty inspection system that is described by the Utility Services Director as little more than a "drive-by"; and

Boca Raton Utility Services has not replaced the two employees it terminated last year who had responsibilities covering Pretreatment, Reclaim Water, Backflow and Cross Connections.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection investigated many of these matters but concluded that it did not have jurisdiction but it is unclear whether it ever formally referred the matter to the county Health Department.

"Boca Raton utilities staff has been raising these concerns from more than two years and it appears that the only result has been their removal," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "Candor about water contamination is extremely dangerous for Florida public servants."



The editorial (below) is the closest the Record came to reporting the discussion on Chairman Stevenson

It involved alleged Sunshine violations. Two bites at the apple by Peter Guinta did not yield an intelligible article.

At least the editorial (below) appreciates what the two dissenting commissioners (Mark Miner and Ken Bryan) were concerned about.

We can do better, both at the Record and at the Commission. As Rodney King said, "can't we all just get along?"

After the stunning electoral defeats of three (3) crooked Republican St. Johns County Commissioners (MARC JACALONE, BRUCE MAGUIRE and KAREN STERN) -- and the federal criminal indictment of a fourth crooked Republican St. Johns County Commissioner on bribery charges (THOMAS G. MANUEL), can't the remaining Republican County Commissioners conduct themselves accordingly?

What do you reckon?

Opinion: County board must focus on critical issues

Opinion: County board must focus on critical issues

Special to The Record
Publication Date: 03/22/09

St. Johns County Commissioner Mark Miner's effort Tuesday to strip Commissioner Chair Cyndi Stevenson of her leadership post played itself out in the right place, in a public meeting.

"Madam chair, nothing are great commissioner and a great person but I am not sure you are doing an excellent job as chair," he said. "The chair serves at the pleasure of the board and works as the direction of the board and not vice versa and it is vice versa right now."

This is how public meetings should work. Officials on the same board cannot talk to each other outside a meeting on the public's business, including commissioner conduct.

How ironic that this happened during national Sunshine Week, an awareness campaign to alert the public to its right to open government. Access to open government is guaranteed in Florida's constitution and state statutes.

Miner criticized Stevenson for promoting bike paths, while meeting with state officials recently. They are not on the county's legislative agenda.

He said he'd heard that at a regional meeting, she was not supportive of the commission's goal of improving West Augustine's infrastructure.

He said she had outsiders lobby him to gain support for her dissatisfaction with the commission's office manager.

Stevenson said she heard about the bike paths money on her way to Tallahassee so she asked about it.

On West Augustine, she said she did not say she wasn't supportive but that the city needed to do its part, too.

She did not comment directly on criticism of staff but said she has heard in the past comments about how commissioners did this or said that. She later noted that people tend to say things to pit commissioners against each other and the subsequent open discussion is one of the "devils of the Sunshine Law," an unfortunate analogy in our view.

The vote on Miner's motion to get a new chair failed, 3-2.

Stevenson later told The Record she did not try to get a staff member fired, and that she supports open government.

We've always known Stevenson to be a cheerleader for the county. But commission chairs have to careful to define when they are speaking for the commission and when it is their personal view.

Commissioners Ron Sanchez and Philip Mays stayed above the fray. We applaud them for that. Sanchez, the board's vice chair, had the most to gain, the chairmanship. He said, after the vote, commissioners should be respectful, unified and professional in working on behalf of the citizens.

We agree.

This is a critical time for the County Commission. The herd of elephants already in the room ignites enough negativity: the multi-million dollar budget crisis brought on by less property tax revenue resulting from lower property values, threats of more state-mandated tax reductions, and public criticism of commission-authorized future land developments.

Miner and Stevenson said they are moving forward. We hope so. Internal disagreements among commissioners cannot overshadow the county's business.

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© The St. Augustine Record

City's overpaid environmental lawyer, WILLIAM L. PENCE, has left Akerman Senterfitt for BAKER & HOFSTETLER

WILLIAM L. PENCE (wearing hat) at 2003 Noche de Gala (Menendez-worshipping) Ball

E-mailfirewall-notifier: Bill Pence Is no longer with Akerman Senterfitt
Please be advised that Bill Pence is no longer with Akerman Senterfitt,
and his e-mail and voicemail accounts are no longer active. Thus, please
do not assume that any communications to Bill Pence here at Akerman
Senterfitt will be reviewed.
If we at Akerman Senterfitt can assist you, please contact Robyn Neely
at (407) 419-8549 or

If you would like to contact Bill Pence, he is now with Baker &
Hostetler and you may contact him by e-mail at or
(407) 649-4095. Thank you.
William L. Pence
William Pence represents utilities, municipalities, manufacturing facilities, bulk fuel pipeline and terminal facilities, developers and property owners in connection with the management of environmental risks and liabilities associated with contaminated properties. He also provides counsel on compliance with a broad range of environmental regulatory programs. Mr. Pence has significant experience managing the investigation and remediation of former manufactured gas plants; prosecution and defense of private party cost recovery actions under state and federal laws; and defense of enforcement actions under CERCLA, RCRA, CWA and similar state regulatory programs, including those regulating current and former landfills. He also regularly counsels bulk fuel pipeline, storage and terminal facilities in connection with compliance with federal and state regulatory programs, including Coast Guard, PHMSA and USEPA regulations governing such facilities. He has also represented municipalities and developers in their efforts to redevelop environmentally impacted properties under state and federal Brownfield programs.

Mr. Pence has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America (2007-2009, listed in Florida for Environmental Law), Chambers USA (2007-2008, ranked in Florida for Environment), The International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers (2008, recommended for Environment) and Guide to Leading American Attorneys (ranked in Florida).

Representative matters from throughout Mr. Pence’s legal career include:

Representation of a municipality in connection with a $13 million assessment and remediation of waterfront property impacted by former operations of a manufactured gas plant under streamlined USEPA EE/CA process, resulting in one of the fastest site cleanups in USEPA Region 4. Representation included identification of former owner/operator and negotiation of cost sharing agreement with former owner/operator resulting in reduction of client’s share (as current owner) for costs of cleanup to less than 10 percent.
Representation of numerous utilities, municipalities and current property owners in connection with the investigation and remediation of over 20 former manufactured gas plant sites. This work has included negotiation of scope of investigation and remedial design with USEPA and state and local environmental regulatory bodies; negotiation of administrative orders and consent decrees with such regulatory bodies; negotiation of applicable clean up criteria; solicitation and management of environmental consulting and construction firms; identification of other potentially responsible parties; negotiation of cost allocation agreements with such parties and, on occasion, litigation with such parties on allocation and access issues; and assistance with the redevelopment of such sites following, or in connection with, remedial action at the sites.
Representation of numerous aerospace and high technology industries in connection with solid and hazardous waste compliance issues, RCRA closures and Superfund cleanups with emphasis on chlorinated hydrocarbon contamination. Representation includes mitigation of penalties exceeding millions of dollars in RCRA solid and hazardous waste enforcement actions. Such representation has also included negotiation of consent orders with USEPA and state regulatory bodies providing for closure of hazardous waste management units, as well as selection and management of consultants contracted to design and implement the final remedy.
Representation of Florida manufacturing facility in connection with corrective action under RCRA to address presence of Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL) associated with chlorinated solvent spill. Representation included obtaining clean closure at one of the very few DNAPL sites ever successfully remediated in the United States.
Representation of a large pharmaceutical firm in defense of RCRA enforcement action for hazardous waste management in which the Florida Department of Environmental Protection sought penalties in excess of $2 million. The case was settled for less than $30,000 in penalties.
Representation of municipalities and private parties in Brownfield redevelopment projects, prosecution and defense of cost recovery actions under Superfund and prosecution and defense of property damage lawsuits.
Representation of bulk petroleum terminal, storage and pipeline facilities in connection with regulatory compliance matters, applications to PHMSA for special permits, and management of assessment and remediation of petroleum contamination at such facilities. Representation includes assistance with preparation of Facility Response Plans, SPCC Plans, Terminal Facility Operations Manuals, Pipeline Facility Operations Manuals, Integrity Management Plans, and Operator Qualification Plans, including representation of such facilities during federal and state inspections.
Representation of numerous entities identified as potentially responsible parties under Superfund and similar state programs. Representation has included serving on Superfund Steering Committees and negotiation of allocation agreements with other responsible parties.
Mr. Pence is a frequent speaker on environmental topics at national and international conferences. He is a member of the American (Environment, Energy and Resources Law Section), Florida (Environmental and Land Use Law Section) and Orange County Bar Associations. He is a member of the Florida Natural Gas Association and a former member of the Governor’s Transition Task Force on the Environment. From 1979-82, Mr. Pence served as Law Clerk to the Honorable George C. Young, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Callling Dr. Mengele!

Congress Passes AIG Bill of Attainder, Clay County Tortures Dogs, Cited by USDA

On the list of things to be wildly indignant about, Clay County (Florida)'s dog torture experiment is number one this week.

I was merely ashamed of Congressman JOHN LUIGI MICA and other Congresmen for voting for an ex pos facto law (or bill of attainder) against AIG bonus recipients -- but what's the Constitution among friends? A Senator from Iowa (CHARLES GRASSLEY) even suggested "suicide" for the AIG executives. That's a sin in the Catholic Church and a crime most places. Congressman MICA and Senator GRASSLEY are both members of the party of greed that gave significant encouragement to AIG. These dumb and dumber Republicans are now seeking protective coloring and camouflage, like the Nazi spy in Stalig 17 (played by Peter Graves) who beat on the American played by William Holden extra-hard to prove himself a loyal American.

In contrast, I was horrified about Clay County, Florida government officials torturing of a dog for the purpose of trying to claim they didn't kill a dog left in a hot truck.

These are bad people in Clay County. They shouldn't be allowed to "control" or care for animals. They shouldn't be government employees.

They shouldn't be allowed to breathe the same air as you and I -- they need to see the inside of a state prison.

Too bad the corrupt judicial system places so little value on animals' lives.

During the early 1980s, I once covered an Anderson County, Tennessee Circuit Court hearing in which tatterdemalion debt collection lawyer Walt Fuller defended a Y-12 nuclear weapons plant engineer who killed a barking dog in a neibgbor's backyard, hitting it with an iron bar.

The City Court Judge, Luther Reed, rightly sentenced the man to ten (10) days in jail.

Anderson County Circuit Court Judge James Beveridge "Buddy" Scott, Jr. reduced the sentence to only 48 hours in jail.

The defense? National security.

In the crazy place called Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the engineer argued that his work at a nuclear bomb factory required a good night's rest.

The proper sentence should have been 11 months and 29 days in a county jail.

In our own community, the Humane Society shelter recently closed. Our City of St. Augustine gave up all animal control functions to St. Johns County several years ago.

As scholar Edwin Alvord Ross concluded in 1907, these are "criminaloid" personalities, who are "in a hurry" and will do anything to win.

FL TIMES-UNION USDA:Clay dog experiment violated federal animal welfare regulations -- County officials declined comment, said they hadn't seen report

USDA: Clay dog experiment violated federal animal welfare regulations -- County officials declined comment, said they had not seen report

By Beth Reese Cravey Story updated at 1:26 PM on Friday, Mar. 20, 2009
(904) 359-4109

Clay County violated five federal animal welfare regulations in a in September 2008 experiment that involved putting a dog in a non-air-conditioned truck for an hour at midday, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture investigative report. The incident prompted complaints to be filed with the Clay County Sheriff's Office and State Attorney's Office, both of which declined to file any charges. In addition, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a complaint with the USDA.

In a Jan. 8 report, Robert Brandes, a USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service veterinarian, reported on his probe of the incident, saying he found five violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

According to the memo, the violations were:

• Failure to register as an animal research facility.

• Failure to establish and receive clearance from an animal experiment oversight committee.

• Subjecting a dog to sustained temperatures in excess of 85 degrees, failure to consider alternatives to using the dog and failure to consult a veterinarian.

• Failure to obtain a written protocol for the experiment.

• Failure to document whether the dog was held in the pound for at least five days before being used for research.

County officials declined comment Thursday, saying they had not seen the report nor had received any official word from the USDA. Whether the county has or will get an official USDA warning was unclear. Nolan Lemon, a regional USDA spokesman reached Friday,was not familiar with the case and had no immediate comment but said he would check on its status.

The experiment was prompted by the September death of an aggressive dog that was picked up but died after 80 minutes in the back of an Animal Control truck.

The dog’s owners said the dog was in the truck too long; a necropsy was inconclusive, but one pathologist said heat and dehydration were likely contributing factors.

To re-create and measure the environmental conditions, Animal Control staff put a dog from the pound, of similar size and weight to the dead dog, in the same holding cage for an hour. Weather conditions were also similar. The temperature did not exceed 86 degrees, the dog was closely monitored and suffered no ill affects, they said.

Brandes said in his report that the vehicle met ventilation standards, and the temperature “inside the compartment was always lower than the outside temperature.”

According to Brandes’ report, Animal Control Director Connie Goon and her boss, county Enforcement Services Department Director Bill Bodenweber, said “this was the first research project that was ever performed, and assured me that they will not perform any research activity in the future.”

“This facility is a county animal control shelter, and the employees are county civil servant employees,” he said in the report. He recommended the county receive as penalty “nothing more” than an official USDA warning of violation of federal regulations, or no action at all.

PETA, in a news release issued Thursday, said Animal Control should have known better.

“Clay County Animal Control tried to avoid liability for the tragic death of a dog in its care by apparently trying to kill another dog,” PETA Director of Laboratory Investigations Kathy Guillermo said in the release. “We’ve long known that leaving a dog in a car — even on a 70-degree day with the windows slightly open — can be deadly. We certainly didn’t need Clay County Animal Control to endanger an animal to prove what we already knew.”

The dog used in the experiment was returned to the pound afterward. Ultimately, the dog was euthanized after exceeding its allowed stay without being adopted, Bodenweber said.

Animals picked up by Animal Control are held at the pound for three days, allowing the owner time to reclaim their pet. The animal is screened for health and temperament and if it is deemed adoptable after the holding period, it is put up for adoption. The length of time given for an animal to find a home depends on the pound population at the time, according to the county Web site.