Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mossbacks and Their Bizarre Beliefs

As quoted in my unrebutted August 28, 2013 letter (below), controversial St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar's website reports that Rev. Dr. Martn Luther King, Jr. was arrested by "Federal agents" here in St. Augustine in 1964. Not true. Local law enforcement did it. Did the same SJSCO staffer write Shoar's 152-page report, attacking FDLE agents for inestigating the shooting death of a deputy's girlfriend as a homicide? You tell me?

The Florida National Guard (FNG) Commanding General told a packed Flagler College Auditorium audience that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. Untrue.

The Florida Air National Guard (FANG) Commanding General spoke on Memorial Day 2013 of America's wars in a service at our National Cemetery, oddly omitting any mention of the Civil War, speaking ONLY of wars against foreigners. How dull. How insensitive to American history -- more than 600,000 Americans fought and died to let freedom ring. In fact, there are graves of USCT (U.S. Colored Troops) at the cemetery, near where he stood -- under his feet, but not on his mind. Our Nation's epic fight for equality was not on his narrow mind. Then FANG trashed all copies of the speech, paper and electronic. He's a part-timer, working as an airline pilot. Why is he giving speeches, and mangling our history (nearly as bad as FNG alumnus, Sheriff David B. Shoar)?

What a bunch of lugubrious goobers. What an embarassment for St. Augsutine.

Both Sheriff David Shoar and Florida National Guard Generals hold some bizarre beliefs.

These are people with degrees and titles. Some (like Shoar) are well-read.

Their bizarre beliefs are downright frightening.

These are "cognitive misers" with guns, who get to decide who will live or die.

What else do they believe? What do they do in their high-tech government palaces?

Pray for them. And as JFK said, "Here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own."
Ask questions. Demand answers. It's our town, our time and our rights.

What do you reckon?

ST. JOHNS COUNTY SHERIFF DAVID B. SHOAR ASKED TO RESPOND to False Information on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Praise for Sheriff L.O. Davis, On St. Johns County Sheriff's Website, on 50th Anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" Speech

Dear Sheriff Shoar:
We both love our Nation's Oldest City, St. Augustine, which stands between "hope and history." There are reasons today (50th anniversary of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech) to be concerned that our history must be accurate.
A. Sheriff Shoar, it appears that both your SJCSO website and your 2012 Annual Report appear to glorify Sheriff L.O. Davis, with your 20th Century Sheriffs history section stating in haec verba:
"One major development that his tenure as Sheriff saw was the civil rights movement, a challenging time for our nation, state and county. In 1963, the Reverend Martin Luther King and his associates came to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the nation. St. Augustine became the site of many demonstrations. During one of these, Dr. King was arrested by Federal agents and booked into the St. Johns County Jail. Shortly afterwards, Dr. King and others were released from jail.
The climate was stressful in those years, but with Sheriff Davis' leadership the community held together. This nation moved forward after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Sheriff Davis was well respected in the community." (Emphasis added).
B. Thus, some questions occur:
1. Does SJCSO have any research materials on Dr. King and Sheriff L.O. Davis that formed the basis of the statements about them on your website and in your 2012 Annual Report? What are they? Please provide citations.
2. Who wrote the statements on Dr. King and Sheriff Davis in the "Sheriffs of the 20th Century" portion of your website and in your Annual Report? Quo vobis videtor?
3. Are those persons aware of Davis' corruption and support of segregationists? Were you?
4. Your website section on "Sheriffs of the 20th Century" appears simultaneously to demean Dr. King and to glorify Sheriff L.O. Davis. Why? The 2012 Annual Report also appears to glorify Davis. Why?
5. The SJCSO website section on "Sheriffs of the 20th Century" falsely asserts that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was "arrested" here in St. Augustine by "federal agents." That never happened. Local law enforcement arrested him.
6. How long has this materially false information about "federal agents" arresting Dr. King in St. Augustine appeared on our SJCSO website? Who wrote it? For what purpose?
7. Are you planning to take it down? When? Please advise.
8. The 2012 Annual Report says no taxpayer funds were used for its printing or distribution. Why not?
9. Who paid for printing and distribution of the report? Please provide documents.
10. Will you please retract and apologize publicly for the falsehoods in your name about "federal agents" arresting Dr. King, and for glorifying Davis, as you did for those threatening t-shirts you distributed in 2008?
Our Nation's Oldest City is now on the world stage -- we do not need to be embarassed by faux Fox News style Civil Rights "history" emanating from the SJCSO, lauding a segregationist and insulting both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 50th anniversary of the "I have a dream" speech."
I look forward to hearing from you today by the close of business.
Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin
Clean Up St. Augustine
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084

Honoring Civil RIghts Victories and Remembering Civil Rights Violators -- Kudos to Peter Guinta and Marcia Lane -- Two Excellent St. Augustine Record Articles on Civil Rights Today

Harry Truman said, "The only thing new under the sun is the history you don't know." When we moved to St. Augustine in 1999 (and first visited here in 1992), we had no idea there was a rich African-American and Civil Rights history here. Why?

For openers, the all-white St. Johns County Tourist Development Council and all-white Visitor and Convention Board -- both tax funded to the tune of millions of dollars annually -- do not honor that history and do not respect our diversity. They are a stench in the nostrils of our Nation's Oldest City.

We are making progress. There are two civil rights monuments in our Slave Market Square.

And there are two excellent articles on the front page of the st. Augustine Record today on civil rights issues, marking the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream speech" at the Lincoln Memorial.

One, by Peter Guinta, profiles Irvin L. Brunson, Tallahassee artist writing his book about St. Augustine desegregation struggles, which say his parents' car and next door neighbor's home firebombed in retaliation for First Amendment protected activity in speaking out against Jim Crow segregation (and their African-American children attending previously all-white schools).

The second, by Marcia Lane, describes Flagler College's online civil rights archive, the Civil Rights Archive of St. Augustine, Florida, coordinated by Emmy-winning journalist J.B. Hackworth and four Flagler College students. The collection will debut on September 18th at a reception from 4-7 pm at Ponce de Leon dining room at Flagler College.

Today's article describes the thrill of discovery of Hackworth's students finding archival and video materials, including Andrew Kustodowicz uncovering a documenting evidencing what we would today call a "push-poll": distributed by St. George Street Pharmacy, then a local drug store, the document asked customers, "If we integrate, will you continue to eat here?"

Much remains to be uncovered about this era, but the Flagler College archive is a treasure trove, and deserves our support.

Reading original materials is food for thought. Consider the 1976 University of Florida oral history interview with longtime St. Johns County Sheriff Lawrence O. Davis, in which he describes being present at the Ku Klux Klan rally where Dr. Robert B. Hayling, D.D.S. and two other African-American were caught watching the proceedings, severely beaten and nearly burned to death because "they got injured because they went to a place where they shouldn't have gone."

In the 1976 UF interview, Davis (a convicted felon) described said of segregationists, "All they wanted was to have a good time, and beat the tar out of people, that's all." (page 43).

Sheriff L.O. Davis described his friend, segregationist "Hoss" Manucy, whom he made a special deputy (page 69), as never expressing the desire to kill anyone: "he--himself is not a violent peson, you know. And uh, so he'd tell anybody, 'I don't believe in killing anybody. I think we ought to keep them here. We ought to beat them up here..." (page 58).

Davis described Hoss Manucy's local street toughs, who beat Rev. Andrew Young into unconsciousness here: "they weren't bad kids. It was just the idea that, uh, they'd found something they could have a lot of fun in." (page 75).

Davis admitted using the "sweat box" on civil rights protestor-prisoners, then "a legal deal." (page 60).

Davis described how Jacksonville Times-Union reporter Hank Drain hated Dr. King: Davis said Drain "often said, 'The best thing in the world we could do is to put that guy underneath the jail -- that Martin Luther King -- forever.' He hated him. He was the worst buzzard he'd ever seen -- a rattlesnake in disguise and everything....He despised him." (page 46). Davis said that after Dr. King was murdered, he called the St. Augustine Police Chief and said he was "going to burn him up" and was "sick and tired of making a hero out of him." Davis said that Drain instead wrote a "beautiful article" about Dr. King for the Times-Union.

Davis told the University of Florida oral history interviewer that Dr. King was a "communist," (page 47) and didn't deserve the Nobel Peace Prize (pages 47-48).

Davis blamed outsiders -- black and white -- for what happened in here, claiming that only 20% of the segregationist "rabble rousers" were local residents, and that others drove from KKK country -- Palatka, Ocala and other northern Florida towns.

Take a gander at the St. Johns County Sheriff's Department website today, and the SJCSO's 2012 Annual Report -- it claims "federal agents" arrested Dr. King in St. Augustine. That never happened. It also expresses fawning, uncritical admiration for the criminal Ku Klux Klan Sheriff L.O. Davis (1949-1970).

This makes one wonder about the true beliefs of controversial St. Johns County Sheriff David B. Shoar (2005-date). No mention of Davis' material support for the KKK, Atlanta bomber-lawywer J.B. Stoner, and other hate groups. Why?

I'm writing Sheriff Shoar and will publish his answers to my questions.

To be continued....

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

About Last Night: In West Augustine Sewer Vote, "Here We Right a Wrong" -- Yes We Can!

More evidence of healing: thanks to the persistence of St. Augustine's African-American community leaders, including Greg White and Ken Bryan, last night, Dr. King's dream came alive in the St. Augustine Coy Commission meeting.
Last night, St. Augustine Coy Manager John Patrick Regan, P.E. also saw his own dream of 1998 -- equal customer service -- finally being realized.
Fifteen years ago, as the young newly appointed City of St. Augustine Utilities Director -- who moved with his wife and family to St. Augustine from Gainesville Utilities -- Regan saw massive pollution in West Augustine from septic tanks.
Rabid racists who ran the St. Augustine City government had never bothered to provide sewers, or water, for West Augustine.
Under successive generations of unenlightened leadership, the City's Jim Crow government denied equality to its citizens -- sewage Apartheid has long been a threat to public health.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called St. Augustine the "most lawless" city in America in 1964 (referring to the more publicized aspects of segregation, but he might as well have been referring to the Fourteenth Amendment violations of unequal city water and sanitary sewage systems.
Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. Meanwhile, St. Augustine continued on its course. St. Augustine Mayor Joseph Shelley, who appeared on national television justifying Jim Crow abuses,remained on the City Commission for years. His name is among those that appear on the 1973 City Hall cornerstone in Lightner Museum Courtyard.
Despite opposition in 1998, John Regan, P.E. determined to provide equal services for his customers. That means clean water uncontaminated by e. coli.
In 2011, a majority of water wells in West Augustine were found to be contaminated by e. coli -- this was the direct and proximate of malign neglect -- willful wanton negligence and racism on the part of City officials. City officials never extended sanitary sewers to "them" (African-American residens).
These radical racists who made people get sick and die.
I did not know of these facts until I saw Flagler College graduate Jeremy Dean's 2005 film, "Dare Not Walk Alone."
From 1998 to 2013 was a long time to wait.
In waiting, John Regan reminds me of General Kutuzov's line in Tolstoy's "War and Peace": "Patience and time."
Fifteen years after Regan was harshly questioned for utility spending in West Augustine, two successive racist City Managers have retired. Regan is now the City Manager of our small (13,000 person) Oldest City, which hosts millions of visitors annually and is on many of the recent international "best" lists for everything from Christmas lighting to romance to retirement.
"We're on the world stage now," as Lincoln put it.
Equality and equal opportunity are two of the reasons why -- our City has attracted Mumford & Sons based on its being a cool, hip, tolerant place, as evidenced by our City's December 10, 2012 enactment of GLBT rights protections in our Fair Housing law.
Under new management, our City of St. Augustine last night voted to comply with the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause and Environmental Justice: Our City will provide sewers in West Augustine, approving three initial projects and county use of Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs)for unit connections.
The Ku Klux Klan will never again elect a St. Augustine City Commissioner.
KKK values have been replaced with Rainbow values.
Our City honors and respects diversity.
As a result of the West Augustine sewage vote, expect growing economic development and educational opportunities.
Expect new home and business construction along the West King Street corridor.
Expect a University branch campus here.
Florida Memorial University (formerly Florida Memorial College) is a traditionally African-American school now based in Miami Lakes. FMU's campus was in West Augustine until racists ran it out of town in 1968 because its students supported and participated in nightly mass demonstrations against segregation, led by Dr. Robert Hayling, D.D.S., the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Andrew Young, with Florida Memorial students marching from the West King Street campus to the Slave Market Square.
The land is still there. FMU still owns it. FMU is planning to come back and build a branch campus.
The dream of Dr. King, Lincoln and the framers of our Fourteenth Amendment are both alive and living in our Nation's Oldest European-founded City, St. Augustine, Florida.
On the monument to interned Japanese-Americans in Washington, D.C. are the words: "Here we right a wrong."
St. Augustine righted another wrong last night. We're on a roll.
What's next?
West King Street deserves an Interstate 95 interchange, to remedy the racist redlining of West Augustine by the State of Florida DOT in 1964.
Here, we can right another wrong.
Yes, we can!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First Amendment Update

Delighted that proposed Rule 4.705 and other SJCBCC public comment rules discussion is postponed until 9/3 meeting. More later.
Our right to ask questions shall be preserved and protected and not neglected.
What do you reckon?
Ed Slavin

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Amendment Violation -- St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners Considers Ban on Citizens Asking Qustions -- Proposed Board Rule 4.705 is Unconstitutional

St. Johns County's Board of County Commissioners (BCC) tomorrow (August 20) will be asked by the County Attorney, PATRICK McCORMACK, to approve a blatant First Amendment violation, to be carved into the rules of the Commission, forbidding citizens from ever again asking questions of Commissioners, unless they are merely "rhetorical" and don't seek answers.
Why? What is County Administrator MICHAEL WANCHICK & Co. afraid of -- being asked questions he doesn't want to answer? In the words of William F. Buckley, Jr., "Why does baloney reject the grinder?"
The provision, proposed Section 4.705 of BCC policies, is contained in agenda item 10 at tomorrow's BCC meeting, to be presented by County Attorney PATRICK McCORMACK.
It is as unconstitutional as it is unfriendly and unseemly -- what were they thinking?.
Evidently, some County staffers want citizens to be seen and not heard. This is absurd and abusive, like a similar rule instituted at the United States Tennessee Valley Authority under Chairman Marvin Runyon (former Nissan Chair and later U.S. Postal Service Chairman).
You have a constitutional right to ask questions.
America works best when we ask questions.
This proposed Rule 4.705 is contrary to the genius of a free people.
Keep asking questions.
If 4.705 is adopted, it needs to be challenged at every meeting, and in court.
What do you reckon?
Ed Slavin
Clean Up St. Augustine
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rude, crude, insulting comments on St. Augustine Record's hate website

The St. Augustine Record did an excellent public service by today's lead story, about the Florida National Guard's animal torture in the name of medic training. Great job.

Hours later, it seems that the Record has gone back to its old ways -- it has posted some deranged hateful comments suggesting that PETA members be used instead of animals for decapitation, shooting and disemboweling for medic training.

The Record's Posting Rules are not enforced against hate speech (only against progressives). The Record's tatterdemalion website is a veritable free fire zone for hate speech -- including death threats directed against City commissioners and staff, and hate speech directed against PETA -- may be published.

The St. Augstine Record website is an electronic Ku Klux Klan bulletin board, a liability and an embarassment to our Nation's Oldest City. If you're looking for anonymous hate speech, the Record is the place under the new Publisher, Delinda Fogel. Ms. Fogel is a CPA who evidently thinks it's profitable to print hate speech and increase the number of eyeballs on the Record's website. She actually asked last week if I had a journalism degree, and said if I didn't like their website, maybe I shouldn't read it. See below.

What do you reckon?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

IN HAEC VERBA: Ed Slavin Letter to Senator Bill Nelson, Calling For Senator Nelson to Help Halt to Florida National Guard Animal Cruelty and for Senate Armed Services Committee Field Investigation of Florida National Guard Misfeasance, Malfeasance, Nonfeasance, Waste, Fraud, Abuse and Discrimination

Dear Senator Nelson:
1. Please see Peter Guinta's story in the August 16, 2013 St Augustine Record newspaper, "Guard plans to main animals for medic training," and kindly investigate and halt this animal cruelty today.
2. In your capacity as the third-ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, please denounce and help halt forever this outrageous illegal animal cruelty and waste of federal funds.
3. Meanwhile, please ask the Florida National Guard (FNG) to halt this planned activity this morning, hesto presto.
4. Please ask Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin to hold investigative oversight hearings here in St. Augustine this fall on the nature, structure and performance of the FNG, including waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance, and discrimination.
5. Two (2) unscholarly, insensitive FNG generals have wasted federal funds and given offensive, inane and inept speeches, including: (a) one at a St. Augustine history program at Flagler College falsely claiming Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11, and (b) one on Memorial Day 2013, entirely omitting our ancestors' Civil War sacrifices (though he was speaking at the St. Augustine National Cemetery in close proximity to African-American of soldiers who fought to save our Union, buried in graves marked USCT, for U.S. Colored Troops).
6. Meanwhile, FNG's generals have perpetrated this monstrous inhumane animal torture, which is expected to begin today and last all weekend in Tampa.
7. Enough of FNG's "Amateur Hour." Please stop the ineptitude.
8. Please sponsor in the Senate Armed Services Committee an amendment to the DOD authorization bill providing for cutoff of all federal funding for this sort of sordid, wasteful, callous cruelty to animals, from this day forward.
9. Senator Nelson, please pick up the phone, call General Titshaw, and kindly ask that he halt these cruel and unAmerican activities, today, forever.
10. I look forward to hearing from your Chief of Staff, Pete Mitchell, by phone later this morning to inform us that the animal cruelty training is halted. Meanwhile, I have already asked the City of St. Augustine and SAPD to investigate possible state law crimes, and possible violations of the City's leases to FNG.
Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,
Ed Slavin
Clean Up St Augustine
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084

IN HAEC VERBA: Ed Slavin Letter Requesting City of St. Augustine, SAPD, Take Action on Florida National Guard Animal Torture, Reported in Friday's St. Augustine Record, thanks to Whistleblower, PETA and Peter Guinta's article -- Let's Halt These UnAmerican Activities, Today

Dear Mr. Regan and Chief Lueders:
1. Please see Peter Guinta's story in today's St Augustine Record newspaper, and
kindly investigate any possible criminal conspiracy to commit violations of
Florida animal cruelty laws, with planning, approval and ratification of animal
cruelty evidently taking place at Florida National Guard (FNG) offices here in
St. Augustine.
2. Please ask FNG to halt this activity, hesto presto.
3. By copy of this email, I alert and request others to support you in your
efforts, and to cutoff all state and federal funding for this wasteful, callous
cruelty to animals, from this day forward.
4. Please send me a copy of the City of St. Augustine's lease with FNG, and
kindly exercise all of our City's rights as a landlord concerning any illegal
activities on our premises.
5. Let's halt these unAmerican activities, today.
Thank you.
Ed Slavin
Clean Up St Augustine
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084


Major General Emmett Titshaw
The Adjutant General
St. Francis Barracks
82 Marine Street
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
Department of Military Affairs
St. Francis Barracks (904) 823-0364
Public Affairs Office (904) 823-0166
Florida Air National Guard
St. Francis Barracks (904) 823-0601
Tampa (813) 233-2251
Counter Drug Program (904) 823-0440

Kudos to National Guard Whistleblower, PETA and Peter Guinta for Revealing Florida National Guard's Planned Cruelty to Animals!

Friday, Aug 16, 2013
Guard plans to maim animals for medic training

A Florida National Guard medical company plans to shoot, stab, dismember and disembowel live pigs and goats in Tampa today to prove something it already knows — that using medical simulators is better than maiming animals.

The unit is the 256th Area Medical Support Company, and the training is until Monday.

According to a Guard statement released Thursday, “This study is funded by a Department of Defense grant to the University of South Florida’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation. It will study hemorrhaging control, airway management and emergency medical skills.”

After a whistle-blower exposed the study to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA announced the study as unnecessary and cruel.

The organization further asked Adjutant General Emmitt “Buddy” Titshaw to cancel the activity and follow Department of Defense policies requiring the use of nonanimal training methods when available.

However, the Guard indicated through its statements that the study would proceed as planned.

Justin Goodman, director of PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department, said medical simulation is the future of military medical training so “no more animals need to be stabbed, mutilated or shot to make this point.”

When questioned about the study, the St. Augustine-based Guard would not speak for the record but instead released a second prepared statement.

“The Florida National Guard appreciates and values the input of our Florida citizens and members of advocacy organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who feel strongly about this matter,” the statement said. “We are pleased to be supportive of the process that will validate viable alternatives to LTT for our combat medics.”

LTT stands for “live trauma training.”

PETA also re-released an undercover video of a similar training program in Virginia Beach obtained last year showing Coast Guard medics using tree branch trimmers to cut off the legs of goats while the animals were still alive.

In the short film, Coast Guard medics worked with personnel from the private military contractor Tier 1 Group, a Crawfordville, Ark., company formerly known as Aggressive Training Solutions. Tier 1 is owned by Cerebus Capital Management, which also owns Remington Arms, Bushmaster Firearms International and DPMS Panther Arms.

On camera, medics are heard joking about their work.

One said, “Gotta write a song about cutting the limbs off goats.”

Another medic repeatedly stabs a goat with a scalpel and pulls out its internal organs.

Goodman said military and civilian studies have proven that simulators better prepare medics and doctors to perform life-saving trauma.

“That many U.S. military facilities and 80 percent of our NATO allies already use exclusively nonanimal simulation methods to train their personnel is further evidence that the switch (to simulators) could be made tomorrow without subjecting more animals to harm and death,” he said.

In the video, director Oliver Stone, speaking for PETA, said the nation’s military needs the best medical care possible, but doesn’t need to kill 10,000 animals a year to accomplish that.

He called the practice “barbaric.”

“We don’t need to cut animals with scalpels, shoot them in the face or hack them with an axe. Those are nothing like real battle wounds,” Stone said. “This is the 21st-century. There are more humane ways.”

Monday, August 12, 2013

No, Ms. Fogel, I don't have a degree in journalism

When I questioned her about publishing anonymous death threats last week, St. Augustine Record newspaper Publisher Delinda Fogel asked if I "have a degree in journalism?"
No. See below. It does not seem to inhibit my ability to ask questions, to seek truth and to know right from wrong. It never has and never will, Ms. Fogel.
This morning, a three story resort hotel near Disney World in Orlando collapsed into a sinkhole. The Associated Press reported, as it has previously, that sinkholes are a problem in Florida because of limestone.
That's shallow.
Could it be that sinkholes are also problem in Florida because of groundwater mining by greedy developers, which is permitted by incurious water management districts?
Please dig deeper, Associated Press.
Try to investigate (not obfuscate).
The whole world is watching.
Don't forget to watch tonight's St. Augustine City Commission meeting on streaming video to see if the St. Augustine Record has any defense of its website violating its own Posting Rules, recklessly maintaining a place for hate.

IN HAEC VERBA: COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT Speculator-Developer Demands to Be Relieved of Contractual Obligation to Pay $560,000 for Drainage Improvements -- City of St. Augustine Beach Never Had Copy of Any Franchise Agreement and Speculator-Developer Refuses to Provide It (If One Exists)--

Alas, dear readers, the St. Augustine Record has not reported on this issue.
Wonder why?

Dear Mayor Snodgrass:
1. The City of St. Augustine Beach (SAB) has never had any verification that there was ever any franchise agreement with Courtyard by Marriott, Mr. Ashdji and Mr. Bhoola (Please see SAB correspondence below, and attachment.)
2. Why?
3. IF there was ever a franchise agreement with Courtyard by Marriott, and IF there still is one today, the people have a Right to Know. Marriott won't respond to my calls and E-mail correspondence. Both Messrs. Bhoola and Ashdji decline to produce any documentation establishing the existence of any franchise agreement. Mr. Bhoola told me that Mr. Ashdji "would have" a copy of any such agreement, a phrase that is pregnant with the admission that Mr. Bhoola does not have a copy of any such agreement).
4. Do you agree that the people have a Right to Know, and without further flummery on the part of the speculator-developer, which is demanding to be relieved of its contractual obligation to pay $560,000 for drainage improvements (which are ongoing now in reliance on its contractual obligation)?
5. If there is no proof that there ever was (or is) a franchise agreement, do you believe that approval of this Planned Unit Development (PUD) was, at best, negligent?
6. Do you agree that rote routine rubberstamping of speculator-developers' desires must never be permitted to happen again in SAB?
7. Do you agree that the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida and the FBI SAC need to know about this situation? Will you make the referral, or will you ask the City Attorney to do so?
8. Will you promise a higher standard of ethics and disclosure from this day forward, including placing speculator-developers and others under oath during all quasi-judicial hearings?
9. Will you support adding a strong Code of Ethics and Disclosure in the City Charter?
10. I look forward to hearing from you today.
What do you reckon?
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin
Clean Up St. Augustine
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084
-----Original Message-----
From: Cathy Benson
To: easlavin
Cc: Max Royle
Sent: Mon, Aug 12, 2013 11:02 am
Subject: FW: Courtyard by Marriott franchise agreement

Mr. Slavin,
In response to your records request, we have searched our files, but have not
located any agreement between Mr. Bhoola and Marriott Hotels or between Mr.
Ashdji and Mr. Bhoola. The only tie we have it the attached "Owner Permission"
form, which I doubt is what you were hoping to find. The development agreement
does not require any additional documentation that Mr. Ashdji and/or Mr. Bhoola
are associated with Marriott.

Cathy Benson
Deputy City Clerk
City of St. Augustine Beach
2200 A1A South
St. Augustine Beach, FL 32080

PLEASE NOTE: Under Florida law, most communications to and from the City are
public records. Your e-mails, including your e-mail address, may be subject to
public disclosure.

-----Original Message-----
From: Max Royle
Sent: Friday, August 09, 2013 4:39 PM
To: Ed Slavin
Cc: Cathy Benson
Subject: RE: Courtyard by Marriott franchise agreement

Mr. Slavin, Do you mean Mr. Bhoola's agreement with Marriott? If so, I don't
think the City has it. I'll ask Ms. Benson on Monday to check the files. Max

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Slavin []
Sent: Friday, August 09, 2013 4:32 PM
To: Max Royle
Cc: Cathy Benson
Subject: Re: Courtyard by Marriott franchise agreement

No. The developer/speculator's agreement with Marriott-- do we have a copy?
Please respond today.

On Aug 9, 2013, at 4:33 PM, Max Royle wrote:

> Mr. Slavin, The City doesn't have a franchise agreement with the owner of the
site for the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. The City has an approved planned unit
development for the Hotel. If this is what you mean, Ms. Benson on Monday will
research the City's records and provide the information to you. Max
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ed Slavin []
> Sent: Friday, August 09, 2013 3:41 PM
> To: Max Royle
> Subject: Courtyard by Marriott franchise agreement
> Please send. Thank you.

Friday, August 09, 2013

"Do you have a degree in journalism?"

"Do you have a degree in journalism?"
That was St. Augustine WRecKord Publisher DELINDA FOGEL's snippy and inept verbal response Augus8th to my questioning her wicked bad judgment in posting threatening, racist, sexist and homophobic posts on the WRecKord's website, including the July 24, 2013 death threat directed against our City officials over the Mumford & Sons concert.
The answer is No, Ms. Fogel. Why do you ask? I earned a J.D. from Memphis State University School of Law (now University of Memphis) and from Georgetown University a B.S.F.S. in Foreign Service. I was recommended by DA Jim Ramsey for a Pulitzer Prize for winning declassification of the largest mercury pollution event in world history in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. What have you done for others?

"Maybe you shouldn't read it, then."
That was That was St. Augustine WRecKord Publisher DELINDA FOGEL's inept verbal response August 8th to my questioning her wicked bad judgment in posting threatening, racist, sexist and homophobic posts on the WRecKord's website.

So, dear readers, is this the worst Record Publisher since the days of segregation?

Why Are the St. Augustine Record and Morris Communications Continuing to Post on Their Website Unprotected Hate Speech Calling for Our City Leaders to be "Shot?"

Answer in this space -- you have the right to remain silent but we wish you wouldn't.
Presumably, the Record knows the identity and E-mail address of the threatening poster, but has chosen to protect "him."
Who is he?
A Record staffer, advertiser or KKK member?
You tell me.
We have a Right to Know, Ms. Fogel.
So do the police and the FBI.
Enough of snide anonymous postings that are threatening, racist, sexist and homophobic. See below.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Ed Slavin's Reply to St. Augustine Record Publisher DELINDA FOGEL on Record's Posting Threatening, Intimidating, Anonymous Hate Speech Cyberstalking Messages (Including Shooting Threat Directed at Our St. Augustine City Officials)

From: easlavin
To: delinda.fogel
Sent: Thu, Aug 8, 2013 2:54 pm
Subject: Anonymous Death Threat and Incitement to Violence Against St. Augustine City Officials in 7/24 post on

Dear Ms. Fogel:
1. By printing threatening, inflammatory anonymous comments, the St. Augustine Record is a tortfeasor, and facilitates commission of federal crimes -- cyber-stalking. 18 U.S.C. 875(c). As in 1964, the Record is once again discouraging citizens from participating in our democracy. Please consider the views of Washington and Lee University Journalistic Ethics Professor Edwin H. Wasserman, from "Media Ethics Magazine" (quote reprinted below).
2. I will ask our City of St. Augustine City Commissioners to address the St. Augustine Record's serial posting of anonymous, threatening incivility and bigotry at their meeting on Monday, August 12, 2013. Please attend to explain your positions. Note: our City Commissioners voted to become a "Compassionate City" at their last meeting. We are the first "Compassionate City" in the State of Florida.
4. The Record's longtime website posting of anonymous hate speech is a stench in the nostrils of our City. It is contrary to our community values -- contrary to the genius of a free people.
5. Threatening, racist, sexist, homophobic and intimidating speech violates the Record's own Posting Rules. Do you agree that the Record has a legal duty to obey its own rules? See, e.g., Service v. Dulles, 354 U.S. 363 (1957). Or are they optional in your opinion?
6. I hereby invite learned Holland & Knight counsel (Messrs. Gabel and Sikorski and Ms. Judas) to kindly review the many inflammatory postings and the Record's insurance policies, including exclusions for intentional and recklss torts. I know and respect Messrs. Gabel, Judas, Rep. Sikorski, et al. (I testified before Rep. Sikorski on security clearance holders' rights when he was a subcommittee chair). I know that your H&K lawyers will ably advise the Record and Morris Communications' of their potential tort liability for compensatory and punitive damages (e.g., in the event that one of the Record's numerous inflammatory anonymous hate post incitements to violence should ever result in death or injury).
7. No one has a "write" (your spelling) to print hate speech on anyone's website. Who ever told you that such a "right" existed, when and where? No "right" to post hate speech on your site exists.
8. Will you please identify the anonymous poster so that the FBI may investigate possible cyber-stalking and civil rights violations. If not, why not? This is not a First Amendment issue -- this is not an anonymous news source, but an anonymous bully threatening our City officials.
9. I would be willing to revise my draft August 1, 2013 letter the editor on this subject into a 600 word column, in which I would quote you, Professor Wasserman, et al. Please let me hear your thoughts.
10. Again, I respectfully urge the Record to cease and desist from ever again publishing anonymous hate speech. Again, Monday night, I shall urge our St. Augustine City Commissioners -- we are the first "Compassionate City" in the State of Florida -- to ask the Record to reject anonymous, threatening hate speech -- an issue that former Commissioner Errol Jones rightly first raised several years ago. From this day forward, let us work together to raise the quality of debate in our Nation's Oldest City. See Prof. Wasserman's Media Ethics Magazine article, reprinted below.
Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am
Ed Slavin
Clean Up St. Augustine
PO Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084
"Threats to Ethical Journalism in the New Media Age" (Excerpt)
(Media Ethics Magazine, July 2010)
By Professor Edwin H. Wasserman
Washington and Lee University
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Professor of Journalism Ethics
Here I want to talk about the rise of anonymous comment. In the bad old days, when public comment was sparse, letters to the editor were rare and were carefully edited. Few responsible papers ran unsigned letters, pains were taken to make sure the authors were who they claimed to be.
Somehow, when news organizations went online, that scrupulous insistence on authentication fell away. Papers bought into the idea that robust discourse required anonymity, that people were entitled, indeed had the right, to make whatever comment they liked without having to identify themselves.
Indeed, the latest wrinkle in this is that some news organizations in the U.S. are claiming that anonymous posters deserve the same protection as confidential sources-that people who comment online on a news report are deserving of the same consideration as vulnerable sources who might have been relied on in compiling that report.
Obviously, there's a world of difference between a source whose identity the reporter knows and has agreed to conceal, and a source whose identity is known to nobody.
To be sure, there are times when anonymity is powerfully beneficial. But signing on to a culture of discourse in which nameless and reckless denunciation is normalized is a deeply troubling development.
Here again, the push to do this is coming from managements that want to re-establish on the Internet the centrality their news organizations had traditionally held offline, and want to be "the big tent" into which all community discourse is drawn. They fear that enforcing archaic standards-such as insisting that people actually stand by their own words, heaven forbid-will frustrate that marketing objective.
And here again, you see the blithe acceptance of online practice as having normative significance. When in Rome. This is how things are done online, so I guess it's OK.
And finally, you again see a real failure to consider harms. Not only, in this case, defamation. But, in my view, unrestrained, anonymous speech, leads to a bruising, painful style of discourse that actually discourages participation and leads people who might honestly have things to say to sit down and shut up.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Slavin
To: Fogel, Delinda
Sent: Thu, Aug 8, 2013 12:27 pm
Subject: Re: 7/24 post on

Who is the commenter? Why is "he" exempt from posting rules?

On Aug 8, 2013, at 11:38 AM, "Fogel, Delinda" wrote:
I’ve reviewed the commenter’s remarks and have concluded that it is not a death threat. Therefore, I will not remove it from our website. The commenter is making (sic) an opinion that the city leaders should be shot. He does not come out and say “I’m going to shoot the city leaders in the plaza”. There is a huge difference. I also think the commenter’s post in using the shooting as a metaphor is for sensationalism and not to be taken literally. While we may not agree with the commenter, he (sic) has a write (sic) to express his opinion.

Delinda D. Fogel
The St. Augustine Record &
One News Place, St. Augustine, FL 32086
T 904-819-3421 | C 904-466-5169 | F 904-819-3538

IN HAEC VERBA: Washington and Lee University Journalism Professor Edwin H. Wasserman on Posting of Anonymous Hate Speech on Newspaper Internet Sites -- One of the "Threats to Ethical Journalism in the New Media Age" (Excerpt from Media Ethics Magazine)

"Threats to Ethical Journalism in the New Media Age"
(Media Ethics Magazine, July 2010)
By Professor Edwin H. Wasserman
Washington and Lee University
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Professor of Journalism Ethics

Here I want to talk about the rise of anonymous comment. In the bad old days, when public comment was sparse, letters to the editor were rare and were carefully edited. Few responsible papers ran unsigned letters, pains were taken to make sure the authors were who they claimed to be.
Somehow, when news organizations went online, that scrupulous insistence on authentication fell away. Papers bought into the idea that robust discourse required anonymity, that people were entitled, indeed had the right, to make whatever comment they liked without having to identify themselves.
Indeed, the latest wrinkle in this is that some news organizations in the U.S. are claiming that anonymous posters deserve the same protection as confidential sources-that people who comment online on a news report are deserving of the same consideration as vulnerable sources who might have been relied on in compiling that report.
Obviously, there's a world of difference between a source whose identity the reporter knows and has agreed to conceal, and a source whose identity is known to nobody.
To be sure, there are times when anonymity is powerfully beneficial. But signing on to a culture of discourse in which nameless and reckless denunciation is normalized is a deeply troubling development.
Here again, the push to do this is coming from managements that want to re-establish on the Internet the centrality their news organizations had traditionally held offline, and want to be "the big tent" into which all community discourse is drawn. They fear that enforcing archaic standards-such as insisting that people actually stand by their own words, heaven forbid-will frustrate that marketing objective.
And here again, you see the blithe acceptance of online practice as having normative significance. When in Rome. This is how things are done online, so I guess it's OK.
And finally, you again see a real failure to consider harms. Not only, in this case, defamation. But, in my view, unrestrained, anonymous speech, leads to a bruising, painful style of discourse that actually discourages participation and leads people who might honestly have things to say to sit down and shut up.

Edward Wasserman became the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University in 2003 after several decades of professional writing and editing-a practice he continues today. His work is available at He may be reached at

MORRIS COMMUNICATIONS' New St. Augustine Record Publisher, Ms. DELINDA FOGEL, Endorses "Write" (sic) to Publish Hate Speech on St. Augustine Record's Website

See below.
This is appalling.
The Records's new Publisher, DELINDA FOGEL, evidently does not share our community values. She chooses to protec the putatively religious anonymous commenter who at 6AM on July 24th called for the Mumford & Sons concert to be "canceled" on pain of having City officials "lined up and shot."
Please identify the anonymous poster, and let the FBI investigate, Ms. Fogel. We have a Right to Know who is hiding behind the Record to threaten our City officials.

IN HAEC VERBA: St. Augustine Record Publisher DELINDA FOGEL Refuses to Take Down Death Threat Directed at City of St. Augustine Officials -- Desite Record's Posting Rules (see below) -- Says of Hate Speech Commenter: "he (sic) has a write (sic) to express his opinion."

From: Fogel, Delinda
To: easlavin
Sent: Thu, Aug 8, 2013 11:38 am
Subject: 7/24 post on
I’ve reviewed the commenter’s remarks and have concluded that it is not a death threat. Therefore, I will not remove it from our website. The commenter is making (sic) an opinion that the city leaders should be shot. He does not come out and say “I’m going to shoot the city leaders in the plaza”. There is a huge (sic) difference. I also think the commenter’s post in using the shooting as a metaphor is for sensationalism and not to be taken literally. While we may not agree with the commenter, he (sic) has a write (sic) to express his opinion.
Delinda D. Fogel
The St. Augustine Record &
One News Place, St. Augustine, FL 32086
T 904-819-3421 | C 904-466-5169 | F 904-819-3538

IN HAEC VERBA -- St. Augustine Record's Posting Rules

Posting Rules
By using various interactive features to post content, you are participating in a community intended for all of our users. As such, if your behavior becomes a problem for the site or for other users, we may, in our discretion and without warning, ban you from all services of

In general, we reserve the right to remove any content posted on our site at any time for any reason. Decisions as to whether content violates our Terms of Service will be made by in its discretion after we have actual notice of such posting. Without limiting our right to remove content, we have attempted to provide guidelines to those posting on our site. When using, please do not post material that:

■contains vulgar, profane, abusive, racist or hateful language or expressions, epithets or slurs, text, photographs or illustrations in poor taste, or attacks of a personal, racial or religious nature.
■is defamatory, threatening, disparaging, grossly inflammatory, false, misleading, fraudulent, inaccurate, unfair, contains gross exaggeration or unsubstantiated claims, violates the privacy rights of any third party, is unreasonably harmful or offensive to any individual, community, association, group or business.
■violates any right of or any third party.
■discriminates on the grounds of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation or disability, or refers to such matters in any manner prohibited by law.
■violates or inappropriately encourages the violation of any municipal, state, federal or international law, rule, regulation or ordinance.
■interferes with any third party's uninterrupted use of
■advertises, promotes or offers to trade any goods or services, except in areas specifically designated for such purpose.
■includes copyrighted or other proprietary material of any kind without the express permission of the owner of that material.
■uses or attempts to use another's identity, account, password, service or system except as expressly permitted by the Terms of Service.
■contains or links to viruses or other harmful, disruptive or destructive files.
■disrupts, interferes with, or otherwise harms or violates the security of, or any services, system resources, accounts, passwords, servers or networks connected to or accessible through or affiliated or linked sites.
■"flames" any individual or entity (e.g., sends repeated messages related to another user and/or makes derogatory or offensive comments about another individual)
■repeats the same message under multiple threads or subjects.
■is clearly off-topic for a given thread or subject.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

HATE SPEECH 101: Death Threat Remains on St. Augustine Record Website, Now More Than Two Weeks After it Was Posted -- Record Must Identify Poster

You would think that journalists would never publish anonymous online death threats against government officials, or anonymous racist, sexist and homophobic rants, e.g. “Barney (The Fruit) Frank.” Yet the Record insists on giving anonymous haters bandwidth, commenting after every article. The Record does not enforce its own civility rules. Why?

On July 24th the Record published an anonymous comment calling for City Commissioners and staff to be “taken out and shot in the plaza” (de la Constitucion, a/k/a Slave Market Square) for supporting the Mumford & Sons concert, complaining about the alleged rejection of family faith-centered entertainment in local venues and demanding Mumford's concert be canceled. Perhaps this putatively religious poster supposes it's funny to suggest that City officials be “taken out and shot.” We're not laughing, and neither are City officials.

The Record is insouciant about this threatening language. Why? It should reveal the name of its poster.

Rose Kennedy's favorite Bible verse was from Matthew: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

The Record is “a newspaper of general circulation,” with a second class mailing permit. As such, it has the right – under current Florida law – to be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for legal advertising by government agencies. Some Florida legislators proposed to allow ads to be placed in internet publications, a move that was opposed by the newspaper industry. One of the reasons that Florida newspapers rarely investigate anything may be the large checks from government agencies. Make waves, and someone might take away your government advertising, newspaper publishers fear.

Over the past ten years, the St. Augustine Record has received millions of dollars for advertising from our local governments. It's our money. “Earn this,” as Tom Hanks' character said in “Saving Private Ryan.”

Ed Slavin
Clean Up St. Augustine
PO Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florda 32085-3084

HATE SPEECH 102: New "IN GOD WE TRUST" Signage On Anderson County (Tennessee) Courthouse Used By Fundamentalists to Give "Going to Hell" Speeches -- What Kind of Putative "Christians" Do These Things?

Anderson County, Tennessee's Courthouse now has an "In God We Trust" marble sign over each of four (4) entrances. The money was raised by private donations, and supported by numerous churches.
The reported manner of dedicating the first of the "In God We Trust" signs was allegedly to invite only fundamentalist preachers -- no Jews, no Catholics, no Muslims, no Buddhists, no Hindus (and possibly no Native Americans, no African-Americans).
At the dedication, preachers allegedly stated that anyone who didn't believe as they do was Going to Hell.
"Now that's an ice-breaker," as William F. Buckley, Jr. said upon meeting Ayn Rand, who immediately challenged his religious beliefs.
“Going to Hell?” That's not exactly an invitation to brotherhood.
Not Southern hospitality. It's downright unfriendly.
It's hate speech. It sounds like the message of the KKK when they rioted against desegregation and dynamited Clinton High School in 1958.
This "Going to Hell" expressive message was unkind, uncouth, unChristian and beneath the dignity of a free people.
Ours is nation where our Founders required separation of Church and State.
"Judge not, lest ye be judged," the scripture says. "Who am I to judge," Pope Francis says of GLBT people.
Those preachers' hateful "Going to Hell" words were bad theology and bad sociology.
Rather than acting like true Christians and apologizing, there are now allegedly moves afoot to defeat every single County Commissioner who voted against the signs.
That's not very Christian, either.
Contrary to the preachers' beliefs, America was not founded as a "Christian country," as is evidenced by George Washington's letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Providence, Rhode Island and in haec verba in America's treaty with Tripoli.
Our Founders knew from European religious wars that they didn't want any. American soil had already been smeared with blood from religious wars (right here in St. Augustine, commencing in 1565, with hundreds of Protestant and Roman Catholic victims, as three world empires vied to save souls and conquer territory (not necessarily in that order).
Our Founders of the United States of America knew their history. They all wanted to leave hundreds of years of bloody European religious wars behind.
Our Founders vision is mocked by the “Going to Hell” preachers' hate speech.
I lived in Clinton and Anderson County, Tennessee. I have many fond memories.
To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau about Concord, "I have traveled extensively" in Clinton.
Anderson County, Tennessee is blessed with diverse people from all over the world -- people from every religion, and no religion, and people who believe in God and question organized religion.
There are some 900 Ph.Ds working in Oak Ridge.
Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton, Tennessee is located two blocks from the former location of Clinton High School. On October 5, 1958, Clinton High School was blown to bits by dynamiters who opposed desegregation. It was rebuilt by contributions from Americans, organized by columnist Drew Pearson ("Bricks of love to fight bombs of hate.")
When Anderson County Courthouse was built in 1964, it was originally planned with segregated rest rooms. (The County Courthouse rest rooms now say "Men," "Women," "Employee Men" and "Employee Women.")
Anderson County Courthouse is located directly across the street from where our Appalachian Observer newspaper was located. During the early 1980s, I spent much of my days (and many long nights) in Anderson County Courthouse, covering meetings, observing trials, interviewing and learning from public officials and citizens, reading records and exposing wrongdoing.
The Courthouse was a great place to learn about America. You might say I grew up in Clinton, Tennessee and in Anderson County Courthouse.
We helped citizens remove a corrupt School Superintendent. We helped deputies and they helped the FBI, to remove and incarcerate corrupt Sheriff. We helped elect reformers, fighting waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance. We had fun doing it.
The local DA, James Nelson Ramsey, recommended us for a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the largest mercury pollution event in world history (Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Plant).
Anderson County;s Mayor is Terri Frank, daughter of my late publisher, Ernie Phillips. She supported the "In God We Trust" sign.
The "In God We Trust" signage is reportedly being challenged by, among others, attorney David Alexander Stuart, my friend and former co-counsel in whistleblower cases, including Varnadore v. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (see August 5, 2013 New York Times obituary); Stuart was the popular, populist, ethical, energetic longtime elected County Attorney (1982-1998).
I like and respect both Ms. Frank and Mr. Stuart.
East Tennesseeans love lawsuits -- it's part of their character.
In fact, it is so ingrained that County Sheriffs and other elected offcials are often required to file "salary lawsuits," asking the Courts (not County Commissioners) to decide how much money the Sheriff, Register of Deeds, County Clerk and other officials get to pay their staffs!
The Anderson County Courthouse case is ripe for litigation.
But learning a lesson from the preacher's condemning others to Hell, from this day forward, public officials everywhere need to ask "What can we do to unite people?"
Carved in marble over the United States Supreme Court building is another motto, "Equal Justice Under Law."
How many of the more than 3000 county courthouses in America bear that inscription?
How often is “equal justice” denied?
When we say the Pledge of Allegiance, ending “With liberty and justice for all,” do we really mean it?
Or should we add, “We hope!”
What do the preachers have to say about growing injustice and inequality?
"Equal justice under law." It's a compassionate message -- one that all Americans can agree on.
What do you reckon?

Defeating bullies, tyrants and bigots

Oak Ridge National Laboratory was a horrible place. My late client, C.D. "Bud" Varnadore helped transform it, standing up to oppression. Oak Ridge will never be the same again. See below.

Likewise, thanks to citizen-activists here in St. Augustine and St. Johns County, we're ending the days of KKK-dominated governments run by bullies, tyrants and bigots. Only 49 years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called this "the most lawless" place in America.

We must always be on guard against oppression, which showed its ugly head Monday night at the St. Augustine Beach City Commission meeting.

Ordinarily charming, City of St. Augustine Beach Mayor Sherman Gary Snodgrass (a/k/a "S. Gary Snodgrass," a/k/a "Scary Snodgrass") is a recovering former nuclear utility executive. On August 5th, Mayor Snodgrass got outrageously rude to both citizens and fellow commissioners questioning his authority. He's got 40 years of Human Resources experience, with two tyrrannies --Commonwealth Edison (which merged with Philadelphia Electric and became Exelon) and U.S Gypsum (asbestos manufacturer). Mayor Snodgrass has written performance evaluation terms and wants his fellow commissioners to bow down to his "expertise."

Mayor Snodgrass seems kind and gentle whenever his spouse is present in meetings. When she's away, as on August 5th, Snodgrass has sometimes acted like an energumen -- nasty, brutish and bullying.

We look forward to Mrs. Snodgrass' return and to Mayor Snodgrass acting like a mensch once again. He needs to calm down and not interrupt citizens and fellow Commissioners with displays of authoritarian aggressiveness. They are unbecoming, unkind, uncouth and unAmerican.

Speaking of bullies on the St. Augustine Beach Commission, St. Augustine Beach Commissioner Andrea Samuels et ux frequently show their disrespect for free speech. Monday night, August 5th, Commissioner Samuels' spouse, Robert Samuels, had his own "Baby Meltdown Moment," waltzing to the podium and blasting me as an "outsider" and saying I "stink."

I wear Robert Samuels' scorn as a badge of honor.

Samuels' anger was in response to my questioning a dodgy developer/speculator of a Marriott Hotel, an "outsider" who demands:(a) an extension of his expiring Planned Unit Development after five years, and (b) to void his contractual obligation to pay $560,000 for drainage improvements (already underway).

Robert Samuels' shilling for a speculator/developer would be comical, but for the fact that Commissioner Andrea Samuels took a campaign contribution from this same developer/speculator while she served on the Planning and Zoning Board, while the Zoning Board had the developer/speculator's project under consideration. (June 8, 2008 contribution from "Fred" Ashdji, listed as contribution number 3 to Samuels' campaign on the website of the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections).

Robert Samuels' abusiveness Monday did not divert attention from the demands of the campaign contributor and developer to shed his $560,000 financial obligation. The demand is a non-starter, and Samuels knows it.

Last year, in a fit of retaliatory rage and animus, Commissionser Andrea Samuels wanted to fire every single St. Augustine Beach Police officer and essentially turn the operation over to Sheriff David Shoar. Why? Because she said the Department "has become politicized." Like workers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the SABPD officers had enough. After years of being told (falsely) that the "Chain of Command" prohibited them from raising their concerns outside the Department, ten brave SABPD officers signed a complaint about former Chief Robert Hedges. They had a right to do so.

We are proud of them.

Andrea Samuels' venemous vehement videotaped words of retaliation would easily have subjected the City of St. Augustine Beach to successful First Amendment lawsuits. Her haughtiness would have resulted in more than a dozen adverse jury trial verdicts. The splendid new SABPD Chief, Robert Hardwick, wisely recommended July 1, 2013. not firing all of the officers. Reason prevailed. Some seventeen (17) jobs were saved from retaliation. The First Amendment lives.

Commssioner Andrea Samuels' illegal, meritless, meretricious effort to punish ethical police officers fizzled like a dud Fourth of July firecracker.

The First Amendment lives in SABPD, and in our hearts.

Earlier this yar, I entered the room before a St. Augustine Beach City Commission meeting and was greeted by Andrea Samuels, who squeaked,"What are you doing here?" Not even former St. Augustine City Manager William B. Harriss would have asked that question. I was taken aback. She meant for me to feel unwelcome. My response was that I was there to support the sexual orientation nondiscrimination ordinance, which passed 5-0. Her question made me wonder, "Why does she want me to feel unwelcome?"
What do y'all reckon?

From the tone of her voice and the rolling of her eyes during public comment, it sounds like Andrea Samuels is thin-skinned and has contempt for democracy.

Andrea and Robert Samuels think they "own" a non-profit, the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, which they have used as a personal fiefdom and "Amateur Hour" Tammany Hall. After ten (10) years, Robert Samuels recently stepped down as SABCA's President, and was recognized in Folio Weekly with a bouquet. Not recognized by Folio is SABCA's refusal to disclose financial information to its own members and arbitrary and capricious rejections of at least two (2) applicants for membership.

SABCA refused membership to former St. Augustine Beach Mayor Edward George, P.E. Why?

SABCA refused membership to current Commissioner Undine Pawlowski. Why?

SABCA refuses to share financial information with its members. Why?

Is SABCA "The Unwelcome Wagon?" Is SABCA the Samuels' private club -- a rustic version of Tammany Hall?

JFK once said "Politics is a business of knives." Robert and Andrea Samuels often practice "Lashon hara." They spread rumors about the sexual orientation of their political opponents and they seldom have anything nice to say about anyone. They can't even go grocery shopping without running their mouths about someone, anyone, who ever disagrees with them.

Both Samuels were proud last year to work with their 501(c)(3) buddies to defeat Commissioner J. Kenneth Bryan for re-election because, well, he disagreed with them about the need for a red light on Pope Road (he wanted it and they didn't). They helped elect yet another developer shill to St. Johns County Commission. They and SABCA purported to banish Ken Bryan and other candidates from St. Augustine Beach concerts, located on county property, while bending everyone's ear (including mine) about their support for Priscilla Bennett (a/k/a "Rachael Bennett), who was running against Bryan. Bennett works for speculator/developers, day and night.

I first met Andrea and Bob Samuels at the late Flagler College Drama Professor Sean O'Casey's Twelfth Night Party, on January 6, 2006. I liked them. They're intelligent, funny and have done some good things for their community. I have been to their home, enjoying a Passover Seder with the late Senator George McGovern (his seoond and my first). Thus, it hurts me to write these words.

Writing "without fear or favor,: I must observe that once Andrea was elected, power went to her head. The Samuels are now so often angry they make no sense. They're acting like dockside bullies.

As Bill Clinton said in his Second Inaugural, "Nothing great was ever accomplished by being small."

Message to Bob and Andrea: Knock it off!

"Bud Varnadore made a difference" -- Frank Munger, Knoxville News-Sentinel

“People either love me or they hate me,” Bud Varnadore often said.

Indeed, Varnadore stirred the pot. He could be loud and he could be opinionated, and one thing people rarely did was ignore him. But, oddly, that’s what happened after Varnadore died at his home in Lenoir City on March 7, 2013.

A brief notice in the News Sentinel’s paid obituaries went largely unnoticed. Somehow I missed it, even though I try to skim the obits on a daily basis.

Varnardore’s passing at age 71 didn’t gain media attention until this past weekend, five months after the fact, when Douglas Martin of The New York Times reported it with a look back at the whistle-blower’s complaint at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The story attracted news coverage — nationally, as well as locally — throughout the 1990s.

Varnadore was a lab technician at ORNL, and he said he was subjected to hostility, poor performance ratings and other forms of retaliation after he reported on safety and environmental problems at the Oak Ridge facilities. In one notable instance, his assigned “home base” at the laboratory was a room used for storage of radioactive wastes and contained hazardous materials, including mercury.

The long-running case was filed initially in November 1991 and didn’t conclude until April 1998, when the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of Varnadore’s complaints. That affirmed a decision two years earlier by Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who ruled that Varnadore’s original claim of workplace retaliation was filed too long after the alleged discrimination occurred.

Varnadore lost his case, but there were victories, legal and otherwise, along the way, and some viewed the final ruling as a technicality that didn’t really define the guts of the case. Many workers at the Oak Ridge plants simply appreciated the challenge of authority in a high-security environment that sometimes seemed overbearing and maybe abusive.

Fran Varnadore, Varnadore’s widow, said her husband was bedridden for the last two years of his life, but even as recently as a year ago he was receiving calls from Oak Ridge workers who wanted his advice on how to proceed with their workplace complaints.

“Some people have called him a hero,” she said.

Theodore von Brand, an administrative law judge who heard the Varnardore case in 1992, said the record indicated that Martin Marietta, then the lab contractor, deliberately tried to punish Varnadore, who was a recovering cancer victim, with such things as the “clearly inappropriate office space.” Von Brand recommended that Martin Marietta pay $30,000 in damages, expunge Varnadore’s poor performance evaluations and make other amends.

Even as he waited on Reich to rule on his case, Varnadore said he continued to feel like he was discriminated against for being a whistle-blower in the government’s Oak Ridge workplace. “I feel like I’m punished daily,” he said.

Despite the outcome, Fran Varnadore said her husband didn’t regret being a whistle-blower.

“He felt hopeful that he kept some other people from having to go through what he did,” she said.

© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

Monday, August 05, 2013

New York Times Obituary today (half-page) on C.D. Varnadore, Pioneer Oak Ridge Whistleblower (My Former Client)

Charles Varnadore, Whistle-Blower at Lab, Dies at 71


After Charles D. Varnadore complained about safety at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where he worked as a technician, his bosses moved him to an office containing radioactive waste. When an industrial hygienist recommended that either he or the waste be moved, he was put in a room contaminated with mercury.

Mr. Varnadore fought back, publicizing questionable safety practices at Oak Ridge, a federal nuclear research center that had helped develop the atomic bomb, and his own treatment, which he characterized as retaliation for his outspokenness.

His complaints drew national attention, and he found allies in the federal government.

“I’m going to see that there’s a new day here if it’s the last thing I do on this job,” Steven Blush, an Energy Department official, told CBS News in 1992.

Later that year, the department verified 16 of 26 safety violations identified by Mr. Varnadore, and it ordered Martin Marietta Energy Systems, the contractor the government had employed to run Oak Ridge, to fix all of them.

Mr. Varnadore’s complaints also led to stronger laws and practices governing employees who dare to blow the whistle on powerful employers.

His death at 71 on March 7 drew little notice, however. It went unreported except for a classified advertisement in The Knoxville News Sentinel, and the ad made no mention of any whistle-blowing. Even a former lawyer of his, Ed Slavin, had no idea that Mr. Varnadore had died until learning about it recently. He then told The New York Times.

Mr. Varnadore died at his home in Lenoir City, Tenn., said his wife, Frances. Asked about the cause, she said, “He got tired of fighting.”

His difficulties began in 1990, after he returned to work following colon cancer surgery. He found that his replacement had shortcomings in handling lab samples, and he pointed this out to his superiors. He also complained about his new assignment, operating mechanical arms to handle radioactive materials; he had been blinded in his left eye as a child and had poor depth perception.

“I tried it and made a hell of a mess,” he told The Houston Chronicle in 1993. “I didn’t think it was right for me to make this mess and have other people exposed to it.”

Mr. Varnadore began to receive negative performance evaluations after many years of good ones. He was shunted from assignment to assignment so frequently that he was nicknamed “the technician on roller skates.” In March 1991, he was given a storage room as an office to write reports and keep records of his work as a roving technician. The room contained bags and drums of radioactive waste, as well as bags of asbestos and chemical waste.

Later that month, he appeared on the “CBS Evening News” and expressed his concern about elevated cancer rates among Oak Ridge personnel. In November that year, he filed the first of several whistle-blower complaints to the Labor Department, invoking federal statutes promising immunity.

In February 1992, the department’s wage and hour division ruled in his favor, a judgment that was strongly supported by an administrative judge in June 1993.

“The only conclusion which can be drawn from this record is that they intentionally put him under stress with full knowledge that he was a cancer patient recovering from extensive surgery and lengthy chemotherapy,” the judge, Theodor P. Von Brand, wrote in his decision. “Under the circumstances, he was particularly vulnerable to the workplace stresses to which he was subjected.”

Judge Von Brand sent the matter to the labor secretary, Robert B. Reich, so that damages could be assessed against Martin Marietta. Instead, Mr. Reich dismissed some of Mr. Varnadore’s charges on the ground that they had been filed too late, and he dismissed others because he did not believe that they had been proved conclusively. A panel appointed by Mr. Reich found that while there had been retaliation against Mr. Varnadore, it was not pervasive. It threw out the rest of Mr. Varnadore’s claims, and in 1998 a federal appeals court supported these high-level reversals.

Martin Marietta denied permitting any safety or environmental irregularities. While it did not deny the existence of radiation, mercury and other chemicals in Mr. Varnadore’s offices, it said they were not present in quantities large enough to be dangerous.

Martin Marietta merged with Lockheed in 1995 to become Lockheed Martin. Five years later, it was replaced at Oak Ridge by UT-Battelle, a partnership between the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute.

It could be said that Mr. Varnadore lost his case. But Nahum Litt, the Labor Department’s chief administrative law judge from 1979 to 1994, said in an interview that there was a larger lesson to be learned: It is hard to succeed as a whistle-blower.

Most top officials, Mr. Litt said, do not like whistle-blower protection laws. “It didn’t seem to matter how persuasive the evidence might be,” he said.

Mr. Slavin, the lawyer, saw victories in the Varnadore case, nonetheless. One was the Energy Department reforms. Another was a new willingness among nuclear workers to report abuses. “No other whistle-blower will ever be treated that way again,” Mr. Slavin said in an interview.

Charles Douglas Varnadore was born in Tullahoma, Tenn., on March 24, 1941, and after high school, he followed his grandfather and father to Oak Ridge. Known as Bud, he worked at the complex’s massive K-25 plant, which used a gaseous diffusion method to enrich uranium. He combined technical expertise with excellent manual dexterity and often fixed executives’ cars. When K-25 ceased operation in 1987, he was laid off.

He then applied to be a technician in Oak Ridge’s analytic chemistry division and was accepted. His first job was to analyze soil samples from nuclear plants that were being decommissioned. He soon complained that some soil samples were not refrigerated, as was required, and that as a result, pollutants were allowed to evaporate before they could be analyzed. The Energy Department confirmed in 1992 that Martin Marietta had repeated problems preparing soil samples.

Mr. Varnadore also complained that a secretary had been told by her supervisors to put radioactive samples on the front seat of a pickup she was driving. In March 1991, he was assigned to a “home base” — a term for offices used by technicians — that contained the radioactive material. After the industrial hygienist advised that either he or the material be moved, Mr. Varnadore was placed in a room that had been a mercury reclamation center. Visible mercury, which is poisonous to the nervous system, was in several places in the room.

After the Labor Department began investigating his accusations, one question that arose was whether his bosses had threatened to send Mr. Varnadore back to the first office, the one with the radioactive material. Mr. Reich ruled that the threat — if it had been made — did not matter, because the return move never happened.

Mr. Varnadore retired around 2000. In 2003, he was one of 23 people convicted in federal court of conspiring to deal guns without a license. His wife said he had been trying to sell his gun collection. He served 27 months in prison.

Besides his wife, the former Frances Simmons, Mr. Varnadore is survived by a stepson, Chip Bishop.

A version of this article appeared in print on August 5, 2013, on page B8 of the New York edition with the headline: Charles Varnadore, Whistle-Blower at Lab, Dies at 71..

Sunday, August 04, 2013

From Death Grip on City Hall to Death Threats Against City Officials

Fifty years ago, the local Ku Klux Klan and its allies -- formidable forces of social control -- had a death grip on the City of St. Augustine, leading the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to call it the "most lawless City in America." Today, the descendants of those formerly formidable forces no longer control the City of St. Augustine, Florida. Now there are anonymous death threats against City of St. Augustine officials, on the website of the St. Augustine Record (see below), demanding that the Mumford & Sons concert be "canceled" (on pain of death, presumably). That death threat is still up on the Record's website tonight, eleven (11) days after it was made. Why? The St. Augustine Record has not identified who made it and has not removed it. Why? The St. Augustine Record refuses to enforce its own civility code on website posting. Why? The FBI Domestic Terrorism squad should investigate the death threat (and the Record for continuing to post it). Meanwhile, a poster calling himself "davidpaul," purporting to speak for tbe the "Neighborhood Council of St. Augustine, Inc." (but with no individual signers, telephone number, E-mail or mailing address) has posted literally dozens of questions about the Mumford & Sons concert. Looks like a lot of effort went ito the questions. Like any questions citizens ask of governments, these questions deserve answers. Questioners should identify themselves so they may communicate their concerns. It seems like some of the questioners may have an ax to grind -- defeated or disappointed candidates? Ex-Commissioners? Whetsone? Maguire? It also seems that the unnamed writers are aping my style (numbered paragraphs, logical sentences, good grammar). However, they're not doing their homework. They're evidently not watching City Commission meetings, where many of the questions were already answered. Sadly, they're not well-informed by the local mullet-wrapper, the St. Augustine Record (which prefers to post anonymous death threats and inflammatory Ann Coulter columns to investigating and reporting news). Are a few once-powerful people now having a baby-like meltdown? Is it because they no longer boss and bully St. Augustine City officials? Is it because diversity and human rights are now respected and not neglected by the City of St. Augustine? A-Waaaaah! What do you reckon? Let freedom ring!

What do you reckon?

Dear readers: Comments? Disclosures? Suggestions? Please let me know. With kindest regards, I am, Sincerely yours, Ed Ed Slavin Clean Up St. Augustine Box 3084 St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084 904-377-4998

Rest In Peace, C.D. "Bud" Varnadore -- New York Times obit on my former client

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Raising the Quality of Debate

Over on "Historic City News," the Faux FOX News-style website of political apparatchik Michael Gold f/k/a "Michael Tobin," there's an ugly little cartoon of a "short bus" -- labelled "SPECIAL BUS" -- imputing mental acuity problems to City leaders, whose photos appear inside the "short bus." Get it? Real satire is great -- I once used Thomas Nast's cartoon of Boss Tweed and his ring to similar effect when City officials put 40,000 cubic yards of solid waste in our Old City Reservoir, then wanted to move it back to Lincolnville, put nine feet of dirt on top and call it a "park." (Michael Gold & C. were supercilious City-supporters then and attack dog City-bashers now. Wonder why?). However, I am as uncomfortable with mentally unhealthy and unbalanced attacks on government officals that contain imputations of mental retardation ("Historic City News" and its "short bus") as I am with "Anonymice" invitations to commit homicide (which the St. Augustine Record allows on its website with impunity, refusing to identify the poster -- who is he and why is the Record protecting him? One of their staff or advertisers, perhaps?). We can and will raise the quality of debate in St. Augustine and St. Johns County. Do your own research. Ask questions. Demand answers. Don't be deceived by bullies.

A Good Start, But Bosses We Don't Need -- St. Augustine Beach Charter Review Committee Has Its First Meeting

Members of St. Augustine Beach's decennial Charter Review Committee had their first meeting last night. Committee members will have until March 17, 2014 to make recommendations about possible revisions to the St. Augustine Beach City Charter. Several Charter Review Committee members disagreed with Election Supervisor Vicki Oakes, who issued an illegal ukase that the Charter provisions must be on the Primary ballot (with low turnout). Oakes has never provided any legal basis for her obstructionism. There is none. Any proposed Charter changes need to be on the November 2014 ballot to avoid the perception the City is being sneaky, by putting hte changes on a low-turnout August primary ballot. Committee members (and this observer) also rightly chafed at facilitator Marilyn Crotty's crotchety ways, including her arranging chairs with members backs to the audience, not having the sessions televised on St. Augustine Beach's cable TV channel, and supposing that a City Charter should "not tie the hands" of City government officials because it is "their right and privilege to govern" as they like until such time as they're defeated for re-election. That is so wrong -- the wisdom of our Founders is directly opposite Crotty's trite trope. Like a Constitution, a City Charter is supposed to "tie the hands" of government officials -- there are some things they simply may not legally do. (Like pass a tax increase with only two affirmative votes -- see below). Marilyn Crotty's stilted stance, the sequelae of years of University-level think-tankery for Florida government agencies, does not pass the laugh test. The Committee members are qualified and experienced. They won't be bossed and bullied by the likes of Marilyn Crotty or Vicki Oakes, two cognitive misers, mediocrities "who know not that they know not that they know not." As Justice Felix Frankfurter's words, Committee members need to focus on creating "a working instrument of government," and not "a meaningless collection of Ennglish words."