Saturday, March 29, 2014

St. Augustine Record Letter: "'Oh thank heaven" for no 7-Eleven (March 29, 2014)

By Ed Slavin
St. Augustine

St. Augustine's history and way of life were preserved and protected Monday, March 24, when City Commissioners rejected an appeal by a dodgy developer to stick a 7-Eleven at the heavily congested May Street and San Marco Avenue intersection.

In the words of 7-Eleven's own registered trademark, “Oh thank heaven!” ® History has been preserved, as well as safety and our small town values and way of life. History has been made.

City Planning Director Mark Knight, HARB and Commission have now thrice upheld our Entry Corridor Guidelines over attacks by Wallace Devlin, whose counsel inaccurately told HARB there were “no sidewalks” in front of the property, which the speculator promised to turn into retail stores to replace those bulldozed on that promise. Devlin is the failed developer of the bankrupt Sebastian Inner Harbor Project, which still stands flat, after years of unkept, unsworn promises to build a Westin Hotel.

7-Eleven is a publicly-held, government-regulated Japanese multinational corporation. Write, call and tell the Japanese and U.S. governments to tell 7-Eleven to drop this inanity. Does Japan want its “contribution” to our 450th commemoration to be twelve gasoline pumps and destruction of our historic downtown? Please contact:

Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae
Embassy of Japan
2520 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-328-2187 (fax)

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy
U.S. Embassy in Japan
Unit 9800 Box 300
APO AP 96303-0300
011-81-3-3505-1862 (fax)

Shirley & Wallace Devlin, Sr.
First City Development LLC
7518 Albert Tillinghhast Drive
Sarasota, Florida 34240

James George Whitehouse
Douglas Nelson Burnett
St. Johns Law Group
509 Anastasia Blvd.
St. Augustine, Florida 32080

St. Augustine residents are united in preserving our history, nature and beauty. Environmental and historic preservation and heritage and eco-tourism are our future – not ugly buildings and sprawl. . For more, please see

Friday, March 28, 2014

Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., U.S.N., U.S. Senate, R.I.P.

Admiral Jeremiah Denton died today.
Admiral Jeremiah Denton was a Vietnam war hero.
After his bomber was shot down, Admiral Denton was incarcerated by North Vietnam for seven years and seven months.
He was tortured.
He was starved.
He survived.
He told the truth on national television, under the noses of his sadistic North Vietnamese torturer-captors.
On May 17, 1966, Admiral Denton used Morse Code to spell out the word "Torture" before television cameras when he was held prisoner by the North Vietnamese.
Admiral Denton devised a system of coughs, sneezes and sniffs to communicate with his fellow incarcerated Amercan Prisoners of War (POWs).
Since POWs suffered chronic illness in drafty and vermin-ridden cells, the North Vietnamese never caught on that coughs, sneezes and sniffs were their way of communicating with one another.
Admiral Denton was the most senior POW, and the first off the plane in 1973. He wrote When Hell Was in Session, later made into a TV movie starring Hal Holbrook.
Confined in cells as small as a refrigerator, Admiral Denton survived. He would have despaired had he known his incarceration would last seven years and seven months, but he said: "It was one minute at a time, one hour, one week, one year and so on. If you look at it like that, anybody can do anything."
Later, Admiral Denton was elected to the United States Senate from Alabama as a Republican, the first one elected from Alabama in 112 years.
Senator Jeremiah Denton worked to enact abstinence-education legislation, working with Senator Ted Kennedy, my first boss, intending to prevent teen pregnancies.
In December, 2005, I had the honor of interviewing the retired Admiral and former Senator Admiral Denton for Out in the City, the GLBTQ newspaper then published in Jacksonville, Florida.
What a wonderful man he was -- I was honored to interview him.
I telephoned Admiral Denton while writing an investigative cover story about bigoted anti-Gay policy that was adopted by Clay County School Board in 1992.
The article was called "Farenheit 4.51: Clay County's Culture War" (January 2006).
The offensive anti-Gay Clay COunty, Florida School Board policy stated, and still states today, in haec verba: "Any instruction on homosexuality shall occur only in conjunction with instruction on sexually transmitted diseases."
The policy is word-for-word identical to one adopted in a Washington State school board. It is similar to those adopted in other redneck and peckerwood jurisdictions where intolerance rules, and the First Amendment Establishment Clause is violated, and Article VI, cl. 3 of the U.S. Constitution is disobeyed ("no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.")
The policy, Clay County School Board Policy 4.51(C)(3)(c), would even prohibit a teacher from saying anything supportive to a Gay student contemplating suicide.
Since suicide rates among Gay and Lesbian teenagers are thrice that of heterosexual teenagers, the effect of the Clay County School Board policy is cruel, sadistic and ultimately anti-life as well as anti-Gay.
The policy was adopted at the behest of bigoted extremists in Clay County, who attempted to blame abstinence education policies for their backwoods backward Nuremberg Law.
Admiral Denton, the former U.S. Senator who sponsored abstinence education, told me that they were lying. Abstinence education was about preventing pregnancy, not about marginalizing Gays and Lesbians.
As a former Navy Admiral, former U.S. Senator and devout Roman Catholic, Jeremiah Denton was outraged. He quickly told me that Clay County School Board members were clearly lying to me.
The legislative history of the abstinence-education bill had nothing to do with homosexuality. It was about preventing teen pregnancy.
Thus, I had the story of the School Board's mendacious savagery from the abstinence-education law sponsor's own voice: Clay County School Board members were lying (just like the School Board members in Pennsylvania who adopted "Intelligent Design" based on theocracy).
There was some awkwardness on my part. I wasn't sure whether to call him "Admiral" or "Senator," or both. Jeremiah Denton quickly solved that problem.
"Just call me Jerry," Admiral/Senator Jeremiah Denton said to me after just a few minutes.
We stayed in touch, and he asked for, and I offered, a few modest suggstions on how to pass federal legislation to make it easier for shipping companies to export food aid to the hungry worldwide, giving them tax relief.
President Ronald Reagan was right -- Jeremiah Denton was "a true treasure."
Admiral Denton was a true patriot, who helped me expose the bigotry of Clay County School Board members against GLBTQ students.
He reminds me of what former St. Augustine City Commissioner William Leary said in response to the Ku Klux Klan on December 10, 2012, in adopting Fair Housing ordinance amendment banning "sexual orientation" discrimination. Commissioner Leary said, "I was elected to make secular decisions."
A deeply religious man, Admiral Denton respected separation of Church and State.
We shall miss him, and others like him who served in Congress and spoke their minds, and served in Vietnam, "when Hell was in session."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pope Francis' possible itinerary in St. Augustine, Florida for September 2015

Reliable sources inform me that Pope Francis' likely itinerary in St. Augustine in September 2015 might include:
1. Land at airport (likely Jacksonville, but St. Augustine Airport is 7000 feet long and could also land the Pope's 747).
2. Papal helicopter to Bayfront parking lot at St. Francis Barracks (home of Florida National Guard and former a Franciscan montastery).
3. Papal motorcade along our Bayfront, Avenida Menendez and San Marco Avenue to the site of First Roman Catholic Mass in U.S. (September 8, 1565).
4. Papal procession through our City Gates with holy relic of St. Francis (finger bone).
5. Papal visit to Cathdral Basilica of St. Augustine.
6. Papal visit to St. Francis House (small homeless shelter).
And, quite possibly, we hope:
7. Dedication of statute of St. Francis on privately owned land on or near our beach, perhaps next to a bird sanctuary, near our future St. Augustine National Historical Park and Natoinal Seashore.
8. Outdoor Mass for as many as one million people at a site combining County Fairgrounds, St. Ambrose Catholic Church grounds and adjoining 100 acre sod farm, made possible by logistical genius of St. Augustine City Comptroller Mark Litzigner and City Manager John Patrick Regan, P.E., proven beyond peradventure during Mumford & Sons concert in September 2013 -- with assistance of other goernment agencies, including Sheriff David Shoar and Anastasia Mosquito Control Commission of St. Johns County Commissioner Jeanne Moeller (making the Mass site mosquito-proof).
We can do this, St. Augustine!

Leonard Pitts, Jr. Advice to Pope Francis on How to Promote Healing

Last night, columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. spoke at Flagler College. I asked him how Pope Francis might promote healing when he visits here in St. Augustine next year.
Mr. Pitts said he loves the pope and his talking about poverty and condemning bigotry.
Mr. Pitts replied Pope Francis could promote healing by talking about race and condemning renascent racism.
Mr. Pitts said that if Pope Francis did that, he'd "become a Catholic!"

Ending Blight

Commercial property owners who have left empty sign structures on their properties for decades will now have to tear them down. City Commission voted unanimously to give them six months to remove them, seek an extension for good cause, or be fined $250/day.
Enough ugliness from insouciant property owners. We need to spiff up St. Augustine for the 450th, and make it shine before Pope Francis arrives. Yes we can!

Equal Pension Benefits Victory Unmentioned by Chain Gang Journalists

Two days ago, the City of St. Augustine enacted on second reading an ordinance providing for equal survivor's pension benefits for partners of Gay and Lesbian city employees. The vote was again unanimous.
Credit goes to Commissioner Donald Crichlow, who said, "it's the right thing to do." As the Pope would say, "Who am I to judge?"
Credit goes to City Manager John Regan, Assistant City Manager Timothy Burchfiled, the General Pension Board, Vice Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline, Commissioners Leanna Freeman
It would be nice if we had a local newspaper that would report such news about progress on GLBTQ rights and employee rights, instead of an emetic diet of dull news automobile wrecks, and Reichwing PR pap, and crime in Jacksonville.
We are transforming our town before our eyes, but the recently transplanted Louisana native publisher and South Carolina editor of the St. Augustine WRecKord are otherwise occupied, with their noses in the air, too busy errantly firing older workers in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Unadorned by irony, one talented reporter was fired during Sunshine Week in retalation for First Amendment protected activity, pressured by County officials.
As Abbie Hoffman said, apparently quoting A.J. Liebling (see comment below), evidently "freedom of the press is for those who own one."
What do you reckon?

Victory Over 7-Eleven

I am inspired by the 2-2 victory Monday night over 7-ELEVEN before the St. Augustine City Commission, affirming hte February HARB 4-0 decision.
The air in the City Commission was warm, and in FDR's words at Franklin Field in Philadelphia in 1944 (a rally my mother attended): "I felt the crowd, and it warmed me."
Upon re-entering the room after the recess, I said, "It's warm in here," to which 7-ELEVEN lawyer JAMES GEORGE WHITEHOUSE sad, "hot air."
WHITEHOUSE should know. See below for account of HARB hearing, rejecting 7-ELEVEN's plan to destroy our historic downtown with twelve gas pumps at its busiest intersection, rated an F by FDOT.
(more later).

Monday, March 24, 2014

Another possible OIDV shooting, more delays by RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA, Florida 7th Circuit State's Attorney? No charging decision in Flagler County shooting case for 642 days. Why?

Jimmy Breslin once wrote a book about a New York organized crime family, called The Gang That Coulnldn't Shoot Straight.

The political machine in St. Johns County and Northeast Florida is in the national spotlight -- New York Times, PBS Frontline, CNN, NBC Dateline -- a slow-moving, slow-thinking anaconda "caught in the headlights" (no deer here).

Our political machine is being watched worldwide. Why? Due to its loutish lawmen's mendacious mishandling of the September 2, 2010 shooting of Ms. Michelle O'Connell, the girlfriend of St. Johns County Sheriff's Deputy JEREMY BANKS. That investigation was botched by St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, State's Attorney RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA, State's Attorney BRADLEY KING, and Medical Examiner PREDRAG BULIC.

Now we learn that yet another law enforcement officer's criminal investigation may have been botched by RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA, State's Attorney for the 7th Judicial District.

On July 20, 2012, 642 days ago -- more than 20 months ago -- Ms. Kathy McDonald, wife of Flagler Beach police officer Robert McDonald, was found shot in the temple.

She survived.

She is blind for life.

She lives in a Daytona Beach rehabilitation center.

Her husband has moved to East Tennessee.

Yesterday's Daytona Beach News-Journal (March 23, 2014) reported on the case, under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

This is yet another case from which RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA did not recuse himself, despite the fact that the officer in quo is one whose cases his office prosecutes. LARIZZA recused himself from the Michelle O'Connell case only after months of fiddling.

State's Attorney RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA needs to hire a criminal defense lawyer. NOW.

RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA must answer for his desuetude of law enforcement. NOW.

RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA famously ducked and refused to answer questions from The New York Times and PBS Frontline.

RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA must now answer questions -- or invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination -- before a Federal Grand Jury under questioning by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Criminal Division. So must Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, State's Attorney KING and PREDRAG BULIC -- for their mishandling of the Michelle O'Connell case.

RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA also needs to answer for his delays in the McDonald case -- a slow speed chase for 642 days -- 20 months?

Failure to charge the husband with the shooting when the wife told the Daytona Beach newspaper that she was shot while doing laundry? Why?

Taking his word for it that it was an attempted suicide? Why?

The Daytona Beach newspaper interviewed the victim, Ms. MdDonald who said she was shot while doing laundry. Why was she not allowed to testify before a grand jury?

Her husband, Robert McDonald, now lives in Tennessee, having been paid while on leave and is now retired. The Daytona Beach newspaper reports he was fired from another police department and involved in alleged prior domestic violence cases elsewhere, and quotes a former spouse about his pulling a knife on her.

Michelle O'Connell is dead. Kathy McDonald is blind for life, lying in a nursing home in Daytona Beach. RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA thinks he and officers are above the law.

It strongly appears that our dodgy -- and apparently ineffectual, incompetent and perhaps sexist and misogynistic -- State's Attorney RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA delays and delays and delays when a police officer may be involved in domestic violence.

A former law enforcement officer, LARIZZA was elected with law enforcement support.

RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA's office won't prosecute official government misconduct cases.
I asked for a list last year of any such cases it ever brought: none were provided.

Is RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA's office truly "the gang that couldn't shoot straight," ignoring the sacred American legal motto carved in marble on the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.: "Equal Justice Under Law?"

Our one-party political machine here in Northeast Florida does not respect human rights. It works for developers -- "Temple Destroyers" who have clear-cut trees and destroyed wetlands in the name of greed.

In 2008, RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA and members of his law office performed at St. Augustine High School in "St Johns Got Talent," a benefit performance. They dressed in police uniforms, as they lyp-synced to the song, "Bad to the Bone." At the conclusion of the song, LARIZZA jumped from the stage, winning the contest, but breaking his leg. RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA was elected State's Attorney later that year, and was re-elected in 2012.

Our "Bad to the Bone" St. Johns County and regional political machine reflexively covers up crimes. St. Johns County was long considered the most corrupt county in Florida, under political bosses and caudillos like Sheriff LAWRENCE O. DAVIS.

Our "Bad to the Bone" political machine has no heart and no soul --it worships money, power and greed -- it is a stench in the nostrils of the Nation.

Alexander Hamilton wrote: "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parcmens or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity himself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."

Will there be justice for Michelle O'Connell?

Will there be justice for Kathy McDonald?

Will there be justice, and a Ddepartment of Justice investigation?

Will U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder immpanel a federal grand jury?

The whole world is watching.

What do you reckon?

Ed Slavin
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084

Friday, March 21, 2014

Congratulations, J.C. Costeira, St. Augustine's New Fire Chief

Yesterday, March 20th, was the first day of Spring. On March 20th, our new St. Augustine Fire Chief, Mr. J.C. Costeira was sworn in to office.
A longtime safety and health and union acivist with International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Losal Union No. 2282, Mr. Costeira was promoted to be Fire Chief by City Manager John Patrick Regan, P.E.
Our Nation's Oldest City, under new management since 2010, now respects First Amendment and labor union protected actvity instad of insulting it.
Free democratic trade unions are now active participants here, just as theywere when there was a "Union Labor" arch over Cathedral Place about one century ago.
Elsewhere in St. Johns County, unions and union activists are persecuted and propagandized against. A prime offender is St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, which has actually wasted members' money and advertised on the Internet its anti-union animus and anti-worker Weltanschauung in seeking members and recruiting new businesses.
I hope that under Mr. Costeira's leadership, the St. Augustine Fire Department will become a great example of labor and management working together cooperatively for the benefit of all.
No more hare-brained schemes of moving the firehouse on Anastasia Island to please Pierre Thompson, whose property is located there. Kindly keep our firehouse where it is, near the residences and businesses on the Island.
I hope SAFD will support for a policy recommendation that the St. Augusitne City Commission agree to adhere by all OSHA standards, including Section 11(c).
Background: When JOHN EDWARD BUSH a/k/a "JEB BUSH" was Governor, Florida joined the ranks of some 24 states where government employees have no legal rights to safe workplaces.
BUSH pushed what Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis would have called "the race to the bottom."
Under BUSH, Florida OSHA was abolished, federal OSHA took over, and Florida's lethargic lackadaiscal lackey legislature stopped caring about government employees. Florida thus stopped protecting state, county, city and special taxing district employees' rights to job safety and healthy workplaces.
St. Augustine must take a stand -- we take care of our own workers. It starts now.
What do you reckon?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ben Rich Said It Best: Developers "Worse Than Any Carpetbaggers"

Ben Rich, our former County Commission Chairman, said it best: the developers who clear-cut our trees and destroy our wetlands here in St. Johns County are "worse than any carpet-bagger."
March 4, 2014, is a date that will live in history.
By 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) sad that the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower law protects all private sector whistleblowers who report concerns about fraud involving publicly-held companies, including lawyers and accountants. Jackie Hosang Lawson and Jonathan Zang v. FMR LLC d/b/a Fidelity Investments, Supreme Court Case No. 12-3, --- U.S. --- (March 4, 2014).
University of Washington Law Professor Eric Schnapper argued the case and won a total victory.
The Supreme Court likes whistleblowers. It usually rules for them. Disclosure of wrongdoing is favored under the law.
Corporate oligarchs are all worried about where the next whistleblower case will be filed, and against whom, and for what. Perhaps it might involve some of the publicly-held companies that may have been deluding investors with plans to build some 70,000 homes in St. Johns County, which compliant, obedient St. Johns County Commissioners voted to allow under the ancien regime.
Paying bribes and making false entries in books and accounts is covered by Sarbanes-Oxley, too.
So if anyone from Toll Brothers (TOL), KB Home (KBH), Ryland (RYL), DR Horton (DRH), Pulte (PLH), Lennar (LEN) or other tree-killing, clear-cutting, uglifying cheesy home builders are involved in possible wrongdoing in St. Johns County, let the fraudfeasors beware ("caveat vendor"). Let their accountants and lawyers blow the whistle on their misdeeds.
As it says in the Book of Isaiah, "You shall know the truth, and it will set you free."

Four Other-Directed Developer-Funded Political Bullies Try to Bully Two Reporters, One Commissioner and One Candidate

See below.
Tree-killing, wetland-destroying developers are "Temple Destroyers" out to destroy St. Augustine's and St. Johns County and their toadies can't stand the idea of candidates they don't own and control.
RACHAEL BENNETT thinks it is a breach of "protocol" to encourage people to participate in the political process. She posted a lying comment on the St. Augustine Record's website.
County Commission Chairman JOHN H. "JAY" MORRIS, JR., Commissioner CINDI STEVENSON, Commissioner RONALD LEE SANCHEZ and Commissioner RACHAEL BENNETT -- four (4) out of five (5) County Commissioners tried March 18-20, 2014 sought to intimidate two (2) reporters, two (2) news outlets, one (1) Commissioner and one (1) candidate (Peter Guinta, Michael Gold, St. Augustine Record, Historic City News, William McClure and Daniel Abel).
The intimidation is partly on videotape. More is on the Record's website. More is in documents and telephone calls.
The FBI might wish to subpoena the tape and investigate possible criminal civil rights violations under color of law. 18 U.S.C. 241.
See below.

IN HAEC VERBA: County Comissioner RACHAEL BENNETT, a/k/a "PRISCILLA BENNETT" Chills Free Speech Rights With Post on St. Augustine Record Threatening Morgan Stanley Employee Daniel Abel, Historic City News Owner Michael Gold, Commissioner William McClure and St. Augustine Record Reporter Peter Guinta

Rachael Bennett 03/19/14 - 08:51 am 44
Setting the Record straight

The article contains several errors, and a misrepresentation (sic) of statement (sic). The article incorrectly (sic) states (twice) that Commissioner Morris was told that Michael Gold recruited Dan Abel to run, when in fact Commissioner Morris was very clear that he was told that Commissioner Bill McClure recruited Abel.
Commissioner Morris also said that Michael Gold runs a media service, not a video service (as stated in the article).
It should have been clear to the reporter that my concern was not public access to secured areas, but the fact that the members of the public were neither escorted nor supervised while in that secured area. The edited quote is a misrepresentation of my concern.

It is a shame that Mr. Abel has been caught in this controversy. I know nothing of his character and will not jump to a conclusion. I know that he works for a company that is sensitive to the potentially polemic nature of a political campaign, and would not want his career to suffer. McClure did no one a favor by ignoring protocol and acting irresponsibly.

Let's be clear: Access to the building by the public is encouraged. The proclamations, the art show openings, the 4H and IFAS displays, etc. invite and celebrate the presence of the general public in the building.
Consider, though... There are secured areas for a reason. Nearly every location has them. For instance, the business office and storeroom area in a store are 'secure areas'. In any organization or any situation, access by the public to a secured or otherwise restricted area is controlled for a reason. Common sense should make it clear that purposely allowing unescorted presence by the public in a secured area is contrary to protocol.
My point was that it did not matter who the players were, what mattered and still matters is that members of the public should be escorted (or supervised, in the case of an intern, for example) when in a secured area. Not a politically motivated concept. Not rocket science. Just common sense.

Message to the Record: Please be careful to 1) get facts straight, and 2)make sure that quotes convey the entire idea expressed. It makes a difference.

Record Runs Incorrect Correction After Political Pressure From Rebarbative Republicans

Republican County Commissioner RACHEL BENNETT a/k/a "PRISCILLA BENNETT" posted on the the St. Augustine Record, falsely claiming hat BOCC Chairman JOHN H. "JAY" MORRIS, JR. did not state that Historic City News Owner MICHAEL GOLD recruited Danel Abel to run for County Commission.
View the videotape, agenda item 9 on the County Commission website.
In response, Record Editor KATHY NELSON materially altered Peter Guinta's accurate news story, posting a "correction" that made the article inaccurate.
Earlier today, I called Mr. Guinta, Ms. Nelson and Record Publisher Delinda Fogel to point out the fact that the Record has posted a "corretion" that makes Mr. Guinta's article inaccurate.
I am still waiting for a response.
To recap:
First St. Johns County Commission Chairman MORRIS made threatening remarks about First Amendment protected activity by Commissioner William McClure and MICHAEL GOLD, the owner of an online viewspaper, HISTORIC CITY NEWS.
Then the Record truthfully reported the news, in a front page news story.
Now the Record's Editor has hacked its own website, posting a correction in response to political pressure -- a correction that is inaccurate.
Talk about shameful!

Frog Spring

Today is the first day of Spring, and if you will listen at night, there are more frogs than there were here before Jeanne Moeller was elected to the board of the Anastasia Mosquito Control Commission of St. Johns County in 2006. That's because under her leadership, organophosphate spraying for mosquito control has been reduced by some 80%, with natural pesticides taking their place for larviciding --Bti bacteria and Gambusia fish that kill and eat larvae, respectively.
How cool is that?
The reforms and exposures taking place in our area are reminiscent of Dubcek's "Prague Spring" in the former Czeckoslovakia.
You may call it "Frog Spring." (Groan).
Yes we can!

We shall overcome -- and we have!

In St. Johns County and St. Augustine, which Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once called the "most lawless" city in America, we shall overcome, and we have overcome:
1. Environmental racism
2. Secrecy
3. Homophobia
4. Corruption
5. Environmental depredations
6. First Amendment violations
7. Sunshine violations
8. Open Records violations
9. Purchasing violations
10.Waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery (as best exemplified by the no-bid mosquito control helicopter purchase which Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR's staff spent "hundreds of hours" aiding and abetting, 2005-2007.
We halted the helicopter purchase and got a refund.
Riberia Street got repaved -- all of it.
A federal judge ordered Rainbow flags to fly on our Bridge of Lions.
Federal judges have remedied First Amendment violations directed against street artists and musicians.
A planned Sunshine violation junket by four Commissioners to Spain was halted.
The Sunshine violating First America Foundation was ended.
Pro bono lawyers, federal and state court judges, elected officials, activists and average residents have combined their talents in many ways to make this a very special place indeed.
On this first day of Spring, we celebrate democracy diversity and know that, as JFK said, "Here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own."
Work tirelessly for a St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore.
Work to empower Pope Francis to visit here next year.
Don't rest until there is Justice for Michelle O'Connell.
What do you reckon?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Justice for Michelle O'Connell

Some 105 days ago The New York Times reported on the Michelle O'Connell story.
There must be a federal grand jury and an inqust, and a thorough investigation of the St. Joyhns County Sheriff, DAVID BERNARD SHOAR.
In the words of the ancient equitable maxim, "Let justice be done though the heavens fall."
Justice for Michelle O'Connell.

Kremlinology 101 -- Has Michelle O'Connell Case Shattered St. Johns County Political Machine?

At Georgetown University's Foreign Service School, they taught us political analysis, of the sort that was once called "Kremlinology."
Looking at what the late Georgy Khoshroevich Shakhnazarov called "the correlation of forces in the world," the all-Republican Political Machine that has run St. Johns County is in disarray.
Four (4) Republican St. Johns County Commissioners yesterday brutally and publicly attacked the fifth Republican Commissioner, who often disagrees and asks questions. They also attacked the publisher of an online viewspaper, and a candidate for County Commission.
Republicans attacking Repubicans. How cool is that!
They've obviously violated President Ronald Wilson Reagan's Eleventh Commandment ("Don't speak ill of another Republican").
Perhaps the answer is in two words: Michelle O'Connell.
Due to the coverup of the September 2, 2010 shooting of a deputy's girlfriend, the corrupt St. Johns Cuonty political machine presided over by Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR and developers appears to be in disarray.
In fact, it appears that it is crumbling.
It's about time.
It's time for Glasnost and Perestroika here in St. Johns County.
Is this Democracy on the march? It happened here in St. Augustine three years ago, on April 26, 2010, when John Patrick Regan, P.E. was unanimously selected City Manager by St. Augustine City Commissioners.
After the 5-0 vote, I said to Mr. Regan, "I want you to be Gorbachev."
Indeed, Mr. Regan has outdone Mikhail Gorbachev in reforming a dysfunctional organization -- St. Augustine City Hall.
The former City Manager, WILLIAM BRUCE HARRISS, would not recognize the place.
That'sa good thing.
Let that same democratizing reform spirit now take over our County Administration Building (Taj Mahal) and our estimable Board of County Commissioners.
Due to the outrageous misconduct -- in the Michelle O'Connell shooting investigation -- of the St. Johns County political machine boss, Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR f/k/a "DAVID BERNARD HOAR," there will be accountability.
Justice for Michelle O'Connell.
The late Boston Mayor and Congressman James Michael Curley was popular, despite being a criminal, and was even re-electe while serving time in prison. Curley's regime crumbed, however, when voters learned he spent $20 on trashcans, an outrageous sum in the 1950s.
Likewise, St. Johns County voters have now seen through the corruption of the SHOAR political machine with the O'Connell case, 2010-2014, and the $1.8 million no-bid helicopter Sheriff SHOAR got the Anastasia Mosquito Control Commission of St. Johns County to buy in 2006. SHOAR later wrote a letter threatening Mosquito Control with a county takeover after some remarks were quoted out of context in the newspaper, noting hundreds of hours had been spent in Sheriff's office staff time in assisting Mosquito Control with the abortive helicopter purchase.
We band of brothers (and sisters) -- diverse environmental and good government activists -- got the illegal contract canceled in 2007, winning full refund of the $81,000 deposit from Textron's Bell Helicopter subsidiary.
This is our town, and our time.
Hick hacks, poltroonish pachyderms and egotistical elephantine elected officials with edifice complexes, Beware!
Yes we can!
With CNN's Anderson Cooper, HLN's Nancy Grace and NBC Dateline's Dennis Murphy to soon join The New York Times and PBS Frontline in publishing the truth about the Michelle O'Connell case, our St. Johns County political machine's legendary corruption will be viewed widely.
No County Commissioner has said a word about the O'Connell case. The St. Augustine Record curiously has never asked Michelle O'Connell's family for any comment.
Wonder why?
Is it still in love with Sheriff SHOAR?
Is it incapable of writing balanced articles where the SHOAR-MORRIS political machine is involved?
With four (4) TV networks joining the world's greatest newspaper in investigating Sheriff SHOAR f/k/a HOAR, will the Record finally get the message?
Is the Record a newspaper, or a viewspaper?
Are its editors menschs, or mice?
Are its reporters inquisitive investigators or merely stenographers and amenuenses?
The Record's publisher and owners need spinal implants.
The Record can start by insisting that SHOAR answer questions that former Editor Peter Ellis was unable to get SHOAR to answer about the case of convicted bribe-taker THOMAS G. MANUEL, whom SHOAR got investigated in an undercover FBI investigation after MANUEL asked questions about SHOAR's budget. There has never been a detailed budget justification for the Sheriff in the past ten years, the County Attorney's office reports.
The whole world is watching.
Justice for Michelle O'Connell.
Democracy and openness in our county, in our time.
What do you reckon?


It is Sunshine Week in Florida.
In 2011, St. Johns County Commission Chairman JOHN H. “JAY” MORRIS, JR. let the cat out of the bag – he publicly ridiculed Florida's Sunshine laws in an article printed in the Ponte Vedra Recorder.
Morris reportedly said the best way to conduct business was in secret. When Rick Mansfield wrote the Record about it, Morris insulted the messenger, while inviting him "for a cup of coffee." The invitation appears to have been facetious.
Morris' anti-Sunshine views are contrary to the genius of a free people.
Enacted in 1992 with 3.8 million votes, Article I, Section 24 of the Florida Constitution, with 83% of the vote, our Sunshine and Open Records laws are the best in the Nation, better in many respects than even the federal Freedom of Information Act. Just ask former officials whose peculations and misconduct were exposed by journalists and citizens invoking our Sunshine and Open Records laws.

Under Chairman JAY MORRIS' secretive corporate leadership style, many St. Johns County board and committee meetings are being held away from the County's live streaming video and Government TV (GTV) cable TV channel, some in other buildings (not the Taj Mahal).
The County Administration Building Auditorium often sits vacant, while commissioners and board members meet in tiny rooms, where no one can view them on GTV.
A petition for rulemaking to open all meetings to TV coverage has been pending since February, without response by St. Johns County.

Corporate critters' control of St. Johns County government has consequences.

Born January 12, 1942, MORRIS worked for 22 years (circa 1977-1999) for RPM International, stating in his campaign that he led the Ohio-based multinational corporation from a $50 million corporation to a four billion dollar multinational holding corporation, which now has some 11,000 employees worldwide, selling industrial coatings for industry, roofing and consumer needs for coating products in some 150 countries, with employees and manufacturing plants in some 23 countries. RPM is the tenth largest company of its kind in the world.

RPM and its subsidiaries were frequent civil court defendants in asbestos and other toxic tort cases brought by workers and others alleging bodily injuries and property damages allegedly caused by toxic RPM products, includng negligent failure to warn and other negligent and reckless torts, fraud, breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation, among other allegations.

RPM and its subsidiaries were named by EPA as potentially responsible parties for cleanup of toxic waste at Superfund sites under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). RPM agreed to pay for cleanup sites at multiple locations as a result of administrative and federal court litigation, involving pollution by companies making such products that included well-known household names such as Rust-o-leum.

JOHN H. "JAY" MORRIS, like so many American millionaires, retired to Ponte Vedra, Florida, first registering to vote there on January 3, 2001. He and his wife since 1959 had owned a home there in Ponte Vedra since 1978.

Last year, MORRIS' former company, RPM International paid out $60,058,963 – more than sixty million dollars – in settling a False Claims Act qui tam lawsuit brought by a former TREMCO subsidiary vice president.

The fraud case against RPM International was filed under seal and settled more than three years later, with monies distributed to both the whistleblower and to the U.S. Government (represented by the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice), with funds also going to the State of Florida, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and the City of Chicago intervened.

The lawsuit against MORRIS' longtime company was filed under the False Claims Act, otherwise known as the “Abraham Lincoln law,” which was initially enacted during the Civil War to remedy the legendary corruption under Secretary of War Simon Cameron, when the Union Army was swindled by sellers of “shoddy” blankets that fell apart (hence the name “shoddy"), horses that were lame, guns that misfired, and uniforms that fell apart in the rain. (Cameron was so corrupt Lincoln sent him way, to be our Ambassador to Russia). The Lincoln law was revived by Congress in the 1980s (having been weakened before the outbreak of World War II, as a sop to corporations that wanted to become arms merchants, including anti-Semite Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company).

The qui tam False Claims Act action against MORRIS' former company of 22 years was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, by former TREMCO Vice President Gregory Rudolph. Mr. Rudoph alleged that TREMCO and RPM defrauded the federal, state and local governments – including the Veterans Administration hospitals, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, nine states and the City of Chicago – by selling overpriced and shoddy roofing coatings.

Among the victims of leaky roofs in Florida were the University of Florida's Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Okaloosa County Schools, Sarasota County and the City of Pinellas Park.

Approved government contractors on a General Services Administration “schedule” are required to sell at the lowest price offered other purchasers.

In fact, RPM's TREMCO subsidiary granted deep discounts to the private sector -- 30-40% -- while offering GSA and other government customers only a 13.3% discount. Taxpayers were ripped off by MORRIS' former company.

The 69 page qui tam False Claims Act lawsuit was filed July 15, 2010 and settled on or about August 27, 2013.

What's next? Several large national plaintiff's class action law firms are circling RPM, presently preparing lawsuits against RPM and TREMCO for fraud (and possibly a shareholder's derivative action for breach of fiduciary duty).

MORRIS may be interviewed or deposed in the litigation. There may also be civil, criminal and administrative investigations, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, to examine whether RPM made materially false and misleading statements to potential investors.

There were no depositions taken of MORRIS during the False Claims Act case investigation, but MORRISS will likely be required to testify under oath by others allegedly defrauded with overpriced and shoddy roofing materials.

MORRIS noted in his County Commission District 4 campaign in 2010 that he was a member of the RPM International Board of Directors and its Executive Vice President, with suzerainty over all of RPM's coating business worldwide. MORRIS was also a Director of Fifth Third Bank, owner of at least 5% of RPM's stock according to disclosures filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

St. Johns County Commission Chairman JOHN H. “JAY” MORRIS, JR. makes bragging frequent reference to his “business experience” – you can't watch a meeting in which he doesn't brag on it at least once (even meetings concerned with tourism). He sounds like a broken record (for those of us who remember the days before Compact Disks and the Internets).

Did County Commission Chairman JAY MORRIS' “business experience” consist in pertinent part of marketing overpriced, shoddy roofing coatings and installations to governments and businesses?

I sent Chairman MORRIS the pertinent documents in PDF last week. He has time to study them. If you would like to read them, I can E-mail to you. (

Chairman MORRIS ducked my calls and did not respond to repeated requests for an interview, including one expressed to County Attorney Patrick McCormack (whose office says the County and County Commission Chairman have no records on the RPM case, even though I sent MORRIS PDFs).

Chairman MORRIS did not even invite me "for a cup of coffee."
Wonder why?
What does he have to hide?
No comments were provided by either the Justice Department or the whistleblower's Washington, D.C. attorney, Mark Hanna, who cited a nondisclosure agreement, respectfully declining to provide answers or details. A Justice Department attorney hung up the telephone after curtly referring me to the Office of Public Affairs. A detailed message left with OPA was not responded to within the past week. RPM's PR department did not respond to a March 20 telephone message about MORRIS and the False Claims Act case.

But when I asked whistleblower Gregory Rudolph if MORRIS knew about the pricing practices before MORRIS left the company, he said, “What do you think?” I responded, “I think he probably knew." Mr. Rudolph did not deny it.

Mr. Rudolph's Boston lawyers at MurphyAnderson said in an August 2013 press release on “PR Newswire” that: “If Greg Rudolph had not courageously reported to the Government, it would never have known – and never recovered the $61 million. His brave efforts saved taxpayers millions of dollars, Rudolph's actions demonstrate that contractors must play by the rules when selling to the Government.”

Yesterday morning, March 18, 2014, at the Commission meeting, Chairman JAY MORRIS expressed umbrage that someone would run against him and be welcomed into the County Commission offices without an armed guard. "I do take it personal, Bill, when you recruit someone to run against me," MORRIS said to Commissioner McClure. "To bring him into the office right next door to my office" with MICHAEL GOLD, "Yeah, I do take that personal."

Has St. Johns County Commission Chairman MORRIS' corporate Weltanschauung had a corrosive effect on our democracy?

Read the page one story in the March 19, 2014 St. Augustine Record about County Administration Building (Taj Mahal) “security” concerns. From the hostility publicly directed by Chairman MORRIS and his colleagues yesterday at Commissioner William McClure -- in whose office Historic City News owner MICHAEL GOLD interviewed him.

Watch the tape.

There were some 27 minutes of perseverating by pusillanimous pachyderms. Poohbahs' putative “security” concerns expressed by Chairman MORRIS, Commissioner CINDY STEVENSON, RONALD SANCHEZ, and RACHEL BENNETT may be overblown – Commissioners may be more concerned that MICHAEL GOLD might report news, e.g., that he might observe what's going on in possible Sunshine violations by Commissioners.

Go to the County Commission website and view the tape -- agenda item number 9. Does this look like conscious parallelism to you? Was there an agreement before the meeting to go after dissenters who dared to disagree with MORRIS and encourage an opposition candidate? Does this not resemble something from Russia or Venezuela?

The five Commissioners' five offices are directly adjacent to one another, facilitating easy Sunshine violations beyond public view (if Commissioners were so inclined). Former County Commissioners have told me how easy it is to hear conversations in adjacent offices, and that if a Commissioner speaks loudly enough with his or her door open, other Commissioners may hear them.

Commissioner CINDY STEVENSON stated at yesterday's meeting that was so alarmed by the presence of GOLD and candidate Daniel Abel that she locked her door, saying it was the first time in ten years that she has ever locked her door. Doth the Commissioner protest too much?
GOLD often talks to her.
She does not appear to be afraid of GOLD.
STEVENSON said that County Commission service is "team play," implying that McCLURE was not a team player. Interesting dialectic -- Richard Nixon said on the White House tapes that Pentagon cost analyst A. Ernest Fitzgerald was "not a team player," ordering his firing. When I was trying whistleblower cases, I learned that case law frequently found that "not a team player" (and other expressions was equippolent of a confession.

Likewise, Commission Chairman MORRIS alleged that MICHAEL GOLD was the one who persuaded Mr. Abel to run against MORRIS. This shows that the animus expressed to GOLD in a public forum was retaliation for First Amendment protected activity. GOLD has a right to support candidates, to ask questions, and to criticize MORRIS.

MORRIS and three out of four fellow Commissioners singling out GOLD for abuse is a throwback to the era of County Commissioner JAMES EDWARD BRYANT, who ran the County with an iron fist, working hand-in-hand with developers.

I have often disagreed with MICHAEL GOLD, but I will today defend his First Amendment right to cover the news. It sounds like Commissioners' attack on GOLD and Commissioner Willi8am McClure is a tempest in a thimble, an effort to chill, coerce and repress First Amendment protected activity.
The Record article and Commission diatribe seems calculated to hold GOLD up to obloquy and ridicule.
Coupled with Commission Chairman JAY MORRIS' announced, open and notorious longime hostility to Sunshine laws, and the County's foot dragging on Open Records requests (even those from The New York Times), it seems that MORRIS' main agenda is to inflict more years of one-party Republican rule, RPM-style, complete with misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance, waste, fraud and abuse, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery (as evidenced by the ADA-violating ATM machines at the County-run St. Augustine Amphitheater, illegally installed without a contract or bid or lease, from which the County is still profiting illegally with every $3 illegal ATM fee). Having possibly participated in a False Claims scheme involving RPM International, it is little wonder that MORRIS has remained silent about the ATMs for more than a year after I first reported the illegality.

St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, for whom MICHAEL GOLD has flakked (and raised money for in 2004), is listed as a fundraiser for MORRIS, who has raised more than $53,000.

Thus, it strongly appears that Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR f/k/a “DAVID HOAR” and MICHAEL GOLD f/k/a “MICHAEL TOBIN” are now backing separate candidates in the all-important District 4 County Commissioner's race. Wonder why?

GOLD often disapproves of corruption. Perhaps he sees through Sheriff SHOAR now, as a result of the Michelle O'Connell shooting case.

Perhaps GOLD and Abel will now blow the whistle on JAY MORRIS' possible involvement in government contract fraud at RPH International, and on MORRIS' rubbberstamping of SHOAR's budget.
When I asked the St. Johns County Administrator recently for the detailed budget justification of SHOAR's Sheriff budget for the last ten years, I got the response that there was none.
That's no way to run a government, or a business (or to run a government like a business, JAY MORRIS' tired trite trope).

MORRIS COMMUNICATIONS' St. Augustine Record so frequently publishes MORRIS' columns that one wonders if he is a relative. He is thin-skinned. He writes hostile columns whenever anyone criticizes him or the political machine of which he is a part. In 2011, MORRIS actually wrote a column that denied ever being a "liberal," as if that were a bad thing. MORRIS needs to be cross-examined by journalists and citizens about his business ethics at RPM. We need to investigate him with a gimlet eye.

So the next time County Commission Chairman JOHN H. “JAY” MORRIS brags about his business experience and opines that government should be “run like a business,” ask MORRIS, “like which business” What about the more than $60 million False Claims Act case settled last year against RPM INTERNATIONAL and TREMCO?

Nearly 20% of the settlement went to the U.S. Government, with the rest split with the whistleblower (who earned nearly $10 million), and with the affected states, including the State of Florida.

Keep asking questions.

It's our money.

What do you reckon?
Ed Slavin
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084

Entire contents of blog © Copyright 2006-2014 Ed Slavin, All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

City, Bishop, Invite Pope Francis to St. Augustine for 450th Anniversary in 2015: Hastings Location Could Host Some One Million Pilgrims

 Pope Francis is visiting the United States during 2015, and has been invited by Bishop Felipe Estevez and Mayor Joseph Boles to visit St. Augustine. 
A presentation on the invitations was made by Cathedral Parish Pastor Father Thomas Willis and Mayor Boles at Monday's City Commission meeting.
City of St. Augustine staff has already determined that a papal visit could be achieved by combining three properties -- St. Johns County Fairgrounds, a sod farm, and St. Ambrose Church.  A papal Mass site at this site could hold some one million people, and would be accessible from I-95.
This is near where migrant farm workers live and work in the hot Florida sun. They are too often exploited and underpaid by crew leaders -- some of whom have been convicted of federal crimes like peonage (slavery) and found civilly liable for back wages. Many farm workers are Roman Catholic and Hispanics, just like the 800 people who founded St. Augustine in 1565. 
The same City staffers who brilliantly worked together on logistics, managing large crowds, and who helped bring Mumford & Sons to town last year are prepared to assist with logistics for a papal visit in 2015.
How cool is that?
Last year, an ingenious system of shuttle buses and bicycle parking helped make large crowds manageable. In 2015, a repeat of the feat is likely, but on a much larger scale.
Pope Francis was elected Pope March 13, 2013. 
Pope Francis preaches daily. Pope Francis speaks out against church hierarchy luxury and authoritarianism.  Read the Rolling Stone article.
Pope Francis speaks out against anti-Gay bigotry, saying: "who am I to judge" (Gay people)?. He speaks out against exploitation of the 99% by the money-worshiping, soul-shriveling cult of Big Business.
Pope Francis is reforming and re-energizing the Roman Catholic Church, the largest on Earth.
Pope Francis is reforming the Curia and the Vatican Bank.
An Argentinian by birth, Pope Francis is a Jesuit, the first member of the Society of Jesus to serve as Pope. 
As a graduate of a Jesuit university (Georgetown University's Father Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C.), I was taught diplomacy in the Jesuit tradition. 
President William Jefferson Clinton was likewise a graduate of Georgetown's Foreign Service School.
When Clinton was a Georgetown freshman, Father Otto Hentz asked Clinton about becoming a Jesuit, impressed that Clinton's logic was so strong and that he he could see the merits of (and argue) any side of any question. Bill Clinton responded to Fr. Otto Hentz, "Father, don't you think I should become a Catholic first?" Clinton was and is a Baptist.
When I heard the news that Pope Francis was elected last March 13th, I telephoned City Manager John Patrick Regan, P.E., reaching him at his home that evening, at about 6 PM. I told him that I never had any doubt that the Pope would visit St. Augustine for our 450th.
As Cathedral Parish Pastor Fr. Thomas Willis said Monday night, the founding of our Nation's Oldest European-founded City, St. Augustine, on September 8, 1565 began both "good" (evangelizing Christianity) and "evil" (homicides, including Native American Indians).
A papal visit is an occasion for continued healing.  The Pope can inspire us to end war, violence, corruption, poverty, environmental depredations, racism, sexism, homophobia and exploitation of our planet and our people.
The Pope might be asked to dedicate a statue of St. Francis here, near our future St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore.
It is a time for healing here. Let the healing continue with a papal visit here in 2015.
Yes we can!

(c) Entire contents of this blog Copyright 2006-2014, Ed Slavin, All Rights Reserved

Ed Slavin
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Saint Johns County Commission Chairman JOHN JAY H. MORRISS Campaign Fundraiser Is Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR

For a good time, go to the St. Johns County Election Supervisor website and read who has conributed more than $53,000 to the campaign of St. Johns County Commission Chairman JOHN JAY H. MORRIS.
They include some of the usual suspects, including ROGER O'STEEN and the DAVIS family -- developers.
In fact, the very first listed contributor is controversial Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, the developers' tool.
How revealing.
Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR is also listed as a "fundraiser" for MORRIS (it's in the expenditures category, where MORRISS lists a lunch for his fundraisers, the very first of which is DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, f/k/a "DAVID BERNARD HOAR."
How revealing.
SHERIFF SHOAR is MORRIS' very first contributor.
And a fundraiser, the first fundraiser listed.
SHOAR and MORRIS are pals.
This has consequences for public polcy.
Don't look for St. Johns County Commission Chairman JOHN JAY H. MORRIS to investigate SHOAR or get tough on SHOAR's budget.
Don't look for MORRISS to examine SHOAR in public about the Michele O'Connell case, or to give a hoot about victims of officer involved domestic violence.
County Commission Chairman JOHN JAY H. MORRIS is betting SHERIFF SHOAR will raise enough money to re-elect him.
In the immortal words of Jesse Unruh, "Money is the mother's milk of politics."
Our estimable St. Johns County Commission Chairman JOHN JAY H. MORRIS is suckling from SHERIFF DAVID BERNARD SHOAR's and developers' teats.
Someone with gumption and guts needs to run against JOHN JAY H. MORRIS, and raise money from small contributors.
Someone decent, who will treat the public and our environment with respect (and not prattle on about his or her "business experience" at the drop of a hat, sounding like a vapid varmint in love with the sound of his one voice).
Will someone kindly run against JOHN JAY J. MORRIS, and act like our lives depended on it?

"JOURNEY: 450 Years of African-American History": Histrionic HISTORIC CITY NEWS Reveals That St. Augustine's World Class African-American History Exhibit Cost Less Than $150,000? What a bargain! Not a Scandal

Oscar Wilde said, "A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."
HISTORIC CITY NEWS and MICHEL GOLD f/k/a "MICHAEL TOBIN" may be reached by going to ""
How revealing.
MICHAEL GOLD is SHOAR's political acolyte, apparatchik and Lavrenti Berea, arranging hate sites o attack former County Commission Chairman J. Kenneth Bryan, et al, and doing the dirty deeds for the WHETSTONE-MAGUIRE famly and other developers.
MICHAEL GOLD's latest trick is to report on the cost of the City's Journey exhibit, which is an infitesimal amount of money compared to the tourism, good will and healing that it promotes.
GOLD is a former employee of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Department.
Hence, healing is not GOLD's style -- as demonstrated by his attack on the Cultural Council's alleged "default" on its St. Augustine Beach lease last week.
GOLD neer compained when City MANAGER WILLIAM B. HARRISS retired, never prosecuted by State's Attorney RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA, never going to jail, and instead going on the payroll of SHERIFF DAVID BERNARD SHOAR f/k/a "DAVID BERNARD HOAR." HARRISS is paid more than $108,000 annually in retirement, and is a glorified political hack who is double-dipping working for SHERIFF SHOAR f/k/a "HOAR," running SHOAR's ST. JOHNS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT FOUR STAR ASSOCIATION, INC. 501(c)(3). HARRISS is coming and going as he pleases from the SJCSO, driving a Sheriff's car, with a gun, a badge and an ego the size of Montana, Republican lord of all he surveys.
He and GOLD have a hate-on for the current City Manager, John Patrick Regan, P.E., because he and the Commissioners are progressive and reforming our City government.
GOLD doesn't complain about lavish spending on HARRISS.
GOLD doesn't mention all of the money that the City has had to spend defending against frivolous lawsuits brought by the WHETSTONE-MAGUIRE family and other GOLD pals.
GOLD looks at the spending on the Jouney exhibit through the eyes of a racist ex-deputy.
GOLD resents our City's African-American history being told, and told well, from the eyes of African-Americans, who were here since September 8, 1565 and helped enact the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In fact, GOLD's histrionic HISTORIC CITY NEWS last year ran a reprint of a hateful JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY article from 1964 about the St. Augustine desegregaion struggles, in haec verba. GOLD attacked the monument for Andrew Young. GOLD approvingly quoted former City Manager WILLIAM POMAR, who said "The Bohemians have won."
MICHAL GOLD lists the salaries of the two curators working for St. Augustine 450th Director Dana Ste. Claire. They're underpaid. If it were up to me, I'd give them a big raise!
Otherwise, the City could be sued for gender discrimination.
Superciliously, superficially scramling for something to say, supposedly scrutinizing the expenditures on the Journey exhibit, MICHAEL GOLD must have a point somewhere.
(Or is it a pointy hat?)
What is his point, exactly?
MICHAEL GOLD says that some of the people working on the exhibit don't have St. Augustine business licenses.
Tsk, tsk.
Flyspecking nitpicking.
How dull.
Not exactly scandalous.
Particularly not scandalous in St. Johns County, historically one of the most corrupt in Florida, a place where St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR routinely covers up officer-involved domestic violence, requiring The New York Times AND PBS Frontline to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and nine months to cover a shocking story, "Two Gunshots on a Summer Night," (one that our local newspaper should have been on top of in 2010 like a chicken on a junebug's back).
No business license.
I am shocked, shocked.
If that's GOLD's only real criticism, let me invoke the immortal words of the late William F. Buckley, Jr., "The devil with the complaint!"

Examining Business-Government Relations With a "Gimlet Eye" Since the 1970s

An Anonymice commenter (below) suggests I get a dictionary, instructing me on the definition of the word "gimlet." I used the phrase "gimlet eye" in the posting immediately below, in this context: Police accreditation teams "must examine this [no-bid telecommunications contracting proposal] incident, and the redlight camera debacle, with a gimlet eye."
Look up "gimlet eye" in your dictionary, pal. You'll find the definitions: sharp-eyed, examining things with a sharp and penetrating stare.
Don't be so literal-minded about American idioms.
I first ran across the phrase "gimlet eye: when I was in high school, reading all of the books I could find by William F. Buckley, Jr., whose total mastery of the English language was a treat. "The Gimlet Eye" was the title of one of Buckley's column anthologies.
I've been studying business-government relations with a "gimlet eye" since the 1970s.
I've seen how mindless, maladroit and mendacious governments and businesses can be, and how the public gets screwed, blued and tattoeed when they collude.
Sometmes people say I use too many big words, or unfamiliar words. My riposte for that is the one that Aaron Sorkin put in the lips of his fictional President, Jed Bartlet, who replied to such a complaint from his staff: "They can look it up."
Here's looking at you, kid, with a "gimlet eye." Enjoy your time in Alabama. Try to take in some of the awesome civil rights museums there, and learn from history. Salud!

Friday, March 07, 2014

"Let the Public Be Damned?" -- City of St. Augustine Beach Staff Attempts No-Bid Contracting Procedures for Telecommunications

St. Augustine Beach City Hall denizens have a curious way of dealing with Open Records requests, made under Article I Section 24 of the Florida Constitution.
They retaliate for First Amendment protected activity. They invent and attempt to charge fees, instead of providing documents that should be placed on their website now.
Monday night, St. Augustine Beach Police Chief ROBERT HARDWICK wanted to spend some $125,000 on a new telephone system without oompetititive bidding, without a spreadsheet, and without staff analysis.
HARDWICK gave unlimited time to a salesman from WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS, a $6 billion multinational corporation.
The matter was not on the printed, published agenda.
The matter was not in the agenda packet on the City's website in PDF format.
There were no handouts, except from the WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS salesman (and only to Commissioners and to me, not the rest of the public).
Incredibly, SABPD CHIEF HARDWICK, St. Augustine City Manager MAX ROYLE, Finance Director MELISSA BURNS and Deputy Clerk CATHY BENSON allowed a mere salesman to alter the agenda and to make a ten minute sales pitch to City Commission, putting it on the agenda at the last minute before the meeting began.
Is this "Amateur Hour?"
Or shall we call it "The Sleaze Factor?"
St. Augustine Beach Mayor ANDREA SAMUELS seemed in a hurry. SAMUELS seemed annoyed that there were public comment on it.
SAMUELS seemed annoyed that her fellow Commissioners wanted to postpone it.
SAMUELS seems generally annoyed, much of the time.
It's our money.
"The whole world is watching."
Thanks to the corruption and coverups of our maladroit St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, State's Attorney RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA et al. -- reported in the New York Times, PBS Frontline and soon CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 and HLN's Nancy Grace -- our community is on the world stage now.
The whole world is watching us and what we do.
Are we afraid?
Do we cower to power?
Do we remain silent in the face of oppression and corruption?
Or do we stand up to bullies?
Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR colluded with St. Augustine Beach Commissioners 2010-2011 to take over SABPD in retaliation for First Amendment protected activity by ten ethical SABPD officers.
SAPBD officers reported concerns about SABPD.
This is protected activity under the First Amendment.
St. Augustine Beach Commissioners ANDREA SAMUELS, RICHARD O'BRIEN and SNODGRASS showed animus, and SAMUELS actually said the Beach Police had been "politicized" and needed to be fired, and taken over by the County's political boss, Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, fk/k/a "DAVID BERNARD HOAR."
Then-Mayor SHERMAN GARY SNODGRASS actually proposed "impact negotiations."
The public was opposed.
So were Commissioners Undine Pawlowski and Brud Helhoski.
Then Commission dropped the idea, with Commissioner SNODGRASS listening to reason and changing his mind.
Then, last year ROBERT HARDWICK, former Chief Investigator for State's Attorney RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA, was named Police Chief.
Apparently SHERIFF DAVID BERNARD SHOAR's puppet and heir apparent, Chief ROBERT HARDWICK is the politial machine's likely candidate to replace Sheriff DAVID SHOAR.
This could happen any time by appointment of the Governor of Florida (e.g, after SHOAR's retirement, resignation, indictment and/or suspension by the Governor of Flordia pursuant to Article IV, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution).
CHIEF ROBERT HARDWICK wrote Sheriff SHOAR last year in an E-mail, "That's why I love you." (After SHOAR agreed to appear at a fete for FBI Academy graduates).
The resemblance and conscious paralelism betwen SHOAR's practices and HARDWICK's practices is alarming, and it is growing.
Consider the strange romance between Chief HARDWICK and two multibillion dollar corporations -- AMERICAN TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS, INC. (ATS) and WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS, INC.
First Chief HARDWICK proposed redlight cameras, which citizens (including longtime corporate purchasing manager Mr. Robert Koehler and I) opposed.
After attending a police convention and talking to a salesman, Chief HARDWICK brought in a corporate salesman for AMERICAN TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS (ATS), a controversial redlight camera company (half-owned by GOLDMAN SACHS) to speak to the issue, speaking to City Commissioners.
Then Chief HARDWICK wanted a new phone system.
The old phone system needs replacing.
But requirements have not been defined.
Homework has not been done.
Analysis has not been provided.
Spreadsheets have not been prepared.
The City Commissioners and citizens have been kept in the dark.
Without prior public notice, on March 3, Chief HARDWICK brought in a WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS salesman to speak to the issue.
Government purchasing decisions should not be based on winging it, on last-minute quick and dirty quote-seeking, on no-bid contracts or impulse buying (like the Pentagon).
Chief HARDWICK has now twice let salesmen hornswoggle him into putting them on the agenda of the St. Augustine Beach Commission.
It is an appearance of impropriety.
The proposal from WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS refers to a "negotiation."
No documents on such "negotiations" have been supplied.
Who "negotiated?"
E-mails show that several unsealed proposals were sent to Chief HARDWICK.
City Manager MAX ROYLE points out that "Chief HARDWICK does not work for me."
But is MAX ROYLE working for Chief HARDWICK?
No-bid contracts.
Secret negotiations.
No transprency.
No clear definition of requirements -- askng vendors to tell SAB what it needs.
No RFP or RFQ.
Nothing on the City's website.
Possible Sunshine/Open Records violations.
A snooty staff with a "let the public be damned" attitude worthy of Robber Barons like Cornelius Vanderbilt.
This subtle corruption of our government by giant corporations like WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS is indefensible, and must be ended at once.
No corporate board of directors worth its pay would ever let staffers subject them to a salesman's sales pitch at their board meetings.
No government should engage in no-bid contracting and let staff subject them to a sales pitch at board meetings.
No purchasing decisions should be made without thorough research and analysis, and spread sheets.
SAB's lack of due diligence is akin to Amateur Hour.
It is unseemly.
It is an appearance of impropriety.
Competition is the most fundamental economic policy of our government, dating back to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 (made necessary because of the monopolistic conspiratorial depredations of JOHN DAVIDSON ROCKEFELLER and HENRY MORRISON FLAGLER).
Unimpressed by no-bid contracts, our elected officials, Monday night, said "No."
Unimpressed, unbullied and unbossed by Chief HARDWICK, St. Augustine Beach Commissioners unanimously voted March 3rd -- they rightly postponed any consideration of a no-bid $125,000, five-year telecommunications contract with WINDSTREAM.
There must be accountability for such amateurish staff work.
There must be accountability for government incompetence, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, waste, fraud, abuse, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.
The Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFLEA) is being asked to accredit SABPD. It must examine this incident, and the redlight camera debacle, with a gimlet eye.
It's our money.
There must be full compliance with purhasing procedures and the reasonable expectations of probity.
No one had a copy of SAB's purchasing policy at Monday's meeting. Why?
No purchases over $10,000 may be made without competitive bidding.
No ifs, ands or buts.
It needs to be read, re-read, complied with and revised if it allows such an abuse of power.
Longtime private sector purchasing manager Robert Koehler and I objected to the City's crass procedures, and rightfully so.
The next day, I requested the pertinent documents, which had been withheld from City Commissioners nad the public, not included in the agenda packet.
St. Augustine Beach bureaucrats reacted derisively.
They are still dragging their feet, attempting to charge fees for documents that should have been disclosed to Commissioners and the public.
I wear their scorn as a badge of honor.
This is "Amateur Hour" -- St. Augustine Beach was long run as a fiefdom (or "Barney Fifedom") under Mayor Pacetti. Is that happening again now?
Mayor ANDREA SAMUELS has already depared from tradition. Under Mayor S. GARY SNODGRASS, the City Manager was asked to answer citizen questions after public comment was over.
Not any longer.
Not at all.
How gauche.
How undemocratic.
How dictatorial.
And in response to my request to share all documents with the public and with me in PDFs, Deputy Clerk Cathy Benson wrote in an unkind, uncouth E-mail message:
"As you are well aware, state statutes allow us to charge $0.15 per page, and also for our time (sic).
We are only required to provide you the info in its current format. We are not required to scan to PDFs for your convenence.
You certainly do have a right to know but you do not have a right to dictate extraordianary terms."
Dictate extraoradinary terms?
Sounds like what SABPD CHIEF ROBERT HARDWICK was doing Monday -- asking for transparency concerning 1/8 of a million dollars that staff expected Commissioners expected to rubberstamp willy-nilly, at the drop of a hat, hesto presto, without any backup material, and without even placing it on the agenda?
We expect better from our governments.
The people of the State of Florida enacted our Sunshine and Open Records laws.
Article I, Section 24 of our Florida Constitution was enacted by vote of 3.8 million people -- 83%.
There are more of us than there are of them.
SAB must come clean with the public and place all records on this misbegotten contracting process on their website. NOW. SAB must to listen to Mr. Koehler, and other citizens. SAB must stop, look, listen, research, define write a proper list of requirements, publish an RFP, receive sealed bids, and not have any further repetition of the authoritarian, hierarchical "Amateur Hour" tactics seen there this week.
What do you reckon?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore

"A no-brainer." That's how Sheriff DAVID B. SHOAR described the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore proposal in 2011.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first bill in Congress for a St. Augustine Naional Historical Park ande National Seashore.
As the City of St. Augustine pursues is visioning process, the Park and Seashore will be discussed.
It is up to us to preserve and protect what deserves preserving and protecting here in our Nation's Oldest European-founded City, St. Augustine, Florida -- our beaches, our forests, our watersheds, our scenery, our history.
These are exciting times, and we reach for the stars.
Tree-killing developers are no longer intimidaing activists.
"Temple destroyers" (as John Muir called them) are in disrespute.
When publicly-held companies and contractors building homes in St. Johns County commit frauds, they are now covered by a federal whistleblower law. The Supreme Court ruled yesterday, 6-3, that employees of publicly held contractors are covered by the Sarbanes-Oxley law. This means that if stockholders are being misled by developers, employees of the developers and their contractors can blow the whistle on fraud with federal protection. That should put a damper on fraudulent practices by developers here, whom former County Commission Chairman Ben Rich said were "worse than any carpetbagger."
The urgency of preserving our state parks, state forests and water management district lands from destruction requires a federal law. Left to their own devices, Tallahassee politicians would put golf courses in them or allow them to be ruined by developers.
Meanwhile, people are talking about the intriguing possibility of a new 2500 long St. Augustine Beach Pier developed as a public-rpivate partnership, with an Embassy Suites Hotel built atop it by Key International -- using "air rights" traded in exchange for six acres of land that is currently dividing the county St. Augustine Beach Pier Park from the Anastasia State Park (the decrepit, boarded-up, moldy St. Augustine Beach Resort).
The new pier could include a civil rights and history and nature museum under National Park Service auspices, along with restaurants, shops fishing and sightseeing. Like the piers in places like Orange County, California, the new pier would be a true "crown jewel," not just a rhinestone.
Creativity and bold visions are required.
Yes we can!
Ed Slavin
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084

Incompetence and Corruption in St. Johns County

Two ATMs are illegally charging St. Augustine Farmer's Market customers and St. Augustine Amphitheater patrons $3. The ATMs were illegally installed in 2006, without a lease, without a Request for Proposal and without any legal authority.
Here in the home of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, those two cheesy ATMs are not ADA-compliant. Other ATMs allow deaf or blind users to use them -- not these two plastic bandits, owned by a bank no one has heard of before.
The Bank of America and the St. Johns County Administrator, MICHAEL WANCHICK, were working to replace the two cheesy, illegal ATMs with Bank of America ATMs that would be free of charge, as part of the County's using BoA for its half-billion annual budget deposits.
St. Johns County has not kept its promises to me on the ATMs. County ATTORNEY PATRICK McCORMACK admitted as muh earlier this week.
Our overpaid county government officials are maladroit.
St. Johns County Administrator MICHAEL P. WANCHICK reckons he is Republican lord of all he surveys, meeting last month with a developer to discuss trading what he termed the "not irreplaceable" St. Augustine Beach Pier Park for land purchased by the developer. The Pier Park is likely the second location of St. Augustine, when in 1566 Indians burned the first settlement to the ground.
MICHAEL WANCHICK needs to watch what he does -- he could be talking to an undercover FBI Agent (as our former County Commission Chairman Thomas G. Manuel learned the hard way).
Our St. Johns County government is still all too riddled with waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasnce, nonfeasance, patronage, nepotism, ineffectiveness, flummey, dupery and nincompoopery.
The refusal of any County official to speak out about the Michelle O'Connell case illustrates what tour guides here have long said: "If you want to commit a murder, do it here," referring to the infamous 1566 murder of a Gay man on orders of Florida's first Governor, Pedro Menendez de Aviles.
The two illegal ATMs at the St. Augustine Amphitheater are a synecoche -- a part that stands for the whole.
They are an embarassment, and bad for our branding.
The two illegal ATMS unlawfully inflict ilegal charges on concert patrons -- who are not allowed to leave and return to the Amphitheater when attending a concerts -- large signs say, "No Re-Entry." No legal authority is given.
Welcome to corrupt St. Johns County, concert-goers.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Put It Best -- " Justice Delayed is Justice Denied." Justice for Michelle O'Connell

It has been some 95 days since the New York Times story, "Two Gunshots on a Summer Night" about the alleged suicide of Michell O'Connell.
It is time for accountability for Sheriff DAVID B. SHOAR and Deputy JEREMY BANKS.
It is time for the truth to be told before an inquest and before a federal grand jury.
Justice for Michelle O'Connell.
Meanwhile, the one hour Anderson Cooper 360 CNN broadcast has been delayed, possibly until next week, due to the press of news from the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.
In the immortal words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. "Justice delayed is justice denied."

St. Augustine Beach Deserves Scrutiny I

Monday night's St. Augustine Beach Ciy Commission meeting, board members of the St. Johns Cultural Cuncil weiting for hours on an agenda item that accused them of "default" on the lease of the former St. Augustine Beach Ciy Hall, an historic coquina-faced hotel built by the WPA.
Rather than provide Due Process notice and an opportunity to be heard, City Manager MAX ROYLE merely called them and told them they "were on the agenda."
ROYLE did not call their attention to the PowerPoint.
ROYLTE did not send them a letter.
How rude.
How ineffectual.
City Attorney DOUGLAS NELSON BURNETT was absent and his associate, JAMES GEORGE WHITEHOUSE, was not prepared to argue the matter, which was outlined in a PowerPoint presentation on the City's website.
Meanwhile, Sheriff DAVID B. SHOAR's erstwhile fundraiser, local hate site operator MICHAEL GOLD, f/k/a "MICHAEL TOBIN," the public relations chair for the St. Augustine Republican Cub, ran a demagogic item in his histrionic HISTORIC CITY NEWS, trumpeting the agenda item on the Cultural Council, which has invested some $800,000 in a building they don't own.
Libel, slander, defamation, Lashon hara -- it happened because the City of St. Augustine Beach allowed egos and conflcts of interest to make accusations.
City Mayor Andrea Samuels rightly apologized.
Too few government officials have the class to do so.
We need more substances and less flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.
A longtime supporter of SHERIFF DAVID B. SHOAR, lawyer
DOUGLAS NELSON BURNETT and his St. JOHNS LAW GROUP are an embarassment -- they represent 7-ELEVEN, other developers and two governments (the Airport Authority and St. Augustine Beach). The son of the former Commanding General of the Florida National Guard, St. Augustine Beach Ciy Attorney DOUGLAS NELSON BURNETT has evidently bitten off more than he can chew. BURNETT's ST. JOHNS LAW GROUP law firm needs to resign the job of St. Augustine Beach City Attorney, and St. Augustine Beach needs to post the position in the Florida Bar Journal, opening it to any licensed Florida attorneys to apply.
No need to hire a lawyer wo also represents developers.
No need to limit such jobs to St. Johns County residents who have political connections -- it's our money.
SAB should hire a competent counsel who can give independent legal advice.

St. Augustine Beach Deserves Scrutiny II

At Monday night's st. Augustine Beach Commission meeing, Commissioners squelched an effort by City staff, including Police Chief Robert Hardwick, to purchase a $125,000 telephone system without sealed competitive bidding, without an RFP, without an RFQ, and without even a spreadsheet or staff presentation. Instead, the staff had a salesman make a pitch, which wasn't even on the agenda.
This stinks.
The most fundamental public policy in America is competition. The public fisc must be protected.
I fully agree with the purchasing expert, Mr. Robert Koehler, who said it was wrong.
SAB Commissioners rightfully delayed the scheme.
Chief Hardwick bears watching -- last year he wrote Sheriff DAVID B. SHOAR and said, in haec verba, "I love you."
It seems like Hardwick would like to imitate smarmy Sheriff SHOAR's approach to governance. Hardwick is too intelligent for that. So, knock it off!

Protecting Corporate Whistleblowers

Yesterday, March 4, 2014, is a date that will live in history.
By 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) sad that the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower law protects all private sector whistleblowers who report concerns about fraud involving publicly-held companies, including lawyers and accountants. Jackie Hosang Lawson and Jonathan Zang v. FMR LLC d/b/a Fidelity Investments, Supreme Court Case No. 12-3, --- U.S. --- (March 4, 2014).
University of Washington Law Professor Eric Schnapper argued the case and won a total victory yesterday.
The decision was written by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and was concurred in by Justices Breyer, Thomas, Scalia, Kagan and Chief Justice Roberts (with a dissent by Justices Sotomayor, Kennedy and Alito).
After the fall of Enron, Congress decided to expand Department of Labor whistleblower law by protecting ethical employees concerned about fraud.
Fidelity Investment, and other rebarbative elements of Corporate America are fighting these Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) cases tooth and toenail, loathing accountability.
The stakes are high.
The future of democracy is at stake.
The future of shareholder and employee rights is at stake.
Big Business has won most of its cases before the Supreme Court in recent decades. But not this one.
The Supreme Court likes whistleblowers. It usually rules for them. Disclosure of wrongdoing is favored under the law. As it says in the Book of Isaiah, "You shall know the truth, and it will set you free."
The Lawson case involved the Fidelity mutual fund, one of many publicly-held mutual fund companies that have no employees.
As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the Supreme Court majority, Ms. "Lawson alleges that she was constructively discharged for reporting accounting pratices that overstated expenses associated with managing certain Fidelity mutual funds....By inflating its expenses, and thus understating its profits, [FMR] culd potentially increase the fees it would earn from the mutual funds -- fees ultimately paid by the shareholders of those funds."
Fidelity's contractors retaliated against two ethical employees' disclosures, and then argued bizarre theories of statutory interpretation that would have left the ethical employees unprotected. The Supreme Court roundly rejected their decision, in yet another Supreme Court victory for whistleblowers.
It was a major defeat for retaliators, fraudfeasors and those who practice financial fraud. In fact, the lede of an article in CFO Magazine states that, "Attorneys that (sic) represent companies reacted with surprise and criticism to a Supreme Court ruling Tuesday that vastly expanded thye scope of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act's whistleblower protection."
During oral argument on November 12, 2013, the transcript suggests, it was apparent that most Supreme Court Justices had little regard for the position taken by the alleged retaliatory fraudfeasor's lawyer, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, and other Big Business apologists.
Arguments were made that the Sarbanes-Oxley law might protect someone's gardener who might disclose fraud.
Rising to the bait, a very experienced longtime former Supreme Court practitioner, Chief Justice John Roberts at one point asked the respondent's counsel, "What about the butler who does, in fact, hear all this information about a conspiracy and wire fraud?"
Yet Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Washington, D.C. managing partner Mark A. Perry, the counsel for the respondent, actually concluded his argument with a claim that Congress did not mean to cover "six million" businesses that might one day be contractors for publicly-held companies. Perry said: "if a member of Congress, I would submit, had stood up on the floor and suggested that, it would have been met with debate, derision and defeat."
Ridicule and hubris are seldom successful tactics in appellate arguments, especially before the Supreme Court. Mark Perry was formerly law clerk to former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. He should have known better.
The 6-3 decision is a victory for ethical employees everywhere, as well as for corporate stockholders who are too often cheated by those exercising suzerainty over what Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis called "Other People's Money."
Stockholders everywhere will benefit. In fact, the stock market was up after yesrterday's decision.
Three cheers for Professor Eric Schnapper and all who worked on and decided the case.
The Chamber of Commerce of the United States and other corporate lobbyists were glum yesterday, and corporate fraudfeasors everywhere are quaking in their boots today. They are all worried about where the next whistleblower case will be filed, and against whom, and for what. Perhaps it might involve some of the publicly-held companies that may have been deluding investors with plans to build some 70,000 homes in St. Johns County, which compliant St. Johns County Commissioners voted to allow under the ancien regime.
Paying bribes and making false entries in books and accounts is covered by Sarbanes-Oxley, too.
So if anyone from Toll Brothers (TOL), KB Home (KBH), Ryland (RYL), DR Horton (DRH), Pulte (PLH), Lennar (LEN) or other tree-killing, clear-cutting, uglifying cheesy home builders are involved in possible wrongdoing in St. Johns County, let the fraudfeasors beware ("caveat vendor").
The March 4, 2014 Supreme Court decision now protects employees of their law firms, accounting firms, construction and other contractors.
St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce members: your dues money was just used and abused to support the anti-consumer, anti-employee and anti-shareholder brief of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. You might wish to resign your Chamber memberships, or at least object vigorously to such pettifoggery -- it's your money!
Once upon a time, I was honored to represent corporate and government whistleblowers before the Department of Labor for years. With the help of DOL's then-Chief Administrative Law Judge Nahum Litt, our American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section and the ABA Judicial Administration Division and Conference of Administrative Law Judges all pitched in and helped to persaude the American Bar Association House of Dlegates to pass a corporate whistelbower resolution at its Mid-Winter meeting in Los Angeles in February 1990. Our YLD and IRR resolution called on protection for anyone disclosing violations of statutes or regulations.
We won, by voice vote of roughly 4-1.
The only ABA group that opposed us was the ABA Public Contracts Section, whose histrionic delegate expressed the primal fear that his own law firm employees might become whistleblowers.
Wonder why?
A government contractor lawyer inspidly suggested that one of the ABA House of Delegates law firm employees might seek protection for blowing the whistle on putting the staple in the wrong place on a government form.
That's not what they really feared -- corporate lawyers who counsel fraudfeasors, as Vinson & Elkins did, really fear fraud being exposed.
The Supreme Court expressly said yesterday that outside lawyers and accountants for publicly held companies are protected by Sarbanes-Oxley's whistleblower provision.
"Malefactors of great wealth," as FDR called them, "the whole world is watching" you today. Your own lawyers and accountants are now empowered to blow the whistle on your fraudfeasing ways.
This is a great country, with some pretty good laws, which can and will now be enforced to protect employee rights to blow the whistle on financial wrongdoers.
It's good for consumers, employees and stockholders and bad for big shot crooks, who should go to jail more often. As President Jimmy Carter said, "I see no reason why big shot crooks should go free, and the poor ones go to jail."

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Organized Crime and Disorganized Reporting -- 102 Bridge Street (Former M&M Market in St. Augustine's Lincolnville Community)

On or about July 1, 2010, the newly appointed City Manager, John Patrick Regan, P.E. ordered a continuing undercover investigation into crack cocaine sales and organized criminal activity at 102 Bridge Street, at the M&M Market. He was in office two days at the time.

In November 2010, the M&M Market was raided, and its owners, the Patels, were prosecuted for selling drugs, selling drugs for food stamps, and other racketeering crimes.

The City of St. Augustine filed a civil forfeiture action, winning a settlement whereby the Patels gave up possession, the market closed, while paying off the mortgage company -- all without three years of litigation and expensive attorneys fees. One of the Market operators is still in state prison.

In the 3.5 years since the raid, hundreds of thousands of dollars n city money was effectively SAVED because the number of police calls at the intersection of Bridge Street and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was vastly reduced. No longer are armed, dangerous men standing guard outside the building, wearing hoodies.

The building was once the home of Thomas Jefferson's granddaughter. The city held the property, kept it up, maintained it, eliminated an organized crime hangout, removed the gasoline tanks, remediated the pollution and now neighbors and visitors can walk and drive by without living in fear. (I once walked by when it was M&M Market, and I walked swiftly.)

On Monday night, the City Commission voted 3-1 (Commissioner Crichlow recusing himself as the project architect) to sell the property, which will have its inauthentic additions removed, its Victorian splendor restored, get moved closer to the street, and have an energy-efficient Victorian-style home built next door by BEHST Builders and Jon Benoit, working for David and Sandra Corneal, the new owners.

The deed is restricted to allow only seven residential housing units, with the possibility of a restaurant replacing one unit.

The newly remodeled and enhanced Jefferson granddaughter's property will be worth about one million dollars and pay $7500 in annual poperty taxes, an increase of $250,000 in present value.

Count our blessings.
1. Organized crime eliminated.
2. Seven new modern code-compliant housing units.
3. A quarter million dollars in additional tax revenue (present value) over 30 years.
4. Thomas Jefferson's granddaughters St. Augustine home restored.
5. Some 80% reduction in violent crime arrests at the intersection of MLK Blvd and Bridge Street.
6. Some $70,000 worth of police time annually that can be allocated for other uses (like solving hit and run accidents).
7. The realtor, Irene Arriolla, worked pro bono, for 3.5 years, without commission, to sell the property to a buyer who would not open another dodgy store selling beer and tobacco products.
8. Ms. Arriolla recruited a title company to do its work for free.
9.The City is financing the deal for three years, and can take back the property if there is any violation of the terms.
10. The property will be permanently deed-restricted and limited to seven housing units (or six and a restaurant).

"The most profound thing I did as City Manager," City Manager John Regan told me.

Caveat: There was one "twelfth hour offer," actually an "offer to negotiate," not a firm cash offer, as Mayor Joseph Boles said, but it was rejected.

As former Mayor George Gardner wrote in his newsletter, "the offer is lower, but financing, savings on real estate commission, and community peace of mind, more than make up for it."

So as you drive into and out of Lincolnville on MLK, just remember the days when, 2007-2010, there were 1110 police calls (about one per day), often for violent crime, police cars often parked on the property, suspicious characters conducting a regional crack cocaine market, crack cocaine being sold for food stamps, and people afraid to walk outside.

Has your quality of life improved?

Does that sound like a "Loss" to you? Perhaps only to people who contend that a gun kicks back FORWARDS. (If you don't know who and what I'm referring to: Watch CNN Monday and Tuesday, March 3 & 4, 2014 at 8PM and 10 PM for details, or read the New York Times article and watch the PBS Frontline story to learn more.

What do you reckon?

I am writing this after reading "City loses over $80,000 on Bridge Street property," the histrionic online headline of the faux Fox News "Historic City News" (operated by MICHAEL GOLD f/k/a "MICHAEL TOBIN," who is the former fundraiser for SHERIFF DAVID SHOAR, f/k/a "DAVID HOAR").

Some people say MICHAEL GOLD still works for DAVID SHOAR, and for development interests like the WHETSTONE-MAGUIRE family.

Some people still practice Lashon hara.

Some people still "know not that they know not that they know not" (in my former client, retired FBI, HUD and EPA Special Agent Robert E. Tyndall's eloquent phrase). They have the right to remain silent under the Fifth Amdment.

The air is a lot cleaner since WLLIAM BRUCE HARRISS left as City Manager (going to work for Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, the former City Police Chief, whom HARRISS and GOLD helped to elect Sheriff in 2004). The people are freer. M&M is closed (which HARRISS and SHOAR could have done at any time).

Nattering nabobs of negativism?

Uninformed reporters?

Sloppy editors?

Forgive them all.

Enjoy the day in Lincolnville and St. Augustine.