Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Coastal Florida In Peril: The Global and Mail, "Come hell or high water: The disaster scenario that is South Florida" by OMAR EL AKKAD

Heavy storms, a hallmark of climate change, are wreaking havoc on the infrastructure in places like Pensacola, Fla. (Marianna Massey/Getty Images)

Come hell or high water: The disaster scenario that is South Florida

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is a strange-looking beast. Its south runway, unveiled last September as part of a $2-billion expansion project, rests like an overpass atop six lanes of highway traffic. Across the road, facing the vast turquoise sweep of the Atlantic Ocean, is Port Everglades – home to some of the largest cruise ships on Earth. Between them, the bustling terminals handle a significant portion of the human cargo that fuels Florida’s $70-billion-a-year tourism machine.

Easily lost in all this bigness is a temporary water feature – a large puddle by the side of the road near the foot of the elevated runway.

“This is just from rain,” says Lee Gottlieb, an environmental activist and 40-year resident of South Florida. “I don’t think it’s rained here in five, six days.”

But the rainwater pools anyway. Virtually all of South Florida is only a few feet above sea level. “They elevated the runway,” Mr. Gottlieb says, “but all the terminals …” he pauses, exasperated. “Obviously, if we had a major deluge – this is a flood area.”

It has become increasingly commonplace for politicians at every level of U.S. government – from small-town mayors to the President himself – to describe climate change as the single most important challenge of the coming century. Such rhetoric is buoyed by myriad crises, from sinking land mass in southern Louisiana to historic droughts in California. In low-lying Florida, the culprit is the rising sea level. Should the ocean crawl just one more foot up the edges of this peninsula – something that’s projected to happen in the next two decades, by some estimates – most of the canal systems that keep the saltwater out of the area’s drinking wells would cease to function. A few more feet, and entire towns suddenly turn neo-Venetian, the roads flooded, the infrastructure almost impossible to salvage.

But beyond the dire warnings, something else is happening in South Florida. Here, for the first time in North America, the conversation is no longer just about what climate-change countermeasures or conservation initiatives to pursue – taking shorter showers or subsidizing electric cars. It’s about a much more existential question: What if it’s too late?

Scientists are starting to suggest that, in the long run, much of South Florida cannot be saved and that policymakers should begin planning for how to best deal with a massive northward exodus in the coming decades, as some of the most iconic real estate on the continent begins to succumb to the sea.

“Sooner or later, this city, as you see it right now, won’t be like this,” says Henry Briceño, a water-quality researcher at Florida International University. “Miami and the whole of South Florida is not going to be like this any more. So we have to develop a way to plan and supply services in a changing scenario, and that’s not easy. And then, sooner or later, we’ll have to move. Most of the population will have to move.”

Imagine a prohibition on fossil fuels, effective tomorrow. Every gas-guzzler off the road; every coal plant shuttered; every source of greenhouse-gas emissions brought under control.

Even then, by some estimates, the atmosphere would experience residual warming for another 30 years. That, in turn, would continue to heat the oceans for about another century. The warming ocean would melt the ice-packs in Greenland and Antarctica. And, finally, those melting masses of ice would raise the sea level.

“We’ve missed the boat, so to speak, on stopping serious warming in a way so we can turn it around real quick,” says Harold Wanless, chair of the department of geological sciences at the University of Miami. “That’s gone, we’ve warmed the ocean too much. So we’re in for it now.”

Very few people in Florida have spoken as passionately – or for so many years – as Prof. Wanless about what the irreversible mechanics of rising sea levels are likely to do to the southern half of this state. The son of a geologist, he has been talking to anyone who’ll listen – community organizations, high schools, even the religious TV program The 700 Club – since the early 1980s.

Back then, projections estimated that sea levels would rise by about four feet by the end of the coming century. Today, that number is in the low to middle segment of U.S. government projections, which run as high as six feet.

“That’s going to eliminate living on all the barrier islands of the world,” he says. “It’s going to inundate major portions of the coastal delta in China, India, the U.S. and elsewhere. That’s where a huge amount of agriculture is.”

At six feet of sea-level rise, roughly half of Miami-Dade County will be under water. Given the impact such land loss would have on vital infrastructure, it may well render the area totally uninhabitable.

Few places are as geographically ill-equipped to deal with rising water as southern Florida. Not only is much of the land barely a few feet above sea level, it also sits on a bed of porous limestone and sand, making measures such as dikes far less effective. Higher sea levels would eat away at the barrier islands that buffer the coast against powerful storms – which is hugely problematic, given that more powerful storms are one of the hallmarks of climate change. The rising water also threatens to slip inland and contaminate the wells that provide much of the region’s drinking water.

“The biggest stress on the system is water supply,” says Doug Young, a long-time environmental activist who moved to Florida from Montreal 24 years ago. “We’re just about the most susceptible place in the entire world. The salt water pushes in from the ocean and gets into the aquifer. It’s happening as we speak.”

But even as experts tried for years to explain these looming catastrophes to South Florida residents, showing them maps of how much land would be lost with every foot of sea-level rise, often they would encounter the same response.

“They’d look at a map and say, ‘Oh, my house will still be there,’” Prof. Wanless says. “Yeah, but the infrastructure has totally collapsed, you just happen to be in a little high spot. There’s no sewage, and there’s probably no reliable electricity or anything any more. You’re just camping out there on your little hill.”

The response illustrates the central hurdle for climate-change activists: The changes will unfold over the better part of a century. In geologic terms, it’s a blink of an eye. But in human terms, where the standard unit of measurement is often a 30-year mortgage cycle, it’s easy to dismiss rising waters as a problem for a future generation to face.

Indeed, advocating for billion-dollar conservation measures – to say nothing of planning for an outright evacuation in several decades’ time – is lonely work in a place where the tourism and real-estate industries are doing brisk business. Countless condos are going up in Miami-Dade County alone, and new beachside hotels are popping up all along the southern coast. Of these, the closest thing to a forward-looking project is a proposal by a Dutch company to build a community of multimillion-dollar mansions that float.

Perhaps as a result, scientists here have had a particularly difficult time convincing the state’s leadership to treat climate change as a priority – or even a reality. In March, allegations surfaced that officials with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection were being ordered not to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in any official capacity.

The state government flatly denies that accusation. “The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has no policy banning the use of ‘climate change,’ ” says Lori Elliott, a spokesperson for the DEP, adding that the department is running a number of multiyear sea-level-rise monitoring and adaptation projects. “In fact, the department constantly monitors changes we identify in Florida’s ecosystems and works with other local and state agencies to ensure Florida’s communities and natural resources are protected.”

Regardless of where state authorities stand on the issue, rising sea levels pose another fundamental problem: unpredictability. So the prospect of oceans rising in a uniform, linear fashion – in a way that can be accurately approximated and planned for – appears unlikely.

A time-travelling cartographer, standing on the southern edge of the Florida peninsula some 18,000 years ago, would have seen a land mass roughly 160 kilometres wider than the one today. There used to be far more of this place, but the sea swallowed it.

What’s left of that land is a series of old beach ridges. Scanning the underwater ridges produces a timeline of how the land was drowned. Instead of a gradual rise, the spacing of the ridges indicates that the land loss happened in what Prof. Wanless calls “pulses.” Somewhere, a massive ice sheet would disintegrate, and over the following hundred years, a relatively huge sea-level rise would follow. The gradient was less akin to sliding down a smooth curve, and closer to falling down an uneven staircase.

That’s what worries scientists – the prospect of shocks, of sudden changes. And not just geological ones.

On a clear April day, Mr. Gottlieb, the environmental activist, drives to a seawall near Ft. Lauderdale. It is new, rising about three feet in the clearing between a sandy ocean beach and the road. It was built with flooding in mind, after rain from Hurricane Sandy inundated the roads here. The base cost of the seawall is about $10-million a mile. It is yet to be seen whether the wall will withstand, in any meaningful way, a direct hit from the next major hurricane.

Rising waters may eventually consume large swaths of South Florida, but sudden storms will likely change the geographic and economic landscape first. “Insurance companies are already increasing flood insurance premiums,” Prof. Briceño says. “There is a point when insurance companies will say ‘no more.’ And if you are unable to insure a property with a mortgage on it, your property is worth nothing.”

It is those sorts of shocks – uninsurable properties, credit-rating declines, crippling storm-damage bills – that a growing number of policymakers are trying to avoid. Tired of waiting for the state to act, a group of counties that occupy some of the most vulnerable ground in South Florida have formed a task force of sorts to figure out how to best address rising sea levels.

“We should be building for transition,” says Philip Stoddard, a professor at the department of biological sciences at Florida International and the mayor of South Miami. “We should be elevating areas to make it possible for some business activity to remain as the water comes up.”

But even with such measures, Prof. Stoddard has little doubt that, 20 years from now, many communities will begin fading away. “We’ll be depopulating,” he says. “You can either depopulate in a frantic, disastrous fashion, or you can do it methodically according to people’s risk tolerance. I’m all in favour of doing less damage as people head out the door.”

But Prof. Stoddard’s work is further complicated by the fact that nobody really knows just how much sea-level rise to expect. Models from 20 and even 10 years ago are looking increasingly conservative. And some new estimates are producing numbers that make the previous projections look trivial by comparison.

A few years ago, climatologist James Hansen suggested a sea-level rise of about 16 feet by 2100 – a number far higher than most other projections. The estimate was based in part on the idea of “amplifying feedbacks.” For example, ice reflects almost all solar radiation, but open water absorbs it. So as an ice sheet melts, it has a reinforcing effect, increasing the melting rate. Several of those feedbacks had not been incorporated into other climate-change models. Accounting for them, Dr. Hansen argued, pushed the numbers up.

The projection was met with skepticism. To test it, Prof. Wanless recently decided to see if the melt rate in Greenland was consistent with Dr. Hansen’s projections. Looking at satellite data, he found it was not – it was melting at an even faster rate.

Lee Gottlieb stands on a pristine beach a few kilometres north of Miami, observing his creation – a set of rolling dunes, anchored in place with sea oats. The grass is thin and shivers in the breeze. The structure is a sacrificial lamb; a major storm surge would likely destroy it. But it would still serve as a buffer, protecting the infrastructure farther inland. Mr. Gottlieb has been trying to convince municipalities and private developers to support the dune project. Some prospective partners have been receptive. Others declined, complaining, in one case, that if the oats grew too tall, they might ruin the ocean view from a condo’s mezzanine-level pool.

“Do we really think [the sea oats project is] going to save the day? No,” Mr. Gottlieb says. “But we need to bring people’s attention to the issue. We can’t afford to wait another 10 years.”

Exactly what South Florida will look like a decade from now is anyone’s guess. It’s impossible to predict whether another hurricane will devastate the area, or at what point insurance companies might balk at the risk.

Meanwhile, not everyone wants to discuss the notion of long-term evacuation. There’s the prospect of plummeting home values, of the massive public and private costs. And there’s a decidedly human factor: Some people don’t want to leave the places they call home, come hell or high water.

“People think that everywhere we live has always been there, and that’s just not true,” Prof. Wanless says. “Every community is so afraid of facing the reality that you have to move on some day, and honestly plan for it.”

Omar El Akkad reports on the United States for The Globe.

Kiss our beach goodbye?

Letter: Kiss our beach goodbye ...
Kiss our beach goodbye...
Posted: September 29, 2015 - 4:53pm

By Claude Vann
St. Augustine Record
Kiss our beach goodbye...

Editor: I have been reading a lot about the height variance for the new hotel on St. Augustine Beach.

Background: Some years back my in-laws, who gather at their condo in Myrtle Beach, S.C., broke out some old 8mm movies of the beachfront where their condo now sits. You could see for miles in either direction: nothing but beach. That was in 1976 when they bought their condo pre-construction.

Fast forward to today. Looking north and south from the condo now (a three story complex), all you can see is high-rise hotels and resorts.

The once pristine view of the shoreline is now gone forever. After the corporations got permission to build huge hotel/resort buildings, some 20 to 30 stories high, those became the standard, and Myrtle Beach is now almost completely obscured for all but the ones with access to the beachfront properties.

The traffic in and around Myrtle Beach has become a nightmare, comparable to Orlando or Atlanta. There is barely a square inch of property that isn’t developed or under development.

I fear that St. Augustine Beach will suffer this same fate if limits are allowed to be changed — regardless of the reasons.

The hotel says the Feds require the base to be elevated.


Then the hotel should revise its design to be a two-story versus a three-story so the height restriction is in compliance.

Myrtle Beach is a prime example of “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile!”

If the restrictions are violated — legally or not — St. Augustinians can kiss the beautiful beach goodbye!

St. Augustine

Interesting RFK Quote -- What do you reckon?

St. Augustine Residents Matter -- Open Letter to the People of St. Augustine

Open Letter: to the residents of St Augustine

St Augustine Residents Count
Lee Geanuleas
Deborah Geanuleas
Chris Emerick
Christina Emerick
Judy Fox-Fliesser
Jeff Fliesser
Michele Bova
David Lowther
Jean McDowell
Blake Souder
Suzy Fay
Judith Seraphin
Given the City Commission’s approval of the Cordova Inn PUD (aka Dow PUD) on August 24th, there will be a hotel and tavern in the city’s most restrictive residential zoning district, HP-1.
To the HP-1 residents and supporters who worked so hard to convince the Commission not to approve the commercial-use PUD, we share your disappointment with this decision — not because there will be one more hotel serving tourists, but because, in our opinion, St. Augustine’s Comprehensive Plan, visioning process, and zoning ordinance protections, appear to have been disregarded by the very people elected to defend and implement them.
Of the many individuals who made public comment at the August 24th hearing, 65% spoke against the rezoning for a commercial-use hotel.
Those who spoke in opposition were also actual residents within the city limits.
For residents opposed to this decision to change our city’s zoning ordinance, an appeal could be made to the Judicial Circuit Court of Florida; however, the appeal process is not in the best interests of the city we all love.
Faith that the current Commission will uphold zoning, respect planning and implement a long-term vision, has been seriously undermined.
Without change, there will be similar decisions. Given this reality, there will be a refocus toward potential political support for community-based planning and zoning for the long-term health and vitality of all of St. Augustine.
Thank you to the private citizens who have reached out during this process and have expressed ongoing support for the preservation of residential neighborhoods. Together, we are several hundred strong and growing. May our voices be heard.
For the future, “Protect HP-1” has a new name. We will be known as “St Augustine Residents Count”.
Want to get involved? Please e-mail your contact information to:
You can also join our public facebook group, “St Augustine Residents Count“.
Together we can make a difference for our city.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015



C. Wright Mills taught how interesting it is to watch competing groups of people who reckon themselves "elite."
Last year, two close friends and running club buddies of St. Augustine City Manager (a/k/a "Minister of Propaganda") JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E. ran for City Commission.
One, TODD DAVID NEVILLE ran against third-generation Florida construction contractor JOHN VALDES. NEVILLE is now the louche laughingstock of St. Augustine, having demanded filing of a defamation lawsuit against another online news journal with city funds, and blocking efforts for an audit of 450th contracting, both breaches of fiduciary duty.
The other, former Planning and Zoning Chair GRANT MISTERLY, ran against NANCY SIKES-KLINE and was defeated. REGAN said of the two that they were "not evil" at the time, but both are now regarded as among the most pro-developer persons ever to serve on City boards in the 20th century.
Recently, a pollster asked St. Augustine voters if they supported MISTERLY for Mayor (in addition to Commissioner LEANNA FREEMAN, ex-Council on Aging Director Cathy Brown, community activists Lee Geanuleas and Patricia Riley).
GRANT MISTERLY's 2014 City Commission website now oddly has a 2015 copyright date on it, and he attended the September 28, 2015 City Commission budget meeting, sitting next to Marlene Piriz et ux; Ms. Piriz et ux were a dogged, data-free emotional supporters of the controversial DOW PUD (CORDOVA INN) and ironically they were among those who last night rightfully and righteously complained about flooding and sewage spills, which could be exacerbated by the CORDOVA INN and could prevent the CORDOVA INN from ever being opened.
Watching St. Augustine JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E. attempt to wield a political machine is funny, like watching a duck try to make love to a football, in the immortal words of LBJ.
REGAN publicly says his mentors were former City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRIS (a/k/a "WILL HARASS") and former Mayor CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR. (LEN WEEKS, destroyer of DON PEDRO FORNELLS HOUSE, under investigation by Florida DBPR for violations of construction licensing conditions).


1. St. Augustine City Commissioner TODD DAVID NEVILLE caused St. Augustine City Commissioner ISABELLE CHRISTINE LOPEZ to issue a demand for "retraction" on September 8, 2015 to Michael Gold and Historic City News, a website.
2. That demand was predicated upon having an "opinion" from the Ethics Commission.
3. No such opinion has ever issued by the Commission.
4. Emboldened and empowered by the false claim of a non-existent Ethics Commission "opinion," NEVILLE proceeded to demand that the City Commission authorize, join and fund his private lawsuit for "defamation," with no public benefit, doing so openly and notoriously in Commissioner comments at the September 14, 2015 City Commission meeting.
5. NEVILLE caused Ms. LOPEZ to perform research and consume official time and resources on his private libel lawsuit.
6. Ms. Lopez concluded NEVILLE's demand was improper as a violation of the First Amendment, Florida Constitution Article VII, Section 10 and City Charter Section 4.19, in a memo that was dated (possibly backdated) September 25, 2015.
7. On September 28, 2015 at the St. Augustine City Commission meeting, NEVILLE withdrew his demand.
8. NEVILLE did not apologize for the violation of First Amendment rights and waste of City official time, or the unethical conduct of seeking to make his private grievance a matter of public financial investment.
9. NEVILLE did not reimburse, or offer to reimburse, the City of St. Augustine for misusing official time for a matter that the City Attorney rightly concluded was "personal" to him, and not City business, in violation of state ethics laws, the First Amendment, Article VII, Section 10 of the Florida Constitution and Florida Statute 768.295, "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) prohibited."

City of St. Augustine

TO: Mayor and City Commissioners

DATE: September 25, 2015

RE: Information regarding defamation and City expenses.
• Description of Defamation
Defamation is an intentional false communication that injures another’s reputation or good name. Defamation can either be written (known as libel) or verbal (known as slander). Defamation is not a constitutionally protected activity, in contrast to freedom of speech or freedom of the press.

• Burden of Proof and Standard of Proof
In a lawsuit claiming defamation of a public official, the plaintiff (the public official) has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the defamatory statement was (1) a statement of fact, (2) which was false, and (3) made with ‘actual malice’—that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. This is a very high burden. The defamatory words must be read in the context of the entire publication and in light of what a reasonable person would have understood it to mean. Opinion, criticism, rhetorical hyperbole or vigorous epithet (a descriptive word used to characterize someone) is not in itself defamation. New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1964); Coleman v. Collins, 384 So.2d 229 (Fla. 4th DCA 1980); Zorc v. Jordan, 765 So.2d 768 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000).

• Expenditure of City Funds
Section 10 of Article VII of the Florida Constitution prohibits the City from giving, lending or using its taxing power or credit to aid any person. Chapter 166.021, Florida Statutes, states that it is the intent of the state legislature to extend to municipalities the exercise of powers for “municipal governmental, corporate or proprietary purposes.” In practical terms this has been interpreted to mean that public funds cannot be expended unless it is for a municipal public purpose. Individuals may receive some incidental benefit, but the primary purpose of the undertaking must be for a public purpose. Poe v. Hillsborough County, 695 So. 2d 672, 676-77 (Fla. 1997); N. Palm Beach County Water Control Dist. v. State, 604 So. 2d 440, 442 (Fla. 1992); Orange County Indep. Dev. Auth. v. State, 427 So. 2d 174 (Fla. 1983); O'Neill v. Burns, 198 So. 2d 1 (Fla. 1967); State v. North Miami, 59 So.2d 779, 785 (Fla.1952). Defamation, by its very nature, is a personal tort, or wrong, against the good reputation of another individual. In a lawsuit for defamation, the plaintiff would not be the City of St. Augustine, but the individual who is claiming to have suffered the damage to his reputation. If the lawsuit was successful, the judgment for damages would be paid to that individual. Pursuant to section 4.19 of the City Charter, the City Attorney shall act as legal advisor to the municipality and all of its officers in matters relating to their official duties, however, the City Attorney can only prosecute and defend lawsuits, “in which the city is a party.” It is estimated that outside attorney’s fees for taking the case through to jury trial would be approximately $55,000.00.

Note-passing School Board Attorney: "None of your business."

Earlier this month, at a School Board meeting, congenital corporate lawyer FRANK M. UPCHURCH, III represents the School Board and developers; he passed a note to developer mouthpiece ELLEN AVERY-SMITH, who laughed.
Both corporate lawyers say it's not school board business, and indeed, UPCHURCH a/k/a "UPCHUCK" says it's"none of my business."
I don't think the School Board needs a lawyer who passes notes to developer lawyers and tries to hide them from the press and public.
It's our money.
We don't need School Board lawyers with conflicts of interests.
Wbat do you reckon?

-----Original Message-----
From: easlavin
To: fdupchurch
Cc: Emily.Serrano ; thomasfreynolds2 ; joynerj ; pcanan ; eaverysmith
Sent: Tue, Sep 29, 2015 11:12 am
Subject: Re: Request No. 2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting

Just saw this pitiful, mewling response. As William F. Buckley, Jr. once asked, "Why does baloney reject the grinder?" You stinketh on ice.

-----Original Message-----
From: Frank Upchurch
To: easlavin
Cc: Emily.Serrano ; thomasfreynolds2 ; joynerj ; pcanan ; eaverysmith
Sent: Mon, Sep 14, 2015 4:29 pm
Subject: RE: Request No. 2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting

Mr Slavin, I am disappointed that you will not take me at my word that the note was not a public record. I reiterate that the note had to do with a separate, private matter completely unrelated to the School Board or its interests as they relate to development or developers. The note was and is none of your business.

Your insinuations about my integrity are baseless and irresponsible. I will have nothing further to say about the matter.

Frank D. Upchurch III
Upchurch, Bailey & Upchurch, PA
Post Office Drawer 3007
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3007
Telephone # (904) 829-9066
Fax # (904) 825-4862

From: []
Sent: Monday, September 14, 2015 3:17 PM
To:; Frank Upchurch
Subject: Re: Request No. 2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting

1. Please identify the client and the case.

2. Please provide the note by PDF. Now.

3. Does the note still exist?

4. If so, please preserve the note pendente lite.

Thank you.

-----Original Message-----
From: easlavin
To: Emily.Serrano ; thomasfreynolds2 ; joynerj ; pcanan
Sent: Mon, Sep 14, 2015 2:59 pm
Subject: Re: Request No. 2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting
I so not believe the school board lawyer should represent developers. What do you reckon?

-----Original Message-----
From: Emily C. Serrano
To: easlavin
Sent: Mon, Sep 14, 2015 2:16 pm
Subject: RE: Request No. 2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting
Dear Mr. Slavin,

While Mr. Upchurch is retained by the School Board to provide counsel, it is not unusual for him to address other issues or individuals during a School Board meeting. When he provided the note to Ms. Avery it was done during the rewards and recognitions portion of the board meeting on Thursday, September 10 which does not require counsel from Mr. Upchurch. He has also stated below that the note regarded an unrelated private client Ms. Smith is representing that does not involve the School Board, and Dr. Joyner respectfully takes him at his word.

For your reference School Board Rules can be found by accessing this link


Last week, I asked for a copy of the note that passed by School Board and developer lawyer FRANK UPCHURCH III (UPCHURCH, BAILEY & UPCHURCH) to developer lawyer ELLEN AVERY-SMITH (ROGERS TOWERS) during the September 10, 2015 School Board meeting, right before public. I was told it was not about school board business. What's going on here?
Whenever students would pass notes when we were in school, some teachers would seize them and read them. Inspired by those teachers, I have requested the note. I have not yet received it yet. (See below)
The note passing and sequelae raise a question: Why do we have a part-time School Board attorney from a law firm that represents developers and banks? Here's the UPCHURCH, BAILEY AND UPCHURCH client list:

A. D. Davis Construction Company, Inc.
American Culinary Federation, Inc.
Atlantic Dodge Chrysler Jeep, Inc.
Harbor Community Bank (formerly Bank of St. Augustine)
Barnacle Bills, Inc.
Bozard Ford Co.
Camachee Cove Yacht Harbour
DiMare Construction Company
TD Bank (formerly First Federal Bank of North Florida)
Flagler College, Inc. (General Counsel)
Flagler Hospital, Inc.
Hastings Drainage District
Lightner Museum
Maguire Land Corp.
Marine Supply & Oil Company, Inc.
Ameris Bank (formerly Prosperity Bank - General Counsel)
Ring Power Corporation
Sleiman Development Group
Southeast Aero Services, Inc.
St. Augustine Alligator Farm, Inc.
St. Johns County School Board (General Counsel)
St. Johns County Tax Collector
St. Johns County Welfare Federation, Inc.
The Bailey Group
ThompsonBaker Agency, Inc.
University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (General Counsel)
Wiles Family of Companies, Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From: easlavin
To: joynerj
Cc: fdupchurch ; eaverysmith ; pcanan ; thomasfreynolds2 ; pat.gleason ; sunshine
Sent: Fri, Sep 11, 2015 10:32 am
Subject: Request No. 2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting

Dear Dr. Joyner:
1. Please direct your counsel, Mr. Upchurch, to share the note passed during the 9/10 School Board meeting.
2. What School Board policies exist about your counsel giving his/her full attention to Board matters during meetings?
3. What School Board policies exist about avoiding, detecting and deterring conflicts of interest by outside counsel (e.g., representing developers?)
Thank you.
Ed Slavin

-----Original Message-----
From: easlavin
To: fdupchurch ; eaverysmith
Cc: sunshine ; sceastman ; judgelitt10 ; pcanan ; jimwil03 ; news ; thomasfreynolds2 ; pat.gleason ; craig.richardson ; sheldon.gardner ; jim.sutton ; delinda.fogel ; joynerj ; gardner ; stuart.korfhage ; jake.martin ; Pat.Gleason
Sent: Fri, Sep 11, 2015 10:28 am
Subject: Re: Request No. 2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting

Dear Mr. Upchurch:
1. Please respond to the rest of my e-mail.
2. Please share the secret note that you passed to the developer lawyer from Rogers Towers 9/10 about your developer legal business.
3. Then we'll be done.
Thank you.
Ed Slavin

-----Original Message-----
From: Frank Upchurch <>
To: easlavin <>; eaverysmith <>
Cc: sunshine <>; sceastman <>; judgelitt10 <>; pcanan <>; jimwil03 <>; news <>; thomasfreynolds2 <>; pat.gleason <>; craig.richardson <>; sheldon.gardner <>; jim.sutton <>; delinda.fogel <>; joynerj < joynerj@stjohns.k12.flus>; gardner <>; stuart.korfhage <>; jake.martin <>
Sent: Fri, Sep 11, 2015 10:16 am
Subject: Re: Request No.2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting

As to your 1st point , there was a typo I my earlier email. The matter does NOT involve the School Board in any way. Beyond that, I assure you my note did not comment on anyone, much less mock anyone at meeting or otherwise.

Sent from Outlook

Sent: Friday, September 11, 2015 10:00 AM
Subject: Re: Request No.2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting
To: <>, Frank Upchurch <>
Cc: <>, <>, <>, <>, <>, <>, <>, <>, <>, <>, <>, <>, < joynerj@stjohns.k12.flus>, <>, <>, <>

Dear Ms. Smith and Mr. Upchurch:
1. School Board Attorney Frank Upchurch III admits in haec verba that this "does involve the School Board in any way." Ipse dixit.
2. Which private client?
3. On what matter?
4. Why did developer attorney Ellen Avery-Smith laugh?
5. Please share the note.
6. Kindly ask your private client(s) to waive any privilege in your 9/10 note-passing.
7. There is a long custom in the City of St. Augustine of immature City staff city members talking, laughing and mocking public comment speakers.
8. Your actions might have given a similar impression to observers, coming before public comment. Please do not chill free speech rights. See 42 U.S.C. 1983.
9. In the future, our School Board attorney (and his corporate law firm) should not be representing developers.
10. It is an appearance of impropriety and possible conflict of interest given the Board's alleged failure to make developers pay their fair share of new school costs caused by rapid overbuilding of new developments in our County.
11. In the future, the School Board attorney position might grow into a full-time job, or else into an elected full-time position. This might solve that problem.
12. What do you reckon?
Ed Slavin

-----Original Message-----
From: Ellen Avery-Smith <>
To: Frank Upchurch <>; easlavin <>
Cc: pcanan <>; joynerj < joynerj@stjohns.k12.flus>
Sent: Fri, Sep 11, 2015 8:32 am
Subject: RE: Request No.2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting

Frank is correct.


Ellen Avery-Smith | Shareholder

Rogers Towers, P.A. | 100 Whetstone Place, Suite 200 | St. Augustine, Florida 32086
Direct 904.825.1615 | Fax 904.825.4070 | |

From: Frank Upchurch []
Sent: Friday, September 11, 2015 8:07 AM
Cc:; Ellen Avery-Smith; joynerj@stjohns.k12.flus
Subject: RE: Request No.2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting

Ed, the note was not a public record. It had nothing with the School Board or School Board business. It had to do with an unrelated private client Ellen is representing in a matter that does involve the School Board in any way. Ellen will confirm.

Frank D. Upchurch III
Upchurch, Bailey & Upchurch, PA
Post Office Drawer 3007
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3007
Telephone # (904) 829-9066
Fax # (904) 825-4862

From: []
Sent: Thursday, September 10, 2015 5:31 PM
To:; joynerj@stjohns.k12.flus; Frank Upchurch
Subject: Request No.2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting

Request No.2015-330: Note passed by School Board attorney to Ellen Avery Smith during 9/10 School Board meeting while Tom Reynolds was speaking.

Please send. Thank you

Monday, September 28, 2015



Does being TODD DAVID NEVILLE mean never having to say you're sorry?  At tonight's City Commission meeting, Commissioner NEVILLE dropped his surly September 14, 2015 demand to have the City pay for his fantasy libel lawsuit, but never apologized for misusing City staff.

No Commissioner spoke out in favor of the First Amendment.

But ex-Mayor JOE BOLES' ex-speechwriter, two-faced NANCY SIKES-KLINE, urged adoption of a "civility code" to cabin free speech rights (but not Commissioner hatefulness toward public participation).  Pitiful. Sinful.  Criminal.  Tortious Behavior.

Watch here (Agenda item 11).

Read Record article, here:

St. Augustine Commissioner drops lawsuit plans

St. Augustine Commissioner drops lawsuit plans
Posted: September 28, 2015 - 11:48pm


Commissioner Todd Neville formally scrapped plans on Monday to seek a defamation lawsuit through the city of St. Augustine over an article on a local news site.

Neville cited a memo from City Attorney Isabelle Lopez that indicated public money couldn’t be used for the suit.

“Isabelle and I went through this today. There are two statements in ... expenditure of city funds that cause a problem with moving forward with this. Basically the issue is the city could not be tied as a co-plaintiff in it, which basically ties our hands to not being able to legally move forward with it.”

Neville said later he has not considered pursuing the lawsuit on his own.

The idea came after Michael Gold, editor of Historic City News, wrote that Neville had a “direct, undisclosed financial conflict of interest” related to a hearing for The Cordova Inn rezoning. The City Commission voted to rezone the former Dow Museum of Historic Houses to allow for development of The Cordova Inn.

The article focused on Neville and how he had received campaign contributions from the developer and others during his 2014 commission run but did not disclose the information at the commission meeting when the Dow vote was taken.

Neville said that was not required because the information is on the Supervisor of Elections website. Neville, through the city, got a Florida Commission on Ethics opinion that supported him and unsuccessfully sought a retraction from Gold.

When Gold refused, Neville pursued the lawsuit.

At a previous commission meeting, Neville asked the commissioners to consider filing the suit, saying the article suggested he broke the law. Commissioners asked Lopez to get more information on defamation. She provided the details in a memo along with information about spending public money for the suit, which would have been a lawsuit with Neville as the plaintiff.

According to a memo she prepared, “Pursuant to section 4.19 of the City Charter, the city attorney shall act as legal advisor to the municipality and all of its officers in matters relating to their official duties; however, the city attorney can only prosecute and defend lawsuits ‘in which the city is a party.’ Also public funds must be used for some public purpose.

The memo also estimated outside attorneys fees would be about $55,000 for taking the case “through to jury trial.”

The commission’s discussion lasted about 10 minutes and included whether commissioners should give broader disclosure at public hearings.

Mayor Nancy Shaver asked if commissioners wanted to pursue higher standards when they publicly disclose whom they have spoken with on certain issues before voting on them. Overall, commissioners supported the idea.

Commissioner Leanna Freeman asked whether commissioners so far had been living up to disclosure requirements.

“I would prefer a little more disclosure,” Lopez said, adding that she understands sometimes commissioners aren’t always able to remember, or write down, all the details of private conversations.

Lopez said the point of the disclosure is to give applicants due process. For instance, an applicant might want to question information a commissioner was given from someone before the meeting.


City commissioners unanimously approved a more than $58 million dollar budget at a special meeting on Monday night.

The budget total includes transfers within city funds. Without transfers, the budget is more than $48 million, said Meredith Breidenstein, deputy director of the city’s finance department. The millage rate is still 7.5 mills, which equals $7.50 per $1,000 of taxable property value.

Commissioners also approved a series of other measures that will reduce residential garbage service to once per week in November and provide city customers with 65-gallon recycling cartons. Commissioners also voted to increase the electric utility service tax from 8 to 10 percent and adopt a new utility rate structure.


City Manager John Regan also kicked off discussion about developing a mobility master plan for the city. Part of the discussion included alternatives for the intersections around May Street and San Marco Avenue.

The Florida Department of Transportation has presented several ideas to the public, two of which are being considered as viable options: Adding a westbound left turn lane on San Carlos Avenue at U.S. 1, and making San Carlos Avenue and Dismukes Street both one-way roads.

Regan recommended the city support the one-way pairing option. The Florida Department of Transportation wants a formal recommendation from the city in October to move forward with the project.

The city plans to host public meetings to get feedback.

PearlOfWisdom 09/29/15 - 10:11 am 10Utter nonsense!
Neville is an idiot! So glad he does not represent me. He had no problems spending County dollars on a frivolous case...but dropped the idea like a hot potato when he had to pay out f his own pocket.

He needs to be voted out office next election. If he isn't willing to treat taxpayer dollars with the same consideration as his own money, he needs to find other work.

TOAD NEVILLE must reimburse the City for wasted staff time on this frolic of his own, or else face possible state and federal investigations, civil and criminal.