Thursday, July 21, 2016

SAB Violates First Amendment Rights (AGAIN)

Do we need to sue the City of St. Augustine Beach to assure compliance with constitutional rights?
What do you reckon?
UPDATE: No response to this e-mail yet.

See followup e-mail, below.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Slavin
To: comrobrien ; comugeorge ; commengland ; comsgsnodgrass ; comasamuels
Sent: Thu, Jul 21, 2016 11:28 am
Subject: Public Comment Rights Must Be Respected by City of St. Augustine Beach, Florida
Dear Mayor O'Brien, Vice Mayor George and Commissioners:
1. Please vote to add public comment at the beginning of the July 25 & 28, 2016 "Special" Meetings of the City of St. Augustine Beach Commission and all future "special" meetings.
2. Your July 11, 2016 regular meeting was scheduled with a direct scheduling conflict with the regular meeting of the City of St. Augustine Commission. Why? Please end such schedule conflicts. Therefore, I was unable to attend your July 11, 2016 regular meeting because of this created conflict. Thus, I was unable to respond to what took place at the June 30, 2016 Special Meeting. The next regular meeting of the St. Augustine Beach City Commission is not until August 1, 2016.
3. No public comment was ever allowed at the June 30, 2016 "special" joint meeting on Land Development Regulations (LDRs) with PZB and the Tree Board until 200 minutes had elapsed, except that a favored local architect (sitting next to Mr. Robert Samuels, Commissioner Andrea Samuels' spouse) was singled out for favoritism and spoke without interruption at the specific request of Commissioner Snodgrass for some 30 minutes. The meeting was facilitated by Ms. Lindsay Haga, an employee of England, Thims & Miller (which works for developers), a firm hired by the Northeast Florida Regional Council as part of its contract giving advice on land development regulations to the City of St. Augustine Beach. This appearance of impropriety and conflict of interest was exacerbated by suppression of our public comment rights, denying "We the People" our right to speak on the 35 foot height limit.
4. Not one of you City of St. Augustine Beach City Commissioners even bothered to inquire or speak up in favor of our constitutional rights to equality of public comment. Why? I handed in a public comment form but it was ignored; thus I was forbidden to speak on desuetude of enforcement of the City Charter's voter-approved 35 foot building height limit during that discussion, then I was limited to only three minutes to address every single land development regulation covered in a 200 minute meeting. Subjected to an illegal gag order, forbidden to speak in public comment, several citizens left early: several appeared to be disgusted with your conduct of the "special" meeting. (You did not make citizens feel "special.")
Without any explanation or apology, SAB PZB Chair Jane West yet again quietly left a "special" LDR meeting early, after less than an hour. If she does it again, please appoint another PZB chair who is willing to work with you on LDR reform and will support citizen participation. The City Attorney also quietly left the meeting early, after several hours, but before public comment. Please direct him to attend all meetings, gavel-to-gavel: that is his job. Meanwhile, not one of the PZB or Tree Board members spoke out for our rights, either.
5. This viewpoint discrimination in allowing only one favored local architect to speak on the 35 foot height limit controversy was outrageous, intentional, invidious discrimination without basis in law, violating rights under the First, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, as guaranteed by 42 U.S.C. 1983.
6. After 200 minutes, you St. Augustine Beach City Commissioners finally allowed time for public comment, although public comment was allowed at prior workshops and special meetings. Who among you decided that we would have to wait for 200 minutes? Who was consulted? Was this decision made in the Sunshine?
7. After 200 minutes, I spoke in support of LDR consideration for Pier Park and how to effect the current decrepit Pier's replacement. I was rudely interrupted by Commissioner Andrea Samuels talking to a PZB member. I then spoke in favor of the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore. Then I was insulted by Mr. Robert Samuels, spouse of Commissioner Andrea Samuels, complete with childish body language, stating that there would never be a National Park and Seashore and would never be a civil rights museum in honor of the 1964 civil rights "wade-ins" in St. Augustine Beach commenced by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and UN Ambassador Andrew Young at the then-segregated Pier Park.
8. Not one of you City Commissioners spoke of "civility" at that time, and my efforts to respond to Mr. Robert Samuels' misguided attack fell on five pairs of insouciant ears.
9. From now on, kindly honor public comment rights in every single meeting, regardless of whether you call it "special" or not. Please vote on this issue, and do not defer to the City Manager or Mayor to determine when the First Amendment and public comment rights will be respected.
10. Stop violating American citizens' constitutional rights with unAmerican activities such as those described in this e-mail, and in my June 15, 2016 police report on the City's intimidation of Mr. Robert Kahler, involving possible criminal Sunshine violations (illegal use of "polling" or use of Mr. Robert Samuels as an intermediary).
11. Please halt the abusiveness, as was brandished by both Mr. Samuels and then-Mayor Samuels last year, during consideration of a no-bid $1/year lease for the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, when obnoxious behavior by SABCA members was significantly encouraged by Mr. & Mrs. Samuels (who recused herself from voting but did not step down from presiding, yet another shocking display of bad judgment).
12. Mr. Samuels has attacked one of the St. Augustine Beach Commissioners for being a "lesbian," both publicly and privately. Mr. Samuels is a cheap-shot bully, acting in concert with the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, an I.R.C. 501c4 de facto political action committee dominated by Commissioner Samuels, et ux and SABCA President William Jones, a Sheriff's Department employee who has repeatedly abused the resources of St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR f/k/a "HOAR" for political purposes, including opposition research and campaigning in uniform.
13. Rude, rebarbative racist homophobe Robert Samuel's hostility and heckling permeates nearly every single meeting of the City of St. Augustine Beach. It creates a hostile working environment for citizens exercising our First and Ninth Amendment rights.
14. Please direct Mr. Robert Samuels to stop the heckling. Or else stop lecturing any other citizens about "civility."
15. Please cease and desist from all future violations of our precious constitutional Sunshine, Open Records and Public Comment rights.
16. Please cease and desist from allowing SABCA and SABPD to intimidate First Amendment protected activity, as they did in the case of State of Florida v. William Rosenstock -- that is not their job.
17. Otherwise, do not be surprised by future filing of complaints or litigation over your creation and tolerance of a hostile working environment and denial of equal public comment rights. 

18. Allowing NO public comment during lengthy discussion on evasions of the voter-mandated 35 foot height limit at the June 30, 2016 meeting, except for only one citizen -- a favored architect sitting next to Mr. Robert Samuels -- was lawbreaking: you must remedy it and apologize for it. Now.
Herein faileth not.
Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin

No response.  Here's my followup, addressed to City Clerk Beverly Raddatz
-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Slavin
To: braddatz
Sent: Sat, Jul 23, 2016 8:33 pm
Subject: Re: Public Comment Rights Must Be Respected by City of St. Augustine Beach, Florida; Request No. 2016-310
Dear Ms. Raddatz:
1. Please provide a link to any meeting minutes where St. Augustine Beach City Commissioners ever voted to deny general public comment at "special meetings."
2. IF any elected or appointed city official ever again departs a meeting early, please be sure to note the time and the reason given, if any, in the minutes.
3. Neither PZB Chair Jane West nor City Attorney James Patrick Wilson nor anyone else should ever again leave any meeting, without being excused and first explaining a bona fide business reason for absenting themselves from the meeting early. Both are lawyers. Both should know better. This is professional courtesy for any lawyer and for any elected or appointed official. In particular, Ms. Jane West has left several of the LDR meetings after less than one hour, without explanation, depriving the people of her considerable expertise and experience in land use and zoning laws. If she ever does it again, expect complaints and calls for her resignation.
4. IF anyone in any official capacity ever interrupts a public comment speaker again, please place this fact in the minutes, whether the interrupter is elected or not, e.g., Andrea Samuels or Robert Samuels. In the ungrammatical words of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, "This is something up with which [we] should not have to put." Public comment speakers are already cabined to only three minutes -- not five minutes, as in other jurisdiction. Some public commenters are evidently deemed "more equal" than others, like the favored architect friend of the Samuels, who was allowed to speak for 30 minutes at the June 30, 2016 LDR meeting, while other citizens were forced to wait 200 minutes to speak. This is unconstitutional.
5. Habitual incivility by certain officials in St. Augustine Beach City Hall is unacceptable and must be noted accurately in the minutes.
6. The City of St. Augustine Beach must no longer be run as a dictatorship, showing favoritism toward developers and wealthy people.
7. The City of St. Augustine Beach must no longer create a "hostile working environment" for First Amendment protected activity.
8. The City of St. Augustine Beach must no longer abuse police powers to chill First Amendment protected activity. See State of Florida v. Wm. Rosenstock.
9. Enough incivility from uncivil, unkind, uncouth officials, who too often brandish unconstitutional behavior.
10. Such misbehavior by City of St. Augustine Beach officials must be ended at once.
Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin

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