Saturday, January 25, 2020

Ed Slavin Sunday Guest Column | Commissioners’ push to install Conrad as administrator seems fishy. (SAR)

This afternoon, I telephoned all five of our County Commissioners asking them to move to reconsider this decision, which sets back progress in St. Johns County 50 years.

This item was not on the agenda of the January 21, 2020 St. Johns County Commission meeting -- the only thing on the agenda was discussion of a national search.  The PowerPoint presentation was not in the agenda book or on the County's website, and was not supplied after I asked for it in general public comment at the beginning of the meeting, 

While three misguided citizens arrived to support a decision that was not on the agenda, the public was not involved in the decision.

I alone went to the podium and asked Commissioners not to violate EEO, Sunshine and Open Records laws by this decision.  Commissioners ignored my concerns.  They broke the law.

When I asked for public comment on the motion that was not on the agenda, I was sent away from the podium by Chairman Jeb Smith, without even a vote of Commissionerfs.

Fellow citizens, I would appreciate your help with swift remedies for the illegal hiring of Hunter Conrad, an elected official, as permanent St. Johns County Administrator in violation of Sunshine, Open Records and civil rights laws. 

1. My January 22, 2020 blog post and St. Augustine Record article on illegal permanent County Administrator hiring decision at January 21, 2020 Board of County Commissioners meeting are here:

2. January 21, 2020 Board of County Commissioners meeting 

agenda is here -- see Item 7  (national search, not permanent hire)

meeting video is here:
A. Item 7 (national search, not permanent hire), and comments I made during subsequent items.
B. I spoke in general public comment on concealment of PowerPoint on national search (Item 7). 
C. my comments during later items, after Item 7.

3.  I would greatly appreciate your thoughts. 

4.  Below is my Sunday Record OpEd column. 

Guest Column | Commissioners’ push to install Conrad as administrator seems fishy
By Ed Slavin, St. Augustine
Posted at 5:01 PM
January 25, 2020

It happened in America, in St. Johns County, Florida, which Dr. King called “the most lawless place in America” on the day after the MLK birthday celebration.

Jan. 21, 2020, is a date that will live in infamy.

Five Republican St. Johns County Commissioners voted to bestow our County Administrator’s position as a political patronage plum, to their longtime family friend, Hunter Conrad.

The County Administrator position was neither posted nor advertised. Wonder why?

Hiring a permanent County Administrator was not on the agenda.

Commissioners rudely, crudely rejected any search or advertising.

A cabal of (white male) Republican county commissioners relied upon word-of-mouth, illegally hiring another Republican elected official in a position for which he does not meet minimum qualifications.

EEOC must investigate. Now.

This hiring decision does not pass the “laugh test,” or the “smell test.”

Our Florida Constitution, Sunshine laws, and County ordinances were violated.

On recruitment, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission websites states it’s “illegal for an employer to recruit new employees in a way that discriminates against them because of their race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. For example, an employer’s reliance on word-of-mouth recruitment by its mostly Hispanic work force may violate the law if the result is that almost all new hires are Hispanic.”

Commissioners’ “word-of-mouth recruitment” rejects and insults every single qualified person who might have applied. Not one woman or minority candidate was considered. This decision stinks.

EEOC states that it’s “illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant” in recruiting. “For example, an employer may not refuse to give employment applications to people of a certain race. An employer may not base hiring decisions on stereotypes and assumptions about a person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

Commissioners shared stereotypes and assumptions against hiring “outsiders.” Commissioner Paul Waldron admitted that he did not want to hire anyone from California to run “my county.” One speaker bragged about Conrad’s religious beliefs.

Religion or political affiliation are not bona fide occupational qualifications.

In his 1998 cover letter, former county employee Cory “Duke” Mara, who later ran for elected office, touted both his religion and political affiliation.

Irish-Americans once encountered signs stating, “No Irish need apply.” Commissioners have signaled that women and minorities are unwelcome in their top job.

Sole surviving son of a widow, my father volunteered for the 82nd Airborne the day after Pearl Harbor, at age 28. My mom and dad taught me to speak out against injustice, just as JFK’s dad taught him: You must stand up to people with power or they walk all over you. In that spirit, I worked to win victories for whistleblowers and other employment discrimination victims.

Commissioners later agreed that the negotiation meeting between Chairman Jeb Smith and Mr. Conrad will be open to the public under the Sunshine law. That’s small consolation for blatant government lawbreaking.

Enough louche lawbreaking here in my county. If hindsight is 20/20, we should find it all the more unreasonable if this unjust decision stands. A right without a remedy is simply a suggestion.

As our City’s namesake, Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote: “An unjust law is no law at all.”

Ed Slavin is a local citizen activist.

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