Sunday, May 17, 2020

After 15 years, St. Augustine Beach City garage retrieved from illegal, no-bid, $1/year PAC's lease; deal was violating zoning laws

Congratulations to St. Augustine Beach Police and St. Johns County Ocean Rescue on their new building, adjoining the bocci courts at St. Augustine Beach, bordering St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier Park.  The garage will help store vehicles and equipment needed to protect human lives and enforce COVID-19 "social distancing" at our beach.  Three cheers for St. Augustine Beach City Commissioners, who finally saw the light about the sleazy, illegal, no-bid lease with the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, a dodgy 501c4 that once behaved like Republican Lords of All It Surveys.

Congratulations to everyone involved including Chief Robert Hardwick and Commander Thomas Ashlock.

We, the People have liberated the building from a small group of willful men (and one nasty woman) who wanted to hold on to it in the face of no longer needing it -- "dogs in the manger."

Capsule history lesson: Clear-cutting, corrupt developer control of St. Johns County involved:
  • One party Republican misrule, 1998-date;
  • Eliminating single-member districts for County Commission, violating 15th Amendment;
  • Sheriff NEIL PERRY and his wife SYD's "ISSUES GROUP," with Jacksonville developers choosing our Commissioners
  • Hiring unqualified County Administrators based on politics (BENJAMIN ADAMS, MICHAEL DAVID WANCHICK and HUNTER CONRAD);
  • St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, a thinly-disguised PAC used to elect subpar politicians. 

I've often written about all of these problems.

But on Monday, May 4, 2020, one of the SABCA satraps appeared and was rejected when it demanded continuation of an illegal, no-bid, $1/year lease of government property in violation of local zoning laws.

It happened at St. Augustine Beach City Hall, on May 4, 2018, during COVID-19 social distancing.  Only three people stood between SABCA and its subsidy -- Thomas Reynolds, Merrill Paul Roland, and Ed Slavin (that would be me),  Over the years, concerned citizens, including Ms. Anne Palmquist, the late Robert Kahler, the late Robin Nadeau, former Mayor Edward George, P.E., his wife, Commissioner Undine George, et al. have raised concerns about SABCA's nature, structure, performance, finances, misbehavior, First Amendment violations, etc.  (See my May 2, 2020 letter below, unrequited).

Stolen property recovered: some 15 years ago, a thinly-disguised developer-coddling Political Action Committee commandeered the former St. Augustine Beach Police garage for its use, including storing the boats of its members and storing gear for its former Wednesday Market.

Thanks to Commissioner Undine George for her persistence about special privileges doled out to the poohbahs who preside at this pestilential PAC, the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, which made its mission First Amendment violations.  In discussion at the Monday May 4, 2020 City Commission meeting, she pointed out the "institutional" zoning for the property does not allow its use!   The vote was 5-0 not to renew the lease, sought by SABCA President William Jones.

Three cheers for St. Augustine Beach City Commissioners for working to restore the Rule of Law to a corrupt town long bossed and bullied by developers, who own the soul of certain officials.

No thanks to St. Augustine Record, for not reporting the news.  It's been thirteen (13) days, and I do not heavily mortgage my time for GANNETT to find the time to report local news any longer in the incredible shrinking St. Augustine Wreck-it.   (The Record editor and two reporters spent 2.5 hours with SABCA and an hour and a half with me several years ago, never obtaining SABCA financial records, and never producing a single story.  Two of the people who interviewed me about SABCA are Gone With the Wind, as is SABCA's sere influence over our beautiful beloved beach town.

Here's the May 3, 2020 e-mail I sent to St. Augustine Beach Commissioners and law enforcement on SABCA's belligerent cyber-stalking of citizen Thomas F. Reynolds:

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Slavin
Sent: Sun, May 3, 2020 12:47 pm
Subject: Re: Request No. 2020-162: Status of Proposed Presentation by Bill Jones, 5/4

Dear St. Augustine Beach Mayor England and Vice Mayor Kostka, Commissioners George, Samora and Rumrell, Messrs. Royle (City Manager) and Douglas (City Attorney), and Ms. Raddatz (City Clerk):

  1. Which (if any) St. Augustine Beach City Commissioner requested a presentation by fired former Sheriff's Civil Process Supervisor William Jones, at the May 4, 2020 City Commission meeting? Please send documents. 
  2. If the answer is "none," please provide any documents explaining why the presenter is listed as Bill Jones, not a City or County employee, and why the item is phrased in terms of "renewing" a garage lease whose original stated purpose (SABCA defunct Wednesday Market) no longer exists, thanks to the wisdom of St. Johns County Commission in requiring Requests for Proposals (RFP), with SABCA rated dead last, fourth of four.
  3. St. Augustine Beach Commission Civility Rules state: "Anger, rudeness, ridicule, impatience and lack of respect for others is unacceptable behavior. Demonstrations to support or oppose a speaker or idea, such as clapping, cheering, booing, hissing, or the use of intimidating body language are not permitted."
  4. Were these Civility Rules of the St. Augustine Beach Commission violated when SABCA cyber-stalked resident Thomas F. Reynolds in an effort to chill, coerce and intimidate his First Amendment protected activity, including ad hominem attacks on "a group of angry old white men," whom he claimed were anti-Semites? 
  5. Mr. Reynolds spoke eloquently on April 28, 2020 before St. Johns County Commission about saving lives, protecting public health, the coronavirus, and the impossibility of social distancing with dancing and drinking at SABCA's 1000+ attendee concerts at the pavilion at the St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier Park.  SABCA then retaliated with cyber-stalking.  See link and e-mail below.
  6. Have SABCA satraps often behaved immaturely and acted like bullies, treating St. Augustine Beach City Hall as its domain, even trying to silence critics and seeking special rights or privileges?  Yes.  
  7. Did Commission let SABCA get away with it?  Yes.
  8. At past St. Augustine Beach City Commission meetings, SABCA's self-selected perpetual "leaders," et al. perpetrated loud, raucous threatening behavior , breaching the peace, making citizens feel uncomfortable in the face of the "clamor of the crowd," including name-calling, booing, hooting and hollering, much of it by non-residents or commercial allies of SABCA, led by William Jones and Andrea and Robert Samuels.  Civility rules adopted in 2019 preclude recurrence of this reprehensible behavior.
  9. I was among SABCA tyrants' targets.
  10. I question SABCA being given special rights, or special treatment by Mr. Royle, who does SABCA's bidding. Has he have received from SABCA without proper gift reports several things of value (including a computer)?  (I have still not been given approval to make a presentation on the proposed civil rights museum for 1964 desegregation ocean wade-ins, or the proposed St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore, which chauvinistic SABCA VP Robert Samuels publicly and obnoxiously opposed in 2016).
  11. In the public interest of comity and courtesy, will Commissioners at the setting of the agenda at the beginning of the May 4 2020 meeting, please discuss whether or not the civility rules apply to SABCA, Mr. Jones and the Samuels, et al.?  
  12. Equal protection requires it.   
  13. Otherwise, does St. Augustine Beach intend to reward SABCA wrongdoers, again?
  14. SABCA that allowed unlicensed vendors who lacked food handling permits.
  15. SABCA cut the FSDB band from its concerts by e-mail, not even a telephone call, rejecting the deaf and blind secondary school students' participation without ever giving reasons or opportunity to be heard on appeal.
  16. SABCA charged vendors $3/week for parking in the County's Pier Park.
  17. SABCA refused to take SNAP payment, rejecting free equipment from the State of Florida, while allegedly making racist, white supremacist statements about not wanting people from West Augustine in their lily-white Wednesday Market.
  18. SABCA refused to pay the county for electricity.
  19. SABCA refused to pay the city for trash collection.
  20. SABCA failed to inform people that it was a 501c4 (not tax deductible) for years.
  21. SABCA procured the wrongful criminal prosecution of Mr. William Rosenstock, former St. Augustine Beach Code Enforcement Chair, in retaliation for his protected activity in reporting concerns.  After the arrest, was SABCA's Andrea Samuels overheard to say, "We got 'em!"
  22. SABCA attempted to forbid people to engage in other First Amendment protected activity, including campaigning by County Commissioner J. Kenneth Bryan.
  23. SABCA repeatedly blocked disabled parking spaces in front of the pavilion.
  24. A serial recidivist violator of the First Amendment and our Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, SABCA is also a thinly-disguised 501c4 PAC.
  25. SABCA has long abused the public trust to keep its finances secret and to advance developers and political causes and candidates, including that of SABCA founder Andrea Samuels. 
  26. In 2016, SABCA planned a sham "candidate forum," at St. Augustine Beach City Hall Commission meeting room, to be televised and to be presided over by since-fired Flagler College Professor Joseph Saviak, who had endorsed re-electon of Andrea Samuels, then Mayor, despite his being "moderator. " (The putative forum was cancelled due to a hurricane).  
  27. SABCA gave money to a wildly successful effort by the local Establishment to relieve greedy developers of $150,000,000 in property taxes and impact fees by raising sales taxes by 8.33% in 2015, in an off-year election with only that item on the ballot.
  28. Do City of St. Augustine Beach records accurately reflect that, when SABCA obtained its no-bid garage lease, and when the lease was renewed, a majority of St. Augustine Beach City Commissioners were SABCA members?  (Commissioner George is not a member and was rejected for SABCA membership, along with her husband, former Mayor Edward George, P.E.).  Were they ever given a reason by the putative "Civic Association?
  29. Conflicted Commissioners -- who were beneficiaries of SABCA political support, and who were members of SABCA -- voted on no-bid $1/year leases of public property, which City policies required be leased at market rates.  This is a breach of fiduciary duty.
  30. This was an appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest tolerated by the Commission's conflicted attorneys, first Geoffrey Dobson and then Douglas Nelson Burnett, both of whom also represented developers and property owners for a living.
  31. These conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety with SABCA and Commission are indefensible, and must be ended at once.
  32. Conflicts of interests are to be scrupulously guarded against. See, e.g., United States v. Mississippi Valley Generating Co., 364 U.S. 520, 548 (1961)(the "Dixon-Yates" case involving TVA rivals' conflicts of interest in a proposed Memphis coal-fired powerplant), citing Matthew 6:24 -- "no [person] can serve two masters," holding that laws and rules preventing conflicts of interest are aimed "not only at dishonor but at conduct that tempts dishonor."  
  33. SABCA's manipulation of Mr. Royle is a blatant conflict of interest, illegal, immoral and unseemly, a stench in the nostrils of our Nation.  As the United Supreme Court held in United States v. Mississippi Valley Generating Company, all conflict of interest laws are based upon Matthew 6:24 ("A man cannot serve two masters"), which the unanimous Supreme Court decision by Chief Justice Earl Warren deemed to be both a "moral principle" and a "maxim which is especially pertinent if one of the masters happens to be economic self-interest."  
  34. The Supreme Court held in In re Murchison, 349 U.S. 133, 136 (1955) (Black, J.), "[O]ur system of law has always endeavored to prevent even the probability of unfairness. To this end no man can be a judge in his own case and no man is permitted to try cases where he has an interest in the outcome." See also TWA v. Civil Aeronautics Board, 102 U.S. App. D.C. 391, 392, 254 F.2d 90, 91 (1958). Spencer v. Lapsley, 20 How. 264, 266 (1858); Publius Syrus, Moral Sayings 51 (D. Lyman transl. 1856) ("No one should be judge in his own cause."); Blaise Pascal, Thoughts, Letters and Opuscules 182 (Wight transl. 1859) ("It is not permitted to the most equitable of men to be a judge in his own cause."). 
  35. William Blackstone wrote, "[I]t is unreasonable that any man should determine his own quarrel," 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 91 citing Dr. Bonham's Case, 8 Rep. 114a (C.P. 1610); see also City of London v. Wood, 12 Mod. 669, 687 (1701)(Lord Holt)(invalidating fine for refusal to serve as sheriff recovered by the city in its own court of Mayor and Aldermen). See also Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Lavoie, 475 U.S. 813 (1986)(overruling case where Chief Justice of Alabama Supreme Court sat in judgment of case that would set precedent for his own pending case); Ward v. Village of Monroeville, 409 U.S. 57 (1972); Gibson v. Berryhill, 411 U.S. 564 (1973); Withrow v. Larkin, 421 U.S. 35 (1975); Cinderella Career and Finishing Schools, Inc. v. FTC, 425 F.2d 583 (D.C. Cir. 1970); American Cyanamid Co. v. FTC, 363 F.2d 757 (6th Cir. 1966); SCA Services, Inc. v. Morgan, 557 F.2d 110 (7th Cir.1977). 
  36. MAX ROYLE's blatant conflict of interest in receiving things of value from SABCA resembles those which Anglo-American courts have been protecting us against for some 410 years, since at least 1610. Dr. Bonham's case, supra; Tumey v. Ohio, 273 U.S. 510, 522-24 (1927) (Taft, C.J.).  See also Laird v. Tatum, 409 U.S. 824, 828 (1972) (Rehnquist, J.), holding that it is well-settled that a government official is disqualified from ruling on a case "if [s]he either signs a pleading or brief" or "if he actively participated in any case even though he did not sign a pleading or brief."
  37. I have asked St. Johns County BoCC for any proposals for social distancing for the SABCA concerts and await a response.
  38. have also asked SABCA directly.
  39. Without an approved, publicized COVID-19 social distancing plan, SABCA's seeking "renewal" of the lease based on speculation about concerts is just "whistlin' Dixie."
  40. From this day forward, will the City of St. Augustine Beach kindly stop coddling SABCA's self-serving officers and comply with federal, state, county and city laws?
Please call me to discuss.

With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Slavin

Sent: Sat, May 2, 2020 9:24 pm
Subject: Request No. 2020-161: Cyber-stalking by Bill Jones?

Dear Sheriff Shoar and Chief Hardwick:
Please send me the documents on your investigations of Bill Jones for cyber-stalking Tom Reynolds, e.g. calling him a "hater" and openly and notoriously abusing SABCA's Facebook account, "We love St. Augustine Beach and providing his e-mail address and Facebook information in retaliation for First Amendment protected activity in speaking against SABCA concerts at the April 28, 2020 St. Johns County Commission meeting.  F.S. 784.048.

Thank you.,
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin

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