Monday, January 23, 2023


Who are CHRISTIAN WHITEHURST and SARAH ARNOLD? Our County Commission Chairman and Vice Chairman.  Both lack decent respect for our civil and constitutional rights.  

Here is the cease and desist letter I sent them this afternoon (January 10, 2023):

Dear St. Johns County Commission Chairman Christian Whitehurst and Vice Chairman Sarah Arnold:

1. We, the people of St. Johns County, have a right to your honest services, uncontaminated by misuse or abuse of public position. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. 1346.  Our Florida Ethics Commission explains:

Misuse of Public Position
Public officers and employees, and local government attorneys are prohibited from corruptly using or attempting to use their official positions or the resources thereof to obtain a special privilege or benefit for themselves or others. [Sec. 112.313(6), Fla. Stat.]
Abuse of Public Position
Public officers and employees are prohibited from abusing their public positions in order to obtain a disproportionate benefit for themselves or certain others. [Article II, Section 8(h), Florida Constitution.]

2. The Rule of Law -- Our First Amendment, and our Florida Constitution, Article I, Sections 4&5  -- in their majesty, protect our rights to free speech and our right to "instruct' you as our representatives. You and others acting in concert with you must cease from all further content-based, discriminatory and special restrictions on First Amendment protected activity by the two of you, as the ill-advised, misguided Chairman and Vice Chairman of our St. Johns County Commission.  

3. Chairman Whitehurst and Vice Chair Arnold: you both show favoritism toward developers, including State Senator TRAVIS JAMES HUTSON, a wealthy developer and his family, who coordinate contributions to your campaigns.  These donee-beneficiaries appear to be recipient of a "special privilege or benefit" for them and their undisclosed partners and investors in SilverLeaf, a "disproportionate" benefit.  See F.S. 112.313(6) and Article II, Section 8(h), Florida Constitution.

4. Chairman Whitehurst and Vice Chair Arnold: you have no right or entitlement to interrupt, haze, obstruct, delay, impede, chill, coerce, harass or stigmatize public comment speakers.  You were wrong to make uneducated, uninformed, pronouncements that citizens can't criticize our leaders if they are "not present to defend themselves."  

5. You have no right to interrupt speakers with taunts, jibes, insults, commentary or ranting cant. You have no right to threaten, as last month I publicly told Mr. Whitehurst, "like a dockside bully," in the words of Saint Thomas More, portrayed in Robert Bolt's play and movie, A Man for All Seasons.  

6. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said St. Johns County was the "most lawless" in America. While citizens here have repeatedly won First Amendment victories here, it's like President John F. Kennedy said during the Cuban Missile Crisis -- "there's always some poor S.O.B. who doesn't get the word."

7. Your mean-spirited actions at recent SJC BoCC meetings are an affront to First Amendment values.  See., e.g., New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964), which noted America's "profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open..." See Terminello v. Chicago, 337 U. S. 1, 337 (1949); De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U. S. 353 (1937).   From this day forward, you must stop threatening and insulting citizens, "like a dockside bully."  The law is on our side.   See Lozman v. The City of Riviera Beach, Florida, 585 U.S. ---, 138 1S.Ct. 945, 201 L.Ed. 2d 241 (2018), our United States Supreme Court 8-1 remanded a civil rights lawsuit for trial after Riviera Beach arrested Fane Lozman, a citizen activist speaking in public comment, in violation of his civil and constitutional rights. The case settled for $875,000.

8. Our First Amendment deserves "breathing space."  NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 433 (1963) New York Times. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1974); Gasparinetti v. Kerr, 568 F.2d 311, 314-17 (3d Cir. 1977)(illegal restrictions on policemen’s First Amendment rights); Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. v. Hepps, 479 767, 772, 777 (1986)(O’Connor, J.)(newspaper entitled to breathing space in defamation case); Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 52, 56 (1988) (Reqhnqist, J.)(magazine parody of TV preacher entitled to breathing space); Keefe v. Ganeakos, 418 F.2d 359, 362 (1st Cir. 1969)(Aldrich, C.J.)(chilling effect on First Amendment by illegal suspension of teacher over sharing Atlantic Monthly article on Vietnam War); Parducci v. Rutland, 316 F.Supp. 352, 355, 357 (M.D. Ala 1970)(Johnson, C.J.)(chilling effect in illegal firing of English teacher over Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House). 

9. Our Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 586 U.S. 215 (2015) that content-based laws targeting free speech rights require "strict scrutiny."   North Carolina's Supreme Court explained in Moore v. City of Creedmoor, 345 N.C. 356 (1997):
“[Citizens]  have a right to assert a public complaint concerning the negligence of public officials and to petition the government for redress of grievances.  Mills v. Alabama, 384 U.S. 214, 86 S.Ct. 1434, 16 L.Ed.2d 484 (1966).   The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment guarantees the right to criticize police officers.   See Norwell v. City of Cincinnati, 414 U.S. 14, 94 S.Ct. 187, 38 L.Ed.2d 170 (1973) (protecting the right to non-provocative voicing of objections to police action);  New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed.2d 686 (1964) (protecting the right to criticize police chief in context of libel lawsuit).   It should also be noted that once the government has opened a forum-such as a public meeting-to allow direct citizen involvement, it may not discriminate between speakers based upon the content of their speech.  Madison Joint Sch. Dist. v. Wisconsin Employment Relations Comm'n, 429 U.S. 167, 176, 97 S.Ct. 421, 426, 50 L.Ed.2d 376, 385 (1976). 

10. In the "Pentagon Papers" case, a new Nixon-appointed trial judge, U.S. District Court Judge Murray Gurfein (later an appellate judge) famously wrote, ""The security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions. A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, an ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know." United States v. New York Times Co., 328 F. Supp. 324, 331 (S.D.N.Y. 1971).  Stop violating our "prized" American constitutional rights.  Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252 (1941).  Café Erotica v. St. Johns County, 360 F.3d 1274 (11th Cir. 2004) struck down our County's overbroad zoning regulation of a business owner's large billboard criticizing the County's code enforcement officer, Mr. James Acosta, as a "fat ass Barney Fife," one who allegedly cost our County thousands of dollars in "lost lawsuits" due to selective enforcement.  Your public pronouncements about not criticizing persons not present is a content-based restriction that does not withstand strict scrutiny. Your unwritten and unconstitutional orders violate the First Amendment's right to protected activity and are insulting, misguided, misanthropic. and dictatorial.  They are contrary to the genius of a free people and are blatant viewpoint discrimination, in violation of the First Amendment and Civil Rights laws.  See, e.g., United Teachers of Dade v. Stierheim, 213 F. Supp. 2d 1368, 1371 (S.D. Fla. 2002); Sherrill v. Knight, 569 F.2d 124, 129 (D.C.Cir.1977) ("arbitrary or content-based criteria for press pass issuance are prohibited under the [F]irst [A]mendment"); Quad-City Cmty. News Serv. v. Jebens, 334 F. Supp. 8, 17 (S.D.Iowa 1971) (stating "any classification which serves to penalize or restrain the exercise of a First Amendment right, unless shown to be necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest, is unconstitutional").  

11. In Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U.S. 819, 828-829, 115 S. Ct. 2510, 132 L. Ed. 2d 700 (1995) our Supreme Court held that "[d]iscrimination  against speech because of its message is presumed to be unconstitutional ... When the government targets not subject matter, but particular views taken by speakers on a subject, the violation of the First Amendment is all the more blatant. ... Viewpoint discrimination is thus an egregious form of content discrimination.").  

12. Our St. Johns County and City of St. Augustine governments have repeatedly violated free speech rights and repeatedly lost First Amendment cases to its citizens, see Cafe Erotica v. St. Johns County, supra, including several cases brought by visual artists, Bates I & Bates II, as well as  Celli v. City of St. Augustine, 214 F.Supp. 2d 1256 (M.D. Fla. 2000)(upholding $23,500 jury verdict for four hours of First Amendment violation re: St. Aug Dog newspaper rights to free distribution on St. George Street); Rev. Ruth Jensen v. City of St. Augustine, 3:05-CV-504-J-25HTS TRO (M.D. Fla. 2005)(ordering Rainbow flags flown on Bridge of Lions June 8-13, 2005 in honor of Gay Pride).  The City was found guilty of viewpoint discrimination in both the Celli and Jensen decisions, which were swift justice and never appealed.  

13. Despite constitutional law establishing that the First Amendment deserves "breathing space," the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners and its unqualified Administrator, HUNTER SINCLAIR CONRAD, et al. continue to show disrespect for dissent, chilling free speech rights.  

14.  Supreme Court Justice Robert  Houghwot Jackson, later our Nuremberg War Crimes prosecutor, wrote for the Supreme Court in the landmark flag salute case, "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." West Virginia Board of Education v. Barmette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).  

15.  Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis wrote that our "government is the potent omnipresent teacher. For good or ill it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy." Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)(Brandeis, J., dissenting), dissent heeded and case overruled, Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967). 

16. Please cease and desist from illegal orders, ukases, interrupting and interfering with my right to speak as a citizen, a journalist and as a Democratic candidate for County Commission. Respect our rights.  Listen, don't interrupt. Honor your oaths, from this day forward.  

17.  Otherwise, you could each be held civilly and criminally liable for meretricious meritless efforts to violate our rights to engage in First Amendment protected activity under color of law, violating the First, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, enforceable pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, 1985 & 1988.

18.  You both voted with undeserved enthusiasm to support a vast expanansion of SilverLeaf, controlled by State Senator TRAVIS HUTSON and his family, which have abused the power of St. Johns County's only State Senator, the new Chair of our Florida State Senate Fiscal Policy Committee, former Chair of the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries.

19. You both, along with SilverLeaf, developer-Senator HUTSON and their commercial allies, plumped for passage of a 15% sales tax increase. 

20. We, the People defeated this indecent, unconscionable 15% sales tax increase proposal, in a landslide.  

21. We, the People, also helped defeat your good friend, Jeremiah Ray Blocker, whose animus and animadversions against persons engaged in First Amendment protected activity reached pathological levels, as evidenced by his hateful 2020 late-night text messages to me. 

22. Your retaliation against outspoken citizens is unspeakable and unAmerican.  
23. Your retaliation and content-based discrimination are both corrupt and indefensible, and must be ended at once.   

24. In derogation of citizen rights to speak, you have both presumed to inflict your own anti-speech "ordinance," which is unwritten.  It is both misuse and abuse of public position. See F.S. 112.313(6); Florida Constitution, Article II, Section 8(h). 

25. As my grandmother would say, "Drop the oyster and leave the wharf!"  

26. Cease and desist from all further lawbreaking.

27. St. Johns County has pronounced itself a "Second Amendment Sanctuary."  Other jurisdictions pronounced themselves "First Amendment Sanctuaries."  St. Johns County has not done so yet.

28. When will St. Johns County learn to appreciate and respect the First Amendment?  When will our elected officials heed the wisdom of the November 19, 2006 St. Augustine Record editorial, "Always Important to Stick to Your Guns," inter alia praising my work and telling local officials to get "thicker skins" (after I was unfairly attacked by St. Augustine's misguided then-Mayor).  

29. It takes a village.  The spirit of our Founders is watching you, and is guiding us.  

30. Thomas Jefferson said, "I have sworn, upon the Altar of Almighty God, eternal hostility against every from of tyranny over the mind" of humankind. In the New Year, I promise you that I will help encourage our residents to teach you, Commissioners Whitehurst and Arnold, that our First Amendment rights must be respected and not neglected.  Please consult competent counsel today. Do either of you have your own private attorney?  If so, who? Do either of your personal insurance policies cover 42 U.S.C. 1983 civil rights actions?   Please call me to discuss.

Thank you.   

With kindest regards, I am,  
Sincerely yours,

Ed Slavin
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084
(904) 377-4998 



Anonymous said...

When the hell was this? Last meeting was in December wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

Old commissioner Jeremiah Blocker said he was a fifth or sixty generation Floridian or something like that. Why the hell would someone admit that openly and online!😆

Rick_Retired said...

Thank you for warning me of what I might encounter tomorrow morning when I speak up for myself about a persistent fraud by SJC officials that I've been powerless against extinguishing.