Historic City News was on hand this morning when St. Johns County Commission Chairman threatened to report un-named individuals who he labels “wackos” to the Justice Department if he gets no cooperation from the sheriff or state attorney.
After a lengthy prologue during today’s special budget meeting, Bryan described what he calls a “movement or trend of anti-government sentiment” — citing examples of violence against local officials reported in national news articles.
“If I have to, I’ll work with the Justice Department,” Bryan said.
Bryan said he believes that this sentiment is “ratcheting up” in St. Johns County.
Bryan’s comments come on the heels of the final Town Hall meeting held by County Administrator Michael Wanchick; where Bryan got into an altercation resulting in the forced removal of two citizens. They reportedly object to a proposed increase in the millage rated used to calculate property taxes — an increase that Bryan supports.
Photographs were published by Historic City News of Lauren Spencer-Bryan, the commissioner’s wife, interceding between Bryan and the Chairman of the St. Augustine Tea Party. Bryan’s face is strained, he is angrily pointing his finger in the citizen’s face, and his wife is obviously trying to push Bryan back — placing herself between Bryan and the citizen.
Bryan says he’s worked 36 years in federal government before coming here and that it’s nothing for him to be ashamed of — without clarification, he said, “I started at the bottom and worked my way to the top.”
Turning his story to local county employees, Bryan said that they are telling him that they are “afraid or ashamed to leave the campus with their ID on.” Without citing specific local examples, Bryan claims that St. Johns County employees “are afraid they are going to get ostracized” he also claims that they “are afraid they are going to get coerced”.
Bryan says that his concern is that county employees are being “abused in some manner, either verbally or even physically.”
On hearing that allegation, Historic City News contacted St. Johns County Sheriff’s spokesman Kevin Kelshaw to determine if there have been complaints made by county employees that they had been “coerced”, “verbally or physically abused”.
Kelshaw informed us that he reads the criminal incident reports daily and that he has no recollection of any such complaints. Kelshaw, whose wife is also a county employee, said that he couldn’t be absolutely certain, however, neither he nor his wife have ever been the subject of a citizen’s abuse, and, if there ever were such a complaint filed, it would not be necessary to call in the Department of Justice because the local Sheriff’s Office would be very capable of investigating the complaint.
Sending mixed signals, Bryan remarked, “I’m not afraid of anyone, I’m not afraid of anything.” Again, without giving any specifics of any county employee being abused, Bryan claims he intends to “defend the county employees that we have.”
“You can maybe be cautious not to hang your government ID around your visor or mirror in your car because you’re afraid that it’s going to get keyed by some wacko,” Bryan warned.
The sheriff’s office has not been called to investigate any county employee whose car has been keyed, according to recent incident reports.
In what some in the audience took to be a veiled threat; and, in a statement that has piqued the interest of some who are now questioning Bryan’s motives, the County Commission Chairman told the audience “if anyone goes over the line — there are consequences; legally or otherwise“.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer