Sheriff’s attempt at secrecy begins to unravel

Sheriff David Shoar, acting like a poorly behaved 6-year-old who has just been reminded that he’s not the boss of everyone, despite what he thinks; was shown the first sign today that he is not going to be able to stonewall the taxpaying citizens of this county who, in fact, are the ones in charge.

In a news article Sunday titled, “Sheriff skirts ethical principles with secret money,” Historic City News exposed that, despite Chapter 119, F.S., and Article I, Section 24 of the Florida Constitution, in response to our request for a copy of the executed lease agreement for the St Johns County Convention Center for the Sheriff’s Office Annual Awards dinner, the sheriff told us, through his records supervisor, “We have no records responsive to your request. Banquet was funded by private donations.”

After being contacted by the St Johns County Attorney’s Office, and confronted with the reality that there existed no exemption to lawfully deny our request, “undersheriff” and government lawyer, Matthew D Cline, now had to face the fact that his sandbox was about to get a lot smaller. No doubt threatening to hold his breath until he turned blue, Cline was informed that the county was releasing the requested public document to us — even if his boss, Officer Big Mac, didn’t want him to.

“Please find the attached rental agreement for the private use of the facilities at the Renaissance hotel,” the email to local Historic City News reporters containing the six-page lease began.

“While we maintain that the document is not a public record, it has come to our attention that the document has previously been released by the County Attorney’s Office,” Sergeant Bonnie Jimmerson, the sheriff’s records supervisor, wrote.

Still clinging to the last shred of secrecy that she could muster, Jimmerson defiantly proclaims, “However, all records of invoices and payments are exempt as the function was paid for by private donors.” Keep in mind, the attachment represented what the County Attorney’s Office had previously provided as “a public record”.

Since Monday March 27th, St Johns County Sheriff David Shoar has attempted to conceal the names of contributors and the amounts of money that he solicited for his “Annual Awards Dinner” held in the St Johns County Convention Center on March 24, 2017.

Shoar and Cline both lied repeatedly to photojournalist Jeff Gray on the night of the dinner, proclaiming that the public venue was “private property”, which it is not. We now know that the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office had rented a meeting room inside the county-owned convention center in which to hold the private function. That rental agreement conveyed no private use of the common areas from which Gray was evicted, nor the public lobbies where Gray had been sitting and standing, nor the parking lot where Gray was threatened with arrest.

Atrium TRS IV, L.P., the limited liability company that manages the convention center under contract from St Johns County, entered into the Group Sales Agreement with St Johns Sheriff’s Office, David Shoar, Sheriff. The agreement was not made with, nor is any mention made of, Four Star Association Inc., nor any other group of “private donors”. The officers of the Florida not-for-profit corporation are David B Shoar (Chairman); Mark E Simpson (Secretary); and former St Augustine City Manager, William B Harriss (Board Member).

Cline’s name does not appear on the current corporation records nor the most recently published federal tax return for the Association. Cline signed the rental agreement as a department employee using his title as “Undersheriff”.

Historic City News holds that the sheriff is not legally able to create an artificial third party entity or to use it for the purpose of shielding from public scrutiny the names of donors and the amounts of money they donate to defray the cost of events like the annual awards banquet. If the sheriff continues to refuse our request for that legally available information, we intend to pursue every step necessary to force its disclosure.

To the extent that the sheriff is intentionally withholding information about these cash donations, we intend to pursue the appropriate ethics complaint to force his compliance, including recovery of reasonable attorney’s fees.

We intend to make the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. aware of the weakened state of the agency’s accountability resulting from the false and misleading statements made to the public in this matter. CALEA Accreditation is supposed to be a means for developing or improving upon an agency’s relationship with the community; however, the rogue actions of this sheriff serve only to obscure the truth and confuse taxpayers.

© 2017 Historic City News

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