Sunshine Week couldn’t have come at a more opportune time in St Augustine as the UF Historic St Augustine, Inc. direct service organization, managing the lease on Florida’s state-owned properties, attempts to hold a controversial public Special Board of Directors Meeting in a not-so-public way. More sunshine, please.
A legally required notice of the meeting was posted on the DSO’s website; and, even though it is a special unscheduled meeting to discuss a single topic of great public interest, the public would have no way of knowing, from reading the notice, what the Board was going to discuss.
Unless a member of the public requested a copy of the agenda by contacting Billy Triay at the UF-HSA, they would have no idea that this Friday would be their first opportunity to address the Board on the single most controversial topic to capture local news in the last year — the demands of Ronald Rawls, Jr. to take down the Loring Monument in the west plaza.
What makes the shade afforded this “public” meeting so egregious is the fact that Rawls is one of only six invited speakers for the Friday meeting. The speakers in order of their appearance, are Dr. James G Cusick (firstname.lastname@example.org), Dr. Timothy J. Johnson (email@example.com),
Rev. Lee, Dr. Floyd Phillips (firstname.lastname@example.org), Rev. Ronald Rawls Jr (email@example.com) Mayor Nancy Shaver (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In documents obtained from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Historic City News learned that Meshon T. Rawls, wife of Pastor Rawls of St Paul AME Church in St Augustine, is Director of UF Gator Team Child Juvenile Law Clinic and legal skills professor at the University of Florida Law School. She is reported to be a “salaried lecturer” on the UF Educational and General payroll being paid $89,925.00 each year, plus benefits. It is not known if her employment with the University has contributed to this unusual attempt to suppress the public from being clearly noticed.
If there had been a published “agenda” for the meeting, it would have been clearly titled “Loring Monument Agenda” and you would have immediately known what to expect. After a welcome, introductions and instructions on the process from Ed Poppell, the six invited speakers will have 6-minutes each to present to the Board. Members of the public who have “registered their intent to speak at the meeting” will be allowed 3-minutes each, followed by closure and adjournment.
Based on the level of participation afforded the public, and the opportunity taken by local residents to attend meetings and speak to this topic as it related to the Civil War memorial owned by the City of St Augustine in Constitution Plaza, the UF Historic St Augustine, Inc. Board should have anticipated heightened interest and desire to participate in what will no doubt be another bone of contention.