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Satellite Beach: Cancer, Meetings, Attacks, And Lines On A Map.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We aren’t sure where this post will go as far as being organized and a easy to follow discussion of what is going on in Satellite Beach. There are many issues which may fall under the umbrella of one topic, but to us the umbrella is much bigger than just the singular issue. We want to highlight that as well. In our opinion, no one in this whole mess has “clean hands.” People seem to be so concerned with making it known that the “other side(s) is wrong,” that they forget the simple idea that everyone should be working toward a common goal.

In case you have been living under a rock in Brevard County, there is a concern of “cancer clusters” in the area. Understandably, people are upset and scared and we feel for them in the lack of knowledge, lack of science, and most importantly a lack of direction and solutions.

People want answers and they want them yesterday. Unfortunately, that’s simply not possible.

We were forwarded a series of documents to look at concerning the issues. We want to let the pubic see the documents and problems they cause.

On March 8, a series of people made comments to the Satellite Beach City Council. Their comments start at the 00:08:00 mark in the video below with comments made by a resident concerning the issues we will discuss. The next speaker at 00:13:40 discusses an issue with parking at the library which City Manager Courtney Barker says she will address. After that, from 00:15:39 to 00:33:40 speakers return to address concerns raised by the first speaker.

All of the issues center around the City of Satellite Beach’s handling of the investigation into concerns of beachside citizens over alleged cancer clusters in the area.

THE (LACK OF) SUNSHINE MEETING:

We wrote about this September 17, 2018 meeting previously. (see here, here and here.)

More on this has come to light.

On Friday, September 14, 2018, Administrative Assistant Julie Finch wrote to Erin Brockovich associate Bob Bowcock saying the City would be providing lunch for the attendees to the meeting. Included in that list of attendees was Mayor Frank Catino, City Councilman Mark Brimer and City Councilwoman Mindy Gibson. Also included is a person by the name of “Kathy Marler,” who is described as a “Cancer Advocate and Parent of Cancer Survivor.” (More on Marler later.) Clearly this letter shows that the meeting was scheduled as one meeting (not three as the City later claimed.)

As we wrote after the meeting, the City initially made the workshop with the press, elected officials, City employees and a resident a meeting open and subject to the Sunshine Laws.

On the morning of the meeting, the City decided that the meeting would be a private one, out of the spotlight. As we noted, this is a violation of the Sunshine Laws for the State of Florida, but in our opinion, the dubious actions of the City go far beyond the meeting lock out itself.

First, the City locked the public out of City Hall and threatened them with arrest if they did not leave.

City Hall is a public space and unless a person is creating a disturbance or breaking the law, the City could not have legally prevented the people into the lobby / foyer of the building yet they did just that. In short, absent of a crime or code violation (such as disturbing the peace) you cannot be trespassed from public property.

Even beyond the illegal barring of people from the meeting, the City was breaking the law as to access to the building itself.

One would think that the police would be up on the law on public access to public buildings. One would think that the police would know the law when it comes to barring people from public areas. In the case of Satellite Beach, one would be wrong.

On September 24, 2018 Sergeant Steve Owens who was actually in the lobby of City Hall keeping people out of the lobby met with a Sandra Cohn, who is not a resident of the City of Satellite Beach. Owens wrote a factual email to people in the City and his superiors on the encounter. In the email Owens writes:

Having not been certain on Sunshine law being a criminal issue as she suggested, or a civil matter, we provided her with a statement and four continuation sheets and explained that we would look into it.

While it is a little disconcerting that Owens wasn’t sure whether the Sunshine Law violation was a criminal of civil offense, what is concerting is that he doesn’t realize or understand the public access laws that he was violating at the direction of City officials.

In fact, Commander Bert Berrios responded and cc’ed his email to those Owens had sent his email to saying:

I attended the meeting and no such violation occurred, therefore we will not file an incident report or accept statements. If Ms. Sullivan wants to discuss the matter further, refer her to me.

This response is rather shocking to us.

In 2015, what is euphemistically called a “First Amendment Auditor” made a visit to Patrick Air Force Base. These are people who go around filming institutions from public property. They claim to be wanting to do two things. The first is to educate those law enforcement officers they encounter on the actual laws of public property access and public photography and secondly to highlight what they perceive to be the blatant disregard of citizen’s rights. Some of these “auditors” are very good and polite. Some are confrontational and irritate us. Jeff Gray, who is in this particular video is very polite.

After he begins to film the gate, Gray is approached by the Patrick Air Force Base Security personnel who want his ID. He refuses for several reasons. First, the SP’s have no jurisdiction off base and secondly, unless he is committing a crime, Florida is not a “must identify state.” In other words, unless Gray (or anyone) has committed a crime or is suspected of committing a crime, he doesn’t have to provide identification.

We aren’t sure of the efficacy of these audits and we hope that the encounters provide food for thought and even learning for law enforcement. Whether you think that someone should film the gates of a military installation is up to you, but the laws of the land say they can.

At 00:11:40 of the video, lacking jurisdiction, the SP’s have called local law enforcement in the person of Deputy Sheriff Hendrix of the Brevard County Sheriff’s office. But if you look behind and the the left of Hendrix and behind and to the right of the Air Force Investigator in the plaid shirt you’ll see another officer in uniform. That is Officer Bert Berrios of the Satellite Beach Police Department responding to a call out of his jurisdiction concerning the public’s right to be on public spaces. Berrios move up to the right of Hendrix at 00:10:50 of the video. Hedrix makes what we feel is a despicable statement at 00:13:00 (“No one wants to stomp on your ‘precious rights,'”) and there is Berrios, letting it all go down – agreeing with Hendrix that the rights of citizens don’t matter. At 0013:02, Berrios says for Gray to keep his hands away from the camera because Berrios doesn’t know what it is. The elements of good training are evident in that a policeman cannot identify a body camera.

Eventually, the police let Gray go because there is nothing they have on him. (The second part of the video is here.)

The fact of the matter is that when a citizen was doing nothing illegal and had no right to be detained, Berrios was willing to violate their rights.

Instead of going back and looking up the laws, statutes and court cases on the public’s right to public spaces, Berrios is still pulling the same thing. He didn’t object in 2015 and in 2018 at City Hall, he ignored the law again.

Furthermore, he got the backing of Chief Pearson.

When asked by someone who was excluded by from the meeting and denied access to a public space if there was an investigation going on, Police Chief Pearson replied there was not.

Which leads to the question, “what is the Satellite Police Department more interested in, protecting the rights of people and enforcing the laws of the State of Florida? Or are they more interested in protecting their jobs and the illegal directions of the heads of the City government?”

Yet all is not lost for the City in regards to this meeting. (Well, mostly it is lost, but there is one issue that needs to be discussed that the City gets right for all the wrong reasons.)

In an email sent out to supporters after the meeting, City Manager Barker tries to “astroturf” support for the City.

Quoting the email:

Approximately three months ago, we had a person that does not live in our City (named Stel Bailey) begin a Facebook page called Satellite Beach Hope and Health for Tomorrow. She immediately
banned me and our council members from the page. She, and some others, have been working
(for some reason) to convince people that we are not responding to the concerns of our
community.

We’ve seen some of the comments between members of the group and Barker. They were not pleasant in either direction. We probably would have banned Barker as well, but the fact remains that people who own a Facebook group can ban whomever they want.

We did not allow Stel Bailey and her group in the meeting, largely because we knew that they would make a scene, video tape people, and then later edit them to change the context, and later post it to Facebook. This has already happened to us from previous meetings.

This is a misrepresentation of the facts. The City did not just ban “Stel Bailey and her group” from the meeting. The City banned everyone.

While people can edit videos to make whatever context they want, the City has the big hammer – the actual footage of the meeting. It’s on the City’s YouTube page.

So if the City wants to demonstrate that groups are lying which would obviously lower their credibility, go right ahead and do it. Believe it or not, we would support that action completely.

If the group – or any group – is manipulating things in order to gin up excitement, support or anger toward the City (and vice versa) they are forgetting the goal of this whole mess:

TO FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING ON AND SEEK SOLUTIONS.

No conjecture, no theories, no unproven hypothesis. Just science taking things where they lead.

TO FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING ON AND SEEK SOLUTIONS.

That’s what has to happen.

Barker says the group will make a scene.

In fact, in the video of the meeting above, after a comment by Councilman Dominic Montanero at 00:33:30 in which he says “this is not a City of Satellite Beach’s problem,” (so much for home rule and home accountability, but his point has merits as to costs,) at 00:35:41, the crowd reacts to the comment and starts to yell / raise their voices which causes Mayor Catino to bang the gavel to try and restore order to the meeting.

In other words, the audience does exactly what Barker accuses them of having done in the past and would do in the future.

This is the part where the City of Satellite Beach is right and the groups are wrong. You cannot go to a meeting and disrupt it. We can quote laws and cases that prove the point, but nothing gets done if people are shouting from the gallery.

What Barker gets wrong – horribly wrong – is that the solution is to shut people out of meetings. There are people in the audience that are concerned and behaving respectfully, and to tell them they can’t be a part of a meeting, a workshop, or listen to discussions is morally, ethically and legally wrong.

The solution to people that are being unruly and preventing the orderly conduct of a meeting is to have them removed. As the Chair of the meeting, Mayor Catino has the right to remove people that are being disorderly and we support him doing just that.

Have the people that are being disruptive removed. That’s all there is to it.

The fact of the matter is that the people have a right to have been in that meeting no matter what Barker, Catino, et. al, believe.

However, there are some who believe they do not as evidenced by this post that seems to be echoed over and over again by not only the person but others:

Apparently this person thinks that the only people who can think critically are the people that were at the meeting.

Yes, the information is complicated, but to dismiss the knowledge and experience of the residents of Satellite Beach, the residents of the beachside communities, and the residents of Brevard County is ridiculous. To think that fishing boat captain Catino understands cancer and diseases more than a doctor or nurse living in the area makes no sense. To claim that Barker understands statistics more than an accredited statistician makes no sense. To think that Councilwoman Mindy Gibson can understand fluid migration and contamination more than a person who is hired by the state and federal government to study that issue is ludicrous.

In fact, the same questions that Catino, Barker and Gibson would be asking are the same questions the lay person would be asking.

Instead of the information coming out through a straw, there would be a cascade of information which means more people looking at the issue. Isn’t this the era of crowd-sourcing in everything from finance to intellectual studies?

Stop saying that the people are too dumb and too ignorant to understand the issues.

And once again, if you are in a meeting as an audience member, have the respect for other people in the meeting and sit there, take notes, write down questions that can be asked later, but don’t be a jerk and interrupt or cause scenes where the City stupidly feels justified to illegally lock up the meeting out of the public eye.

Additionally, this group held a meeting with Mr. Bowcock at 9:30 am the same day (our meeting was at noon). We were not invited to that meeting. Neither was the press, and it was not announced on Facebook by her or her team members. Regardless, we are being criticized in the press (by one reporter, the rest actually reported what happened at the meeting) and social media for not allowing them in our meeting.

This statement is dishonest on the part of Barker.

The fact of the matter is that the group doesn’t have to announce any meeting they have with anyone. They don’t have to invite a single representative from the City. They don’t have to invite the press.

The rules – also called laws and statutes – are different for meetings with and held by elected officials than for private citizens. For Barker to equate the two is simply mind blowing.

It has come to my attention they now are going to attend this upcoming City Council meeting tomorrow night. It is not very often when we need to ask for your help. However, It is my hope that you all could attend in support of our efforts (if you find them adequate, of course!). We very much feel that their claims are ridiculous and we need to end the circus so we can actually get real work completed.

Please forward to others if you feel its appropriate. I am very concerned that this group is using our City to raise their profile. I do feel that our residents have very legitimate concerns that we are working very closely with the County and Mr. Bob Bowcock at this point to investigate and hopefully resolve. However, these negative claims on social media are beginning to take a toll on our City and me, personally, which is why we requesting your assistance.

This too is despicable. Instead of calling for peace and people working together, Barker is calling for a conflict between those that agree with her and those who do not.

We were of the impression that the City Council was elected to represent the interests of all the people in Satellite Beach, not just those they agree with.

By far the City has created more problems and done more wrong actions, but that doesn’t excuse other people and groups from stepping out of line as well.

We want to leave people with the idea of simply doing better and working with each other to find solutions and identifying problems.

We aren’t saying this to have a kumbaya moment, but we do know that when there are complex issues with hard choices, we are better off with people trying to push the rock up the hill together rather than pushing on the rock against each other from all different directions.


Tomorrow we will look at how the City granted privileges to a person who ended up with a restraining order, as well as how groups when criticized make personal attacks on people trying to malign them without a shred of evidence.

We hope the end of this two part series will mean that if people attend the City Council meeting on Wednesday, they do so with more kindness and less hostility. Maybe go out to Longdoggers afterwards to talk as individuals with the same goals, rather than adversaries.

(It t’ain’t gonna happen, but we can hope, can’t we?)





7 Responses to “Satellite Beach: Cancer, Meetings, Attacks, And Lines On A Map.”

  1. […] the post below, we had embedded the YouTube video of the Satellite Beach City Council meeting of March 8, 2019. We […]

  2. Matt Fleming says:

    This is pretty good reporting for the most part. I have just one small correction: No members of the group in question caused any kind of real disruptions in city meetings. In fact the rules of order which govern Satellite City meetings were violated by the city council on numerous occasions.

    Beyond that, and with respect to the question of working together, the rock up a hill analogy seems worthy, but it misses the point of what is happening. In a case like this, where the obvious solution to these problems was to involve the EPA, the city took an adversarial stance to anything other than complete control of the process.

    Any reporting on all of this which excludes the dynamic of real estate interests, and in particular the pending development of the old South Base Housing, is incomplete and misses the very cause from which these conflicts are originating. Developers and the City are interested in protecting the development of that large and valuable property(hundreds of millions of dollars fully developed). Cancer victims and concerned citizens just want to know that the community is safe, and deserve to be cared for by the very government entities which are responsible for the possible contamination of the land we share. Had this problem been addressed more thoroughly 25 years ago before the sale of the South Housing property, it would not be an issue today.

    If there really are no contaminants, eliminative testing would have revealed that by now and development could move forward unabated by the multiple independent efforts underway. As it stands, private efforts to test for soil contaminants and numerous excavations are revealing a problem that is larger than previously disclosed in government documents.

    No one should begin to suspect that the city will pull a 180 and start working towards real solutions that represent the interests of residents and neighbors. If at any point they were sincerely interested in those solutions, they would have not been so adversarial from the outset, they would not have dismissed the idea of involving the EPA, and they would not have made so many mistakes. I personally believe they are scared of being sued by the developer for not doing their due diligence in the annexation of South Housing many years ago, but that’s being charitable. It assumes there are no personal financial conflicts of interest.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Matt Fleming,

      Thank you for your comment.

      The video of the meeting has a disruption of the meeting by the audience. That’s why we provided it so people could see the disruption in context.

      The old saying is apropos, “who are you going to believe, you or your lying eyes?”

      As for the real estate component, we cover that tomorrow. As our post was quickly approaching 3,000 words, it was well into TL;DR territory.

      Finally, as far as the City and the EPA are concerned, commenter “Truthful” addresses that point. One only has to look at the EPA’s handling of the Gold King Mine disaster caused by the EPA’s actions where the EPA lobbied to be declared that they were not responsible and could not compensate people for the $1.2 billion dollars in damages the EPA’s actions caused.

      You’ll excuse us for lacking trust in the EPA on this local issue in Brevard County as the EPA has known about the problem for years and done little to investigate.

      Thanks again for the comment.

      A. Afterwit.

      • Matt Fleming says:

        Residents spoke up during that meeting as a point of order was violated by the council. If any members of the aforementioned group can be identified disrupting the meeting, please enlighten us. I looked, i didn’t see it, I will believe my own eyes. It’s the city’s own rules. What that video does not show was the numerous times in previous meetings where speakers were interrupted by council members.

        • AAfterwit says:

          Matt Fleming,

          Thank you for the comment.

          At 00:35:40 of the video multiple voices were raised and interrupted the meeting. While someone asked for a point of order, there was none given and in fact when the Mayor gavelled saying that the audience members needed to keep quiet, a male voice can be heard asking “reason?” The Mayor replied and correctly stated that the audience member did not have the floor and that Councilman Montanero had the floor. Montanero retains the floor until he gives it up, which he later does.

          The meeting was interrupted and if you can’t see or hear that, there is little that we can do.

          Your point that there were numerous times in the past when speakers were interrupted may have merit, but using the thinking of “but they did it too!” is no way to get through life. Most people give up that thinking in the second grade and it won’t fly here.

          As for the “aforementioned group,” you seem to think that we are singling them out for special treatment if they and only they disrupt meetings. We are not. What we are saying is that the way to end the City’s claim that meetings are disrupted is to 1) have people stop interrupting them and 2) have the Mayor have those who disrupt removed from the meeting.

          One would think that you would want an orderly meeting where information can be expressed from the audience to the dais and from the dais to the audience but you are writing in a manner that suggests you don’t.

          We’ll say it again…

          The City was wrong to not keep the September 17th meeting open to the public based on the idea that people had disrupted previous meetings.

          The people who disrupted previous meetings were wrong in 1) disrupting the meetings and 2) giving the City the “ammunition” to do what they (wrongfully) did.

          Thanks again.

          A. Afterwit.

  3. Truthful says:

    Should people place their trust in the EPA to protect us? What is their record for timely solutions?
    The EPA should set legitimate, national standards for PFOS and PFOA and then begin to hold PAFB (see the DoD report of March 2018) accountable for sending high levels of these chemicals north into the wastewater treatment facility in Cocoa Beach. That treatment facility is not currently capable of removing these chemicals, and they are are re-introduced into our environment in reclaimed water for irrigating lawns and other public locations. Where is the uproar about these continued inputs into the environment, both land and water? Dilution is most certainly not the solution.

  4. Sandra Sullivan says:

    I disagree with the events as stated on Office Owens email principally my report to file a police report was refused. On the 24th Sept, I wrote the Attorney General’s office to followup my earlier contact: “Dear Ms. Kring,
    I contacted Honorable Phil Archer’s office, however, I was told by his office that I would have to report it to the police department of Satellite Beach. When I went to that police station they told me it was a conflict of interest to file with them because they are paid by the City of Satellite Beach, and that all they could do is to receive an informational report. I am very disappointed that no action has been taken.” Further, I had gone into the police station with a printed page from the Attorney General’s website for why meeting did not meet Sunshine Law, this sheet read “Thus, the law is applicable to any gathering of two or more members of the same board or commission to discuss matters upon which foreseeable action will be taken by the board or commission.” There was City Manager and Mayor present which is two from the board.
    2.) There are a limited number of exemptions which would allow a public agency to close a meeting – and this meeting doesn’t meet this criteria. These include, but are not limited to, certain discussions with the board’s attorney over pending litigation and portions of collective bargaining sessions. In addition, specific portions of meetings of some agencies (usually state agencies) may be closed when those agencies are making probable cause determinations or considering confidential records.”
    http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/Main/321B47083D80C4CD8525791B006A54E3
    This second reason was my focus on reason however, was not in Owens’ email. The events were documented at the time as indicated in y email to Attorney General’s office with concern. The intent for the City of SB police to not TAKE police reports should be very concerning IMO and questions IMO should be asked whether they were acting on direction.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Sandra Sullivan,

      First, let’s address a few things…

      An “informational report” is a report. If you were looking for an accusation of criminal or civil crimes, the officers have discretion as to whether to file charges based on the report. That means that your informational report that you say the SBPD would have accepted would have satisfied the requirements for the filing of a report. If no report was filed, it seems to us that was a decision you made.

      Your comment of “[t]here was City Manager and Mayor present which is two from the board,” is inaccurate.

      The City Manager is not a “board member.” The “board” in this case would be the City Council. By Charter, the City Council is:

      Sec. 2.04. – Membership and qualifications.

      (1) The city council shall consist of four members and a mayor elected at-large by the city’s voters. Councilmembers, whether elected or appointed, must be registered voters who have resided in the city for at least one year before they qualify for office.

      For the purposes of the Sunshine Laws, the City Manager is considered “staff.” The City Manager does not vote on any matters whatsoever.

      As we wrote, the issue is not that there were two or more members of the City Council in the room at any time (as it appears there were not) but rather the City arranged to have City Council members come in, get briefed and share in the same information with staff and others as conduits for that information. That is the violation as the City made that arrangement deliberately to circumvent the Sunshine Laws.

      We are trying to think of something clever and pithy to say to end this, but all we can think of is that you made two points that were incorrect.

      Still, thank you for the comment.

      A. Afterwit.

  5. […] wrote yesterday about the handling of the citizens’ concerns in Satellite Beach and how the City failed to […]

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