Fred called me to tell me about his ending his campaign.
I am sad about it, but life goes on. We just stand and fight. I believe I have slowed Tom Gonzalez down a tad. I will give him as much attention as the lad deserves.
If somebody would make Dr. Lamb his or her particular project, a secure place in heaven awaits this erynie.
Lock and load.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
One of my four charges against Tom Gonzalez with the Bar Committee is his veiled threat of a lawsuit because I dared to ask that the ROSSAC robber barons to carry out the equal-employment-opportunity laws in hiring for bloated-pay administrative jobs that now go to Elia's buddies in a crony system of passing out the plums of employment to buddies and sycophants.
I said I would ask for a compliance review if they didn't.
There is no advertising to get the best person for the job if it is one of those bloated-pay administrative jobs. The superintendent simply slips them to buddies, and they sail by on the Consent Calender with a rubber-stamp from the board. None of the board members think it's worth their while to protect taxpayers by calling for the removal of these crony jobs for inspection to see if there was equal-employment opportunity practiced in the hiring.
And when theElia cronies with education-lite degrees--usually in early childhood--mess up, the taxpayers have to foot the bill for consultants to fly in and teach the incompetents their jobs.
Hence, taxpayers get screwed twice: once when the superintendent hires her incompetent buddies; once when they pay for pricey consultants to come in and rescue Elia's bad choices for the jobs.
The board except for Griffin and Valdez supports the crony hiring and doesn't want anybody to mention it because, as Ms. Edgecomb terms the practice: "It is part of 'institutional memory.'"
Indeed it is, and that's the problem. Tom Gonzalez hinted that the board could sue me for saying that I would get the federal funding agencies to conduct compliance reviews of the hiring practices of the schools as regards equal opportunity if the administration and board did not obey the federal funds' requirement for equal opportunity. The federal funds have equal-opportunity riders on all of them.
Turns out Le Gonzalez was blowing smoke: Florida adopted a SLAPP law last year to protect citizens who use their free-speech rights to complain about government incompetence. So the news is that Florida has a SLAPP law for just this kind of blackmail against people's exercising their free-speech rights. See "Sued into Silence: anti-SLAPP Laws to the Rescue" http://www.rcfp.org/news/mag/25-2/lib-antislap.html.
So when Tom Gonzalez hints that my complaints would earn me a law suit, he either knew about this law and made the threat anyway, or he didn't know it because he doesn't bother to keep up with relevant laws on his sleepy 37-year-school-board sinecure.
There is villainy afloat, folks, and nous devons prêter l'attention.
Posted by twinkobie at 6:09 AM
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
The point and counterpoint of my charge against Mr. Gonzalez, board attorney, with the Florida Bar immediately follows this note from Satchel. lee
This on the conspiracy lawsuit from Ms. Satchel:
Lee, please post this on your site in response to the email below:
This on the conspiracy lawsuit from Ms. Satchel:
No date has been set, since I just filed the state law claim, which requires 30 days for the Defendant to respond. After that, a case management report will determine the trial date. It could be months, but hopefully not.
Lee, please post this on your site in response to the email below:
The reason(s) for the behaviors of the 'woi' mentioned in my complaint will be clarified with time, but suffice it to say that evil is just evil--it behaves as per its description! (As a short name, I speak of these as 'woi people' (pronounced like soy). They are, in my sight, workers of iniquity. But that's just me. :)
The writer is confused. I am Anthony Satchel's younger sister, Debra. (He has no ex-wife.) I am certain of my brother's love for me. He, like Doug Erwin, is one of the most honorable men I've known. Yet, my brother is but one person, himself surrounded by the sharks that offended me, because they were offended by me.
In every position he has ever held (classroom teacher, college counselor, church steward board member, trustee board member, credit union board member, site-based administrator, and now, general director), Tony has performed with the strict confidence and integrity with which all of my father's children were reared. But as you have seen from the timid teachers who sign themselves with pseudonyms and 'anonymous,' speaking out against the political 'machine' of the School Board and its 'woi' (they remind me of the wicked vulture-like characters on the Wizard of Oz) has severe ramifications.
Although I wish Tony could have done something to prevent the more than four years of hell I have been through, I needn't tell you, Mrs. De Cesare, about Hebrews 12:11.
Meanwhile, here is the Amended Verified Complaint that I filed today. It is in PDF, and I hope it uploads more legibly than the last.
One day, I do hope to meet you and all of the wonderful guests from your blog.
Oh, by the way, I shared your site with my comrade at endteacherabuse.org. We would so appreciate it if you would share ours with your correspondents.
I don't know if you know how much I/we appreciate you.
Thank you so much.
Thank you so much.
Posted by twinkobie at 8:31 PM
We have reached the midway point of our bar-ethics charge against Mr. Tom Gonzalez, Esq., attorney for Hillsborough County School Board.
The below entries represent his rebuttal of my charges against him to the Bar Ethics Committee and my rebuttal to his rebuttal. .
(The original charge is at http://floridabarethicscomplaint.blogspot.com/)
That the bar accepted my charge provisionally left me surprised and grateful.
The attention that Mr. Gonzalez gave to his rebuttal ranks how important it is to him. I think that he lavished many non-billable hours on his response.
I don't believe that it occurred to Counselor Gonzalez that anybody would undertake such a charge. I judge the gentleman to be hip deep in the hubris of his profession. However, he didn't reckon with a participant from the original Women's Movement, which survives on its willingness to battle with little hope of winning but nevertheless with little dividence in taking the chance that luck will pop up to support justice.
The final stage will be the ruling of the Bar Ethics Committee. May The Force be with us.
Meanwhile, in the how-about-that? category, take a look at Mr. Gonzalez's signatures in these documents. What is your read from the wisdom you gained in Psychology 101 about the psychological revelations of such overwrought signatures? Do you think we should take up a collection to get a forensic psychiatric analysis of Mr. Gonzalez's signature for the good of the community? lee
THOMPSON, SIZEMORE, GONZALEZ & HEARING
ONE TAMPA CITY CENTER
HARRISON C. THOMPSON. JR GREGORY A. HEARING
(1925- (994) 201 H. FRANKLIN STREET. SUITE (600
MAROIJIS W. NEILIG
WILLIAM E. SIZEMORE POST OFFICE BOX 639 ERI N C JACKSON *
(1945 - 20041 TAMPA FLORIDA 33601 -
KEVIN U. JOHNSON *
LU IS A. CABASSA (613) 273-0050
* GRETCHEN N. LEHMAN
JAMES N-CRAIG FAX NO. (8(3) 273-0072 LARA J PEPPARD
JENNIFER N. FAGGION
CAREN 5, SKVERSKY
THOMAS N, GONZALEZ
DONNA V. SMITH
t BOARD CERTIFIED I N CIVIL TRIAL BY THE FLORIDA BAR
CHARLES J. THOMAS
BOARD CERTIFIED N LAAOR & EMPLOYMENT LAW BTRE March 24. 2008
FLORIDA BAR JENNIFER L- WATSON
Via FedEx Overnight
Heidi B. Brewer
Attorney Consumer Assistance Program
The Florida Bar
651 East Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300
Re: Lee Drury DeCesare; The Florida Bar File No. 2008-11,074 (13D)
Dear Ms. Brewer:
Pursuant to my obligation to do so I respond to your letter of March 11,2008, and the referenced complaint. I have limited myself to the four allegations which you have taken from the complaint. I begin by noting that of the four allegations, one -- the assertion that I refused the complainant’s requests for “public information”-- does not state a violation of any law or the Rules of Professional Conduct. The remaining allegations -- that I “violate equal employment opportunity laws,”“denied” the complainant her First Amendment rights and improperly threatened her with lawsuit -- to the extent they allege the conclusion that I engaged in unlawful conduct or threatened a lawsuit not based on a good faith basis of fact and law, could involve conduct that would violate the Rules of Professional conduct. But the complainant alleges no facts which support these assertions. Therefore, while I respond to the charges, I do so without conceding that the complainant has provided a basis upon which I could properly be made to respond, and I preserve all of my rights with respect to the complainant’s allegations and their publication.
I also must note my belief that I am being asked to respond to a complainant who alleges no wrongdoing other than my refusal to agree with her patently erroneous view of applicable law. While I acknowledge and value the obligation of the Bar to investigate allegations of
As will be discussed below, the complainant has made every effort to publicize her complaint and the Bar’s direction to me that I respond to it. Because the complaint involves accusations of misconduct-related to my representation of a public body, I ask that The Florida Bar take the publicity gained by the complainant as a basis for resolving this complaint as quickly as possible.
This type of logic is not new to the complainant. One of her major complaints is that the Superintendent altered the teaching time of high school teachers, to make them equal to those amounts taught by elementary and middle school teachers. This change was express hor -d by the collective bargaining agreement which exists between the
Heidi E. Brewer
March 24, 2008
unethical behavior, I believe that the Bar should at least consider the potential impact that complaints such as this might have on attorneys, especially those who give their advice in public forums, who could take from this process the message that no matter how ignorant of applicable law a member of the public may be, she or he is free to invoke the Bar’s good offices to make the attorney pay for the offense of giving advice that differs from her or his opinion. Having said that, I offer the following:
1. The Alleged Failure to Respond And/Or Acknowledge The Complainant’s Request for “Public Information.”
In order to respond to the complainant’s allegation relating to “public information,” I think it helpful to first describe the nature of my relationship with The School Board of Hillsborough County, Florida (“the School Board”), my understanding of the laws relating to the public’s right to obtain such “information") and certain misconceptions of these subjects which I believe affect the complainant’s perception of relevant facts.
I am not an employee of the School Board. The complainant believes that I am, evidenced by her several requests to obtain my “employment file” and her complaint to the School Board’s public information office about my being allowed to maintain my own personnel files. (I enclose a copy of an e-mail sent to and answered by the School Board’s public information office, which deals with this subject. The e-mail is one of many in which the complainant sought and and obtained “public information” from the School Board). In fact, no such file exists as I am neither a full-time nor part-time employee of the Board. My firm, Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing (formerly Thompson, Sizemore & Gonzalez) has provided legal services to the School Board since the firm’s founding in 1983. Prior to that year, I provided the same services initially as an associate and later a shareholder in the firm of Shackleford, Farrior, Stallings & Evans. My representation of the School Board dates back to 1975.
During this entire time I have been retained and compensated by the School Board on an hourly fee for services rendered basis. I have a “contract” which establishes the hourly rate and provides that I will perform legal services as assigned by the School Board, or the Superintendent of Schools, who is the chief executive office of the School Board. Until 2005, these services consisted of the representation of the School Board Board, and providing legal advice to the Board, the Superintendent and Superintendent’s staff in matters involving labor and
Continuation of footnote:
School Board and the union which represents all classroom teachers. The complainant doesn’t like the exercise of the undisputable right of the Board. That is her prerogative. She may not, however, characterize it as unlawful. I understand that the complainant may not understand all of this, as she may not understand that referring to someone as “reprising” the role of a “consigliore” carries the innuendo that the accused is counseling another in methods of evading or breaking the law. I assure the complainant that I understand the meaning. Additionally, the statement that my firm “suffered” the administration’s firing of an employee on a “manufactured charge” is also false and defamatory. Moreover, I must note that the complainant writes of lawyers having become such “bullies that Shakespeare says we should kill them.” I assume that the complainant has never read the play from which this quote is so often taken out of its context. The line is uttered by one of two speakers who are discussing how best to achieve anarchy. I believe her misuse of the words to be consistent with her other actions as well.
Heidi E. Brewer
March 24, 2008
employment laws and regulations; civil rights litigation, and laws related to public and student records, government in the sunshine and exceptional education. My “contract,” which I consider to be essentially an engagement letter , has always been terminable at the pleasure of the School Board. I have not sought, nor would I accept, any contract which would obligate the School Board to retain me for any finite period of time. It has always been my belief that a lawyer may not enter into an arrangement with a client which would obligate the client to use or pay for the services of an attorney it no longer wishes to retain and certainly not one in which the lawyer could be paid without providing services. The contract was entered into solely for the benefit of the State’s auditors who required documentation of the rate to be paid to my firm and other attorneys paid by the School Board. I have always considered the School Board to be a client of my firm, like any other such client and retained under the same arrangement. The position of school board attorney is not an office. I was required to take no oath or agree to any special obligations to the public. The complainant my client. I know of no obligation I have to communicate with her.
The School Board has only had two sch0ol board attorneys. The first, W. Crosby Few, resigned that position in 200 5, after more than than thirty years of representation to the Board, as part of the winding down of his professional career. I had worked with Mr. Few and the administration since I began providing representation to the Board. After his resignation I was approached by the the Superintendent of Schools to take the school board attorney position in addition to the services I was already providing. The Superintendent recommended my appointment to the School Board which approved it unanimously. I provide my services as th School Board attorney under the same hourly arrangement that existed between the School Board and me under at the same hourly rate. The additional services that I provide as the Board’s attorney beyond what I did before consist primarily of attendance at Board meetings, oversight of outside counsel providing the School Board legal representation in the areas of real property, environmental, construction and liability defense, and general legal advice.
My appointment was in fact effected without competitive bidding. There is no requirement in any law that the School Board must accept bids or any other submission before employing or otherwise retaining its attorney. Florida Administrative Code Rule 6A-1 .012 has been promulgated by the Florida State Board of Education pursuant to Florida Statute §lOlO.04(l)(a), part of what is known as the Florida School Code, and provides that “purchasing and leases by school districts and community colleges shall comply with the requirements of law and rules of the State Board of Education.” There is no general law which governs procurement of legal services by school boards. I note, however, that Florida Statute §287.057, which sets forth the methods which must be used by other agencies to procure commodities and contractual services, contains an exemption for the procurement of legal services, set out in §287.057(4)(f), which provides:
Footnote: In §287.012(1) an “agency” is defined as an officer or subdivision of the executive branch of the Sate of Florida. This definition does not include the school board.
Heidi E. Brewer
March 24, 2008
The following contractual services and commodities are not subject to the competitive- solicitation requirements of this section:
5. Legal services, including attorney, paralegal, expert witness, appraisal, or mediation services.
Florida Administrative Code Rule 6A-l .0 12, which controls school board purchasing and procurement, reflects the same principle. It relies essentially on a system mandating the receipt of at least three bids for general procurement, but in Subsection 6A- 1.012(7) provides as follows:
The requirement for requesting bids from three (3) or more sources is hereby waived as authorized by Section 1010.04(4), F.S., for the purchase of professional or educational services . . . . Emphasis added
There was no legal requirement that the School Board take bids for its attorney or any other attorney it might retain. The Board’s policy, specifically Policy 2.11 provides only that the Board will “obtain an attorney from outside its own membership will act as legal advisor to the board and superintendent.” Because of e aforementioned laws and rules, and the method of my retention by the School Board, there n documents which relate to my appointment. The complainant contains an accurate quote of me having said that in my opinion the appointment of the Board’s attorney should have been opened up to allow for other proposals. I think that fact irrelevant, as the Board chose otherwise and they w re legally entitled to do so.
As the Board’s attorney, all of my communications with the School Board, except those that may be exempted from disclosure, are public records and available for review the complainant and any other person. To my knowledge the complainant has received all such documents which she has requested from the Board. But the complainant confuses public records, to which she is entitled to access, and “public information,” which apparently is a reference to the several questions which the complainant has posed to the School Board and, she apparently claims, to me. The public records law of Florida guarantees access to public records, which are defined in that law. There is, however, no right to have one’s question answered by governmental officials, employees or lawyers.
I have described the complainant’s requests to me as “apparently” having been made because I have not received them. I have not received them because they have been made by email addressed to my private law office. I have not received these e-mails because I have the complainant blocked and will not correspond with her through this medium. The complainant knows this because I specifically and expressly informed her some time ago that I would no
The complainant writes that I “accepted this plum position in a manner that goes athwart the equal employment riders on the school’s federal contracts” and also that I “ignored equal-opportunity riders on school federal contracts.” These allegations are simply false. There are no such riders and my appointment violated no law.
Heidi B. Brewer
March 24, 2008
longer accept her e-mails. I repeated that position at a public meeting when the complainant used the School Board’s public comment time to remark on my non-responsiveness.
I had once communicated on a regular basis with the complainant on a variety of subjects, including but not limited School Board related matters. I stopped when she and an associate of hers persisted in making what I considere to be sexist, slanderous, offensive, and factually incorrect comments about current and form School Board officials and employees, and other topics as well.
Additionally, the complainant maintains a “blog.” On several occasions e-mail communications between her and me made their way to her blog and to a local columnist who she refers to as her other daught-without my consent. Indeed, the complainant has public both the complaint to which I now respond and the Bar’s communications to her which relate to it. The local newspaper for which the columnist I referred to above works has written of it, as has the publisher of the same weekly paper. The last piece was defamatory, having been written as if the allegations are fact instead of allegations. The columnist described the Bar’s decision to investigate the complaint as constituting a “key baffle” which was won by the complainant, thus indicating that neither she nor the complainant have read the relevant rules on the subject. A web site maintained by a person who is a candidate for the School Board and has the complainant’s support has also printed some of the correspondence. The complainant has announced her intention to ask one of the area daily newspapers to “pay attention to [her charges] for the good of the school community.” I am sure that the complainant will publicize both this response and her reply to it, again without my consent. I have no desire to provide the complainant with additional fodder. At the very least, I will not make it any easier for her to disseminate it to others. I doubt very much that the complainant, her columnist “daughter,” the newspaper’s publisher or anyone else connected with her will publicize the result of your investigation if it does not produce the result the complainant seeks fo1e am very much concerned that the complaint may impact the agency which I represent and I ask that you move as quickly as you can on this matter, consistent with your respons bilities.
While I refuse to accept the complainant’s e-mails, I have not ever informed the complainant that I would not accept and read other forms of communication. My mailing address and facsimile number are available from several sources. She has not made use of them. If she does, I still won’t answer her questions, but to the extent that she wishes to obtain any public documents, I will be glad to refer those requests to the documents’ proper custodian. That custodian is the public information office of the School Board, an entity with which the complainant has corresponded and otherwise interacted with on many, many occasions.
Board Policy 3.07 provides that public records will be obtained from their lawful custodian. I am not the custodian of any pubii records created or received by the School Board. In the Government-In-The-Sunshine manual prepared by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Florida, there is a discussion about the applicability of the public records law to private individuals. This publication is available to the public, including the complainant. The manual’s
Heidi E. Brewer
March 24, 2008
discussion of the point at hand ends with this statement: “Stated another way, business records of entities which merely provide services for an agency to use (such as legal, professional services, for example) are probably not subject to open government laws.” 2008 Edition, at page 66. No court or agency has ruled to the contrary.
The complainant knows how she may access public records. As I have said, she has availed herself of this privilege on many occasions, through the Board’s public information office. She cannot obtain records from me, because I not have them. I note that t School Board’s public information office has also answered healthy number of questions as I and has tried, without much success, to explain various laws, policies and regulations.
I am not aware of any Rule of Professional Conduct which requires me to allow the complainant to communicate with me by e-mail, communicate with me at all, make requests for “public information,” or force me to maintain public records of which I am not the custodian. I would be happy to be informed if I am in error in that regard.
In closing on this point, I should also mention the complainant’s misconception that, although I am retained by the School Board, I actually work for her. I acknowledge that in payment for my services I recive funds raised by taxes and other governmental exactions. But at the end of the day, I am the School Board’s attorney and I owe my professional responsibilities to its interests, not those of the complainant or any other person. That duty, as explained in an opinion of the Florida Attorney General, is owed to the School Board as a body, not to individual members of that body. I am not the “putative” school board attorney. I am in fact that person. Therefore, at meetings, I will somtimes explain the legality of a position taken by the School Board to an individual member of School Board who disagrees. It is of course the right of the individual members to have contrary view, but the Board’s lawyer must respond to the will of the majority of his client, which clearly is the Board. To be sure, I routinely answer questions from members of the public, and I will continue to do so. But I retain my right to cease communications with those persons when circumstances warrant, as believe they do in the case of the complainant. Again, if there is a Rule of Professional responsibility which requires an attorney who represents a public entity to treat members of the public as his client, I would ask to be so informed.
The Alleged Violation of Equal Employment Opportunity Laws
Subject to my capacity to decipher the complaint, it appears that I have been accused of violating equal employment laws because I have not acted to stop the School Board from awarding contracts and employing certain persons without informing the School Board that they
Footnote: In one of thee-mails have attached to this response, the complainant asks the Board to provide a transcript of a meeting in which I told her that! wasn’t her attorney, explaining that “she needed it for her Bar complaint.” I do not remember saying that at a meeting, but! fully endorse the accuracy of the thought I am alleged to have expressed, and I do believe I have expressed it to complainant that on more than one occasion. She therefore does not need a transcript to prove it.
Heidi E. Brewer
March 24, 2008
must use competitive bidding to do so. I have no legal authority or other ability toward contracts. Other than in my own law firm I not an employer subject to equal employment laws, nor do I hold any other position which would enable me to violate them. Neither do I have any power to prevent the Board from taking action.
I reject entirely any contention that I have ever failed to counsel the School Board to use bids or other competitive methods to employ or contract with persons or entities when the applicable law or other governing authority requires them. I have, however, counseled the School Board that in certain situations they may act without using these methods. The complainant is apparently unaware of the governing legal authority applicable to School Board procurement, even though that authority is available to her from a variety of sources.
Specifically, certain employment positions established by the School Board do not require posting of the opportunity or the taking of applications. These include the position of Superintendent and all of her direct reports, and other high ranking employees as well. The complainant has taken issue with certain employment decisions made by the School Board, because she does not believe that years of managing schools and other subdivisions of the School Board’s operations, some involving hundreds of employees and millions of dollars of responsibility, can qualify those persons for higher job duties. She is especially dismissive of persons whose careers began teaching elementary school students and those she believes to have “only” taught “Home Ec.” (She has analogized the belief that a teacher can be promoted to perform managerial duties to the belief that a cafeteria worker can become a teacher. In fact, several employees of the School Board have begun their careers as custodians, teacher aides and other similar positions and then gone on to become teachers. The School Board is proud of that fact. Apparently the complainant does not approve of the opportunity, which is of course unfortunate for one who purports to be so proud of having been a teacher.) The complainant is of course free to have her opinions. The School Board as a body obviously disagrees. The law
Footnote: Indeed, among the many laws that the complainant apparently has not read is Fla. Stat. §1012.22, which provides that the school board will “designate positions to be filled, prescribe qualifications for those positions, and provide for the appointment, compensation . . . of employees.” There is no legal requirement that school boards post or otherwise advertise employment opportunities. That the Board does so for certain positions is a matter of Board policy, not law. That the Board chooses not to require that process for other positions is perfectly lawful. The complainant is particularly galled by the fact that the Chief Facilities Officer, Mrs. Valdes (“Valdez” to the complainant), “holds a degree in early childhood, a mismat [her current position].” In addition to having been a successful teacher, Mrs. Valdes was first a national award winning principal and then an area director overseeing all of the schools in one of the district’s highest growth areas. Prior to her current post, she was involved in the construction of at least seven schools. She is considered by her peers throughout the state, including those who are not educators, as a valuable source for information and guidance. The complainant thinks Mrs.
complainant has absolutely no competence to make that Valdes is mismatched. While I would suggest that thejudgment, she has the right to her opinion. She is not, however, entitled to raise her willfully uninformed opinions to the level of an accusation of wrongdoing. More importantly, her contention, that she “never heard that [I] reminded the Board of the need to advertise Valdez’s [sic] job to accord with the its ubiquitous stamp of ‘we are an equal-opportunity employer” is yet another proof that she does not fully understand the laws. Nothing requires the use of advertising to comply with the laws applicable to the School Board.
Heidi F. Brewer
March 24, 2008
allows employment positions to be filled at the discretion of the School Board based on recommendations made by the Superintendent.
Additionally, the complainant takes issue with my advice to the School Board concerning a particular contract that was in fact awarded without a bid. Governing authority, specifically the rule promulgated by the Florida Department of Education noted above, expressly allows this practice for certain types of purchases, specifically including professional and educational services. The particular contracts of which the complainant complains most vehemently clearly fell within the administrative exemption. The School Board had every right to award them in the manner they employed. The complainant views my explanation of this undisputable aspect of the law as constituting a defense of the law itself. That is her right. She has no right, and apparently not enough knowledge of th law, to accuse me of violating the Rules of Professional Conduct because she disagrees with my opinion.
In another situation, the School Board approved another contract that did not have to be bid. Following the vote, the contract was signed by both parties. At a subsequent meeting, two Board members who had voted against the awar sought to have the matter reconsidered, I did explain that not even Robert’s Rules of Order would allow a lawfully awarded and executed contract to be rescinded through the parliamentary device of reconsideration. I did, however, point out that the contract by its terms could be terminated without cause on the giving of notice. The Superintendent and a majority of the School Board elected not to invoke that right. Again, the complainant disagrees with that decision and she is free to do so. The actions of the School Board, however, were legal amd I stand by my advice. The complainant was I believe at both of these meetings. There is, therefore, no excuse for her inaccurate description of what took place. Again, the complainant is making use of th Bar's disciplinary processes for the purpose of enforcing her view of reality on others. Sh ‘s absolutely wrong about the applicable law.
The complainant also believes, again wrongly, that “equal employment laws” prohibit no-bid or otherwise non-competitive awards of contracts. That simply not so. There could be no good faith basis in law for this assertion. These laws prohibit discrimination based on protected characteristics. As much as the complainant may wish it to be otherwise, no law, federal, state or local, requires competitive processes to be employed in the situations to which the complainant refers.
The complainant’s assertion that I relied on “some inchoate process” to justify the Board’s action is totally incorrect, unless one deems a rule promulgated by the state’s Board of Education “inchoate.”
The complainant writes that “[w]hen knowledge of the job’s invention surfaced, the board attorney could discover no way to revoke the contract, so the protégé went on the payroll.” That is false. As noted above, I informed the Board that they could terminate the contract with notice, The Board has chosen not to do so. The person in question did not “go on the payroll.” She was and is a contractor to the Board. No job was invented. The complainant was at this meeting. She knows that her assertions are factually incorrect.
‘° She is wrong as well in her assertion that I told the Board that “money is no object.” I informed the Board that they need not accept the lowest bid. Indeed, even when bids are required in a particular transaction, the Board is not always required to purchase the cheapest alternative.
Heidi E. Brewer
March 24, 2008
As with the other allegations made by the complainant, this one contains no allegations of fact which could under any circumstances state a violation of law or the Rules of Professional Responsibilities.
The Alleged Suppression of First Amendment Rights
I did not deny the complainant any First Amendment rights. Indeed, I have no authority to do so. The complainant is a frequent speaker at School Board meetings, often speaking multiple times on various matters taken up by the School Board. She at times has used these opportunities to accuse a particular School Board member of adultery. Of course, neither the School Board nor any member of its administration has any legal ability to act on these or other accusations against a sitting School Board member, but the complainant is allowed to express them. At the same time, she is often wrong about the subject to which she purports to be speaking and as often personally abusive.1 She has a particular problem with names (I believe this can readily be ascertained from her complaint and the fact that she has referred to me in meetings or writings as “Mr. Valdez,”“Mr. Gallagher” or, when stuck for any surname, “Tom.” She regularly refers to a Board member named Edgecomb as “Etheridge”). While these characteristics in no way affect her right to speak, they do make any chair’s conduct of a meeting difficult.
Of the two instances of w s ojn ns f the “suppression” of her Amendment rights, I was present only for only one of them. I would have done nothing differen had I been at both. In the first , the complainant began speaking of her accusations against the School Board member which she believes to have committed adultery. That Board member was chairing the meeting. The Chair did in fact rule out of order the comment which, she informed me later, she believed not to involve a matter over which the School Board had any jurisdiction and therefore not a proper subject of public comment. Neither the chair nor any other member requested an opinion from me or the attorney who was present in my place.’ On
The complainant expresses these thoughts at meetings and in her writings. She has on at least one occasion written of her urge to “kick the ass” of a school board member, based on the complainant’s misreading of another email. She has often expressed the belief, considered sexist by some, that at least some of the women who advance within the Board’s administration do so because of relationships with male mentors or supervisors. She considers the “girth” ofa school board member to be a valid subject of public comment , an has referred to another Board member as the “pole girl” and described her as having an “unorthodox anatomy." She continuously harangues those employees who began their careers as mere educators. She has boasted of her First Amendment protected right to commit slander. The list of such utterances is long. The point is that when these expressions are added to the complainant’s method of expression and her inaccurate assertions of fact, the combination makes conducting a meeting at which she speaks a challenge.
The complainantidentifies this attorney as “Scott Timberg,”“Le Timberg” and “Timberg.” His actual name is Gregory A. Flearing. The complainant also refers to him as a “callow specimen of legal talent.” Mr. Hearing is my partner and is a magna cum laude graduate of The University of the South, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and an honors graduate of The Florida State University College of Law. He has been practicing law for more than nineteen years and is board certified by The Florida Bar in the areas of Labor and Employment Law and Trial Practice. To refer to him as “callow” is to strongly suggest that the speaker needs to get a dictionary.
Heidi E. Brewer
March 24, 2008
at least one occasion thereafter the complainant has made the same charge against the chair without incident.
On the second occasion of which the complainant writes, she went over the official limit which has been established by the School Board. Such a limit is a content neutral condition of speech which consistently has been constitutional. Additionally, after the time had expired, the complainant mentioned a teacher by name and the chair did in fact rule her out of order. I believe the chair had the right to rule the complainant out order for having willfully exceeded the time limit. The complainant was in fact asked to leave the meeting room. She was in fact to leave the building after by the chief of School Board security to leave the building. I was not present when he did so. I was not asked for an opinion as to either action, but I believe the chair possessed the authority to act as she did. I am not aware of a situation like this occurring during any of the time in which I have been the School Board attorney. Speakers sometimes do in fact exceed the allowed time limit. They are routinely interrupted and stopped. I have never observed any other speaker simply ignore the red light which is placed on the speaker’s podium and the chair’s instruction to stop.
I did in fact explain to the public at the School Board’s next meeting that the mentioning of names of persons is in fact allowed by the School Board’s policies governing public comment and the complainant spoke to several issues, again without incident.
As with the complainant’s other allegations, this charge does not state a violation of the Code of Professional Conduct.
The Alleged Threat of a Lawsuit
I did not threaten the complainant with a suit. In fact, she knows I did not, as evidenced by an e-mail recently sent to the School Board’s public information office, in which she correctly describes the incident. I enclose a copy of that communication. Indeed, the event is described accurately in the letter of January 18, 2008, which is part of the charge.
When the complainant makes a public comment which is wrong, it still is televised as part of the Board’s meeting. School Board members and I routinely attempt to correct the complainant’s misstatements. At the meeting in question, the complainant stated that “federal equal employment opportunity laws” prohibit filling employment positions without posting them. There is of course no such law. Nevertheless, the complainant explained to the School Board that she previously had filed requests with the United States Department of Labor, Office
The complainant notes that the previous chair, Dr. Lamb, would have “his finger on the buzzer to silence the intruder mid-clause at the end of the niggard[ly) three minutes.” In other words she knows full well of the Board’s constitutional policy in this regard and its consistent enforcement as well. I have been given no basis upon which to suggest that this policy needs to be changed. I also note that Dr. Lamb never implied that the complainant was a “wetback.” I have never heard him use that slur. The complainant is the only person I know to have used that term in the context of the Board’s business.
Heidi E. Brewer
March 24, 2008
of Contract Compliance for compliance reviews and that she would do so again if the School Board persisted in filling positions without posting them. She expressed no accusation of the Board having committed discrimination which would actually violate any applicable law.
Because the School Board acted completely legally, because the complainant was incorrect in her assertions, and because I did not want the public to be given the impression that the School Board had acted inappropriately by awarding legally permissible contracts and employment opportunities, I did ask to be recognized, explained the law and then informed the complainant that asking for a compliance review for the stated purpose of forcing a governmental body to refrain from dong that which it lawfully could do “could be viewed as a form of extortion.” No suit was mentioned. None was threatened. I did not represent a party who could have brought such a suit as the Board could not bring one. I was not extorted, so I could not bring a suit. There was no threat. Whether and when the wicked flee when no one pursues them is a subject I leave to others.
Again, this charge is without any merit.
I close this response by restating my denial of any alleged violation of the Rules of Professional Responsibility. If I have missed anything and you would like to enlighten me on the specific violations you were able to “discern,” I would very much like to know of them.
I hope that the foregoing is responsiveto your request. In order to honor the page limitations imposed in your letter I have not included other materials mentioned above. I will of course be glad to provide them on request, and to supply whatever additional information you require of me. Additionally, the complainant describes several events and occunences which are not related to the four topics you wish for me to address. My failure to mention them in no way should be read as my acceptance of their accuracy, for which there is in fact very little or that I consent to their publication by the complainant.
Very truly yours,
Thomas M. Gonzalez
cc: Lee Drury De Cesare Enclosures
Linda, I need the transcript of the board meeting in which Tom Gonzalez said that he was not my attorney but the board’s. This is also the transcript in which he said that my asking for the federal equal-employment opportunity-laws to be carried out by the school board or that I would ask for a compliance review by the federal government could be interpreted as “extortion.”
I need these data to supply information to the Florida Bar Ethics Commission on my charge against Mr. Gonzalez.
PS I will send the $1.35 I owe for copying.
by Andrea Brunais
The School Board’s Oppression of Grannies
U.S. Internet surfers watch more than 10 billion videos online each month, according to people who track those things.
The web and national tabloid TV shows have repeatedly shown Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies dumping one unfortunate person out of a wheelchair and breaking a young woman’s arm.
Alas, Hillsborough School Board meetings don’t show up on YouTtbe. Unless you were there, you can only imagine the scene of security hustling Lee Drury deCesare out of the meeting room, ejecting her from public property. School board critic deCesare apparently spent a few seconds too long at the microphone or committed some other misdeed.
Often in our democracy security and police allow themselves to become instruments of tyranny. Did you see the recent documentary on Ralph Nader? Shockingly, police barred him, from entry to the Democratic debate during the presidential campaign — even though he possessed a legal ticket Ralph Nader was too powerful or too disruptive or both. Highly placed Democrats employed the state’s police powers to keep him out of sight, out of mind and off TV.
This past September, campus police Tasered a University of Florida student who asked
impudent questions of U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
Juxtapose these incidents with President George W. Bush proclaiming repeatedly that terrorists hit us because they hate our freedom- What freedom? Torture techniques such as waterboarding, civilian police techniques such as Tasering — these plus the daily obliteration of free-speech across our land give freedom a hollow ring.
Why is a person ejected from a public building during a public meeting? Presumably, they pose some sort of danger or threat. What did they fear 75-year-old fashionista granny deCesare might do? Kick someone with her spike heels? Smack them with her MooRoo purse?
Perhaps this ill-treatment of Lee Drury deCesare will finally create some interest in the mainstream news media about her complaints against the school board and the school adjriiriistration, For years deCesare has leveled criticisms against Superintendent Mary- Ellen Elia, chief among them:
• Elia, who lacks a Ph.D., has demonstratEd nonfeasance in office by playing favorites among board members and staff
• She punishes people who speak out, such as media specialist and gay-student advo
cate Bart Montohno
She stonewa.lls and condones practices such as refusing to release public records as mandated by law
The Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times, supposed champions of the First Amendment, have ignored the story of deCesaj-e trying to wrest public documents from the school administration and from its chief lawyer, Tom Gonzalez. Now deCesare has won a key battle. She wrote to the Florida Bar Ethics Commission against the firm of Thompson, Sizemore & Gonzalez, stating: ‘1 have tried for over a month to get public information from Mn Gonzalez about his firm’s relationship with the Hilisborough County School Board. He declines even to acknowledge that he received the requests.
The commission agreed to investigate her complaint.
A School Board meeting is coming up right after this column goes to press. Lee Drury deCesare vows to show up and exercise her First Amendment rights again, even if that means risking arrest, Will uniformed security officers and/or actual police drag her away? I hope as you read this that our favorite Granny is not cooling her heels in jail.
Please send column ideas to
THOMPSON, SIZEMORE, GONZALEZ & HEARING
PROF ESSIC N AL ASSOC IATION
ONE TAMPA CITY CENTER
HARRISON C- THOMPSON. jR GRESORY A HEARING
1925- 19941 201 N FRANKLIN STREET SUITE 1600
MAROUIS W HErLIG
WILLIAM E- SIZEMORE POST OFFICC SOX 639 ERIN G JACKSON*
11945 2004) TAMPA. FLORIDA 3360’
KEVIN 0 JOHNSON *
LUIS A- CABASSA * ala) 273-0050
GRETCHEN H LEHMAN
JAMES H CRAIG * FAX NO- 1813) 273-0072 LARA J PEPPARO
JENNIFER H FAGGION
CAREN R, SKVERSKY
THOMAS H GONZALEZ
DONNA V, SMITH
CERTIFIED I N CIVIL TRIAL SY TRE FLORIDA OAR
CHARLES J THOMAS
*AOANDCER,IrIED}NLAS0R&ENPLOTNENT LA•SVTRE March26 2008
FLOOIDA SAN ‘ JENNIFER L, WATSON
Via FedEx Overnight
Heidi E. Brewer
Attorney Consumer Assistance Program
The Florida Bar
651 East Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2300
Re: Lee Drury DeCesare; The Florida Bar File No.
Dear Ms. Brewer:
Since submitting my response to the referenced ch ge lb ye become aware of additional information which 1 believe to be releva t to your investiga n therefore am submitting this letter to supplement my response if tha is possible.
As I have written, the complainant maintains a “blog.”
Yesterday, I was directed to that site by the School Board’s public information office. I found there the posting dated Sunday, March 23, 2008, of which I enclose a copy. In that entry, the complainant writes apparently to me:
Tom, I have asked Linda Cobb [sic] or these data, but I have heard nothing from her yet. I think you will know the answe these questions:
I. Who composed the preamble that Chair Falliero sic reads before a citizen speaks before the board?
2. How long has it been in use? Please tell the answers to these questions to Linda if you know them.
Lee Drury De Cesare
In fact, I never received this communication. As I have stated before, I have the complainant’s e-mails blocked. But I have also reviewed my list of blocked messages and cannot find any attempt by the complainant to send this “request.” I note that like her previous requests for “public information,” she seeks no public records. Moreover, Ms. Cobbe, who works in the School Board’s public information office, is certainly capable of deciding when and if she needs my input in a particular matter.
Heidi E. Brewer
March 26, 2008
What I believe to be an explanation for the complainant’s posting of this entry is provided by the complainant’s posting of Monday, March 24, 2008, of which a copy is also included. In that writing, the complaint shared that:
I have a note from a friend who thinks Gonzalez will ignore my latest request for public information.
That would be good. Then I could turn him again.
We will see how smart he is and earned all those millions of taxpayer dollars over the last fifteen years of his no-bid contract with the board. Hubris may have blinded him, but I doubt it.
That latest turndown for information would occur after the Ethics Commission has already accepted my charge that includes his not sending me requested public information.
I would add this latest evidence of his thumbing the nose at the law to his file to be sent to the commission.
Tomorrow is Gonzalez’s due date for filing a rebuttal to my charges against him with the Ethics Commission. Then I have ten days to comment on his rebuttal.
We must be patient. Everything comes to those who wait.
I suggest that the complainant is in error as to the entity with which she has filed a complaint against me. She means The Florida Bar. She has filed no complaint with the Florida Ethics Commission. I would also suggest that she continues to be unaware of the definition of “public records” to which a public entity must provide access (the definition provided in Section 119.011(11) because with the description of “all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing soflware, or other material regardless of physical form”) and the fact that no law requires a public entity to afford “public information.” She accuses me again of “thumbing the nose at the law,” to which I again object. She has clearly put out in the public the charge that I have violated the law, as evidenced by the anonymous poster of whom the complainant wrote above, who also accuses me of denying information which I am obligated “by law” to give.
In closing, I inform the complainant that I will not respond to her e-mails and that she may address any request she might have for public documents to the School Board. I inform The Florida Bar that it may take as.trUëlhe complainant’s assertions that I will not communicate with her nor will I respond to c-mails, even if she actually sends them to me. I ask again that the Bar
Heidi B. Brewer
March 26, 2008
take note of the campaign being waged the complainant and the use to which she has put the Bar’s conducting this investigation, and consider this matter as quickly as possible.
Very truly yours,
cc: Lee Drury Dc Cesare Enclosures
De Cesare's response to Gonzalez's rebuttal of the ethics charge to the bar by De Cesare
Dear Ms. Brewer:
I received Tom Gonzalez’s response to my complaints about him to the Bar’s Ethics Committee on March 25th.
Mr. Gonzalez says I am ignorant, misinformed, affected by misconceptions, importunate, and wicked.
However, I learned the details of Mr. Gonzalez’s employment with the school board, which he had refused to give me before. He didn’t even admit he got the requests.
It’s worse than I thought: a venerable case of good-ol'-boy shut-out of anybody’s access to the board-attorney job except Mr. Gonzalez. Mr. Gonzalez says his lockdown on that job with no competitors goes back to 1975. It has lasted 37 years, not the 15 I inferred. I call this a case of discrimination of heroic proportions carried out through the agency of a tax-supported public body, the school board.
To accommodate a citizen’s request for public information, it wouldn’t have killed Mr. Gonzalez to have told Ms. Cobbe the answers to the information I sought. How was a citizen to know the idiosyncratic rigmarole that comprises Mr. Gonzalez’s public-information protocols?
Since the information about his employment is public information, he should have passed it along to Ms. Cobbe and told her to provide it to me. Mr. Gonzalez has yet to answer my inquiry about his firm’s being counsel in the Doug Erwin case or whether he recommended that case to the board and where I can read the court records of it. It shouldn’t take a complaint to the bar to extract it. And I hope that the complaint will catalyze him to give it to the Public Information office to send to me.
The Doug Erwin case was the infamous legal crucifixion of school employee Doug Erwin for turning whistleblower about waste in the building department—at least I think it was the building department. Instead of giving him a medal for revealing the waste of tax dollars, Superintendent Dr. Lennard said, “You’re going to have to defend yourself.” The school board and administration sued Mr. Erwin.
I want to know what role Mr. Gonzalez’s firm had in recommending that action.
Mr. Erwin won the case and, I believe, the appeal and got a small settlement. But he was a broken man who felt betrayed by the people with whom he had worked for years and retired rather than continue a job with those who punished him for exposing waste in tax-supported programs. [4/09 Linda Cobbe, public-information officer of the board, informed me yesterday that Mr. Erwin sued the school board, not the other way around as I had thought. Hoorah for Erwin is my response to this news.]
I have never gotten from Mr. Gonzalez or anybody the answer to my question about how much the Gonzelez firm earned from prosecuting this case. I bet it was a lot more than Mr. Erwin’s settlement. The school board wants to bury the Erwin case so bad does it look in the savaging of Mr. Erwin. I hear that the board shut the cameras off during the discussion of the case.
When Mr. Erwin got the Moral Courage Award from Hillsborough County, nobody from the school board or administration attended –certainly not the three members who sat on the Board and approved the savage treatment of Mr. Erwin: Ms. Carol Kurdell, Dr. Jack Lamb, and Ms. Candy Olson.
Mr. Gonzalez’s account of blocking his email to me differs from my recollection of how our email correspondence ended. I recall his having said that he would not read my blog any more because I had said vicious things about friends of his whom he did not name.
My inference was that one friend was City Council Member Linda Saul-Sena, who had twice promised a rape victim in my presence to meet with her about the bad treatment the Tampa Police Department gave her after her rape. Saul Sena skipped out of the obligation and stood up the rape victim twice. The vicious thing Mr. Gonzalez refers to, I guess, is that I said Saul Sena was not fit to serve in public office and distributed this opinion.
After working forty-five years in the Women’s Movement to open doors for women to enter public office, I find unacceptable that once one gets elected and can help women, she instead stands up a rape victim twice I judge La Saul Sena deserves as vicious a comment as I can devise.
And if the muse descends and whispers one more vicious in my ear than the one I previously published about Ms. Saul Sena, I shall advertise it to the world. City Council women who mistreat rape victims get the worst that I can dish out.
And as for Mr. Gonzalez’s blocking my email, I think he’s wrong. I sent an email to him recently about the origin of the preamble the board chair uses before she allows citizens to speak. I believe this preamble squelches free speech. I want to know who wrote it, when it went into effect, and why Mr. Gonzalez has never asked the board to stop using it. Since this email did not spit back and alert my mail program that Gonzalez’s email rejected it, I inferred Mr. Gonzalez received it.
I had hoped that he would send these data to the Public Information office.
Mr. Gonzalez expresses chagrin about blogs—mine in particular---and my using some of his correspondence in the blog “without my permission.” He claims to never read my blog so I don’t know how he can testify about it.
I don’t have to get Mr. Gonzalez’s permission to publish anything that he sends to me. The communication is mine to do with as I like. Moreover, I believe my complaining to the Florida Bar about what I consider to be unethical behavior should get public notice. People are scared to death of lawyers because they think if one opposes the breed that an annoyed lawyer will sue them. These timorous people should see that a citizen can complain about a lawyer and survive.
My publishing my charge against Mr. Gonzalez lets citizens know what is possible for them to do when they believe a member of the bar’s behavior is unethical. I don’t believe it matters—as Mr. Gonzalez seems to think it does—that a non-lawyer such as I who complains is not familiar with the details of the law. Lawyers’ work has a profound effect on society from the Supreme Court on down, and we laypeople should comment on it and protest when we disagree with lawyers’ behavior and opinions.
That La Gaceta columnist Andrea Brunais wrote a piece on a conflict between me and him incenses Mr. Gonzalez. He mocks that I call her “my third daughter.” I love Andrea dearly. I have known her since she was a just-out-of-school reporter at the old Tampa Times thirty-five years ago. I could in the early and tough years of the Women’s Movement rely on her to get information into the newspaper about what Tampa NOW was doing to fight discrimination.
To change society, you have to educate the public, and Andrea’s pieces on women’s struggle for equal rights did that. Her current publisher is Patrick Manteiga, for whom I used to write a column. Patrick continues to be interested in my rights work and comments on it in his political column “As We Heard It.” That Mr. Manteiga mentioned that I have filed an ethics charge against Mr. Gonzalez in his political column enrages Mr. Gonzalez. If Mr. Gonzalez doesn’t want the press to exercise the First Amendment, that’s tough. The presses will roll despite his rancor.
I suspect Mr. Gonzalez is afraid some of the South Tampa swells amongst whom he lives may think ill of him for having an ethics charge filed against him. I wouldn’t worry about the South Tampa faux aristocrats on that score were I he. I never heard one conversation about ethics the twenty years our family resided in South Tampa while our children went to public school. I heard no conversations about music, literature, art, or architecture. Nobody mentioned the ancient Greeks. Nobody quoted Hesiod. I didn’t notice any elevated ethics, sensitivity to social concerns, or devoted cultural behavior amongst the inhabitants of Tampa’s self-defined flossiest neighborhood. I heard a lot of piney-woods opinions and heard a lot of noveau-riche one-up-man-ship in material goods.
The reigning concerns of South Tampa denizens have nothing to do with ethics. Their two highest ambitions are that they have as friends “old- family Tampa” people and get into Ye Mystique Krewe.
I’m from Georgia. An “old family” there is one who got a land grant from Queen Anne. In Tampa, an old family, I discovered, is one often but several generations away from hookworm and share-cropping. I note that these paragons’ forebears’ faces’ paradigms stare from the pages of Agee’s Now Let Us Praise Famous Men.
My husband, a sophisticated New Yorker, says that Ybor City, where Patrick Manteiga publishes the newspaper that his grandfather started, has the only authentic culture in the Bay Area. Yet South Tampa’s soi-disant aristocrats base their sense of superiority on invidious comparisons with the Hispanic denizens of Ybor City because the Hispanics’ ancestors worked in the cigar factories.
Manteiga’s grandfather, a reader in a cigar factory, began La Gaceta when he got kicked out of his job because the owners feared that information would exacerbate unionism, which would make owners pay workers a decent salary.
South Tampa’s idea of high culture is to found a club in honor of pirate and rapist Jose Gaspar and adorn it with tacky orthography. The Krewe’s liquored-up gallants sail in on Gasparilla Day, the mayor cedes them the key to the city, and they take over the town. Its pillars-of-the-community members wear blowsy pirate pantaloons that bag low and contain nothing. They parade down Davis Boulevard as drunk as hoot owls, throwing beads to bystanders and importuning young women pull up their blouses and show their breasts.
These soi-disant aristocrats shut out Hispanics for years to Ye Mystique Krewe and admitted only Hispanic specimens such as Mayor Dick Greco because he was an Anglo sycophant. Ybor Hispanics meanwhile formed their own crews.
I was proud to write for a paper like La Gaceta that represented rebellion of the Ybor City Hispanics against their South Tampa overlords. La Gaceta began to write the news of Ybor City because the downtown press sneered at Hispanic news as unimportant because Hispanics in their view were lowlife. That prejudice still percolates beneath the surface in South Tampa today. And in a lingering Stockholming syndrome, the Hispanics have absorbed this negative image of themselves.
Mr. Gonzalez’s fear of what the South Tampa neighbors will think bespeaks social insecurity and lousy ethics. Nobody worth his or her salt should give a damn about what such people think of him or her.
The three pages of rebuttal that Mr. Gonzalez sends the Ethics Commission about the validity of how he got his job suggest to me that he doth protest too much. I sense that he is not as comfortable with his history of inheriting the school-board job on good-ol'-boy protocols instead of on the open job market as he purports to be. Anybody with any sense of fairness and personal pride would hesitate to go that disgraceful route and brag about it. So my inference is that Mr. Gonzalez would rather cover it up.
This job history makes necessary Mr. Gonzalez’s defense of the no-bid job and contract protocols the board has handed over to Superintendent Elia to use in her system of cronyism in contracts and hiring. They replicate his. I have never observed Mr. Gonzalez’s defending the board chair’s abuse of citizens’ First –Amendment rights. But I have seen him interrupt board proceedings to defend crony contracts. In this sense Mr. Gonzalez reminds me of the consigliore role in The Godfather.
Crony contracts and hiring unqualified people who need pricey consultants to rush in to teach them to do their jobs when they flounder make the taxpayers pay extra. They also pay extra for awarding contracts to administrative cronies without bids. Yet Mr. Gonzalez in his rebuttal endorses both systems.
The meltdown of the transportation department provides an illustrative case. The head of it was a former bus driver. That’s right: a bus driver. The administration brought in consultants to fix the floundering bus system because she couldn’t. Having read the report, I think the consultants got $350,000 to advise doing two simple things: getting routing software and putting the buses in a more convenient location.
Anyone trained in business with experience in the field could have remedied that problem without pricey consultant input. So the corrupt hiring practices of the administration backed up by the board meant that consultants made off with a bundle for Romper-Room advice.
Mr. Gonzalez defends the board’s allowing Ms. Elia to make crony patronage appointments to high-level administrative jobs with bloated salaries without advertising the jobs to get the educated and skilled candidates these positions need. He implies anyone who objects to this system displays education snobbery. He says the board can follow the Florida Statute 1012 and pay no attention to the federal equal-opportunity laws.
I doubt that is the case and wonder if Mr. Gonzalez ever bothered to get an opinion from the EEOC and federal contractors to discover what their practices are toward a school system’s overruling the federal equal-opportunity laws with state laws and even board-of-education directives. But Mr. Gonzalez is obdurate: he has decided what is most convenient for the board and administration’s crony hiring and contract predilections and supports that practice with legal glosses.
Mr. Gonzalez’s fastidious account of his receiving the board-lawyer sinecure as a species of entailed entitlement from 1975 does not convince me that the Florida statutes and school-board regulations trump the federal equal-opportunity laws if somebody has the nerve to complain about losing a job because he or she didn’t get a chance to apply or if somebody, as I threatened to do, writes the contractors and complains.
I wonder that among the hordes of Tampa lawyers one never stepped up to the plate and filed a Title VII charge against Mr. Gonzalez.
In his rebuttal to my charges of deficient ethics, Mr. Gonzalez urges this committee to make a speedy decision because an ethics challenge to one of the legal priesthood has a chilling effect on lawyers for public bodies’ doing their jobs. The only lawyer Mr. Gonzalez is concerned about in my view is himself. If the Bar Ethics division comes down on him for unethical conduct, it will have a chilling effect on his ripping off taxpayers and his depriving other lawyers of equal employment opportunity.
The protected classes got no chance to apply for the board-attorney job, so Gonzalez’s good-ol'-boy grip on it violates Title VII in my view, and, moreover, it violates the equal-opportunity provisions attached to federal funds the schools get.
Giving jobs to buddies with academic-lite degrees and meager experience with no advertising also violates the equal-opportunity laws and contract provisions of the federal government too in my opinion. Mr. Gonzalez will deny that this is true because it’s in his interest to do so, but I bet he won’t submit a query to the Florida Attorney General on this issue or one to the funding agencies and the EEOC.
The reason for my belief is that I was able when I founded Tampa NOW forty yeas ago to get the EEOC to investigate patterns and practices of discrimination against women in the city’s employ—or those trying to get into the city’s employ . And I asked for and got an Affirmative Action Plan for the city when the EEOC found practices extant that discriminated against women.
My charging party—black and female—applied for a police-officer position. Marshall Jessee, the personnel guy, kept “losing” her application.
The city had then as it has now a stable of lawyers pushing papers around and chatting up The Meaning of Life to fill up office hours. Not one of them discovered the city’s employment practices made the city vulnerable to the charge of discrimination.
NOW’s winning the EEOC case and getting an affirmative-action plan on the books means that Dick Greco, mayor then, has ever since been running around the state’s political circuit, advertising that his was the first big Florida city to have an affirmative action plan. He doesn’t mention that the EEOC made him do it.
I graduated from Hillsborough High School with Dick. He was a jerk then and remains one. A poll of the Class of ’51 would support this assessment.
The sheriff’s department also had lawyers aplenty. But they didn’t see anything wrong either with Sheriff Beard’s shutting out women from deputy jobs. So I got the Justice Department to threaten cutting off funds if Sheriff Malcolm Beard didn’t allow women to be deputies. So the sheriff admitted women at last into that job rather than lose the federal grants. Again, I assume the plentiful legal staff hadn’t picked up on this situation.
One of my proudest moments was to suggest that now that women were to be deputies that Sheriff Beard should establish a child-care center. He almost busted a gut and hates me so badly that even now years later he won’t stay in the same room with me.
A recent press comment (cited in my original complaint) leads one to believe that people don’t believe handing jobs out with no advertising is as legally innocuous as Mr. Gonzalez labors to convince us that it is:
Over the past year, Hillsborough County has spent more than a half a million dollars on outside attorneys in addition to the $9 million for in house lawyers.
Dr. Earl Lennard, Former Hillsborough School Supt:
“At this time the recommendation is that Mr. Gonzales be appointed to board attorney.”
Gonzales was appointed the school board attorney in 2004 without allowing others to apply for the job.
Clinton Paris, Attorney:
“It is egregious for this board to carte blanche just hand off this position.” [Then why, for heaven’s sakes, didn’t Mr. Paris file a Title VII charge against Mr. Gonzalez and complain to the government funding agencies that the school board ignored its requirements for equal opportunity? Maybe Mr. Paris intuited that Mr. Gonzalez would sue him for slander. That below-the-surface threat of an exotic libel law suit acts as Mr. Gonzalez’s protection from challenges is my read.]
Since 2004 Gonzalez, who is a part-time school board employee [He denies that he is a school employee.], has ensured that taxpayers paid $910,593.78 to his firm for representing the school board. Even he [Gonzalez] agrees his appointment could have been handled better. [Then why didn’t he tell ding-dong Dr. Lennard that was his opinion?]
When Gonzales was asked shouldn’t they have opened up the process to let other people apply?
He said,“I thought they should have, yep.” [Then why didn’t he tell his client this assessment? Isn’t that what an ethical attorney should do?]
Meantime since 2003, Gonzalez who has a reputation as one of the best Labor attorneys in the state also billed the city of Tampa $492.853.
We asked Gonzales if an agency like the city of Tampa which has so much labor law would be better off having a specialist.
Tom Gonzalez, attorney:
“I don’t know when you say they have a lot, they have it in spurts.”
But Gonzales says it could save taxpayers money.
Tom Gonzalez, attorney:
“If you look at in a vacuum and do numbers to numbers, the numbers work out.”
But Gonzalez says he is not convinced one specialty lawyer could do the same amount of work his firm does.
Excerpt from Hart v. Hart deposition August 7, 2007
I add my assessment of the situation:
Tom Gonzalez’s law firm works for the employer side of the labor equation. His reputation is that of one of the best labor lawyers in the state. That means in my view that he screws workers for employers excellently well up and down Florida. He does his part in his school-board position of lawyer to discover ways the administration can disenfranchise teachers. He never discovers any state laws that keep Me. Elia, for instance, from making teachers adopt a grade-inflation scheme that forces teachers to fake grades and the superintendent from disenfranchising the graduates who want to get into a good college or university.
This grade-inflation scheme makes Elia’s performance look better. That’s the reason for it, not for any good it does to the students or the teachers. Ms. Elia runs the school system as an extension of her ego with the board’s complicity for her benefit and not for the wellbeing of the students and teachers.
Mr. Gonzalez assists the board and superintendent not only ad lib in beating up on teachers but also in keeping the lower-level staff cowed and afraid of losing its jobs. His recent assistance to the board and administration in disenfranchising workers involved abuse of high-school teachers by loading on an extra class on them to solve Ms. Elia’s budget problems. The extra class was without pay to replace teachers’ class-planning time. His rationale for this administrative maneuver to solve its budget problems provides an example of Gonzalez’s unctuous Jesuitical characterization of teacher mistreatment. His footnote to y’all in his rebuttal says Superintendent Elia dumped an extra class on high-school teachers without paying them to “make them equal to … [the] amounts taught by elementary and middle school teachers.”
That disingenuous gloss tells only part of the story, and Mr. Gonzalez knows that it does.
I have also heard Gonzalez characterize as “one of the best in the state” the Abu Ghraib Professional Standards office presided over by home-ec teacher Linda Kipley. He does not buttress this claim with recorded data. Ms. Kipley got the job without advertising, of course. This office on Superintendent Elia’s demand cooks up cases against anybody in the system who criticizes Ms. Elia’s clumsy, power-hungry management style.
I believe Professional Standards serves also as snitch central, to which the rumors and tidbits about teacher resistance to mistreatment get collated and filed for future action. Yet despite this activity against teachers and lower staff, I heard Mr. Gonzalez say that he believes that the Professional Standards cell block “is picked on.” He cites no evidence.
I don’t think lawyers are infallible as Mr. Gonzalez believes them to be. I think it’s ok to question their read of the laws. Isn’t that the reason the Supreme Court has dissenting opinions? I further believe that Mr. Gonzalez’s dogmatism makes him discount anything without analysis with which he disagrees—especially if it comes from a non-lawyer or even when it comes from a lawyer such as the ACLU lawyer who appeared when I asked the organization to supply a person to represent the First Amendment after I got kicked out for either using a name or for exceeding my time limits, both of which the administration cites alternately as the basis for my eviction from the school-board chamber. This sloppy analysis shows how the board and lawyer believe they don’t have to account for kicking out dissenting citizens in First-amendment situations. They can just slough it off as they habitually do. Nobody will object, they reason. Not until now one can add.
Mr. Gonzalez rebukes me by his writing a defense of Cathy Valdes’s credentials for the job of chief facilities officer. She has an early-childhood degree and makes $130 000 a year to head up this important division. Mr. Gonzalez cites that she was a “national award-winning principal.”
Big deal, I say. Those education gimcrack awards are hooey. The education bureaucrat superstructure churns them out by the Dempsey dumpster and passes them around with a hey nonny nonny. Ms. Elia has received a ton of them while she was downloading an obligatory grade-inflation scheme on teachers without consulting them. The Elia gimcrack device would falsify grades and make harder the county’s students’ getting into decent colleges and universities. I judge Ms. Elia has received at least three engraved Intergalactic Superintendent of the Year awards in the last trimester alone.
That is not a good sign of the value of these awards since Ms. Elia can’t punctuate and makes, despite this illiteracy, $300,000 a year, the most that I can find any superintendent makes on a search of the Internet. Part of this bloated pay is a “performance bonus” for which teachers do the work but Ms. Elia gets the credit and money.
Ms. Valdes was chief facilities head when recently a school whose construction she oversaw had a section cave-in after it was built. The contract apparently had no catastrophic insurance, so Mr. Gonzalez advised the board to eat the losses. That is, he advised the board to pass the losses of several million dollars on to the taxpayers.
I believe a chief facilities head with better business education and background could have handled this contract better; I also believe that a more alert lawyer would have warned the board about the insurance situation. The board, as usual was asleep at the switch.
One notes that Mr. Gonzalez does not use as his model of working one’s way up the bus driver who headed the transportation unit when there was a meltdown in that area. Board member Griffin had the stamina to hold out against the board members who rubberstamp Elia—Candy Olson, Jack Lamb, Doretha Edgecomb, Carol Kurdell, and Jennifer Falliero—to insist that the job get outside advertising for better talent in the new head. The ad brought in a qualified fellow for the top job for a change.
Ms. Elia, of course, took credit for the hire after the Griffin putsch succeeded but kept the failed past head on in a lower position, making the same salary. Nobody sufficiently servile to Ms. Elia ever loses a job no matter his or her incompetence. This kind of featherbedding on the taxpayer dime is routine.
The faculty’s maxim about this situation is “If you mess up, you move up.” The board should not run a welfare program for incompetents; if they mess up, they should get fired, not retained as dead-wood drain on taxpayers.
The administration and board never think of business efficiency because when it comes to taxpayer money, it’s just dip into the kitty whilst singing “We’re in the Money.”
These administrators without education-and-experience biographies to suit the jobs cost the taxpayers big money. Taxpayers pay bloated salaries for administrative incompetents and then have to pay for the consultants to teach them their jobs. Mr. Gonzalez thinks this double blow to the taxpayer wallet is just fine because he defends hiring the incompetent cronies.
Mr. Gonzalez’s glowing assessment of Ms. Valdes’s working her way up into a management job makes possible her taking of Gonzalez himself’s job soon. I don’t see why not. This elevation would fit Mr. Gonzalez’s narrative of working one’s way up through the ranks. Ms. Valdes could learn law on the job.
He, of course, should be able to work his way up to the Supreme Court with little or no effort. Isn’t that the way judges get on the Supreme Court bench: they move from school-board-inherited good-ol’-boy practices straight to the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice job?
Mr. Gonzalez’s inaction on citizens’ free-speech rights is unfair to the citizens who appear before the board to speak and whom the current chair in particular bullies and insults. Dr. Lamb, when he was chair, would have vaulted the desk to correct me once had his girth allowed it. I had rebuked him for using board stationery and stenographer to ask Mayor Iorio to abate his condo’s water bill. He told me to stay home (I live on the beach) as if I had swum the bay as a wet back and was not a citizen.
Other board members as well when citizens appear before the board treat those with rudeness; Ms. Edgecombe rebuked teachers for “being rowdy” when they came to protest the extra class Ms. Elia loaded on them with no warning and board collusion. In my case, Chair Falliero made up a “rule” on the spot and engaged the guard in my pre-arranged kicking out before I spoke. Such ill treatment makes most citizens not want to come to address the board, so their free-speech rights die aborning.
I infer that discouraging citizens from showing up accounts for the board’s uncivil behavior. The board wants to keep people away from the podium so that board members can use board time to chat up their gimcrack awards from the education-bureaucrat-award-giving industry or present other tremendous trifles of their narcissistic world, little of which has to do with education and much that has to do with board members’ amour propre. I expect any board meeting now that one a la Gloria Swanson will swan across the podium saying, “Mr. Director, I’m ready for my close-up now.”
The board said not a thing when Ms. Elia recently downloaded on the teachers a grade-inflation scheme that makes her performance look better but which disenfranchises the students and shames teachers who don’t want to participate in such academic fraud. They did not want input from the teachers on this shabby deal. The only way the board would welcome the teachers and students to board meetings is that they show up not to give them their valid input but only to tell the board and administration how wonderful they are. In fact, the board does not want anybody to speak freely but to compliment them endlessly. The board members are hogs for admiration.
The board and administration both are into spinning their image and don’t give a hoot about the reality behind the spin. They certainly don’t give a damn about allowing the free-speech rights of citizens although they took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution.
My husband was mayor of our little beach town for a dozen years. He says his city council never put conditions on citizens’ speech except a three-minute time limit. He says the council attorney advised him to tell the visitor he or she had three minutes and then “to get ready to be called everything but a gentleman.”
I couldn’t find out from the public-affairs office who drafted this preamble and how long it has been in effect. Since we now know that Mr. Gonzalez has held the board-attorney slot for 37 good-ol’-boy years, he must have witnessed its initiation and continuance over the years and never let out a murmur about its curtailing free speech.
The ACLU attorney, Rebecca H. Steele, who came to the meeting subsequent to my being kicked out by Chair La Belle Dame Sans Merci Falliero, said she was concerned about the school district’s policies governing public comment. She pointed out that up for vote at the meeting were policies that banned comments that were “vulgar and profane,” “racially, ethically, or religiously offensive, or that "constituted personal attacks." She told the board that the proposed policy (the preamble) presented serious First-Amendment problems of vagueness and overbreadth. “What,” she asked “was ‘offensive’?” She reminded the board that during the impassioned public comments surrounding the school holidays that many members of the public used speech that some might consider “religiously offensive” but that the First Amendment certainly protects.
Here is the preamble that the chair delivers before the public forum:
Please turn off all pagers and cell phones.
Public comment will begin at approximately 5 p.m.
If anyone in the audience wishes to speak at this meeting, please fill out a Request to Speak form and give it to the Communications staff located to my left. If you signed up online, please notify the Communications staff. Each speaker will be given three minutes to speak. The speaking time will be reduced to two minutes if there are 10 or more people wishing to speak to a particular agenda item.
The School Board provides a forum for citizens to speak, but only on matters related to the Hillsborough County Public Schools. We, therefore, must request that speakers adhere to these limitations. We also request that speakers show respect to others and refrain from making personal attacks, or engaging in other inappropriate speech. Inappropriate speech includes comments that are:
· Abusive, harassing, or threatening;
· Obscene, vulgar, or profane;
· Racially, ethnically or religiously offensive;
· Illegal or encourage criminal acts.
If a speaker violates the rules, he or she will be asked to stop speaking. If a speaker continues to make inappropriate comments, the Board chair reserves the right to turn off the microphone or have the speaker removed from the Board meeting room.
I recall that one fens-and-bogs bigot called Muslims “towel-heads” at the mike during the holiday-jamboree that featured the response to Muslins’ request for a religious holiday. The towel-head-diction guy didn’t get kicked out.
The board applies the “rules” selectively, and Board Chair Falliero added on one—a speaker may mention no one’s name—tailored for me.
Mr. Gonzalez studied his desk during Ms. Steele’s. presentation and paid not a scintilla of attention to her recommendations. The preamble is still in action with only a change of “must” to “suggests,” offered by Board Member April Griffin.
Mr. Gonzalez accuses me of sexism for my condemnation of the adultery of a board member. He does not have a firm grip on what sexism is. He says the board can’t do anything about Ms. Falliero’s conduct. The board could have declined to make this adulteress its board chair. Its members showed a lack of respect for the body on which they serve by doing so. The four members up for re-election in August should get ready to answer voters’ questions on this issue.
If Mr. Gonzalez thinks he can make me back down about opposing adulteress Falliero’s conduct and chair status, he’s dead wrong. Private adultery is one thing. But adultery initiated by Ms. Falliero on school property is another. She hung out in Mr. Marc Hart’s office for his “mentoring” on how to do her board job until she snagged the poor chump; broke up his marriage, and has caused his two young children great suffering. The little boy’s high grades have fallen; the girl’s physical ailment has worsened.
My moral code does not allow me to let Ms. Falliero get by with savaging the lives of little children for her sexual amusement in the ROSSAC building of the school board. And my ethics do not allow me to stay silent when the board makes such creature board chair. A grandmother with ten grandchildren does not sit idly by and let such things happen without protest. When sexual dalliance by public officials on the job makes little children suffer, it’s time for grannies to step up and squawk.
How do I know the details of this affair on school grounds? Mr. Hart told me. He asked to come to my home at the beach to recount his situation and to confirm the adultery with his divorce deposition. The administration kicked him out to shelter Falliero’s electability because she is a reliable rubber-stamp for Ms. Elia.
Hart is now out of a job and can’t get one. My analysis says the local government agencies have blackballed him. When a government employee gets the boot, all the noninvolved agencies take turns kicking him farther down the road to ruin.
Hart needs a job to help his former wife support his two children. The administration apparently backed up by the board and perhaps Mr. Gonzalez lent a hand to fire Mr. Hart under the charge of alcoholism, which would normally, he told me, have merited a warning. The board and Ms. Elia wanted to shield Ms. Faliero and the administration from the public’s finding out about the adultery that both had tolerated in their midst for a long time. Ms. Falliero ignored former superintendent Dr. Lennard’s telling her to leave Mr. Hart alone.
I have the wrong endocrine system to judge why men are dopes for Ms. Falliero. Mr. Hart remains broken hearted because Ms. Falliero has dumped him. And Marc is not the only dupe of La Belle Dame Sans Merci. The reporter Hooper of the SPTimes wrote a ga-ga puff piece about La Falliero. I rebuked him and said Mrs. Hooper might get a call from me.
Now Tom Gonzalez looks to be a candidate for the roundheels contingent of guys who are fools for the Pole Girl. Gonzalez has thrown his legal chivalric cloak around her and rebuked me for challenging her behavior. Too bad he can’t muster any pity for those two little children caught in the downdraft of this homewrecker’s vile work or their dopey father’s conduct, he whom Falliero seduced into ruin.
In my long life, I have observed that floozies are a male landmine. Mr. Gonzales accuses me of being hard on the woman who got her job with a kindergarten degree and a Ph.D. in fooling old administrative fops like Dr. James Hamilton. I suspect Dr. Hamilton’s former wife is hard on her too. They divorced during this escapade. I have not worked for women’s rights for forty-five years to see the same old same old panorama of morally deficient, lazy women make it on their backs instead of on their credentials. Such behavior mars chances of women who want to make it on their credentials.
Le Gonzalez also accuses me also of not being able to remember names. I guess that I do not have to tell the Ethics-Committee members that the counselor is picking on this old and frail and helpless granny by suggesting that she is senile.
Guilty as charged on names. I can recall abstruse words, the names of the characters in literature, and irregular French verbs but have to sit down and ponder to call the roll of my grandchildren. I can’t remember living people’s names. It is not a recent affliction due to, Mr. Gonzalez would be enchanted to learn, a raging case of Alzheimer’s.
This problem of recalling names has been with me since youth. I was an airline stewardess when air travel was exclusive, not the default mode of transportation that it is today. Stewardesses needed a bachelor’s degree or an R.N. License as educational credential. We had to remember the names of all the people in the first-class cabin and bid them farewell with a “Thanks for flying with us, Mr. So-and-so” as they deplaned. I made the names up as the first-class passengers exited. They were such good sports that they didn’t correct me.
“How do you manage to recall all those exotic names?” my admiring supervisor would say after my check-up status.
“Beats me,” was my response; “Some people say that I have a photographic memory.”
Then there’s Mr. Gonzalez’s prissy citing of my “ass” comment. He might as well give up on that one. Men have hogged expletives long enough. In the name of equality, women must have access to strong language. I am way behind, but I am practicing. I may be fluent in gutter invective now owned by men before I die.
Mr. Gonzalez rebukes me for calling his replacement Mr. Hearing “callow” and says I need to get a dictionary. No. I don’t. I meant “callow” to describe Mr. What’s-His-Name’s behavior during the board meeting when, instead of paying attention to board doings, he snickered behind his hand and gossiped with Ms. Elia to while the weary minutes away in which he pulled down a hundred dollars an hour from tax payers for his juvenile behavior.
If Mr. Gonzalez means to humble me by pointing out that Mr. Hearing graduated magna cum laude from the University of the South, he can forget it.
I graduated summa cum laude in the tough academic environment of NYC, where the many ambitious Jewish students compete fiercely. Jews value erudition. The Jews are scholars and Nobel winners. Six Jewish Nobel laureates left Germany during the purge of Jews. Eleven more future Jewish Nobel laureates departed Europe as well. An unsophisticated innocent from the South such as I lucked out to land in the midst of the mix of talented students I went to school with in NYC for both my undergraduate and graduate work. I learned as much from them as I did from my professors.
In my bachelor’s graduation, six of our three thousand were summa cum laude. Not a feat perhaps that I was one but that I did it with four children under five clinging to my skirts or sitting on my lap or coiled around my hip as I read Chaucer or stirred a pot gives the chore extra luster. I also worked part-time then because our family was poor and needed money for our four children’s shoes.
So Mr. Gonzalez will have to accept that I do not swoon when he tells me his misbehaving, callow partner graduated magna cum laude from the University of the South, wherever that is, and was Phi Beta Kappa. I bet he did not take care of four little children and a grumpy husband plus work part-time while achieving this honor. So the question is this: Why didn’t he do better?
Summas don’t bow to mere magnas. That would be like the gold doing obeisance to the silver.
When Mr. Gonzalez quits or gets fired, I want the next non-good-ol’-boy board attorney to have been Executive Editor of Law Review. As little as I know about legal education, being Law Review seems to point to an interest in scholarship which a board attorney should have. I lately have been sending the first black Harvard law-review editor all my dress-and-shoe money for this presidential campaign.
The only valid academic degree I could discover among the ROSSAC scholars manqué was that of Marc Hart’s Loyola magna cum laude. Those who kicked him out were adepts in the academics of early childhood’s mysteries with degrees from second-tier universities. I bet they wouldn’t know or care that Loyola is a distinguished university.
The guy who heads technology, Jack Davis, has an early-childhood degree from USF, which can’t get a PBK chapter despite years of begging national for one.
Maybe had the technology head job with proper advertising pulled in a PH.D. in computer technology, the teacher salary distribution program would not have gone on the fritz because he or she would have had credentials to diagnose the problem and fix it. I hear that a board member’s relative sold the district the program that messed up and kept teachers from getting their paychecks. This kind of arrangement is what I call the K12 Racket—ripping off taxpayers for the administrators, board members, and their friends and family.
The administrative-board gangs are in the education racket for the money while the teachers are in it for the love of education and students.
Mr. Gonzalez’s dismissal of his oblique threat to sue me does not convince. His writing and speaking are notably absent of metaphors. That means he sees reality in one dimension, not in the multiple dimensions of the metaphor user. Mr. Gallagher says what he means to say in blunt terms. Hence one must pay attention his diction choice.
There are some words that chill by themselves and send potent messages. “Malignancy” is one. “Tsunami” is another. “Extortion” is a third.
Mr. Gonzalez’s invoking “extortion” was a deliberate tapping into the word’s threat. He was letting me know that he was a big, powerful lawyer who could sue me sooner or later for my opposing him.
His sentence was “Ms. De Cesare’s threat to have the federal government conduct compliance reviews could be interpreted as extortion” came after I had said that if the board did not start advertising jobs so that the public and schools could benefit from a broader range of talent that I would ask the federal government to conduct compliance reviews to see that the schools fulfilled the obligation to practice equal-employment opportunity.
In other words, I demanded that the schools carry out the federal law. Mr. Gonzalez’s bizarre gloss on that statement was that my demand to have the law carried out “could be construed as extortion.”
The passive verb hiding the actor did not identify the board or Mr. Gonzalez, but restructuring the sentence would produced the names of those who could sue me for objecting to the administration’s crony gravy train. This gravy train has run on schedule one infers all 37 years that Mr. Gonzalez and his semblable What’s-His-Name Mr. Callow Britches have sat on the good-ol’-boy attorney perch.
“Could” is past tense modal auxiliary of “can,” meaning “given right or privilege.” So Mr. Gonzalez’s sentence warns that he represents that the board can sue me for extortion. He could have meant it no other way, his Jesuitical angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-legal-pen-twaddle-filled exegesis to this committee notwithstanding.
Mr. Gonzalez has not a shred of humor. None. I once wrote a satire of beating him up with brooms, rolling pens, and other tools of a woman’s household accoutrements. He wrote back a dead-serious citation of what my activities would cost me in the Florida legal code. I am not making this up. My friend Andrea thought his response was so funny that she put it in her column. That, of course, made Mr. Gonzalez mad because he takes himself seriously.
Mr. Gallagher’s gone paranoid I believe. I say so having read every word Freud wrote and having done psychiatric nursing for a while. I received a Fed-x’d extension of his communication with the bar committee a couple of days ago. He has imagined a case on frail evidence of my setting him up for another report to the bar committee for failing to comply with a public-information request.
I do not plot to turn in Mr. Gonzalez again for refusing to yield up public information related to his schools work—unless he refuses me the Erwin court files or other requested data for my review of documents I ask for now through—if I understand his labyrinthine directions—the Public Information Office.
Then I will rat the counselor out in capital letters if he falters. Summarizing his paranoia, I borrow one of the gentleman’s formulas that takes a dig at my sanity: “Whether and when the wicked flee when no one pursues them is a subject I leave to others.”
I cannot close without riposting Le Gonzalez’s attack on my intelligence and competence. For my doing so, we move from my ignorance of the law, on which Le Gonzalez never tires of harping, to language, my strong suit. To judge my bona fides, check my wiping up the floor with the North-American editor of the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language on my grammar blog Grammargrich.blogspot.com.
Gonzalez is a mediocre writer. He must have that reputation even in his field unless the level of legal prose is bad indeed. His sentences are often too long and suffer bad structure. Reading this one below, for example, feels like riding a spavined horse:
“The remaining allegations—that I ‘violated equal employment opportunity laws,’ ‘denied’ the complainant her First Amendment rights and improperly threatened her with lawsuit - to the extent they allege the conclusion that I engaged in unlawful conduct or threatened a lawsuit not based on a good faith basis of fact and law, could involve conduct that would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.” 60 words
Mr. Gonzalez tends to long sentences. He uses two or even three words when one would do. The above is not a sentence. It’s a 60-word metastasis. It’s hard for the human mind to wrap itself around a sentence this long when it contains a non-restrictive element telescoped into a non-restrictive element set off by dashes. I had to reread the monster to master its message.
When a person of ordinary intelligence can’t understand a sentence on first read, the author needs to recast:
Edit: “Ms. De Cesare claims I violated equal-opportunity laws, denied her First-Amendment rights, and threatened to sue her. These could involve conduct that violates Rules of Professional Conduct had I done them.” Two sentences of 16 and 13 words.
We allow Proust and Faulkner long sentences, not school-board attorneys. The former are geniuses; the latter are not.
He does not use the possessive before a gerund: “The complainant contains an accurate quote of me [sic] saying…” The “me” should be “my.”
Mr. Gonzalez delights in pouncing on my name mix-ups with sarcastic sics. I could decorate his essay with so many sics that it would look like a Christmas tree.
Mr. Gonzalez overuses passive verbs that deplete the cogency of his message. Passive verbs make the writer sound like a rhetorical wussy:
“The change was expressly authorized…” Edit: “The collective-bargaining agreement authorized the change…” Mr. Gonzalez thumbs his nose at Strunk & White by overmodifying throughout. Strunk & White warns against redundant adverbs such as “expressly” that Mr. Gonzalez inserts.
But the gentleman’s worst problem is comma abuse. His most frequent punctuation error is the most prevalent one that a teacher sees in freshman-English remedial classes: superfluous commas.
“The complainant believes that I am a school employee, [sic] as is evidenced by her by her several requests…”
The comma after “employee” is redundant: it cuts off a restrictive trailing adverbial clause. An adverbial clause's normal syntactical position is at the end of a main clause; there no comma precedes it. We move past the passive verb in silence.
“Until 2005, these services consisted of the representation of the School Board [sic], [sic] and providing legal advice to the Board [sic], the Superintendent’s [sic] staff, [sic] in matters involving labor and employment laws….”
“School Board and “Superintendent” merit no capitals unless they give the name of a particular school board or superintendent: “Hillsborough County School Board”; “Superintendent Elia.” The comma after “Board” splits compound predicate adjective phrases modifying “consisted of,” which here acts as a linking verb. There is a breakdown in the parallelism of the phrases. Gonzalez should write “representing…and providing” or “representation…and provision.”
“…I was present only [sic] for one of them.”
“Only” is the most infamous misplaced modifier. It causes screamfests in faculty lounges and lasting enmity in usage conferences. In the Gonzalez sentence, “only” should go before “one,” the word it modifies.
I would have done nothing differently…”
The sentence pattern is subject-verb-object-object modifier. So the adverb “differently” should be the adjective “different” as in “I would have done nothing dangerous” or “I would have done nothing that was different.”
“She considers the girth of a school board member to be the subject commentary, [sic] and has referred to another board member as ‘pole girl,’[sic]and has described her as having ‘an unorthodox’ anatomy.”
The commas after “commentary” and “girl” are redundant: the coordinating conjunctions replace commas. “School board” in the first line is a hyphenated adjective before a noun: “school-board member.”
Non-grammar note: Somebody should harangue school-board members about obesity. Few on the dais are in normal weight range. The Pole Girl shines here: she is trim. Board members should be role models for students in avoiding the number-one health hazard for children now: obesity.
The redundant comma after “Board” splits a compound object of the preposition “of.” The compound object also demonstrates a breakdown in parallelism: either “representing of” and “advising of” or “of the representation of”…and “of the provision of…”
The errors cited are not exhaustive but representative of errors passim. Mr. Gonzales needs to hire a grammar-punctuation editor if he does not intend to learn the lore himself.
Mr. Gonzalez has an undergraduate English degree I believe.
The fellow could engage in better use of his law degree than denying a citizen public information, thumbing his nose at equal-opportunity laws, flouting citizens’ rights to free speech, and inserting a sly threat of a law suit against a citizen for her saying she would get the federal government to conduct a compliance review of the schools’ employment practices.
Mr. Gonzalez could sue his undergraduate institution for failure to teach him Standard English grammar and punctuation before awarding him a diploma. This case would climb all the way to the Supreme Court for its need and novelty. Such law suit would do more to improve schools in this country than all the money we have poured down the rat-hole of lies in Iraq.
Gonzales should advertise for the plentiful co-defendants I hear complaining, “Nobody taught me to punctuate” and make it a gigantic class-action suit.
He could also seek redemption by enrolling in Gainesville’s law-school remedial-English classes that one hears the university must conduct because so many of its arriving law-school students suffer various degrees of illiteracy.
I look forward the bar committee’s response to this complaint in which it deals with the complicity of the Hillsborough County School Board attorney in the corruption of the school system from its original purpose of education of the community’s young to the status of being a vehicle for the profit and magnification of the superintendent and her rubber-stamp board. Mr. Gonzalez’s participation for the last 37 years goes to the rot at the heart of a school system managed for the profit and aggrandizement of the administrative class and the board’s political egos. The students and teachers are like field hands who bring in the tax dollars that the board and administration control. Mr. Gonzalez, I infer, has assisted every step of the way in protecting the board and administration from the consequences of its louche running of the schools. This legal sheltering of their skullduggery has made them ever bolder. Mr. Gonzalez has ignored the administration and board’s punishing people who complain such as the Doug-Erwin case exemplifies as does also the routine suppression of opposition with the tool of the Professional Standards office as the Hillsborough County schools’ Gestapo of terror.
Mr. Gonzalez is a major cog in a school system in which learning and welfare of students and teachers take second place to this central administrative-board racket that has gone on for years with no one’s challenging it. Two of the board are double dippers I understand: Dr. Lamb and Ms. Edgecomb. Their take from the state must be over $92,000 each. That fact is pregnant with meaning for diagnosing their mind-set.They preside over a school district the children of whom often come to school without breakfast, without proper clothes and shoes, and without the money needed to pay for supplies for participation in class activities. Yet they rake in over $185,000 double-dipping dollars that could go to help these impoverished children. Where are the hearts of Lamb and Ethridge? We know: in their bank accounts.
Encouraged by their being able to get away with more and more corruption of schools’ purpose, the administration and board have ramped up their vile practices until the schools are secondary to the racket run from administration central.
I have attended school-board meetings for almost two years and gathered impressions and data that convince me that Mr. Gonzalez is pivotal in that malignant process. When a question arises, all heads on the dais swing to him. Mr. Gonzalez started out by getting his job in a corrupt handoff of unethical and illegal privilege. He modeled his own defiance of the equal-opportunity laws in that first gesture of evading equal opportunity. He continued to defy equal opportunity by assuring the board and administration that they did not violate equal opportunity tenets in spirit or law by not advertising top jobs with bloated salaries which Ms. Elia gave to her partisans—buddies and sycophants without the education or experience required for the jobs. These deficiencies cost taxpayers. They cost them in putting mediocre people—especially the money-hungry superintendent—at the head of a school system who make decisions based on their meager, self-serving views.
This regimen does not coincide with what is good for students’ education but what is good for the administrative class, which cozens the board with flattery and hand-in-velvet-glove coercion of this group of seven people elected to office but not prepared to do the job of serving the students and community. They slip easily into letting the administrators become their masters.
Mr. Gonzalez made sure that citizens had little encouragement to comment on the board’s and administration’s corrupt hegemony by sponsoring for years a free-speech shutdown of the public’s input. He sanctioned a preamble by the chair that abridged citizens’ speech with an arbitrary, selectively applied set of dicta read to citizens before they spoke that reduced their free-speech to in effect to what was flattery for the board and administration.
Mr. Gonzalez blew off the ACLU lawyer Stevenson’s suggestion that these criteria invited litigation. He sat idly by and allowed Ms. Falliero to make up criterion to kick a member of the public out of the board meeting with an ad hoc measure she introduced on the spot and coordinated with the guard for the purpose of evicting a citizen, me, because she hates me for exposing her adultery.
Mr. Gonzales allowed this same chair to insult and harry citizens who did manage to brave the board’s resistance to their appearing at all. He said nothing about the board’s refusal to allow a slot for students and teachers to comment on what was going on in the schools’ board room and administrative offices that injured teachers and students and stunted education.
When somebody—I—did defy the free-speech shutdown, Mr. Gonzalez slipped in an “extortion” threat to shut me up. Then he concocts a Kafkaesque defense of this intimidation tactic to this committee.
Law’s application has had a profound influence on society since the Twelve Tables. The decision on Mr. Gonzalez’s conduct that the bar committee reviews in this charge will have an influence on the entire school system of Hillsborough County. It will have an impact beyond the Hillsborough community.
The schools’ systems of the country are a subculture that exchanges information that threatens it at rapid-fire rates. This Florida Bar committee’s response to my charge will get around as fast as fingers can touch keyboards. The message will either be “Florida bar says board attorney’s conduct is hunky dory” or Florida bar says, “Board attorney must obey the law himself and rule on legal issues for the schools in ways coincident with both law and ethics.”
Mr. Gonzalez’s board-attorney work has furthered the deracination of the schools in my opinion. He has served willing tool in the machine for 37 years to give the administration and board its head.
Mr. Gonzalez’s comments rebutting my charges yield two pieces of information: that he does not think he is wrong and that he plans no change in his mode of operation. And that, in my judgment, bodes ill for the schools’ high purpose of educating the community’s children.
lee drury de cesare
5316 Gulf Boulevard 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708
Posted by twinkobie at 5:01 AM