Petition filed to force release of public records by Gainesville

Under his pseudonym Gabriel Hillel, attorney Gabe Kaimowitz went to Court on April 26, to demand that Gainesville, Florida respond fully to a Request for Records he made more than two months ago. What Gabriel Hillel already has learned from the few documents he was given is that City Manager Russ Blackburn is willing to mislead him and the public about the hiring of “temporary professionals” by the Charter Officers who control the City.

The most publicly controversial is the appointment Garrett Garner as a temporary professional. City Clerk Kurt Lannon, a charter officer, hired Mr. Garner without the equal opportunity check provided for other employees. Mr. Garner has been assigned to help Mayor Craig Lowe. Coincidentally Mr. Garner was Mayor Lowe’s campaign manager in 2010.

Gabriel Hillel will be a candidate for mayor of Gainesville in 2013. Gabriel seeks to end the oligopoly of four white Charter Officers who have controlled the local city government since 2005, when Russ Blackburn was selected as City Manager, by a 4-3 vote over the interim City Manager Barbara Lipscomb.

The City appears to be withholding records from Mr. Hillel, apparently because he will expose the appointed Charter Officers and elected officials for their failed equal opportunity policies and practices. In 2002, Alachua County paid Mr. Hillel $90,000 to settle a claim with him after he alleged that the County’s equal opportunity practices had been corrupted.

Once Mr. Hillel prevailed against the County, Messrs. Radson and Cunningham relied on the all white Alachua County Circuit Court judges to block his efforts to expose the City’s equally rotten equal opportunity office which was being controlled by the City Attorney.

Blackburn’s appointment allowed Mr. Radson to solidify his control over local governance. With the help of former City Mayor/Commmissioner Mac MacEachern, Mr. Radson was installed by as City Attorney without a meaningful discussion in October 1985, by a 3-2 vote. In publicly reported incidents, Mr. Radson has resisted equal opportunity concerns since 1986. Backing that control for the white community has been Ron Cunningham, the only real editorial page voice the monopolistic Gainesville Sun has had since 1983.

In the 1990s, Mr. Radson caused three blacks working for the City EO office to be dismissed, because he alleged that some of his conversations were being taped illegally. The charges proved to be false. But the workers were gone. In their place, Mr. Radson put Jimmie Williams, a black human resources worker, in charge of equal opportunity until Darrell Elmore was hired in 1998.

Mr. Radson prompted the firing of Mr. Elmore, equal opportunity officer for Gainesville, 1998-2001, and then the firing of Steve Malu, the affirmative action officer. City blacks responded by having an Equal Opportunity Charter Officer position created and approved by voters. Again, Mr. Radson had the last laugh. He put in Williams first, and then applauded the appointment of the current EO Director Cecil Howard.

Mr. Howard has looked the other way while the white male charter officers hired “temporary professionals” to avoid the Equal Opportunity process. Mr. Howard lurks in the auditorium at City Commission meetings while business is conducted by others.

Mr. Radson now is working to assure that Elizabeth Waratuke, City Litigation attorney, will succeed him in July, so that he can maintain control, and continue to thwart equal opportunity in local government, as he has done visibly since 1986. A nationwide public search is being conducted at taxpayer expense to validate the City’s need to hire the only person qualified to hold the position—Ms. Waratuke who has been with the Office of City Attorney since 1990.

Ms. Waratuke admittedly will be a change from the good old white males who have run Gainesville since 1927. Aside from Ms. Lipscomb, a white female who was an interim head of Gainesville Regional Utilities, and a black flunky put in as a Equal Opportunity Charter officer, no black or female has been a charter officer since the City by less than 100 votes created a unique charter office form of government. Power is shared by three to five appointed white males.

In Gainesville, the Mayor and the six elected officials are stooges to fool the public that the people have a voice in government. If any of those elected officials in fact tries to hire or fire any employee other than the Charter Officers, they can be held legally liable for criminal conduct. As for firing any Charter Officer lawfully, elected officials would have a virtually impossible task. When they sought to fire the Charter Officer in charge of the Gainesville Regional Utilities, the best they could do was to obtain his resignation with obscenely large financial remuneration.

To expose this corrupt system, Gabriel Hillel on April 26, moved to intervene in an action brought initially by a former City of Gainesville employee Erin Friedberg. Ms. Friedberg needs City records to prove discrimination she has claimed in a complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR).

Ms. Friedberg’s Complaint was filed earlier this year. The City answered her pleading on April 5th. But the State public records act calls for actions demanding public records to be given priority by the Courts. In addition to the petition, Mr. Hillel filed a motion to intervene with a supporting memorandum of law. Gabriel Hillel expects his petition for a writ of mandamus to trigger a hearing within the next two weeks.

The judge assigned to the case, the Hon. Victor L. Huslander, generally has been supportive of litigants seeking to rely on federal and state constitutional rights. Judge Huslander in 2010 allowed a local attorney to intervene in the post-election mayoral contest between Craig Lowe and his Tea Party challenger. Judge Huslander ruled against High Springs, when that City tried to withhold public records for more than 12 days. And Judge Huslander decided against the University of Florida which unsuccessfully relied on federal privacy laws to withhold records from a student.

To present the case to Judge Huslander, Hillel is seeking another attorney to represent him. Attorney fees generally are awarded when a judge finds that a public or private agency covered by the Florida Public Records Act wrongfully withholds public records from applicants.


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