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Nancy Smith

Walton County Commission Forks over $1,000 so a Lame-Duck Commissioner Can Publicly Humiliate Sen. Passidomo

September 14, 2018 - 6:00am
Mike Huckabee, Kathleen Passidomo and Cecilia Jones
Mike Huckabee, Kathleen Passidomo and Cecilia Jones

It's not quite as painful as Cersei's walk of shame through the streets of King's Landing, but, by God, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples and Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole, D-Plantation are walking down those cold, stone steps -- figuratively speaking -- every day of the week.

They get email. They get phone calls, they get texts and letters, and they get slammed across all platforms of social media.
 
All because they introduced HB 631, a bill dealing with customary use -- public access to private beachfront property. The intent of the new law is to allow customary use practices to continue, but in a way that is more transparent, efficient and cost-saving while requiring active dialogue between local governments and private property owners. The idea was to avoid costly legal challenges.

I Beg to DifferThe walk of shame is going to escalate for Passidomo. 

She's about to be publicly humiliated at the 2018 Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association conference in Clearwater Sept. 19-21 when Walton County Commissioner Cecilia Jones calls her out in front of the whole assemblage. All paid for by Walton County taxpayers.

Certainly it's an indication of the County Commission's position generally. Incumbent Jones was defeated at the polls in August. She only has six more weeks to serve. Yet, the rest of the commission voted 4-0 over the Taxpayers Association's objection to send her and her good friend, Commissioner Tony Anderson,  to the conference -- at $1,000 each.

Jones argued she deserves to attend. After all, she said,  she was the commissioner who spearheaded the customary use movement. (None of the commissioners suggested, at least on the record, that Jones' crusade for repeal of HB 631 might have been instrumental in her August defeat.)

"The lady that sponsored the bill (Passidomo) is going to be there and I'd like to look her straight in the eyes and tell her what chaos and what havoc she's caused in Walton County," Jones announced. "That we have neighbors fighting with neighbors and that we really don't appreciate someone from South Florida meddling in Walton County business." (A clip from the meeting is shown below, or can be seen here.)

Commissioner Jones doesn't think a state senator should "meddle" outside her district? Really? Where did she go to school? This is high school civics stuff.

My guess is, Jones will bomb at the conference because Passidomo will use it as an opportunity to explain, as she always does when challenged, why 631 is a bill that actually will strengthen customary use.

Incidentally, Edwards-Walpole, who fields her share of abuse -- but still listens and replies "to help people understand the law" -- is not attending the conference. "I wasn't invited," she told me Thursday night.

Astounding, at least to me, is that the two ringleaders for HD 361 repeal, restaurateur Dave Rauschkolb and attorney Dan Uhlfelder, imply to followers, the media, anyone who will listen, that "an email exchange" between Passidomo and powerful former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is the "smoking gun" behind a plot that will lead to the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately declaring customary use unconstitutional.

I think Dave and Dan have looked into so many cameras since July, they have Hollywood delusions: One day they'll make a movie and tell our story! 

But, I ask you, do Huckabee and Passidomo sound like a pair of plotters to you?

Huckabee in his Jan. 17 email: "I'm one of those beachfront owners whose title goes to the mean high water line (the wet sand)," he wrote to Passidomo on Jan. 17. The email followed a number of entirely transparent committee meetings at the Capitol, most of them televised on The Florida Channel. "Walton Co. taxes me on that property and I pay handsomely for it! I actually don't mind people who simply want to enjoy the beach and certainly not walk on or past. … What beachfront owners object to is illegal taking of taxed and titled property without compensation or even consideration. In fact, we are demonized as 'greedy, selfish and rich' owners who want to deprive the poor of their 'rights.' ..."

Passidomo in her response: "Thank you for a detailed and thoughtful email to my Senate website. ... She then agreed with his assessment that, “when dealing with a government taking of private property for public use, neither the state nor local government has the right to do so without a judicial determination.” (Did I miss something? Was that some fiendishly clever code for "You can count on me to take their beaches away, Mike"? )

Huckabee in a Jan. 19 email to Passidomo: “The county is spending my tax money to take my property, and then I have to spend additional money to fight them to keep it from happening. I’m grateful for your efforts. It’s not a political issue in my mind but a constitutional one. Either private property rights mean something or they don’t."

Actually, you can see and click on the full email exchange, which Passidomo provided in an attachment just below this story.

"I am happy to provide all my emails to reporters who ask for them," Passidomo told me. "I answer everybody who writes to me, the ones who like what I've done like Mike Huckabee, and the ones who tell me I would make a better cleaning lady. I like people to know their comments were heard."

Passidomo also provides on her website a full explanation of how she came to work on 631 and present the bill to the Senate. Cecilia Jones might want to dial that up before next week when she leaves for Clearwater.

If Huckabee had emailed before the committee meetings, before the bill was first discussed, there wouldn't be so many people today laughing at the notion of a conspiracy theory.  Nevertheless ...

Rauschkolb, after he saw Huckabee's email: “This is simply proof after months of speculation that Gov. Mike Huckabee used his considerable political influence to push for Florida House Bill 631. Gov. Huckabee, who, after only being a resident for a short time, quickly found his way into coordinated actions along with a small number of beachfront owners and lawyers.”

This is how Dave wants to characterize the issue, to keep it alive. He insults people's intelligence.

Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News confronted Huckabee directly, asking how much involvement he had in 631. 

“The extent was doing what you see,” he told the reporter in an email sent soon after the question was posed. “Sending an email like any other voter can do.

“If the critics accuse me of some ‘big’ role, don’t they think I’d have better access than the public response form on a senator’s website?” Huckabee asked. “That’s just how ridiculous the misinformation has been. And the bill does not prevent customary use. It just ensures that it isn’t adjudicated by the same body that legislates it. It’s a pretty straightforward constitutional separation of powers issue.”

On Thursday morning, Rauschkolb, the man many in Walton County call "the Irony Poster Boy," the man working hard to make all beaches public while he lives in a private, gated beachfront community --  displayed a photo on a Facebook site (and displayed on this page) that sums up the complexity of Walton County history and the kind of baloney the Dave-and-Dan team  peddle: an artsy shot in a gated community ... of a private boardwalk ... to a private beach ... over a "public" coastal dune lake. A sight perfect for Dave, but the rest of us? Not so privileged. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Sunshine State News has removed the photo referenced here from readers' view at the request of Rauschkolb's attorney, David Pleat. The child shown is Rauschkolb's daughter. Though SSN is not legally obligated to do so -- Rauschkolb uses his children regularly on public Facebook pages and they appear with him in TV news stories -- SSN nevertheless has extended this courtesy to the Rauschkolb family.)

Sen. Passidomo, steel yourself. Cecilia Jones will have come a long way to get in your face. I don't think you can say anything to change her mind but I don't think you'll stop trying. Good luck.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith 
   

Comments

Great points about the affidavits. People have made themselves witnesses and will be subject to subpoena and deposition. Wonder if all those "tourists" that signed thought of that... We'll see when the paperwork starts to go out for service. Funny that the County never mentioned this to anyone as the frantically collect them.

Plus the licensed realtors who helped that new nonprofit get all those sworn legal affidavits. This nonprofit has NO CLUE what they were doing but what’s laughable is they had an “Attorney” Dan Uhlfelder advising them. They forgot they are licensed by the state of Florida not some loud prima donnas in Walton County. Their exposure here is ridiculous - they brought whatever’s going to happen on themselves.

Agreed- that’s my thing. still trying to figure out why the real estate people would get out front like this. Theyve never cared about anything but their commission before- I know first hand from experience. Is it new leadership or just a couple people wanting the media attention??? The county really screwed this whole thing up for years and people are acting like it just happened!!! I hate what the beaches group and these couple of arseholes are doing to a place where people got along. Not any more. I’m tired of hearing how long they’ve been here- 20 years whatever. Give me a break. Some of us have been here through 3 generations.

This does not just affect Walton County. Another myth of HB 631

While it's threatening to all of us, I just read an article indicating the new law does not affect county ordinances enacted before 2016, indicating Walton County was the only one which enacted after that date. Because the law seems clearly directed against the Walton County ordinance alone, seems to me it would violate the constitutional prohibition against Bills of Attainder. I think this protection is afforded to Floridians by the 14th amendment. If it applies, the whole things is as unconstitutional as it is odious. The repeated distorted offerings here do readers a real disservice.

Misinformation Alert! Try and pay attention. The other TWO (only two) Customary Use ordinances in the state of Florida went to court and obtained a judicial determination. Walton county was the only one who tried to just vote on an county ordinance. The "new law" simply says you have to go to court to put customary use on private properties, therefore since Walton county was the only one that didn't follow legal requirements outlined in Reynolds or the actual requirements of the doctrine of custom --- their invalid ordinance was overturned. The easiest way to do that in the language was to say anything prior to 2016 was not affected. Walton county was singled out for a DAMN GOOD REASON. And the only reason we have this new law is because of Walton county's insane overstretch in passing an ordinance doing it through a court.

Misinformation Alert! Try and pay attention. The other TWO (only two) Customary Use ordinances in the state of Florida went to court and obtained a judicial determination. Walton county was the only one who tried to just vote on an county ordinance. The "new law" simply says you have to go to court to put customary use on private properties, therefore since Walton county was the only one that didn't follow legal requirements outlined in Reynolds or the actual requirements of the doctrine of custom --- their invalid ordinance was overturned. The easiest way to do that in the language was to say anything prior to 2016 was not affected. Walton county was singled out for a DAMN GOOD REASON. And the only reason we have this new law is because of Walton county's insane overstretch in passing an ordinance doing it through a court.

You really need to be nicer James. There is no reason to write like that. And get to the point faster we don’t have time to read the lengths of your posts. But there is good info in them.

You mention "irony," Ms Smith, and c.u. is an issue whose supporters bathe in it. My personal favorite -- not to demean the delicious one you point out of the movement's leading property radical living in one of the few gated communities, which happens to have the most private, inaccessible beach in the county -- my fav is that so many far-right Republicans seem to have lately become free property radicals. These Socialists-for-the-day whose FB pages are often brimming with MAGA gear become Tiny Marxists when "other people's property" seems within reach. How would any of them feel if a political body -- particularly one of such acknowledged high competence and unimpeachable ethics as Walton's (!) -- were to legislate THEIR fundamental property rights?

This sand is your sand, this sand is my sand This sand is made for you and me. Always has ...dont be an ass

Hi Dave Rauschkolb - that's right. You keeping singing your favorite verse ad nauseum and "Stand your Sand!" Your other favorite saying. Picking fights is not your strong suit. It is like watching a kid bring a boom box into a court hearing. You are creating a serious circus enviroment that has gone way farther than Walton County this time though. So get lost and quit driving our economy into the ground dude and leave this to the grown ups.

This law seems to say that local/county governments' existing declarations/ordinances etc. declaring an area subject to customary use end and must now be adjudicated in circuit court to be re-established. It creates litigation. It puts a burden on counties/local municipalities/taxpayers to "redeclare" these areas through litigation. The fact the law cannot be easily explained proves its' deception. Does it remove the authority of county and local governments control over beach access and deliver it to the courts, accessible only by litigation? What was wrong with the existing situation? It did not favor landowners abutting the shoreline. Which lobbyist pushed this. Hire them, they are very good. I doubt that Passidomo or Walpole decided we needed to change the status of Florida beaches without input. Most articles about this statute are biased pro or con, the actual text looks to me like it removes a common law right of access to certain areas of the beaches and sets up a mechanism for abutting landowners to solidify claims by forcing governments to drag them into court. Nobody can take the actual beach away (Art X, Sec. 11, Fla. Const.) but this law facilitates tampering with areas that have always been used by the public. The fact it impacts Walton county almost exclusively indicates it was designed to do just that. Who is behind it?

HB 631 = DIRTY POLITICS

Misinformation Alert! There is no "common law right" of customary use. Numerous cases over the years have debunked this myth, and just recently Judge Rodgers said it again: "the doctrine [of customary use] cannot exist absent a judicial determination". Customary use is not a "right" --- NOT until it is determined by a court for specific parcel(s).

Misinformation Alert! The Art X, Section 11, Fla Constitution is about granting the SHORELINE and the WATERS to the public. It does not grant anything shore-ward of the Mean High Water Line.

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