Newspaper Asks Public to Identify Local Blogger

St. Augustine blogger critical of Ben RichA Florida newspaper appears to have hit an all-time low in the relationship between bloggers and the media. The St. Augustine Record is asking the public to help expose the identity of a local blogger who recently started a site critical of county politicians. This evening, the paper's home page has a grainy surveillance photo of a man accompanied by this text:

Who is this man?

Believed to be connected to a politically charged but anonymously-run Web site targeting the character of members of the St. Johns County Commission. Help us determine his identity. Start by watching these four movies featuring footage from surveillance cameras.

The Record published video taken inside and outside its offices March 1 that show a man dropping something off at the front desk. There's no explanation of what he's doing, making it look like some kind of threat was delivered, but I found the details on the paper's message board. He was at the newspaper buying an ad.

The ad, which the paper ran, criticized County Commissioner Ben Rich for comments he made during a televised meeting:

Unbelievably, Rich went on to say that he was angered by the police officer first responding to the Columbine school tragedy in Colorado. He actually remarked in the televised meeting that watching the police officer who was outside the school awaiting the SWAT team made him "want to go down there and shoot the cop and go in".

Mr. Rich, you should resign as an elected official, you do not deserve to serve. All of us know that in reality Rich is mad because the firefighters union supported candidates in the last election that Mr. Rich did not support. Rich has been trying to take his revenge against the firefighters publicly for months. Mr. Rich, we will not allow you to play politics with our local safety any longer.

The blogger's site,, is offline but I fished several pages from Google's cache. Allegations made by blogger Lee Padgett, as he's identified in the site's whois record and messages on the paper's message board, are backed up by the Record: Rich really did make the "shoot the cop" remark and disparage firefighters, drawing an angry response. This week, Rich filed for re-election early, hoping it would cause the site to be judged an excessive campaign contribution by local election officials and shut down.

"I find cowardice in any form repugnant," [Rich] said. "But in the political arena, where cowardice has become socially acceptable, I find it doubly repugnant." ...

"It's obvious to me that my political opponents have declared war and are using the unfair advantage of not registering as a political action committee," Rich said.

"Through the declaration of my candidacy, they'll no longer be able to operate in the shadows of anonymity. They will be forced into the open where they'll have their names and faces known to those they attack."

I don't know Padgett, but he has the right to speak his mind on the web without intimidation by politicians and the press, whether or not he's writing under his real name.

I've been reading the Record for a decade. I can't recall a single time where it conducted an effort to catch a rapist, robber or murderer anywhere near the scope of this manhunt for a blogger.


Hell hath no fury like a local politician being exposed doing something stupid.

I'm now working on a legal case involving a deeply corrupt local government whose activities were aided and abetted by a local paper. The paper was so steeped in the local culture of corruption, that they actually felt they were doing a community service in defending the illegal activities. In fact, at a critical time in my early investigation, the paper felt a need to reveal my own identity (which I had been trying to keep secret, for safety reasons).

Papers like our local Hoboken Reporter, the culprit here, and yoour Record, simply find it easier to 'go along and get along' than to search out the truth. Like your paper, ours (in one of the most notoriously corrupt areas of the country) has NEVER uncovered a scandal. Never. They will report an arrested politician or an investigation, but otherwise, they simply do not wish to 'get involved'.

Fortunately, local papers have yearly events at which they give each other awards for their fine reporting. No one has to feel bad, except perhaps the public.

So, I can relate.

I would bet that if a sufficient number of St. Augustine's citizens called in with false tips, they could torpedo this sleazy effort.

How about a call to arms?

"I don't know Padgett, but he has the right to speak his mind on the web without intimidation by politicians and the press, whether or not he's writing under his real name."

Of course, if it turns out that the blogger IS actually working for a political opponent (and isn't merely an honest, concerned, independent citizen) he's violating election laws, in a big way, and risking fines and jail time -- and any politician, no matter how unpopular or how poor his judgment, would have a perfect right to expose him.

MYCROFT says "Of course, if it turns out that the blogger IS actually working for a political opponent (and isn't merely an honest, concerned, independent citizen) he's violating election laws, in a big way, and risking fines and jail time -- and any politician, no matter how unpopular or how poor his judgment, would have a perfect right to expose him."

So what you're saying is that anyone EXCEPT someone working for a political candidate has the power to tell the TRUTH?

Remember, his allegations are indeed backed up by the paper and as stand are true, so no matter who he works for he is HONEST and CONCERNED. And unless he is in this country illegally I'll assume he is also a citizen.

What happened to the truth shall set you free? Why would anyone feel that it is write to 'expose' someone for telling the truth, no matter WHY they are telling the truth? Think about that one.

Why is Mycroft afraid of speech?

Linked to your story: here maybe it will help get the word out and stop this nonsense (doubtful)

Good article.

Our local paper, AC-T, is also complicit with the local politicos, and refused to carry stories about state corruption until indictments were handed down. Calls to the news tip line about the case would result in a dial tone.

"Of course, if it turns out that the blogger IS actually working for a political opponent (and isn't merely an honest, concerned, independent citizen) he's violating election laws, in a big way"

True, which is only to say that election laws violate the 1st amendment, in a big way. And the media are eager to crush the 1st amendment rights of everyone outside their own ranks, because in the resulting silence they expect to have more influence.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with the accuser having to stand tall in the sunlight as well. Sniping from the weeds, unless the accuser fears for his life, strikes me as somewhat cowardly.

The traditional media is scared.

With the white cap, looks like it could be Whitey "FBI 10 Most Wanted" Bulger from Boston, except plumper and younger!!!

I hope everyone will visit the discussions on this topic at the Free Speech Forums ( where The Record has no influence.

Comments on the newspaper's own forum like this one:
Originally posted by speak2me:
Wake up people of St. Augustine. The name Lee Padgett is a ficticious name made up by a representative of the firefighters union.

Force my reply where I post under the nic "Stinky";
This is without a doubt the most irrelevant comment in the entire discussion yet it seems to be a few participants' obsession.

Are firefighters not entitled to protect themselves by calling attention to comments by members of their elected county commission? I think so, especially if those comments propose to put their lives and safety at risk. Arguably, if Mr. Padgett is a member or representative of members of the firefighter's union, he is very legitimately motivated to do so.

As to his name, it doesn't matter whether he calls himself "Lee Padgett" or "John Doe" or "Santa Claus" - he is a citizen repeating the words of an elected official and calling attention to comments made by the chairman of the board that make him look like he belongs in a loony bin .... hum, maybe is available?

And, by the way speak2me, is "speak2me" your real name? How about stjohnsvoice, or bullgatorlady? Are those YOUR real names? I know that "Stinky" isn't MY real name but it sure reflects my opinion of The Record this morning and the political cronies that are feeding from the county trough - thanks to their connections to Ben Rich.

They are using their energies on county time, while on the county payroll, at taxpayer's expense, to advance this ridiculous witch hunt to protect their benefactor.

The Record ran an editorial calling on Rich to resign as Chair of the Commission. It wouldn't appear they're interested in squashing his opponents. I think they just want to solve the mystery of who the guy is. Rich is the one trying to limit free speech and he calls himself a libertarian. Power corrupts as Lord Acton said.

I sent the following email last evening to editor Peter Ellis at the St. Augustine Record's "tip line" ...

"On behalf of bloggers everywhere: Shame on you!

"Who are you to treat as criminals those who dare to speak out against
their elected leaders?

"And what exactly do you intend to do with the person behind this
"politically charged but anonymously-run Web site" when you do catch
up with him? Have him arrested for crimes against the state? Please.

"Consider this: If your paper were doing its job, perhaps bloggers
wouldn't have to do it for you."

I received the following reply from Mr. Ellis this morning:

"This has nothing to do with blogs or bloggers so whoever told you that has led you in the wrong direction."

Mr. Cadenhead, your thoughts?

The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of anonymous political speech -

"Of course, the identity of the source is helpful in evaluating ideas. But `the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market' (Abrams v. United States, [250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919) (Holmes, J., dissenting)]). Don't underestimate the common man. People are intelligent enough to evaluate the source of an anonymous writing. They can see it is anonymous. They know it is anonymous. They can evaluate its anonymity along with its message, as long as they are permitted, as they must be, to read that message. And then, once they have done so, it is for them to decide what is `responsible', what is valuable, and what is truth." New York v. Duryea, 76 Misc. 2d 948, 966-967, 351 N. Y. S. 2d 978, 996 (1974

Mr. Cadenhead, your thoughts?

I don't understand his comment any more than I understand the paper's reasoning for trying to hunt the guy down. You can't get through J school without learning about this country's rich tradition of anonymous pamphleteering. The notion that you don't have the right to speak your mind without completely identifying yourself is bogus.

Many of you are confusing a blogger with a political action committee.
Lee Padgett is a fictitious person; he does not exist. The web site under his name was set up by a political action committee. The goal is to find out what that political action committee is.

I haven't seen any news coverage that provides evidence that the blog was created by a political action committee. I don't know what the ad in the Record cost, but the other expenses required to create seem trivial in my opinion -- a couple of hours' time to set up the software, $12 for the domain name and web hosting that's probably under $20 a month. Since the paper recommended its readers to visit the blogger's site on March 1 and sold him an ad before that, what changed?

Politics in the age of blogs is going to be a lot more complex.

Politics rapidly evolves to a winner take all confrontation and as such, as in love, all is fair. This war is eventually halted, hopefully, by an election and the public decides who to grant power to.

This sounds like an entrenched campaign between a politician and a labor union. The negotiations they have been involved with have created some real malice and the voters of the local area will now be "gamed" in an effort to win.

It would be nice for the "activist" to come clean ad disclose his connections to the union but it's also understandable that in this environment that act might serve as a political weapon to have him fired. When the war is being waged truth, fairness and justice are all compromised.

Blogs need to be positioned in the same context as "letters to the editor". Signing a letter "an angry citizen" is often acceptable but most papers would insist on the writer declaring himself before publishing an excessively critical missive.

I'd like to see this blog come out and let the voters follow the events that follow... closely. But, it's very easy for me to put someelse's career on the line becuase it costs me nothing. using anonymity in this case just serves to give the opponent leverage to label all the words as politically "out of bounds"... like a campaign of dirty tricks.

Hopefully, these areas of conflict will be opened, debated and regulated to a reasonable degree to put the potential for gaming at an acceptable level.

I think the politician should request the writer to disclose his identity but understand that legally he has no right to demand it... writing politically sensitive words in itself is NOT a crime. Even if a pseudonym is used. Libel, slander and defamation are all legally defined and potentially applicable in a civil court.

Why is a pac different then a person? We can't speak if we do it in groups? Isn't the freedom to assemble a constitutional right?

Maybe the Record's going for this year's Eason Jordan Award for Media Access.

I've had some interesting email correspondence today with Peter Ellis, editor of the Record.

You can find it here:

I'll update my site as the discussion proceeds.

Are environmental devastators hiding behind supposed Internet anonymity?

1. In 2003, 157 of 159 applications for rezoning were approved by the then-St. Johns County, Florida Commission. Locals called them a corrupt rubber-stamp for powerful economic interests who are ruining this beautify county with shoddy "developments" without adequate infrastructure, destroying our wildlife, wetlands and way of life.

2. In 2004, Ben Rich was elected to County Commission. Thank God.
A retired federal law enforcement official, he walked the county, heard our concerns and is against corruption and favoritism.

3. In 2006, two other populist skeptics were elected.

4. In 2007, did landraping, clearcutting overdevelopers" use a putative "blog" to attack St. Johns County, Florida Commission Chairman Ben Rich, retaliating for his courageous stands against destruction of our natural beauty and pleasures, our land, air, water?

5. Did those who want to destroy the reasons people love to visit and live here with tacky clear-cutting and metastasized "development" trash Ben Rich?

6. Thanks to the St. Augustine Record, we may know the answer.

7. I appreciate Mr. Rogers Cadenhead's concern about personal privacy.

8. Ironically, the local government and business carping harpies (I call them the "anonymice") who frequent the St. Augustine Record "Talk of the Town" website have hid behind anonymity for years, making ad hominem attacks on all persons who criticize government officials (including archaeology issues, St. Augustine's illegal dumping of the contents of the old city dump into the Old City Reservoir, race discrimination and refusal to fly the Gay Rainbow flags on our Bridge of Lions (leading to a federal court order that the flags fly June 7-13, 2005). See, e.g.,

9. ToTTers' antics are a reflection of a control group that is losing its grip on St. Johns County. Last year, I was kicked off ToTT for supposedly "outing" ToTTers who already identified themselves.

10. Some "anonymice" ToTTers attacking my right to engage in First Amendment protected activity were local government officials, businesspeople and their spouses and entourages.

11. These "anonymice" have chilled free speech here for years on ToTT.

12. Likewise, the "anonymice" behind the have a (barely) hidden agenda.

13. The public has a right to know.

14. As Justice Louis Brandeis said, "sunlight is the best disinfectant."

15. While the right to anonymous posting on the Internet is protected by the First Amendment against government interference.

16. No "state action" is involved in the St. Augustine Record's effort to learn the true identity of the "anonymice" behind the website.

17. The identity of the "anonymice" behind is news.

18. Kudos to Morris Communications and the St. Augustine Record for exercising their God-given First Amendment right to identify those who contributed to

19. Will the malefactors of great wealth who seek to skewer Ben Rich be hoist on their own petard?

20. Will landraping, clearcutting, uglifying foreign investment interests that seek to destroy our county (and turn it into South Florida) kindly identify themselves?

21. Why must they hide behind "private corporations?"

22. Are they ashamed of what they have done to the wetlands, wildlife, land and people of St. Johns County?

23. Do they reckon themselves above the public's right to know?

24. They have the "right to remain silent," but we wish they wouldn't.

25. By County Commission Chairman Ben Rich announcing his 2008 candidacy earlier this week, the crew knew that they would have to disclose their identity as a Political Action Committee (PAC).

26. That's why pulled the plug on their "blog" -- they can't stand scrutiny and have contempt for our democracy. As St. Augustine Record Editor Pete Ellis reportedly wrote another blogger, "There's a difference between a blogger and a political action committee." As Pete Ellis wrote above, "Many of you are confusing a blogger with a political action committee. "Lee Padgett is a fictitious person; he does not exist. The web site under his name was set up by a political action committee. The goal is to find out what that political action committee is." I agree. Taking out a newspaper ad under a false name may also be a breach of contract, depending upon how the Record's ad rate card and contracts are written.

27. So, to solve the kerfuffle, will the funders kindly call the St. Augustine Record (or me) and identify yourselves?

28. Confession is good for the soul -- just as investigative reporting is good for the soul of a democracy.

29. Thank you, Pete Ellis and St. Augustine Record for working to disclose the identity of the "frontman" for developers, in order to expose who funded, which may involve possible state and federal crimes, including RICO and Hobbs Act. The wrecking crew of uglifying discredited overdevelopers, manipulators and controllers -- they can run, but they can't hide. See, e.g.,

30. Cheers!
With kindest regards,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085
904-471-9918 (fax)

I don't live anythwhere near St. Augustine and I don't know anything about local politics there. However, I watched the television footage of the police "response" at Columbine High School. My reaction to it was pretty much the same as that attributed to Councillor Ben Rich. If that makes me a loon, then there are lot of loons around.

Don't see the fuss. The Blog World was up in arms when corporations masked their blog work and then got "outed". Is there a double standard here? If a blogger had called this out would the response have been different?

We are protected if we we give our personal opinion and yet to make a fictitious post seems to beg for the answer to the Why and Who of the story.

Rule of thumb in such affairs: if politicians are involved, they are corrupt. Doesn't always work, just usually.

Eactly. Were two petty poltroonish clearcutter-coddling St. Johns County politicians involved in setting up the website to trash Ben Rich, working with PR firms and developers? Does the public have a right to know? Should a newspaper grant secrecy to someone who buys an ad under a false, assumed name? Are "anonymice" who support destruction of wetlands, wildlife and scenic beauty privileged characters? Is investigative reporting supposed to back off when a malefactor of great wealth uses a blog to spread propaganda?
What do you reckon?
With kindest regards,
Ed Slavin

No one questions that developers are behind
Ed Slavin

The web site at was rudimentary. I don't know what the ad in the paper cost, but all other expenses had to be minor. If this was a calculated PR campaign by some entity, it wasn't a very sophisticated one.

Just because it doesn't look sophisticated, doesn't mean that the developers aren't behind it.

No one ever accused Northeast Florida developers of being suave and sophisticated. They vote pre-Cambrian and act Neanderthal, electing candidates like ex-Commissioners Marc Jacalone (defeated by Ben Rich in the 2004 Republican Primary) and ex-Commissioners Karen Stern and Bruce Maguire (defeated by Ron Sanchez and Tom Manuel in the 2006 Republican Primary).

The closest clear-cutting, wetland-destroying, wildlife-killing overdevelopers have to "sophisticated" is their lawyer, George McClure, who's very intelligent, but far more oleaginous than sophisticated.

Your typical Northeast Florida developer mouthpiece is more like someone out of a Karl Hiassen or Patricia Behnke novel than someone from a New York PR firm.

Look at the people they hire here locally (one with a radio show that unsuccessfully touted developer candidates last year).

They're actually about as sharp as a mashed potato sandwich with the crust cut off.

Likewise, Karl Rove's attacks on the late Texas Governor Ann Richards weren't very "sophisticated" either, but they worked. In 1994, Karl Rove allegedly had lugubrious goobers make phone calls in East Texas calling Richards a Lesbian.

PR firms and flaks have been known to use "Astroturf" groups to simulate grassroots citizen concerns. There are multiple floors of recent college and law school graduates in Washington, D.C., calling citizens to whip up letters to Senators and Congressmen. Whether they're auto dealers or farmers or whatever, they're coached on what to say.

Does anyone doubt that foreign-funded landrapers are Machiavellian?

Does anyone doubt that is Astroturf?

Does anyone question that there's waste in local law enforcement, starting with multiple non-working helicopters and deputies who get to drive their sheriff's cars while off-duty?

Does anyone believe that two fire trucks at an ATM machine at A1A & 312 is a good use of tax dollars?

Does anyone believe that law enforcement spending should be off-limits to public debate?

With kindest regards,

Ed Slavin

Ed Slavin is right, as usual.

The site is purely an electioneering machination supported by the pro-development community hiding behind the local firefighters. Only problem is the firefighters seem to have left the fight.

If Lee Padgett is so concerned about his right to free speech, why is he not concerned about his right to vote? He's not registered in St. Johns County and has never voted in any county election.
Supervisor of Elections Penny Halyburton made it very clear when she said that the web site, in its original format, violated political advertisment rules because of its anonymous attacks against one particular candidate.
In addition, the Record only ran that surveillance tape after running an editorial advocating Ben Rich's resignation and infuriating the community.

My beef with fire engines being away from the fire house on other then emrgency runs is that we as taxpayers and residents of St.Johns county is that someone spent a lot of money to centralize the firehoses for the best coverage of emergencies. Being away from the engine house (by 7 miles north, ATM) could mean the difference between life and death for people in the southern end of A1A. Plus the extra fuel costs to drive up to Publix for meals.

Funny is as funny does

Nov 8, 2007 7:00PM -- the St Augustine Yacht club--

I really wasn't paying attention until awaken by a diatribe from the State Committeewoman informing the attendees that she would not take on particular task. I'd missed the main message but in part it was about summarizing the information contained in the McCain-Feingold law and how it affected the REC (Republican Executive Committee). Because of the sideways glances that were going around the room, it was apparent that the harangue was offending.
Although fun to watch, the State Committeewoman was only the preview. The main show was Chairman Kira. In a prepared statement the attendees were treated to a heart rending edition of "No Body Likes Me, Every body Hates Me, Think I'll Eat Some Worms", Included in the program was an indictment of unnamed persons who attended a football game instead of a belatedly and badly scheduled political event. The sketch ended with a childlike ultimatum which I call the "if you won't play my way I'll take my ball and go home" threat.
The room was divided. Those who where afraid that they would have to take the Chairman's job, (made visible by fawning and accolades in an attempt to get the Kira resignation retracted) and persons with a genuine attachment to the personality of Kira forming one faction. The other formed by those who recognized the power play and didn't like it.
It seemed to this observer that there is a lot of room for improvement in the Republican Executive Committee in St Johns Co. Kira seems to want a top down structure with a "party headquarters". His detractors say there's no money or man power to staff it and it will end up being a "private office" for Kira. Kira says it should be in the population center and already has a place picked out near SR210. All and all it's a big deal to Kira and he will resign if he doesn't get it. I'm a registered Republican Party voter and I say "let him go".

the pen of
H Greeley

Mr. Cadenhead:

I have posted a link to this article on the local discussion forum at -

My comments are simply to warn voters about the type of people that were behind this assault on my identity.

Thank you.

Assault on his identity? What is that supposed to mean? Like the "anonymice" who formerly abused dissenters on the now-defunct St. Augustine Record website, Talk of the Town, he expects to trash good people and be undetected and unquestioned about it. Sounds like the KKK with hoods and robes to me.

I would not think that or it's content would even qualify as a blog.

Simply not newsworthy or blog worthy. I am surprised it was given a second thought.


Can the com. that is accused of taking a bribe get a fair trial in st johns co.

This is not a free speech issue.

Lee Padgett (he created the fake name) is hooked up some how with the Firefighters Union. He is also from the site. This site is a bunch of terrorists. I have no respect for people that post only to destroy others lives while wanting no accountability. They are a Political Action Committee that uses the site to sway public opinion. They create hate using deception.

The is a site that needs to be held accountable

PlazaBum is a message board for locals to discuss issues involving the community. The suggestions that it's either a PAC or a "bunch of terrorists" are the funniest thing I've read in a while. This weblog is a message board too. Are you a terrorist for expressing your opinion here without using your name to be accountable?

1. "Funniest thing" you've "read in a while?"

2. That suggests that you're laughing at Plazabum's victims, instead of decrying Plazabum's negative effect on our community.

3. Any potential tourist or investor reading Plazabum would get the false impression St. Augustine is one big 'ole homeless camp, and that anyone who ever criticizes dysfunctional, corrupt local governments is crazy. Plazabummers perform the same terrorizing functions that the KKK performed in St. Augustine in 1964. The "terrorist" analogy is spot on when you consider how they state their intent to drive people out of town and ruin their livelihoods.

4. You seem to put more credence in Plazabum bigots than their victims. Why?

5. Are you personally acquainted with any of the Plazabummers, or just reflexively defending their First Amendment rights in the abstract? I consider myself a First Amendment absolutist, but I don't defend Plazabummers' abusiveness, hatred, invective and inventions.

6. Plazabum is a discredited forum for right-wing Republican City of St. Augustine, St. Johns County and other government officials and for unenlightened local businessmen. Call them "the anonymice."

7, Some of the Plazabummers have time on their hands. Others are backshooting cowards in the spirit of Senator Bilbo -- uninformed bigots who chauvinistically defend St. Augustine City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS and all his works and pomps.

8. Cui bono? (Who benefits?)

9. Notice how whenever our City of St. Augustine is caught committing environmental racism and illegal dumping, anonyous Plazabummers are full of disinformation, defending the indefensible, making threats of bodily harm and blacklisting.

10. Who among us can defend putting 40,000 cubic yards of solid waste in the Old City Reservoir (resulting in fines and a consent order)? Plazabummers have regularly sewn hatred against me for reporting the City.

11, Who among us can defend five years of a leaking sieve of a "pipe" putting treated freshwater sewage effluent in our freshwater marsh (resulting in fines and a consent order)?

12. What else do the Plazabum posts involve? Bigoted, obscene, sexist, racist, homophobic, unscholarly libelous, slanderous, anti-reform and anti-progressive postings, full of ad hominems, non sequiturs and vile, vicious personal attacks.

13. Plazabum is not part of the "reality-based community."

14. Who founded Plazabum?

15. Plazabum was founded by a right-wing fringe group that includes Republican apparatchik MICHAEL GOLD, the former campaign manager for SHERIFF DAVID SHOAR.

16. Why was Plazabum founded?

17. For the express purpose of driving ho9meless people out of St. Augustine, later adding other hateful agendas. See MICHAEL GOLD's December 23, 2006 St. Augustine Record column, announcing the creation of Plazabum, referring to homeless people in hateful pejoratives.

18. Plazabummers are uncouth, unkind and a disgrace to our city.

19. Calling the delusional Plazabummers "terrorists" is damning with faint praise.

20. Plazabummers act like anti-literate energumen -- the KKK on steroids, hiding behind anonymity the way KKK hid behind hoods and robes.

21, Apparently, these are some of the very same people who harassed artists and entertainers on St. George Street and published 32 pages of anti-Gay hatred on the St. Augustine Record "Talk of the Town" website in connection with the Rainbow Flags on the Bridge of Lions). After I questioned their bigotry in 2006, three (3) of the 32 pages were deleted, apparently by City and County employees who wrongfully sought to influence our City of St. Augustine, hiding behind anonymity. This TOTT-induced orgy of bigotry resulted in a First Amendment violation by the City of St. Augustine on May 23, 2006. This vote forced our St. Augustine Pride Committee to go to Federal Court to vindicate the First Amendment rightsw our City of St. Augustine violated. United States District Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr. ruled that the City of St. Augustine violated the First Amendment (once again), ordering Rainbow Flags to fly on our historic Bridge of Lions June 8-13, 2005. I agree with Jacksonville Business Journal reporter Mary Moewe, who eloquently said on WJCT's "Jacksonville Week in Review" that the Rainbow flags were beautiful. The soreheads on TOTT and Plazabum hate First Amendment protected activity when it is by anyone progressive who stands up for their rights. Their hiding behind the First Amendment is, at best facetious when you read their violent threats and expressed desire to run people out of town (as they did here in 1964).

22. What's really sad is that some City officials pretend like Plazabum (and TOTT) are vox populi, rather than vox rex (playing Cato the Censor or Charlie McCarthy to controversial City Manager-for-Life WILLIAM B. HARRISS' Edgar Bergen).

23. So, my dear misunderstood Plazabummers, isn't it long past time they "come out" and identfy yourselves? What are the Plazaummers ashamed of? The fact they're writing this rancid, racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, libellous, slanderous, stuff from government computers while working people pay their fat salaries?

24. My religious tradition teaches forgiveness, even of the intentional tortfeasors on Plazabum. Confession is good for the soul. So, anonymous Plazabummers (other than the ones we've already identified on who are you and what qualifies you to sit in judgment of people who care deeokt about our community and want to see it improved?

25. Does being a City or County employee (or no-bid contractor or no-account relative) carry any responsibility? Or do y'all suppose that makes you Republican lords of all you survey? Does being WILLIAM B. HARRISS (or his heyboys or their family members) mean never having to say you're sorry? Speak!

Oops. It was May 23, 2005 that the City of St. Augustine violated the First Amendment. Two weeks later, on June 7, 2005 the Federal Court issued a TRO, ordering the Rainbow Flags to fly on our historic Bridge of Lions, commemorating GLBT history in St. Augustine. As reporter Mary Moewe said on WJCT, it was indeed a beautiful sight.
Too bad the tawdry ToTTers could only emit pages of anti-Gay hatred (then and now under Plazabum), as "Lee Padgett" did against me recently on Plazabum.
I wear their scorn as a badge of honor.
"We shall overcome" (as we sang at St. Paul's A.M.E. Church on January 10, 2008, after cross-examining City and State officials and exposing their environmental racism and their illegal plans to bring contaminated solid waste back to the historic African-American community of Lincolnville.
The First Amendment, in its majesty, protects their right to be wrong. Just don't mistake fascists for freedom fighters or uncivil government civil rights violators as innocent civilians -- they're more like jihaadist "enemy combatants" in a war against "liberty and justice for all."

When people care deeply about their community and try to make it better, Plazabummers mock and trivialize their concerns and make harassing comments about them.

Plazabum is dominated by hierarchical, authoritarian bullies and unconscionable energumen.

Plazabum apparently includes managers and minions of the City of St. Augustine, St. Augustine Police, St. Johns County and other governments. Their terroristic threatening actions may violate federal criminal laws. See 18 U.S.C. 241, 243, 1505,1512 & 1513 (civil rights violations and obstruction of justice), as they expressly vow to retaliate against persons engaged in First Amendment protected activity in reporting environmental wrongdoing and illegal campaign contributions to federal and state authorities.

The whole world is watching, thanks to the Internet on which these rude rubes post their puerile pubescent posturings -- call them "nattering nabobs of negativism," if you will (with appreciation to Wm. Safire and Spiro T. Agnew).

Are you personally acquainted with any of the Plazabummers, or just reflexively defending their First Amendment rights in the abstract?

I'm a person who reads PlazaBum once in a while and the publisher of the Drudge Retort, a site where thousands of people share their opinions on politics. So I'm familiar with the dynamic of message boards.

I don't know if any of the accusations you're making about PlazaBum are factual, but I think they're best addressed by either posting messages there (if they allow it) or starting your own online community. The intarweb's a big place. If PlazaBum was bad for St. Augustine, as you claim, a better community ought to find an audience.

Mr. Cadenhead I would be happy to show you the printed material from that supports what is written below. (12.)

This is not a free speech issue it is a cleverly crafted political movement. They are terrorists by action not only on the message boards but by the follow up on threats in our community.

12. What else do the Plazabum posts involve? Bigoted, obscene, sexist, racist, homophobic, unscholarly libelous, slanderous, anti-reform and anti-progressive postings, full of ad hominems, non sequiturs and vile, vicious personal attacks.

Ellis was correct.

Your "interest" in free-speech didn't include the effort by leftists to use their official governmental positions to "investigate" Joe (The Plumber).

Or, did I miss that article where you decry the effort by your ilk to stiffle the free-speech of an individual, and punish him for doing so?

You're the 'journalistic' equivalent of the one-track-ACLU; defending the livelyhood of 'Psychics', while they ignore the tyranny of the left in using government to destroy individual's freedom of speech ...

"You all" won't be satisfied until there is only one party rule in America, right? You're always correct, politically, right?

Thank you, Mr. Cadenhead, for Workbench and for graciously admitting you haven't read Plazabum yet.

I've been reading and posting occasionally on "Workbench" for two about years. I get the impression that you're a good person, and that you (like me) are a First Amendment absolutist. Even Justices William O. Douglas and Hugo Black would be troubled by government officials starting an anonymous website for the purpose of harassing the homeless and hounding dissenters.

Plazabummers are government officials and their entourages (like MICHAEL GOLD) -- Plazabum is vox rex, not vox populi.

When you read Plazabum's nasty drivel with an open mind, I reckon you might agree with me that there's probably no First Amendment protection for government officials (and their entourages) abusing the Internet for the purpose of inciting violence, committing obstruction of justice and committing libel, slander, defamation and blacklisting.

Ask yourself when you read their hysterical, lying, obscenities -- so obsequeiously trying vainly to defend our City's environmental racism and environmental crimes -- "Cui bono?"

The white-hot, irascible anger that Plazabum and Talk of the Town (ToTT) directed against my reporting environmental crimes and defending the First Amendment rights of GLBT people (the Rainbow flags on our Bridge of Lions) are consistent with PR wieners defending the indefensible.

City Commissioners have used ToTT and Plazabum NICs. (NANCY SIKES-KLINE was BULLG8R LADY on ToTT). Their posts were used to create the false impression that "the people" were opposed to the Rainbow Flags on the Bridge of Lions, directly leading to the City's May 23, 2005 First Amendment violation (and June 7, 2005 Temporary Restraining Order by U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr., finding the City had violated the First Amendment.

ToTT and Plazabum are First Amendment violators and vilifiers -- read the "anonymice" mockery every time someone speaks out for the rights of others -- obscene, derisive and wrong.

THe fact that Plazabummers are illiterate, impudent, illogical KKK and John Birch Society wannabees makes it all the more unreasonable for anyone to think Plazabum is a community forum.

It's run by MICHAEL GOLD, CHARLES NUSBAUM, and other cronies of City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS and Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, whom HARRISS helped raise a quarter of a million dollars to run for St. Johns County Sheriff in 2004. Check out the photos of the Plazabummers and their pal, City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS, on

As to your suggestion about posting on Plazabum, I don't and I won't. I wouldn't attend a KKK or John Birch Society meeting either.

Let the Plazabum Philistines bay at the moon (often quoting from, unable to rebut it).

I wear their scorn as a badge of honor. What do they have to offer our community (other than sniper attacks and jejune, juvenile mockery of persons they never met, including me (whose own First Amendment struggles on behalf of Tennessee and USDOL environmental, nuclear, federal and trucking whistleblowers they mock).

Anyone who'd try to defend the illegal dumping of 40,000 cubic yards of solid waste in the Old City Reservoir and propose moving it back to Lincolnville is beneath contempt. Anyone who'd try to defend the illegal dumping of sewage effluent in our saltwater marsh while our City Manager kept the public in the dark for some five years is an accompice to environmental crimes and obstruction of justice (threatening me for making protected reports to the authorities).

Anyone who keeps environmental pollution secret is an environmental criminal, like the Union Carbide and Atomic Energy Commission officials who dumped 4.2 million pounds of mercury into Oak Ridge creeks and groundwater and workers' lungs and brains.

Plazabum's energies are hatefully focused on hating me, blaring bigotry and defending WILLIAM B. HARRISS (and the corrupt St. Johns County Republican political machine).

It is, at best, facetious to call Plazabum a community forum. Plazabum is a noisome nuisance, resembling KKK or John Birch Society publications. What do you reckon?

Thanks for listening and Happy Thanksgiving to you and Mary.

Ed Slavin
Box 3084
St. Augustine, FLorida
904-471-9918 (fax)

"It is, at best, facetious to call Plazabum a community forum. Plazabum is a noisome nuisance, resembling KKK or John Birch Society publications. What do you reckon?"

I 'reckon' that you must be a Democrat/liberal/leftist - otherwise Anon would be calling you "Weeping Adelbert"!

No one denies the resemblance between PB and KKK and JBS. Who among us can say that the PB crew are not fascists, with MICHAEL GOLD signalling his ideology in his hateful December 23, 2006 St. Augustine Record column. Read it. PB is no community forum. It's an online hate site gathering of paranoids and local government officials, not necessarily in that order. They're wrong on race, wrong on pollution and a bunch of barnacles on the underbelly of the ship of life.

Now there's another racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, anti-Gay fascistic local hate site,

The successors to KKK and the John Birch Society are at and and they are controlled by (among others) one MICHAEL GOLD, the bundler, bagman and former campaign manager for Sheriff DAVID SHOAR.


The US First Amendment makes it very clear that anonymous criticism and civil dissent is a privileged (protected) form of free speech. Notwithstanding, it is not absolute; if an anonymous author publishes statements of fact that are deceptive by error (without malice) or maliciously deceptive, the veil of anonymity can be pierced and rightly so.

For what it is worth, the team i work with have a demonstrated track record of positively identifying anonymous blog and forum posters of malicious internet libel. However, we are not interested in cases unless the client can reasonably demonstrate that the postings are malicious and untrue.

The suggestion of cart blanche and absolute protection of all anonymous speech under the guise of "net neutrality", justified, malicious or otherwise is absurd. It is reasonably presumed that proponents of such notions have never experienced the financial and emotional debilitation of these vicious assaults. The recent advent of anonymous online character defamation mediums compound the victims' carnage exponentially due to the enduring nature of the postings, instant availability through search engines, and the viral republication thereof.

Notwithstanding the cowardly minority above, given the compelling First Amendment interest at stake when an anonymous blogger's anonymity is threatened by a subpoena, the Constitution demands a stringent standard. Advocates suggest that a minimum the determination whether the court will permit discovery of confidential identifying information from a third-party is comprised of the following elements:

(1) The plaintiff must first establish a significant likelihood of success on the merits of her defamation claim;

(2) The plaintiff must establish that a balance of hardships tips in the plaintiff's favor; and

(3) The plaintiff must establish that the subpoena is the least intrusive alternative available.

These factors, while mindful of the right to recover for legitimate defamation claims, ensure that a plaintiff will not be able to compel an ISP to disclose confidential identifying information when disclosure is neither necessary nor fair to a defendant who has not committed anonymous online defamation of character.

In the abstract, the situation is more like the "free speech" exercised in a theatre, and with the owner potentially more damaged by shouts of "fire," than would any individual under "attack."

Having said that, attacks on "free speech" conducted by "theatres" on the internet against an individual or other "theatre," might qualify in the realm of libel. Of course, political individuals (those in office, seeking office, or part of the governmental organization) are "free" targets for any sort of political speech. However, "public" personalities are certainly not any such "free" target(s) for political attacks ...

Although there is quite a bit of leeway, stretch, in what constitutes libel in relation to public personalities, such attacks must still be proven to be factual by the defendant - not the plaintiff.

The referenced website conflates that reality with their pre-conditions to the plaintiff's ability to proceed - that the plaintiff must show the facts; not as the courts demands of the defendant. It "means" the same thing in that always convoluted "reality" of the legal practice ...

Since the internet is a public forum, "anonymity" is an illusion in almost every sense. It is best to be libeled for yourself, rather than some illusion of being an unknown commentator, and one that can be "seen" in every way except visually; an then that isn't even assured with the neo-big-brother outfit in-charge.

Indeed, they're already set-up with Limbaugh in their "political" sites ...

Next, they'll demand that Limbaugh be "water-boarded" for the public safety of Democrat socialism, and anyone who dares repeat his evil "free speech" in the public "theatre."

Goosestepping is already apparent on the leftish sites.

Waterboarding LIMBAUGH? Good one! Since LIMBAUGH says waterboarding isn't torture, does he want to make it a sacrament? Listening to LIMBAUGH is a synecdoche for torture.

I fell in love with St. Augustine years ago and now that I have witnessed the absolute bigotry and seen all the disgusting, racist, redneck pigs that exist here, I have made it a point to never move back.

The PB morons need to take a good look in the mirror. Nothing attractive or intelligent about a hateful person with no other agenda than to destroy others lives and lie.

I pray these people are all outed and face the extreme humiliation of being revealed as the horrible, racist, sexist, and all around anti-human people they are! Wait for it St. Augustine - it will be fun to watch the "high and mighty" fall!!

Peter Ellis wrote:
Submitted by Peter Ellis on Wed, 2009-10-28 09:53

My first encounter with a blogger was a miserable experience. He reported stuff on his blog about The Record that was wrong and then urged bloggers across the country to write me to complain. Many of them did, even though most of them had never heard of the St. Augustine Record.

Thirty-seven years as a "journalist" and you never encountered a blogger until March 8, 2007?

Rogers Cadenhead, an author and web publisher wrote:

I don't know Padgett, but he has the right to speak his mind on the web without intimidation by politicians and the press, whether or not he's writing under his real name.

I've been reading the Record for a decade. I can't recall a single time where it conducted an effort to catch a rapist, robber or murderer anywhere near the scope of this manhunt for a blogger.

So if Cadenhead was wrong when he wrote ...

Allegations made by blogger Lee Padgett, as he's identified in the site's whois record and messages on the paper's message board, are backed up by the Record: Rich really did make the "shoot the cop" remark and disparage firefighters, drawing an angry response. This week, Rich filed for re-election early, hoping it would cause the site to be judged an excessive campaign contribution by local election officials and shut down.

Was The Record wrong when they sold the $1,700 ad?

Peter Ellis wrote:
That left a bad taste in my mouth about bloggers. Since then, I've read quite a few blogs and, with some delightful exceptions, most are awful.

Would your advertisers think Cadenhead "awful" -- if you could get people to respond to their Record ads the way that Cadenhead got bloggers across the country to respond to his blog?

Peter Ellis wrote:
So I enter the world of blogging gently, knowing that many who have gone before me have failed.

Don't try to blame your failures on other people. Your lack of experience with current technology is your own fault. You had a choice - you made a poor one.

Peter Ellis wrote:
What I will talk about is journalism at The Record. I hope you'll join me in the conversation.

You should have completed that statement by saying "I hope you'll join me in the conversation so long as you're willing to subject yourself to a Gestapo-like manhunt if you speak your mind."

Peter Ellis wrote:
Working here is the best job I've ever had.

Somehow, I don't find that too hard to believe -- given your behavior while in St. Augustine and the frequency and distance between your previous jobs.

I'm curious. Are they also preparing to file bankruptcy?

Thank you.

Original comments and quotes appear in a forum at

The site is owned by Mike Gold the past campaign manager for St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar. Commissioner Ben Rich was after Shoar's budget. All of this including the placing of this ad with the St. Augustine Record stems from the site.

Shoar is the set up King. They belong in jail.

All the posts on this subject are David Shoar's people.

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