BFA's own Charlie Grapski, a University of Florida instructor and doctoral student who is also a candidate for Florida's State House, was arrested and briefly detained after Alachua City Manager Clovis Watson Jr. alleged Grapski recorded him without his knowledge on Friday, April 28.
Grapski had met with Watson "to discuss Grapski's request for public records relating to last month's Alachua city election." Watson alleged that he "left his office briefly during the discussion, and only realized when he came back in and saw a blinking red light on what appeared to be a phone that he was being recorded." Watson asked if the meeting was being taped and Grapski said it was and "since Watson is a public official, the recording was legal."
Watson disagreed. Grapski, in an e-mail to Watson, said "Watson could "clearly see" his recorder, because Watson "openly stated" he knew he was being recorded and because "as a public official . . . anything you say is deemed to be a public statement." " The two agreed to meet again on Monday where Watson told Grapski that the public records they discussed on Friday would be available.
Grapski arrived on Monday with co-chairman of the Alachua County Green Party Michael Canney. When Grapski was finished reviewing the records, police arrested him. Grapski was charged with "interception and disclosure of wire, oral or electronic communications."
While Canney believes the punishment was too harsh for the crime, Watson said the police department acted appropriately and that the arrest "was necessary to impress upon Grapski the seriousness of the matter." Watson charges that a felony was committed resulting in Grapski's arrest.
Canney points out that the arrest deflected attention from Grapski's reasons for requesting the records in the first place:
"Grapski was looking through materials relating to absentee ballots for the recent city election, which is being challenged by a lawsuit Grapski is participating in.
The lawsuit says city officials are "guilty of misconduct in conducting the absentee ballot portion of the election."
Grapski was released Monday night on his own recognizance.
UPDATE, from Charlie on BFA:
Charlie Grapski wrote on May 3, 2006 09:55 AM:
Very interesting stuff Monica. I did not realize they arrested you in Alachua when running. There is a very serious problem in the City of Alachua - and when we say "plantation" - I mean that literally.
By the way - the statement that he "heard" his voice played back is false. The recorder was on at all times and plainly in his view - and we even discussed it - and he continued to talk while being recorded.
My view is that in Florida (especially because we have the Sunshine Law) - and everywhere - a PUBLIC official is exactly that. Anything he/she does AS that PUBLIC official - must be ASSUMED TO BE public. Thus anything they say or do - in their official capacity - should be considered to be done AS IF it were being recorded (and thus if someone recorded it - even without their knowledge or consent - that would be acceptable).
In this case, however, this was done without any attempt at "secret" recording. I can provide more details at a later time.
But this statute that is being cited - with the felony charge - is really intended for COVERT spying on individuals (kind of like the President has authorized - just the other way around - in this case the issue is the public "spying" on public officials in their public capacity). And no one has EVERY been prosecuted for what I have been alleged to do (or what I have actually done).
The only thing that could come out of something like this - although in this case since it was a public official and was done openly it should not - is that the tape evidence cannot be used as evidence in court.
But I made the recording - as I am doing with all interactions with officials of the city of Alachua - to DOCUMENT what happens and what they do. Particularly in this case of stealing an election.
You may recall that a few years back - two Floridians "intercepted", taped, and distributed a cell-phone conversation of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) on a conference call with Gingrich and a number of other key Republicans.
They turned the tape over to the House Ethics Committee (Jim McDermott) - when they were investigating Gingrich's ethics violations. It woud up in the hands of the newspapers - and a transcript was printed in the NY TImes.
Gingrich tried to have them brought up on the felony charges and arrested (like what happened to me) - but they were not able to do that.
I believe they actually eventually pled guilty - and were fined $500.
But what they did - and what I did - are two completely different things. My actions don't even come close to that.
I am not worried - they made a major mistake - and have attempted to use their positions of power (and abuse them) for their advantage. I will indeed prevail on this - but more importantly - I will now have a much greater chance of prevailing on the exposure of the stealing of the election - and then the deeper corruption in the City of Alachua.
I'll share more of this later.
What is important is that last Monday, along with Prof. Joe Little of the Law School (who I have worked with for many years on such cases) - we filed a lawsuit challenging the election based upon improprieties of the election officials (including Clovis Watson - the City Manager and Police Commissioner - who is also on the Canvassing Board).
I filed a public records request on Thursday to review the absentee ballots and all of the related documents.
On Friday I tried to inspect those documents. Alan Henderson, the Deputy Clerk (Clovis is also the City Clerk by the way) who also is the Supervisor of Elections tried to stonewall me. I recorded that.
Then I was seated - with a witness - in Clovis' office when I would not be bullied by Henderson (and that is not an understatement - this is how the city officials treat the residents). I continued to record - and Clovis walked in - and saw and knew I was recording and spoke to me about the records request. He tried to find ways to delay or deny - but I was not taking no for an answer. Eventually we discussed the issue of recording - on the tape (which by the way he and the Chief of Police (who works under him) confiscated). (Also the Mayor is a defendant in the case). They thus took the evidence AGAINST them into their custody - by arresting me.
Now - the arrest happened after I appeared for an appointment on Monday to inspect the ballots. I made that appointment with Clovis.
No arrest was made on Friday - when he alleges the "secret" recording was made. He never went to the State Attorney to have me prosecuted. No warrant was issued for my arrest.
But instead - on Monday - he had the Chief of Police and two officers in his office waiting to arrest me (and then effectively sent out a press release about this!) - when I was reviewing the ballots.
The editor of the High Springs Herald was there - be
Charlie Grapski wrote on May 3, 2006 09:56 AM:
The editor of the High Springs Herald was there - because I was speaking with him - and he wanted a picture of me inspecting the ballots (he got a lot more than he - or I - expected).
While I was reviewing the ballots - in mid-process - they arrested me (as in the photo - those are ballots on the table).
There is something rotten here in Alachua, Florida. And it needs to be exposed to the light of day and remedied.
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