Who is Tom Garner?

August 30, 2006

lensTom Garner has asked State Atty Bill Eddins to investigate the Pensacola City Council (Garner charges City Council broke law). The Renee Perry mentioned in the article is the paid volunteer coordinator of Save Our City.

The Pensacola News Journal’s Shelia Ingram did a cover story on Garner in December 2002. I

EDIT – 8/31/06 – The PNJ has told us to delete the article. If you want to read it, you will need a public library card and to search the West Florida Regional Library newspaper database online. I also recommend you read Tom Garner’s comments about the article that are attached to this post.

Follow these instructions:

1. Go to Pensacola News Journal, 1999 – Present on the  West Florida Regional Library website.

2. Enter your library card number. It’s on the back. Click “Log In.”
3. In the For box, type: Tom Garner

4. In the Timeframe box, scroll to  2002

5. Click  “Search” .

It should be the first article that pops up.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but it’s out of my control.

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27 Responses to “Who is Tom Garner?”

  1. Maggie Scott Says:

    This guy thinks he saved something on the west side of town by killing Laguna. He won the battle but lost the war. If Laguna would have been built, every subdivsion on and around that site would not be there today. Heron’s Forest was built in it’s place. Instead of having a small footprint on the land and its natural resources with Laguna, major subdivision with hundreds of homes were built in its place. Way to go Tom. You really saved the landscape. Oh, don’t forget what an awesome project Laguna would have been for Escambia County. It was a top-notch project that would have put Escambia County on the map.

    Ganer has never held a full-time job for any extended period of time. He has been financed by local attorney Bob Kerrigan and others.

  2. Tom Garner Says:

    Maggie,

    It’s interesting that you raise the issue of the Laguna resort development, because that issue mirrors the Maritime Park issue almost exactly. In the Laguna issue, a group of developers were meeting with elected officials behind closed doors in an attempt to gain control over a piece of publicly-owned waterfront property known as Trout Point. Trout Point had been purchased by the Navy in the 70’s in an effort to buffer the flight paths of Sherman Field from encroachment.

    If it had not been for the investigative journalism of the News Journal, the deal would have been completed before the public ever became aware of it. Once the deal became public, the community was faced with a choice: either give the developers control of the waterfront parcel that had been purchased in order to buffer the Navy’s flight mission from development encroachment, or have the inland parcels developed into subdivisions which themselves would encroach on the Navy’s flight mission.

    We discussed the issue at length with then Commander of the Pensacola Naval Air Station, Captain Tim Thompson, and the chief of flight operations, Commander Gedney. Both felt that, while the subdivisions would be bad, allowing the developers to control the waterfront parcel would be much worse in that anything built on that parcel would more directly impact flight missions than the subdivisions. Once the Laguna proposal had been defeated, Captain Thompson met with us to thank us for our efforts. It should be noted that the Laguna proposal was actually killed in the Senate by Senators John McCain and John Glenn, who described it as a “sweetheart deal”.

    Once the back room deal fell through, the developers were faced with a choice:
    develop the property or approach the community in the open and explain the issue to the public. Had they done that, I have no doubt that this community would have rallied together to avoid the construction of these subdivisions and, at the same time, guaranteed the developers a good profit for their efforts to work hand in hand with the community. That didn’t happen. Who knows, perhaps the issue of encroachment would have been taken up as a community priority much earlier as well. As it was, the issue of encroachment was only seriously addressed by the Escambia County Commission a few years ago.

    The similarities between the Laguna issue and the Community Maritime Park issue are striking. Councilmember Donovan was absolutely correct when he stated at the June 9, 2005 council meeting that:

    “…the reality is in our community that most important decisions are made behind closed doors, and the politicians are lobbied behind closed doors, and then a proposal is made public and the politicians vote to support it before they even get any input from the public.”

    It has been my experience that this is exactly how many decisions are made in this community. It needs to stop.

    In closing, I’ll state that, in regard to my having “never held a full-time job for any extended period of time”, that’s the legacy of childhood abuse, abuse that far too many children are subjected to. You probably know someone who was subjected to abuse as a child.

    If you’ve never had to deal with the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you should be very grateful. It came very close to destroying my life, and I’ve spent more time than you can possibly imagine undoing the damage that was done to me as a child. I encourage you to learn more about PTSD, by visiting the following website:

    http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/

    If you’d like to learn more about childhood abuse, you can visit:

    http://www.preventchildabuse.org/index.shtml

    If you ever suspect that a child is being abused, you can get assistance from the Child Protection Team at the Guld Coast Kids House through:

    http://www.cms-kids.com/CPTPCola.htm

    Tom Garner

  3. Pensacola Pete Says:

    This is from the WUWF web site:

    One week before voters decide the fate of the proposed Community Maritime Park, a complaint has been filed alleging closed-door meetings involving some Pensacola City Council members on the issue. Tom Garner claims the meetings could be violations of Florida’s Sunshine Law. Mayor John Fogg calls that allegation “baseless”, and nother claim of possible unlawful compensation of Council members “outrageous” and “egregious.”
    (Fogg-1 :15 allegation either)

    Garner says if no action is taken by the State Attorney’s Office, he’ll file a similar complaint with the state Ethics Commission. Although his wife works for the group “Save Our City”, which opposes the park, Garner claims no connection with SOC.

    Tom, is this true? Do you have close ties with SOC?

  4. Tom Garner Says:

    Pensacola Pete,

    My wife began working for Save Our City several months ago. Although I haven’t heard the UWF broadcast or read the News Journal article, I discussed this with the News Journal reporter, and I think it’s mentioned in the article.

    At the time my wife began working for Save Our City, I told her that I was not interested in getting involved in this issue and, with the exception of the complaint, I have not been involved. I’ve not volunteered for the group and I’ve not attended any meetings with the exception of last night’s meeting which I attended at the request of Fairchild who asked if I would come and explain the complaint which WEAR-TV3 had faxed to him.

    I became interested in the possible violations of Sunshine Law following Fairchild’s press conference, which I believe took place at the end of June. Even then, I procrastinated looking at the information Fairchild had gathered on the SOC website until a few weeks ago. When I took a close look at what Fairchild had done, though, I determined that it likely had merit and I began researching it in detail. The complaint was finished on Monday of this week and, as I’m sure you know, I turned it over to the State Attorney’s office on Tuesday. My complaint was substantially longer and more in depth than what Fairchild had prepared for his press conference, my final complaint being 116 pages in length and containing 48 exhibits and 79 endnotes.

    Now, having said all of that, I doubt anyone who is a strong supporter of the Maritime Park proposal is going to believe that I did not file the complaint at the behest of Save Our City. I’ll state that it had nothing to do with it. They’ll state that it had something to do with it, and it will go on like this ad infinitum.

    The bottom line is that the State Attorney will judge this complaint based on the complaint itself, not on who I may or may not be associated with. In the meantime, I encourage anyone who might be interested to review the complaint themselves. A redacted version from which the names of all non-public figures have been removed has been posted on the Gulf1 website. It’s under the SOC link on the right hand side of the main page. I have also offered to provide a redacted copy of the complaint to Rick for posting on the Independent’s web site.

    Of course, it should be obvious to anyone that if I think the law was violated in the approval of this proposal by the city council, I’m not in favor of the project. That’s just logical. So, it follows that I also favor Save Our City’s efforts to put the brakes on this project. Again, that’s just logical.

    I will say that, while my wife is associated with Save Our City, I have very close friends who are associated with the other side. For instance, I’m good friends with an editor at the News Journal who has written extensively in favor of the Maritime Park Proposal and in opposition to Save Our City. In addition, for many years I was employed by the University of West Florida’s Archaeological Department as a field and lab technician, and I still keep in contact with the many friends that I have in the department. In fact, I had an e-mail exchange with two of them just yesterday. I also maintain close ties to folks in local history who support the Maritime Park proposal.

    The Maritime Park proposal is one of those issues that has good people on both sides. Everyone takes in whatever information they can about the issue and then makes a decision based on that information. Because someone decides to view the issue one way or another is just not a reflection on whether or not they are a good or decent person. This includes both those who support the proposal and those who oppose it. No one is a demon in this.

    Outside of the issues that I’ve raised in the complaint I filed with the State Attorney, there are things I like and things I don’t like about the Maritime Park proposal. I like the idea of a maritime museum and archaeological research facilities. This is probably obvious. On the other hand, I don’t think waterfront property is an appropriate location for the baseball stadium, so I probably would have voted against the proposal even without the Sunshine Law questions.

    In closing, I want to point out that this is not the first time that I’ve filed a complaint in an effort to ensure that my elected officials follow the law. In 1998 I filed a complaint against an Escambia County Commissioner who was engaged in a private business relationship with several businesses who also had business with the County. The complaint was substantiated and the commissioner was fined $2000. In 2001 I filed a complaint in regard to a statewide PAC that was using local PACs as a conduit for illegal campaign contributions around the state. This complaint was also substantiated and the statewide PAC was fined $40,000. In 2001, I also filed a complaint against another Escambia County Commissioner who had failed to record two contributions that the contributors had listed in their reporting statements. This complaint was also substantiated and the commissioner was fined $30,000.

    What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been looking over the shoulder of local elected officials for over a decade now, long before Save Our City was ever thought of. I don’t need Save Our City to help me determine whether or not I think the law was violated. I can very much make that determination myself.

    Thanks for your question.

    Tom Garner

  5. Just the Facts Says:

    Toms wife is the paid campaign manager for Save Our City (Renee Perry). She has held the role for approximately 5 months.

    Renee is intimately involved with SOC strategy and any insinuation that SOC did not know Tom was preparing these charges is simply not believable.

    This is the lowest form of politics…leaving the issue and attacking the people. They do not deserve this just for serving our city.

  6. Just the Facts Says:

    Tom,

    Please explain the cosmic bag thing? Are you medicated?

  7. Interested Observer Says:

    Tom,

    I’m curious about one part of your complaint – when CMPA scheduled meetings with individual council members, there were no other public officials involved. In the cases you reference, a school board member and a superintendent (both elected officials) conducted private, one on one meetings. Don’t you think there’s a difference there? If this part of your complaint has merit, a public official could never meet individually with anyone to discuss public business. Thoughts?

  8. Joe Says:

    I disagree with Mr Garner regarding his view of the Park and the validity of his complaint. I also find his timing highly suspect, especially given his wife’s connection to the group. A week before the election isn’t enough time, realistically, for the S.A. to investigate the complaint — what took you so long, anyway? — but it’s plenty of time to re-open some stale allegations in a last ditch grab for votes.

    However, if we’re going to stoop to personal attacks, they should at least be related to the issue. Let’s try to keep it civil, eh?

  9. Tom Garner Says:

    Just the facts,

    The issue is not whether or not anyone at Save Our City knew that I was filing a complaint or not. The question is whether or not I have simply served as a “front man”, if you will, for Save Our City. Of course Fairchild was aware that I was working on the complaint. It was Fairchild’s press conference on this issue that first got my attention at the end of June, and I asked him some questions at that time to try to determine if he had anything of substance. At the time, I told Fairchild that I didn’t think he had very much, that the e-mails were troublesome but, in and of themselves, not enough to warrant an investigation. It was only later, after taking the time to actually read Fairchild’s press materials in detail, and after taking the time to review the Government in the Sunshine Manual, that I decided that there were likely violations of law that were provable to the extent that a call for an investigation was warranted.

    I want you to understand that I’m not naïve about what the reaction would be to my filing this complaint. When I made the decision to begin working on the complaint about three weeks ago, I had to weigh whether or not it was worth it to me personally to do so. As I stated above, I’ve been looking over the shoulder of elected officials for more than a decade now, and I had a pretty good idea what to expect if I decided to file a complaint about this issue. I understood, for instance:

    – That the issue of my wife would be raised in an attempt to discredit the complaint

    – That I would be accused of being a front for Save Our City

    – That Rick would use the News Journal article he quotes above in an effort to attack my credibility personally

    I’ve been down this road enough times to know what to expect. After reviewing the e-mails that Fairchild had obtained in greater detail about three weeks ago, and after reviewing the Government in the Sunshine Manual in greater detail, I came to the conclusion that the complaint was not only good, it rock solid. It was at that point that I decided to go forward. And it should be noted that, if on it’s face, the compliant was unsubstantial, the State Attorney would have seen that and dismissed it immediately. He didn’t do that.

    In closing, I will say that a lot has been made of my having raised these issues at the last minute, etc. Let’s look at it from my perspective for a moment. I’m very confident that the law was broken in regard to the Council’s acceptance of this proposal. From my perspective, it should be easy to understand that, if I think the law was violated in regard to the council’s acceptance of the CMPG proposal, I would want that information to be available to the voters before they make the decision of whether or not to support this project. And if it is determined that the law was violated in regard to this issue, I have to think that a lot of people will be happy that this issue was raised before the final decision was made to approve or disapprove of this proposal.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Tom Garner

  10. Rick Outzen Says:

    Tom:
    I’ve not attacked you. In fact, I’ve defended both you and Kenneth Lamb under another post.

    The fact remains your wife does work SOC. Your word that she wasn’t involved in the complaint and that you have no ties to SOC is good enough for me. I know my wife stays as far away from this blog as possible.

    The News Journal article is a public record – I didn’t edit it or add any editorial notes.

  11. Tom Garner Says:

    Just the facts,

    When the News Journal article cited above was first published, to be honest, I was really embarrassed. The reporter who wrote the story had words coming out of my mouth that I simply did not say. The article was so bad that I provided a copy of it to Randy Hammer, the executive editor of the News Journal at the time, with the many inaccuracies in it highlighted. Randy apologized for the article, calling it “tragic”, and said that he would speak to the reporter.

    I wish now that I had retained legal counsel in regard to the issue, but it wasn’t something that I felt was necessary at the time. Randy told me that he would make things right, but for whatever reason, that didn’t happen.

    Thank you for raising this issue. I appreciate your concern.

    Tom Garner

  12. Bill Braskey Says:

    Tommy boy, you lay your head (or at least SHOULD if you’re a good lad) in the same spot most every night – RIGHT NEXT TO MRS. GARNER. Please don’t be so bold to assume that the public would in any way view your actions as independent from the SOC. Guilty by association – and that’s no attack on your credibility. Facts are facts.

  13. Tom Garner Says:

    Interested Observer

    One of the things that I discovered in reviewing the Government in the Sunshine Manual in detail a few weeks ago is that it is apparently a violation for a person not regulated by the Sunshine Law to meet with the individual members of an elected body provided certain criteria are met. The Government in the Sunshine Manual cites two case law examples which discuss the following:

    1.Meeting with individual members of an elected body in order to discuss a particular agenda

    2.Meeting with the individual members of an elected body in “rapid-fire succession”

    3.Meeting with the individual members of an elected body in order to avoid the public airing of a controversial issue.

    The CMPG meetings appeared to meet each of these criteria. In addition, I think it’s important to note that the CMPG’s intent was to get council approval of issues before council votes took place in public. One internal CMPG e-mail states explicitly that:

    “We want a majority of Council on board with that issue before it ever gets to the Council floor.”

    It was noted in the Government in the Sunshine Manual that normally a school superintendent meeting with a school board member individually would not violate the Sunshine Law as the superintendent is independently elected and is not a member of the school board. It was not the issue of whether or not the superintendent was an elected official that was the problem, however. It was the character of the individual meetings that was the problem.

    As I’ve done with others, I want to encourage you to have a look at the full complaint. I discuss this issue in much greater detail there than I’m able to do here. A redacted copy of the complaint from which the names of all non-public figures have been removed is available at the Gulf1 website under the SOC link on the right hand side of the main page.

    Thank you for your question.

    Tom Garner

  14. Bill Braskey Says:

    Tom,

    Thanks for your thoughgtful responses. Now, this question has been asked previously, but can you please elaborate on the rather fortunate timimg regarding the upcoming vote and your complaint? I’m sure that the SOC is quite giddy with such a contribution from a “non-member.”

  15. Tom Garner Says:

    Joe,

    The timing issue is related to the fact that I did not read the internal e-mails or the Government in the Sunshine Manual in detail until about three weeks ago. Since that time I’ve been actually writing the complaint. You may not be aware of this, but writing a complaint of this kind is extremely time consuming. You have to do a lot of research. You have to take the time to be sure that the complaint explains the issues clearly yet succinctly. In particular, you’ve got to make absolutely sure that you’ve got something deserving of investigation. It took approximately two and a half weeks to complete the complaint. It was finished on Monday and I delivered it to the State Attorney on Tuesday.

    In regard to the timing, if I believe that the law was violated in the course of the Council approving this proposal, I would logically want that information to be available to the public so that they can factor the information into their decision to support or not support this issue. I mean, that just makes sense.

    Thanks for your question.

    Tom Garner

  16. Tom Garner Says:

    Bill,

    I’ve commented elsewhere that there are folks who, no matter what explanation I give, are never going to believe that this complaint was not filed at the behest of Save Our City. We’ll just have to let it go at that.

    Thanks for you comments.

    Tom Garner

  17. Tom Garner Says:

    Rick,

    Thank you very much for your defense. I had not seen that. I apologize for questioning your motives in publishing the article. As you can tell from my post above, this article is a sore spot for me.

    Tom Garner

  18. Tom Garner Says:

    Folks,

    I’ll be away from the omputer for most of the day, so I’ll have to try to answer any additional questions later this evening or tomorrow. I appreciate your interest in this issue.

    Tom Garner

  19. Bill Braskey Says:

    Tom,

    You’re right, I don’t believe you. You expect everyone to think that you are an independent entity all the while your wife heads up the SOC… and your complaint happens to fall just days before the vote. You’ve already admitted to being a procrastinator. Let me add another title for you: liar.

  20. Joe Says:

    Tom,

    I agree with you that the PNJ article is embarrassing; that it has little relevance to this issue; and that to reprint it here seems intended to ricidule your character. The News Journal took issue with Rick’s definition of “public record,” as well.

    But when you explain your reasons for “having raised these issues at the last minute,” you confirm our suspicions that your timing was indeed deliberate. You seem to concede the point that this will affect the outcome of the election even before the S.A. reaches a decision (though your assessment of the time required to determine a complaint’s validity is way off base), but in your opinion it’s enough justification that YOU think the law was broken.

    You fail to explain why you couldn’t have filed the complaint sooner. If your accusations are correct, it would be much more valuable to have them CONFIRMED before the election.

    You go on to say, “if it is determined that the law was violated in regard to this issue, I have to think that a lot of people will be happy that this issue was raised before the final decision was made to approve or disapprove of this proposal.” Conspicuously, you don’t address the other obvious contingency: that the S.A. will determine (rightly, I believe) that no laws were broken, but that your mudslinging efforts may have convinced enough people to vote down the project regardless.

  21. Joe Says:

    Tom,
    Your comment to me, in which you said your complaint took nearly three weeks to write, hadn’t shown up when I started writing my last comment. (Like you, it seems, I am not the fastest writer.) I understand the time required for these things, but as a person who sees shady dealings all around you, how can you expect us simply to take you at your work — i.e. to believe that the husband of S.O.C.’s campaign manager just happened to read through their “smoking gun” emails just in time to get a complaint out the door before the election? What would you think if our roles were reversed?

    But more to the point, even Charlie and Marty, when asked directly about the emails on their BLAB show a few weeks back, admitted there was no evidence of illegal activity and that they would not file a formal complaint.

  22. Just the Facts Says:

    Tom,

    Just must hand it to you…you got nerve buddy.
    Thanks for not hit and running and standing up for your beliefs…although, in my opinion, misguided and politically motivated, they are your opinion and it is obvious you are a smart guy.

    Hope we beat you.

  23. CMP Says:

    “It’s interesting that you raise the issue of the Laguna resort development, because that issue mirrors the Maritime Park issue almost exactly. In the Laguna issue, a group of developers were meeting with elected officials behind closed doors in an attempt to gain control over a piece of publicly-owned waterfront property known as Trout Point.”

    So you are assuming that things were done behind closed doors? What is the actual proof that you have? Do you have tape recordings? Pictures?

  24. Tom Garner Says:

    Rick,

    I hate to do it, but I’m going to have stop posting on the blog, at least for the time being. I’m sorry to have to do it but I understand that Jeff DeWeese reads what I write and then immediately uses the information to call into WCOA and try to make myself, my wife and the Save Our City folks look bad.

    Again, I’m sorry to have to do it, but I came on this blog in good faith, knowing that your readers were primarily supporters of the park proposal, but assuming that I would, nonetheless, be treated with the same respect with which I have treated others. I guess for some folks, though, everything is viewed as an opportunity to try to inflict some kind of damage. It’s too bad.

    Thanks for allowing me the space to carry on this conversation. Perhaps I’ll be able to come back on at some later point and continue this disussion with you and the other folks.

    Tom Garner

  25. Jeff DeWeese Says:

    Tom,

    First, If you make allegations you should expect all to hear your own words about them. Why save them just for us? We dont want that special attention. Pensacola wants to know your own words and motivations. I merely wanted to share your own words with a wider audience…to let Pensacola to know your views.

    What I stated on WCOA is only:

    Of course Fairchild was aware that I was working on the complaint. (Post 9 above)

    At the time my wife began working for Save Our City (Post 4 above)

    A redacted copy of the complaint from which the names of all non-public figures have been removed is available at the Gulf1 website under the SOC link on the right hand side of the main page (Post 13 above)

    Your links to SOC are long term and deep…do you believe that not to be relevant.

    Sorry to see you go…I believe you to be an extremely intelligent guy.

    Take care and I look forward to meeting you some day.

    Jeff

  26. Bill Braskey Says:

    Tom,

    Jeff doesn’t make you look bad. You do.

  27. Dave Daughtry Says:

    Hi Tom. You and I certainly blackened our share of frying pans in Pete’s sideyard while discussing politics in this area. It made me confident enough to tell listeners to my radio show “Morning Folks” that you are thorough in your research. My question? Have you forwarded your findings to the state, and has there been any response? And, are you aware whether five or six other individuals or groups are filing similar complaints? Regards, Dave

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