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In 24 Hours:
228 More Floridians
Dead From COVID-19;
1 More Gilchrist County
Resident Dead From COVID-19


Daily Florida COVID-19 DeathToll

Above are the results on Friday (Aug. 14), according to the Tallahassee office of the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). These records are the current TOTAL numbers updated by the FDOH in the most recent 24-hour period measured. In the Tri-County Area, there are 16 people who have died from COVID-19 so far -- including one more added today tp the death toll record. There have been 103 people TOTAL so far from the Tri-County Area who have been hospitalized because their COVID-19 symptoms were so serious they needed to go to the hospital. This is a unique, very contagious and extremely dangerous virus. Please act accordingly.
Published Aug. 14, 2020 at 2:10 p.m.

 


PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISORY
Residents are advised to wear masks
in public and to socially distance.
Avoid crowds, closed spaces & close contact.



     COVID-19 can be transmitted by people who show no symptoms.
     The best method to reduce the odds of infection and the subsequent symptoms of serious illness and even death from COVID-19 is to limit contact with other humans.
     To find the most updated information and guidance on COVID-19, please visit the FDOH’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage by clicking HERE
     For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please visit the CDC COVID-19 website by clicking HERE.

     For another set of data, former Florida Department of Health geographic data scientist Rebekah Jones has created FloridaCOVIDAction.com. Those numbers are different than the FDOH, which are in the graphic above.

 

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FDOT almost done with
SR 24 sinkhole repairs;

Lane closures and delays continue
Sinkhole Barricade Photos By Sharon Hardison

Sinkhole Barricade Photos By Sharon Hardison
These two blinking signs on the east side of the barricaded area, show SR 24 was closed a for a couple of weeks at least. Now, there is passage, however delays and lane closures may still occur as the FDOT continues in the battle against a sinkhole. Therefore, motorists may want to consider that as they think about travel time.
Photos By Sharon Hardison

By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 14, 2020 at 1:10 p.m.
     LEVY COUNTY --
Florida Department of Transportation (District 2) Communications Specialist Troy Roberts noted in an email at 4:34 p.m. on Aug. 13 that the FDOT is making progress in its efforts against a sinkhole in Levy County.
     In the latest travel advisory, Roberts noted that State Road 24 between Rosewood, Otter Creek has reopened to traffic.

     State Road 24 between Rosewood and Otter Creek in Levy County has reopened following weeks of repairs due to the sinkhole, which first caused a traffic issue on July 24.
     Today (Aug. 14) heralds the third Friday since the roadway problem first appeared.
     Though the roadway is open now, Roberts noted late Thursday afternoon, repairs are continuing. Motorists should expect lane closures and potential delays in the coming weeks while repairs are completed.


Sinkhole Barricade Photos By Sharon Hardison
A barricade a couple of weeks ago mades it clear that passage was not working on SR 24 from this point looking westward toward Rosewood in Levy County. The roadway is open now, however there is some work that may cause lane closures and delays for motorists on that part of SR 24.


     On July 24, the Levy County Sheriff’s Office was the first agency to advise motorists traveling toward Cedar Key from the Town of Otter Creek (U.S. Highway 19) on State Road 24 that there was FDOT construction in progress to repair a sinkhole that is in the road just before reaching State Road 345 in Rosewood.

 


Lance Hayes wins Chiefland
election by a landslide 132-70

Lance Hayes of Chiefland  HardisonInk.com
Lance Hayes holds a campaign sign before the election on Aug. 4. He is scheduled to take the oath of office on Sept. 14 with City Commissioner Marissa Mainwaring. Mainwaring was elected without opposition.

Photo By Amy Gernhardt

By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 5, 2020 at 12:10 p.m.
     CHIEFLAND –
Lance Hayes won the Chiefland City Commission race against incumbent City Commissioner Tim West by a 132 to 70 votes landslide on Tuesday (Aug. 4).
     Hayes received 9 mail-in votes and 123 in-person votes – for a total of 132, Chiefland Ex-Officio City Clerk Mary Ellzey said in a telephone interview on Wednesday morning. Ellzey, who is the city manager of Chiefland, also serves as the municipal supervisor of elections for the city because her other title is ex-officio city clerk.
     West received 17 mail-in votes and 53 in-person votes, Ellzey said, for a total of 70 votes.
     There were no provisional ballots in this election, Ellzey said. A provisional ballot exists when a person’s signature does not match or when some other issue causes the elections supervisor to question the validity of a vote.
     Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones provided ballot-counting machines as well as support throughout the municipal election, as she helps all of the cities in Levy County that seek assistance with their elections.
     West, an affable and friendly gentleman, took the loss well and on Tuesday night in text messages, which indicated that he believes the city will continue to thrive. West’s last meetings with Chiefland City Council will be on Aug. 10 and Aug. 24.
     Among the last actions by West, who is the vice mayor, will be to vote to approve or reject the final reading of the resolution to adopt a special assessment for fire service in the city.
     Previous votes on that matter were 3-2, with Mayor Chris Jones, Vice Mayor West and City Commissioner Norman Weaver voting to approve the special assessment and city commissioners Rollin Hudson and Marissa Mainwaring voting against the special assessments.
     Barring unforeseen circumstances, that matter will be concluded before Hayes takes office.
     On Wednesday morning (Aug. 5), Chiefland City Commissioner-Elect Hayes said he is ready for his new role in the city.
     Hayes, who is the pastor of Potter House Exalting of Chiefland, is not only an incoming City Commission member, but he is one of the founding forces for the inaugural Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Love March in Chiefland a couple of years ago.
     That change in direction for Chiefland regarding a recognition of the famous civil rights leader was led by the late Mayor Betty Walker and a former pastor at First United Methodist Church of Chiefland, Pastor Alex Christian, as well as Hayes and others.
     As for his new role as a Chiefland city government leader, Hayes expressed a degree of confidence on Wednesday.
     “I feel good about the election,” Hayes said. “I am ready for the new responsibility. I know I can do this.”
     Hayes is scheduled to take the oath of office at the Sept. 14 regular Chiefland City Commission meeting, when City Commissioner Marissa Mainwaring also will be sworn into office. Mainwaring, an incumbent, was reelected because no one other than her qualified to run for her seat on the Chiefland City Commission.
     The Sept. 14 City Commission meeting starts at 6 p.m. in Chiefland City Hall (Hardy Dean Sr. Municipal Building), 214 E. Park Ave. in Chiefland.
     Hayes said he sees his leadership in city government as being similar to his pastoral duties at the church, only for the city there is a bigger and more diverse group of people than the congregation at Potter House.
     “I would like to be on the committee that is involved with beautification of the city,” Hayes said as he looks forward to the Sept. 14 meeting when he will begin his term of office. The City Commission must choose the next mayor and vice mayor at the meeting, as well, because Vice Mayor West will be gone then.
     Hayes is ambitious for his potential to have a positive impact, even though he will be only one of five of the municipal legislators for Chiefland.
     Hayes on Wednesday morning said he hopes to help city residents and visitors by taking steps for progressive economic growth while assuring social equity for all people. Hayes intends to go “full force” into his role as an elected city leader.
     While Hayes said he “can’t make any promises,” however he intends to work for the betterment of Chiefland. He understands limits exist due to budget constraints, and he expects to work with the other four city commissioners to serve the people of Chiefland.
     Hayes said he is grateful to the people in the Levy County Democratic Party for their support and assistance through the campaign to be elected.

 

 


Sheriff Bobby McCallum
tests positive for COVID-19;

Sheriff Bobby Schultz
tests positive for COVID-19

By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 4, 2020 at 11:10 a.m.
* Updated Aug. 4, 2020 at 12:10 p.m.
     TRI-COUNTY AREA –
An email from Levy County Undersheriff Brett Beauchamp on Tuesday morning (Aug. 4) noted that Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum has tested positive for COVID-19.
     COVID-19 is a unique, extremely contagious disease that has symptoms, which can lead to requiring hospitalization and in some cases can lead to death.
     “Like the rest of the country, the Levy County Sheriff’s Office continues to be affected by the COVID 19 virus,” Undersheriff Beauchamp noted.
     As of today (Tuesday, Aug. 4), the LCSO has had 16 employees test positive for the COVID-19 virus, he noted.
     “Most of those employees have returned to duty; currently four employees remain on leave due to COVID-19,” Undersheriff Beauchamp noted. “Sheriff Bobby McCallum advised the employees by Memo today that he had also tested positive for the virus. The Sheriff believes he was exposed approximately 10 days earlier when he unknowingly met with another infected sheriff.”
     Sheriff McCallum said his symptoms have been minor and he has been able to continue to work remotely, Beauchamp said. Fortunately, the small number of positive cases among the employees has not had a major impact on day to day operations of the Sheriff’s Office, Beauchamp said.
     The Levy County Sheriff’s office will continue to follow the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Florida Department of Health Department guidelines and protocols to keep its employees, as well as the residents and visitors of Levy County safe, Beauchamp noted.
* Update (Aug. 4, 2020 at 12:10 p.m.)
     Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Robert Willis said late Tuesday morning (Aug. 4) that Sheriff Schultz has COVID-19 and is in self-quarantine, however he is able to stay abreast of GCOS matters.
     Two other GCSO employees have tested positive, Willis said, and they are remaining isolated to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
     Just as no inmates at the Levy County Jail have COVID-19, as Sheriff McCallum reported to the Levy County Board of County Commissioners two weeks ago, the Gilchrist County inmates remain free from COVID-19, Willis said, as of Aug. 4.
     Willis said he is unaware of when Sheriff Schultz tested positive for COVID-19, although as of Tuesday he said it was some number of days before that.
     Just as the LCSO is following CDC and FDOH guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Willis said the GCSO is also following those methods endorsed by medical professionals.
     Willis said he issued a letter in a PDF format on a Facebook (social media) page as the method for the GCSO to tell the public about Sheriff Schultz having tested positive for COVID-19. 

 

 


Cowart denies
allegations from Lawrence

School Board Chair Paige Brookins School Board Member Chris Cowart  HardisonInk.com
School Board Chair Paige Brookins (seated) listens to School Board Member Chris Cowart as he expresses his opinion and reasons to believe that accusations lodged against him by Jerry Lawrence are unfounded and should be ignored.

Story, Photo and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © July 29, 2020 at 8:10 p.m.
     BRONSON –
At a special meeting of the Levy County School Board late Wednesday afternoon (July 29) School Board Member Chris Cowart took the opportunity to announce his denial of allegations made against him by another man who is running for Levy County superintendent of schools.

 


In this video, Levy County School Board Member Chris Cowart says he lives in District 2 as he has for several years, and he has done nothing wrong in regard to claiming Homestead Exemption from property he co-owns with his former wife Molly Cowart.

     The special meeting, scheduled to approve or reject the proposed Levy County School Year 2020-2021 Calendar, including the start date of public school in Levy County on Aug. 17, did not show on the agenda a chance for public input.
     Nevertheless, School Board Chair Paige Brookins asked for any commentary from the public near the outset of the meeting, just as she would at a regular School Board meeting. That is when Cowart gave his speech.
     Jerry Lawrence, a No Party Affiliate candidate for the school superintendent post, has complained to the Florida Commission on Ethics that Cowart lives outside the District 2 zone. The Ethics Commission ruled it has no jurisdiction over the issue and therefore did not address it.
     Lawrence also has noted he believes Cowart misrepresented the truth in regard to Cowart’s benefit from Homestead Exemption when, according to Lawrence, Cowart does not live at an address of property owned by Cowart and his former wife Molly Cowart.
     Residency for election and candidacy purposes, Cowart said, is very straightforward.
     Cowart said his residence for all intents and purposes, including voting, and running for office and serving as the Levy County School Board District 2 member -- always has been in District 2.
     He told the School Board and others at the meeting, that he co-owns a residence at 773 Fifth St. in Cedar Key with his former wife Molly Cowart.
      Cowart said that up until his 2011 divorce from his wife, they both lived in that house.
     “Subsequent to my divorce,” Cowart said, “I remained in the house until 2016. Since 2016, I have resided at the in-district residence of 10251 Southwest State Road 24, Cedar Key.”
     Cowart added he always has intended to return to the Fifth Street residence after the graduation from high school of his and Molly’s daughter, and his marital settlement agreement allowed him to return to that property as a resident.
     For the past several years, Cowart added, he has cared for his aging parents, including his father who underwent open heart surgery in 2016. In 2018, both of Cowart’s parents were in a crash and they were hospitalized with major medical issues, he said, and his mother has since died.
     As for Homestead Exemption, Cowart said it is allowed because his wife lived in the Fifth Street residence, as best as she can recollect into early 2019.
     Cowart said Lawrence went outside the realm of politics, in his opinion, by bringing this complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics, and by Lawrence requesting the School Board censure Cowart for living outside District 2 – and asking the School Board to seek Cowart’s immediate resignation for that reason.
     Cowart said that he has chosen so far to not seek monetary compensation from Lawrence, which Cowart asserted is his statutory right, for the attorney fees Cowart spent to defend himself from the complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics, as well as to seek whatever costs or damage Cowart feels any false accusations may have caused him.
     “However, I cannot assure I will not seek such a remedy for any future frivolous actions,” Cowart added.
     Cowart said his announcement Wednesday was the extent of his choice to discuss this matter. If Lawrence wants to discuss or debate matters related to education in Levy County, then Cowart will participate in that.
     “However,” Cowart said, “if Mr. Lawrence intends to waste more time, resources and efforts on non-issues, including my residence, juvenile name-calling, selective video editing, or other fake news, he will receive no response from myself.”
     Cowart, who is the Republican candidate facing fellow Republican incumbent Levy County Superintendent of Schools Jeff Edison, asked the other School Board members to ignore Lawrence’s request to censure him.
     “To the journalists who have covered this,” Cowart said, “I appreciate your professionalism, and thank you for all you do for our communities and our school district.”
     Cowart also expressed his apology to his fellow Levy County School Board members and the people of Levy County to have to deal with “this non-issue,” instead of concentrating on how to move forward into the school year.
     Cowart, who gave the opening prayer at this special School Board meeting before everyone said the Pledge of Allegiance, said he is appreciative of all of the people who have reached out and told him they are praying for him and his family.
     “I leave you with this Mr. Lawrence,” Cowart said as he concluded his six-plus minutes of speaking on the topic. “I pray for you daily, along with (praying daily for) our schools and our local leaders.”

 


 

Lawrence asks School Board
to censure Cowart

Levy County Website Screen Shot of Chris Cowart  HardisonInk.com
This photograph is a screen capture taken Friday afternoon (July 24) from the Levy County School Board website, and it shows Chris Cowart of Cedar Key as being the current vice-chairman of that School Board.

By Jeff M. Hardison © July 25, 2020 at 7:10 a.m.
     BRONSON –
Jerry Lawrence, one of three candidates for Levy County Superintendent of Schools, sent a letter dated Thursday (July 23) to Levy County Superintendent of Schools Jeff Edison and to the School Board of Levy County asking for the School Board to Censure School Board Member Chris Cowart for allegedly not residing in District 2.


Cowart Edison Lawrence - candidates HardisonInk.com
(from left) Chris Cowart, Jeff Edison and Jerry Lawrence are the three candidates currently seeking the office of Levy County Superintendent of Schools.
File Photos Previously Provided By Candidates

     Levy County Superintendent of Schools Edison is seeking reelection and is facing Cowart in the Republican primary on Aug. 18 to decide the winner of that race, and then the winner of that race is scheduled to face Lawrence, No Party Affiliation, on Nov. 3 in the general election.
     Lawrence said he believes that Cowart is in violation of Florida Statutes, which require Cowart to live in District 2 as long as he serves as the Levy County School Board from that district.
     Lawrence is calling for a formal censure by the Levy County School Board of School Board member Cowart for Cowart’s allegedly living outside of District 2 while being a School Board member representing that he lived in that district.
     In his letter, Lawrence notes that he filed a complaint on March 10 with the Florida Commission on Ethics. Lawrence alleged in his complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics that Cowart did not live in District 2, specifically Cedar Key, but instead lived at 13950 N.E. 80th Ave., Newberry, an address that is on the Levy County side of the Levy County-Gilchrist County line.
     Established in 1978, Jac Pac Distributors is located at 13950 N.E. 80th Ave., Newberry.
     This is a business listed in the categories industry, industrial supplies and equipment miscellaneous, industrial supplies merchant wholesalers and industrial supplies, and has been part of the Cowart family interests.
     On June 5, The Florida Commission on Ethics met. The Florida Commission on Ethics determined that it lacks jurisdiction over the alleged violation of Florida Statutes presented by Lawrence. The Florida Commission on Ethics noted that Cowart made the statement that he lived within District 2 as a private person that was a candidate, rather than in his official capacity as a member of the Levy County School Board.
     Cowart’s act, the Commission ruled, was not made as a School Board member.
     In his complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics, Lawrence further noted his contention that Cowart misrepresented his place of residence for several years when Cowart allegedly claimed Homestead Exemption at a place where he did not live – 773 Fifth St., Cedar Key. If Cowart had violated that law regarding Homestead Exemption, according to Florida law, it would be a misdemeanor. As of July 23, no law enforcement agency om Florida has announced any action on that matter.
     In an April 9 letter from Levy County property Appraiser Osborn “Oz” Barker, the property appraiser noted he investigated Lawrence’s complaint about Cowart claiming Homestead Exemption at a place where he did not reside.
     Barker said his office had erred in not removing the Homestead Exemption from Cowart as it should have.
     Barker provided a detailed track of records for that property. In March of 2007, Chris and Molly Cowart received Homestead Exemption on the property, Barker noted, as a married couple.
     In July of 2011, the Levy County Property Appraiser’s Office received a final judgment of divorce from the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court, showing the termination of the marriage of Chris Cowart and Molly Cowart, Barker noted.
     The divorce ruling gave 50 percent equal ownership of the property to each of those two individuals, with Molly Cowart being granted residential rights with a minor daughter until the daughter graduated from high school, at which time the property would be sold, according to Barker’s email to Lawrence in this regard.
     Barker noted this is when the Property Appraiser’s Office failed to remove the shared Homestead Exemption that existed for Chris Cowart on that particular property in Cedar Key.
     Barker’s office found the property had become completely vacant after Molly Cowart’s mother Shirley Beckham became ill and Molly moved in with her mother, Barker noted in the email to Lawrence.
     Barker determined that neither Chris Cowart nor Molly Cowart had done anything fraudulent regarding Homestead Exemption, because any conflict there was a result of clerical issues within Barker’s office regarding this property.
     As for the Florida Commission on Ethics complaint by Lawrence against Cowart on March 10, it was “… dismissed for failure to constitute a legally sufficient complaint with the issuance of this public report. Ordered by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in executive session on Friday, June 5, 2020.”
     Copies of the Commission on Ethics’ complaint and its ruling were sent to Lawrence and Woodroe Blake Fugate, the attorney for Cowart in this matter before the Florida Commission on Ethics.
     In his July 23 letter to the Levy County School Board, Lawrence noted that after previously turning over all of the information in the complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics to Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones, and after she sought legal advice as to how and who should handle these concerns, the Florida Secretary of State’s Division of Elections referred Jones and Lawrence to the entity that should review these concerns -- the Levy County School Board.
     Lawrence tried to be placed on the July 14 School Board meeting agenda, he said. Superintendent of Schools Edison refused to allow Lawrence to be on the agenda for that meeting to discuss whether Cowart still lived in District 2, and when or if Cowart may have moved outside of that district’s boundaries during Cowart’s term as a school board member from 2016 to 2020.
     Lawrence noted that he asked “that the School Board of Levy County investigate the following alleged violations of the Florida State statutes by Chris Cowart and take appropriate action.”
     Lawrence said Superintendent of Schools Edison verbally denied his request to be on the July 14 meeting agenda. Edison would not put this decision toward Lawrence’s request in writing, however, Lawrence noted in his July 23 letter to Edison and the Levy County School Board.
     Lawrence in the July 23 letter to Edison and the Levy County School Board recited the complaint he had filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics, in which he noted -- Florida Statute 1001.34(1) states that “each member of the district school board shall … be a resident of the district school board member residence area from which she or he is elected, and shall maintain said residency throughout her or his term of office.”
     Cowart was neither a resident of District 2 when he was elected to office in 2016, Lawrence wrote, nor has he maintained said residency during his term.
     Lawrence noted his belief that Cowart currently resides in School Board District 4, just inside the Levy County-Gilchrist County line at 13950 N.E. 80th Ave., which is the Jac Pac site.
     “By moving from the residence area from which he was elected, Mr. Cowart has violated the residency requirement, and he has, based on F.S. 1001.38, vacated his school board office,” Lawrence has noted.
     Lawrence contends that “further perpetuating the falsehood that he resides in Cedar Key,” Cowart gave misleading information to the Levy County Supervisor of Elections Office, which allowed him to qualify to run for the District 2 School Board Seat in 2016.
     “Mr. Cowart directly benefits from perpetuating this falsehood. He (His) annual school board salary is approximately $29,000,” Lawrence noted for the Ethics Commission and the School Board.
     Lawrence said that on Wednesday (July 22), he spoke with Cowart over the phone to give him the opportunity to respond to the concerns Lawrence had regarding where Cowart lived from 2016 through the current time.
     “I asked him how had he managed to claim a Homestead Exemption in Cedar Key when he hadn’t lived here since 2011?” Lawrence said.
     Lawrence said Cowart’s response was to ask if this was a conversation about educational issues.
     “I answered that this was a conversation about elected officials being responsible to constituents,” Lawrence said. “I asked him, as he was a School Board member, if he shouldn’t be living in his district. Again, Mr. Cowart asked me if this was a conversation about educational issues. I told him that he was my elected School Board member of District 2, and that that was what I wanted to discuss with him.”
     Lawrence said he was asking another question of Cowart, when Cowart hung up on him.
     His July 23 letter to the superintendent of schools and the School Board shows Lawrence requesting that Superintendent Edison and the Levy County School Board members formally censure Chris Cowart to have him vacate School Board Seat, District 2, effective immediately.
     Cowart noted in a Facebook post on July 13 that he was having to self-isolate due to probable exposure to COVID-19.
     A phone call, an email as well as a private message via Facebook were sent late Thursday afternoon (July 23) and Friday afternoon to Cowart for his response to the allegation by Lawrence that he lived in a place other than District 2 while being the Levy County School Board member in that district. A phone call to Cowart’s cell phone just after 2 p.m. on Friday (July 24) was another attempt for a response from Cowart.
     If Cowart has moved out of District 2 of the Levy County School Board’s districts, then he must resign, and he would send a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis for a person to be appointed for the remainder of his term -- if he was in the midterm of his term or before.
     On Aug. 18, the voters of Levy County will choose between two candidates that are seeking to fill Cowart’s Levy County School Board, District 2seat. The general election is Nov. 3, but this School Board race is going to be decided in the August primary.
     Also in the primary on Aug. 18, registered Republican voters in Levy County will choose between Cowart and Edison, and the winner of that race will face Lawrence in the General Election on Nov. 3.
     Late Friday afternoon (July 24), Cowart who previously has been dismissive in responding to Lawrence’s complaint, said he intends to answer questions about his residency from 2016 through the current time – during a special Levy County School Board meeting scheduled for Wednesday (July 29).
     Meanwhile, Cowart, a man who is well-established as a humanitarian, as well as a kindhearted, community-oriented, thoughtful, caring person, is presumed to have told the truth for the past four years in regard to his residing in District 2.
     Also, given Property Appraiser Barker noting his office made clerical errors for several years in regard to the Homestead Exemption question presented by Lawrence, no law enforcement agency in the state appears to want to pursue a misdemeanor case from that allegation.
     Likewise, the Levy County School Board is bound to take the mandatory minimum action to notify the public of the special meeting reportedly set for some time and place on Wednesday.
     As for Cowart’s residency in regard to his running for Levy County Superintendent of Schools, he is qualified as long as he lives somewhere in Levy County.

 


Judge denies motion
for injunction;
Bars to remain closed

By Jeff M. Hardison © July 22, 2020 at 12:10 p.m.
     VOLUSIA COUNTY –
Seventh Judicial Circuit Court Judge Leah R. Case on Tuesday (July 21) denied plaintiffs’ emergency ex-parte motion for temporary injunctive relief.
     As noted in the story published Monday (July 20) in HardisonInk.com, the judge had mentioned the reason she then thoroughly cited in her order that was filed in the Volusia County Clerk of Court’s Office, and which the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court Administrator’s Office provided quickly when requested on Wednesday (July 22).
     “Plaintiffs, a group of bars and their owners, have filed the instant motion for emergency injunctive relief seeking an ex-parte order from this Court enjoining the State of Florida from applying and enforcing the Governor’s Executive Order 20- 71 disallowing the sale and consumption of alcohol on the premises of any establishment that does not serve food or that derives more than 50 percent of its revenue from the sale of alcohol,” Judge Case noted.
     Defendants Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears had not been provided notice of the hearing and did not participate in the hearing on the motion. Attorney Jacob Weil, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said after the hearing that to provide notice would have taken too much time before the Court would have heard his pleadings.
     “A temporary injunction without notice is an extraordinary and drastic remedy which is sparingly granted,” Judge Case as she noted citing a case to support the point.
     In her order denying the motion, Judge Case noted the importance of an injunction entered ex parte. If she had approved the motion, there is the potential to encroach on the responding party’s due process rights. Therefore, she said, trial courts should issue them only where an immediate threat of irreparable injury “which forecloses opportunity to give reasonable notice” exists.
     She also cited in her answer that injunctions are governed by Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.610.
     As she continued in her answer to the motion, which Judge Case denied, she said “The extraordinary nature of a temporary ex parte injunction demands strict compliance with the provisions of rule 1.610.
     “In ruling on a motion for an ex-parte temporary injunctive order,” Judge Case added, “the court’s analysis is strictly limited to its review and consideration of the affidavit or verified pleading.”
     As she did during her verbal statements Monday (July 20), Judge case on Tuesday (July 22) noted “Florida law is well-defined that for purposes of injunctive relief irreparable harm is not established where the potential loss can be adequately compensated for.”
     Case law makes clear that economic harm, which can be compensated by an award of money damages, does not constitute irreparable injury, she noted
     “Plaintiffs have failed to show that any of the purported injuries they claim they would sustain from the application and enforcement of the Executive Order cannot be remedied by an award of monetary damages,” Judge Case noted. “Therefore, Plaintiffs fail to establish that they would sustain irreparable damages if the injunctive relief they seek is not granted.”
     Having found that Plaintiffs have failed to establish that they would sustain irreparable damage, as legally defined, from the enforcement of the Executive Order, the Court need not conduct any further analysis.
     Hence, all points made beyond that threshold during the hearing on Monday are irrelevant regarding the motion for temporary injunctive relief that was sought ex parte, according to the judge’s ruling on the matter.
     Jacob A. Weil, Esq., Attorney for Plaintiffs; John J. Knowles, Esq., Attorney for Defendant Halsey Beshears, as Secretary of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Deputy Chief Attorney, Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Office of General Counsel, Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco; and Ross Marshman, Esq., Attorney for Defendant Halsey Beshears, as Secretary of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Deputy Chief Attorney, Department of Business and Professional Regulation were among the first interests to learn of this motion being denied, according to records.
     PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Please scroll down on this page and read the story and watch the video from the Monday hearing to have a more total view of arguments by the plaintiffs’ attorney.

 


Terrorist attack
on telephone lines
inconveniences LCSO;

Sheriff tells County Commission
about needed improvements

Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum
Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum tells the Levy County Board of County Commissioners about a terrorist attack on the LCSO non-emergency lines. The sheriff said 9-1-1 was not affected. He also spoke to the County Commission about his being relatively shorthanded on personnel due to COVID-19 taking some of his staff members out of action. No inmates at the Levy County Jail have tested positive, he added.

Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © July 21, 2020 at 1:10 p.m.
     BRONSON –
Telephonic terrorists tried to hold the 352-486-5111 non-emergency Levy County Sheriff’s Office line hostage for millions of dollars on Thursday July 16) Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum told the Levy County Commission on Tuesday (July 21).

 


Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum on Tuesday morning (July 21) speaks about steps being taken to overcome a telephonic terrorist attack, where the phone lines were held hostage. The 9-1-1 service was never interrupted.


     The analog telephone system reacted by rolling over to the next number on the series of lines at the LCSO as literally thousands of unwanted calls poured in simultaneously from a hacker. As the person conducting this federal criminal enterprise continued their venture, the LCSO worked with AT&T to create two new telephone numbers for non-emergency calls to the LCSO.
     Sheriff McCallum asks anyone who needs to contact the LCSO for something other than an actual emergency to use the two NEW non-emergency phone lines. Only these two lines are operational so delays in answering may occur.
     The NON-EMERGENCY lines are 352-727-2241 and 352-727-3091.
     The attack on the LCSO phone system that started Thursday, Sheriff McCallum said, continues today (July 21). The “denial of service” happened when thousands of unwanted, malicious, purposefully sent calls came in, he said.
     The LCSO phone bank on non-emergency calls rotates from the “5111” number to other numbers on the bank, McCallum said.
     This attack took out all of the non-emergency numbers, he said. The 9-1-1 service was not impacted, except by people using that line to make calls to the LCSO that were not emergencies – because the normal non-emergency lines did not function, he said.
     The sheriff got a call from the attacker, who said he was holding the phone lines ransom for $6 million.
     Since Sheriff McCallum did not have $6 million handy, he worked with Levy County Emergency Management and Verizon to establish the two new non-emergency lines.
     The sheriff said the county has spoken about replacing this analog phone system. Now is the time for that, he said.
     Sheriff McCallum said he will be speaking with Finance Officer Jared Blanton of the Office of Levy County Clerk and Comptroller
Danny Shipp about what needs to be done regarding the method to fund a new telephone system at the LCSO, which will be more secure.
     The sheriff gave an off-the-cuff estimate in the $95,000 range for the new system. Sheriff McCallum said he understands that his message today is not on the agenda for consideration, but that he is giving the County Commission information. Replacement of the telephone system, he said, is a must, nonetheless.
     This capital expense is an emergency that came to be from an attack from a person who sounded like they had a middle eastern accent. Since this was an attack against a law enforcement agency in the United States, it is an active criminal case.
     A company known as Secure Logic monitors phones 24-hours every day and it has been the go-to company used by the FBI after such an attack, McCallum said. A $63,000-range written quote was provided to sheriff by that company today (July 21), he said.
     That is over three years with a $9,000 up-front cost, McCallum added as he spoke to the County Commission.
     The sheriff said he will need help with the Voice-Over Internet system of the future telephone lines. The sheriff said he intends to return to the County Commission in the very near future as everyone works together to provide the people with a safe and reliable telephonic communication method with the LCSO.

 


Commissioner Nikki Fried calls
for Florida statewide order
to wear face masks

By FDACS Office of Communications
Published June 25, 2020 at 4:10 p.m.
     TALLAHASSEE –
Today (Thursday, June 25), in response to skyrocketing COVID-19 cases, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet, called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a statewide face mask order.
     “With 31,299 new cases in the past week alone, Florida has emerged as a new hotspot for COVID-19,” Commissioner Fried said. “While this pandemic threatens to spiral out of control, our leadership is rushing headlong into further re-opening the state. We must take basic protective measures immediately – that’s why today, I am calling on the governor to issue a statewide order requiring masks to be worn in public places.
     “This is common sense, violates no one’s liberties, and follows the lead of 18 other states like North Carolina, Kentucky, and New York,” she added. “If we’re to beat this virus together, we must all act together, with all Floridians doing their part.”
     Florida has seen an explosion of new COVID-19 cases, with a record 5,508 new cases on Tuesday, and 114,018 cases overall so far.
     According to reports, 42 percent of Florida’s cases have come in June alone, while the state’s positivity rate is 15.91 percent, up from 2.3 percent on May 17.
     The World Health Organization has indicated a state should have a positivity rate of under 5 percent for 14 days to continue reopening, yet the governor moved to the next phase of reopening for 64 of the state’s 67 counties. As the state alters how hospitals’ Intensive Care Units availability data is reported, hospitalizations from COVID-19 are increasing.
     At least 18 states have issued statewide face mask orders as far back as April 8, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
     Studies have shown that widespread mask usage “can dramatically reduce transmission rates if enough people wear them in public.”

 


 

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Nikki Keller Jingle Singer   HardisonInk.com
Bronson Utilities Administration Clerk Nikki Keller


126th Jingle Performer

This is Bronson Utilities Administration Clerk Nikki Keller singing the HardisonInk.com jingle in Bronson on Aug. 4, 2020. Everyone is invited to sing the HardisonInk.com jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to hardisonink@gmail.com. He asks people to sing the jingle, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!)
Published Aug. 4, 2020 @ 4:10 p.m.

© Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved

 

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