PINAC investigative journalist Jeff Gray has been such a thorn in the side of public officials in Florida that they have not only created false allegations against him in a weak attempt to criminalize him, they continuously warn each other about his First Amendment audits as well as his public records requests, telling each other not to allow themselves to be “baited” by him where they open themselves up to lawsuits, not to mention make themselves look like idiots on Youtube.
Nevertheless, they still provide endless fodder for his HonorYourOath Youtube channel as well as potential lawsuit challenges.
In his latest video, Gray along with PINAC’s Epic Old Guy, Thomas Covenant, visited the Jacksonville Port Authority office to make a public records request, only to not be allowed inside the front door, which is supposed to be open to the public.
Instead, he was required to make his public records requests through an intercom from outside the building where a man inside could be heard voicing his disgust for them.
Male voice: “That’s your two guys. How in the motherfuck did they get into our goddamn gate?
Female voice: “It’s probably just a trick.”
Male voice: “Don’t answer any questions, say ‘sir, that’s all I can provide you, is that all official requests, public records, have to go here, point of contact, Alissa Bowles.”
The woman then stepped out and informed Gray that they would have to go through Bowles, who is listed as the Jacksonville Port Authority manager of audit and compliance.
But she’s in another office and Gray wanted records that are stored in that particular office. And under Florida law, public officials should make it as easy as possible for citizens to view these records, which means they should not send citizens to another location to view records at the location where they are making the request.
According to Joel Chandler, who heads FOGWatch (Florida Open Government Watch):
The statutory references to “reasonableness” do not refer to the requestor but to the custodian. “[E]xamination of public records shall be permitted ‘at reasonable times, under reasonable conditions, and under supervision by the custodian of the records or his designee.’ It is clear to us that this statutory phrase refers not to conditions which must be fulfilled before review is permitted but to reasonable regulations that would permit the custodian of the records to protect them from alteration, damage, or destruction and also to ensure that the person reviewing the records is not subjected to physical constraints designed to preclude review.” Wait v. Florida Power & Light Co., 372 So.2d 420 (Fla. Supreme Court 1979)
Gray is not certain whom the man was making the angry remarks about him through the intercom, but there’s a good chance it could be John Schnippert, security operations manager of the port authority who works out of that same office.
As recently as August, Schnippert was sending out emails to employees, warning them about Gray as well as inquiring with the local sheriff’s office as well as Homeland Security what can they do to prevent Gray from exercising his Constitutional right to record on public property as well as make public records requests.
In one email to a Randy Howard of BAE Systems, a national aeronautics company:
The national group I was talking about is Honor Your Oath run locally by a Mr. Jeff Gray. He is exercising his Constitutional Rights but is going about it in an extremely odd way.
He conducts surveillance of critical infrastructure known to have Law Enforcement or Security protection and from the fringes of private / public property and challenges their knowledge of the law when he is challenged about his interest in the facility.
The entire contact is videotaped and he tries to rile security & police into saying something or acting physical in any manner. They are quickly put onto You Tube.
Local, State and Federal agencies are aware.
In another email with Chris J. Vasconcellos, an inspector with Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service, the inspector theorized that perhaps Gray was just playing the Ingress Game, which he describes below:
For your situational awareness, the Center for Internet SecurityUS entity (CIS) is alerting you to Google’s Niantic Lab’sUS entity Ingress game, which involves players visiting points of interest for extended periods of time, at all times of day, and potentially photographing sensitive public buildings and critical infrastructure. This will likely result in increased reports of suspicious activity and creates the potential for unrelated malicious activity.
Google released Ingress for Android devices in December 2013 and currently there are over 700 million players registered worldwide. Google plans on releasing a version for Apple devices in 2014. Ingress is an augmented reality game where players, or field agents, are divided into two teams, the Resistance and the Enlightened, and then fight for control of geographic areas by creating and linking together “portals.” Portals are real-world public points of interest such as statues, works of art, buildings with unique architecture or historical significance, mass transit stations, public libraries, places of worship, water towers, and entrance signs to public parks. In order to claim a new portal, a player must provide photographs and GPS coordinates for the location. Players attempt to capture rival portals and “hack” friendly portals to acquire needed items for the game. All game activity is conducted online, however, players must physically be within 40 feet of the portal to accomplish game objectives.
Law Enforcement Encounters: There are multiple reports of Ingress players being stopped by law enforcement officers, most often due to suspicious activity. Ingress players may explain their activity to Law Enforcement Officers using terms from game play that sound malicious, such as “hack” and “attack.” In the case of Ingress players, “hacking” and “attacking” are part of the game and not real-world malicious activity. An Ingress player released a series of tips and guidelines for other players to follow if they are approached by law enforcement. These tips advise players to be cooperative and non-combative.
Malicious Activity and Surveillance: Malicious actors unaffiliated with the game may attempt to cover up their malicious activity and/or surveillance efforts by claiming they are playing the game.
In another email to Schnippert from a Charles White, who is employed by the port authority, White asks “what can we do to mitigate the “Honor Your Oath” individuals from getting in our ACC Parking Lot and shooting our Gate?’.
To which Schnippert responds:
Here is the final draft of the signage that will be placed at our front gates.
I believe this will meet state statute requirements for Unlawful Entry (Conspiracy) charges and trespassing. We intend to post at all inbound gate entrances to take out the guess work if the S/O gave a verbal warning.
Tammy will review to make sure that after posting enforcement will include arrest for those that meet the criteria. Once again, Ken Page has done a phenomenal job and is standing by ready to execute.
John Schnippert | Security Operations Manager
JAXPORT | 9530 New Berlin Court, Jacksonville, Florida 32226 T: (904) 357-3354 | M: (904) 838-7224 | 24/7: (904) 357-3360
That would explain why Schnippert was so angry that Gray and Covenant walked right through the gate. So much for the security operations manager who makes more than $64,000 a year.
Another one from Grant George from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office seemed to contain the most common sense of all the emails:
Here is some of the correspondence I could find with attached files. Note that our Legal Advisor, Vanessa Moore, conducted roll call training about video tapping in public and her stance is if the public is allowed at a location, the public can tape there.
What is interesting to note is once the police stopped telling him he could not video tape us, he stopped doing it as it lost its appeal.
Yes, that is the point most of these officials still do not get. The fact that if they comply with the law, there would be no need to conduct these audits.
But that fact seems to be lost on so many officials.
Shortly after the incident in the above video, Gray returned to find the gate to the port authority padlocked, preventing him from accessing a public building.
Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Port Authority proclaims on its website that it is very open to adhering to the state’s public records laws:
As an independent government agency chartered by the State of Florida, JAXPORT adheres to the state’s open government laws. Accordingly, you are invited to attend JAXPORT’s Board of Director meetings and make public records requests.
If you would like to make a public records request, contact us by phone at (904) 357-3048 or by email.