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Raydient charges Nassau County with pattern of Sunshine Law breaches

Raydient, one of the biggest companies in Northeast Florida’s Nassau County, continues to tangle with said county over Sunshine Law compliance.

The company contends text messages were destroyed by the county, and those texts might be relevant to an ongoing land development dispute Raydient has with the county regarding 24,000 acres the company would like to develop.

Raydient seeks to develop Wildlight, making it “the next Nocatee” with “live, work, and play” options. But there are bumps in the road as the rollout to what could be a100-year plan begins

Raydient filed a suit earlier this year contending that Nassau’s failure to produce text messages requested by their lawyers constituted a Sunshine Law breach. On Monday, they (via the legal team at Gunster) filed a motion to amend, suggesting there is more evidence of their claims.

“Plaintiffs not only obtained further evidence that the County violated Florida’s Public Records Act (including obtaining additional responsive text messages from third parties), but such discovery also revealed that the County Commissioners met privately “outside of the sunshine” and discussed (both in person and through text messages) various ways they could try to pressure and harm Plaintiffs and their development efforts within the County by launching negative media campaigns that spread false statements about Plaintiffs, suspending Plaintiffs’ development approvals, and specifically targeting Plaintiffs’ property for increased taxes,” the filing reads.

Raydient’s position in the original filing was that the county neglected to retain text messages, as part of a strategy to obscure conduct outside of the sunshine, including acting against Raydient’s interests.

“In February 2018, all five sitting County Commissioners made multiple trips together to Tallahassee (along with other County employees) in an attempt to defeat an amendment to a state sector plan statute which the County believed would be helpful to landowners and developers like Plaintiffs. The County Commissioners stayed together at the same hotel in Tallahassee for multiple days, having meals together and meeting after hours for drinks,” the plaintiffs allege.

“While in Tallahassee, the County Commissioners met privately outside of the Sunshine and discussed (both in person and through text messages) how they could exact revenge on Plaintiffs for having supported the legislative amendment, including plans to launch negative media campaigns that spread false statements about Plaintiffs, suspending Plaintiffs’ development approvals, and specifically targeting Plaintiffs’ property for increased taxes,” the original filing continues.

The drama in Nassau has bubbled up to mainstream outlets in neighboring Jacksonville.

Justin Stankewicz, the county’s Office of Management and Budget director, was dismissed by Nassau County late last year for allegations of purloined funds.

Action News Jax reported that he claimed in a court filing that he claimed to have been fired for refusing to destroy text messages relevant to the plaintiff action.

“You directed me to delete these messages … you stated that you have already deleted your text messages,” Stankiewicz wrote to Mullin in his grievance.

Rayonier wants Nassau County to produce the text messages and also wants a ruling that Nassau failed to conform with the Sunshine Law.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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