Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Lake City vs Maeweather Hole In The Wall: Is it as simple as black and white?   

LCPD Argatha Gilmore grills Kendrick Maeweather during the April 2, 2012 public hearin.

LAKE CITY, FL – The Maeweather Hole In The Wall Public Hearing continues in Lake City, City Hall tonight at 7pm. City Manager Wendell Johnson in his Report To Council for tonight's meeting said the City, "On January 20, 2012, ... provided notice of proposed suspension" of Mr. Maeweather's Business. The January 20th letter from the Lake City Building Department stated the suspension this way: "I am hereby suspending the Business Tax Certificate...for your business." On March 20, 2012, City Manager Wendell Johnson told the City Council, "The license was revoked for repeated violations requiring police presence..."

LCPD Captain Robert Smith - Looking for probable cause

On or about October 18, 2011, after a command staff meeting of the Lake City Police Department, LCPD Captain Robert Smith sent out an email about the "Hole In The Wall," in which he advised that there would be "a zero tolerance approach to the enforcement of ABT [alcohol] laws."

Captain Smith continued: "In order to properly monitor this club, a police presence is needed. Therefore whenever possible during peak club hours a member of your staff needs to conduct a walk through the club at least once an hour. Keeping in mind as long as the club is open to the public the police can go anywhere the public can go."

Captain Smith concluded: "The idea here is to document enough violations to develop enough PC [probable cause] to take criminal action, and or administrative action against the business owner and his license."

90 Days Later Not One Violation or Summons

Long time Lake City Building Department Director Larry Lee watches Mr. Maeweather during the public hearing.

On January 20, 2012, Larry Lee for the City suspended the business license of Mr. Maeweather.

At that time, Mr. Maeweather had not received one notice of violation, nor had he received one summons from any Police Department, anywhere.

On March 20, 2012, City Manager Wendell Johnson told the City Council, "The license was revoked for repeated violations requiring police presence..."

City Manager Wendell Johnson was dead set against giving Mr. Maeweather a hearing.

Part I of the Maeweather Public Hearing – April 2nd

The City flooded Mr. Maeweather with over 150 pages of documents on the day of the hearing.

Sandra Caslow of Code Enforcement, addresses Mr. Maeweather during the public hearing.

The Observer asked Mr. Maeweather if he understood what he was given.

Mr. Maeweather:  I have a 10th grade education. I can't afford a lawyer. I am doing the best I can.

During the public hearing Mr. Maeweather was grilled by everyone.

All the police evidence was hearsay and it was clear that Captain Smith's requested search for probable cause came up empty.

Among the unproven charges, the City claimed that Mr. Maeweather had violated the Federal Clean Air Act. [That is not a misprint].

The City complained that people from the Hole In The Wall and folks from the neighborhood gathered in a City parking lot across the street from the Hole In The Wall.

The City cited no law that these gatherings violated. Mr. Maeweather, Mr. Maeweather's customers and the folks from the neighborhood are black.

The City demanded that Mr. Maeweather hire law enforcement officers to patrol the City Property.

It can be found in the supporting documentation available for Part II of the hearing tonight, Mr. Maeweather has made an Agreement with Sheriff Mark Hunter, in which the Sheriff will patrol City property and be paid by Mr. Maeweather. (See page 3 in the packet called: 12_0416_pages from City Packet).

A Few Hundred Feet Down The Road – Florida's Biggest Death Trap

A few hundred feet down the road from the Hole In The Wall sits one of the biggest death traps in Florida, The Blanche Hotel.

This building has and had the fire escapes falling off; had tons of black mold and animal feces in its walls; and the fire exit doors wired and screwed shut. The City turned a blind eye for years.

The Blanche Hotel is owned by Lake City's leading white citizens. The City never suspended its business license, even though there were finally over 150 violations written.

At that time the Observer asked City Manager Johnson why the building was not being shut down.

City Manager Johnson answered, "They have to have due process."

Epilogue – Something wrong in Lake City

It is not clear if Mr. Maeweather, clearly a bright man who has been hobbled by the systemic failures of the Columbia County School System, understands the meaning of due process.

If he or anyone else doesn't, all one has to do is open one's eyes. There is something wrong going on in Lake City. Unfortunately, this is nothing new.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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