Records recently obtained by True Homestead reveal a Florida Records Clerk attempted to have a man jailed for requesting records.
On July 19, 2016, Florida activist James Eric McDonough, A.K.A. Doc Justice, the founder of True Homestead, entered the Homestead City Hall to dispute charges for a previous records request.
The interaction was video recorded.
Video shows McDonough interacting with Homestead City Clerk Elizabeth Sewell inquiring about how the city allocated the amount he was billed for the previous records request.
Eventually, he asks to inspect the records.
Sewell declines his requests stating he needed an appointment before he could physically inspect the records.
Two days later, Sewell corresponded via email with McDonough apologizing how she felt flustered after being caught off guard because she was being video recorded during his request and because of McDonough’s”aggressive tone.”
However, McDonough does not appear to be aggressive in the video. He’s simply asking questions about the bill he received from a prior records request.
A month and a half after her email, on September 2, 2016 Sewell decides to file a police report pertaining to the same interaction accussing McDonough of being very agressive.
In the police report, Sewell also told officer Gabrielle Leal that McDonough was very confrontational. She also accused McDonough of bringing his children along with him to distract employees, so that he could gain access to her office in order to harm her, which was obviously not his intention for being there.
Sewell also states she is afraid McDonough would follow her home and cause harm to her.
All because he had the audacity to request records and ask questions.
In addition to the police report and email communication between Sewell and McDonough, True homestead also obtained a much larger stash of records.
The records were (perhaps questionably) acquired and stored on a flash drive belonging to former Homestead City Manager George Gretsas.
Just five months after leaving his position as the city manager of Homestead, on June 24, 2020, George Gretsas was suspended pending being terminated from his new position as Delray Beach City Manager.
Gretsas’ suspension in Delray Beach stemmed from a complaint filed against him that accuses him of bullying and harassing at least five employees.
Not long after his suspension, Delray Beach officials voted to fire Gretsas, according to the South Dade News Leader.
According to sources, the day Gretsas was suspended, he changed the locks to the door.
However, despite the locks being changed, entry was gained to his office where it was discovered Gretas was using a peronal laptop and personal server in order to evade public records being discovered.
A flash drive containing extensive “kill files” on those who had spoken up to or against Gretas was also discovered.
The kill files contained records, personal information and other classified information on several individuals including city council members, a former mayor, police officers, people who had simply filed records requests, McDonough and even McDonough’s wife.
The files were forwarded to True Homestead and others to investigate.
That’s when True Homestead discovered that Sewell had attempted make a criminal complaint against McDonough for simply requesting records.
No charges were ever filed relating to McDonough’s records request.
Thanks to Gretsas’ “kill files,” we have plenty of news to report about in the coming months.
Stay tuned for more coverage as we dive head first into the proverbial rabbit hole in the coming weeks and months.