To Holley Navarre Water System: First Amendment (America) wins every time

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment, Constitution of the United States of America 1789 (rev. 1992)

“Our newspaper’s only license to publish is the freedom of the press clause in the Constitution. Navarre Press is pledged to an aggressive, responsible and fair pursuit of the truth without fear of any special interest and with favor to none.” – Navarre Press Mission Statement

In August 2016, a year ago, Holley Navarre Water System filed an injunction with the Santa Rosa Clerk of Court against Navarre Press in an effort to quiet us. They believed we had a personal laptop computer belonging to former General Manager Billy Sublett who died days after resigning his position with the company.

Since there was no longer any danger that Billy could spill the secrets of the company, they decided to try to silence us – a newspaper – operating under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. In the injunction filed, led by their attorney, they submitted a list of things they didn’t want us to report on or talk about.

Last week the circuit court granted our motion for summary dismissal of the injunction – duh. It was a frivolous law suit that cost both parties a lot of time, energy and money and in the end the Freedom of the Press, America, and you won – the citizens who are serviced by the Holley-Navarre Water System.

To reiterate – the following is a list of what the water department didn’t want us to write or talk about:

  1. Expansion plans for the acquisition of real property for Holley Navarre Water System.
  2. Employee files and information…duh again. We wouldn’t print those things anyway.
  3. Past and current Holley Navarre Water System, Inc. legal issues.
  4. Past and current Club at Hidden Creek legal issues. The current administration at Club at Hidden Creek has reason to believe the iPad (which by the way, Navarre Press does not have) contains emails about the current mold mitigation work, a lawsuit settled outside of court involving a Club at Hidden Creek employee and membership addresses and dues.
  5. The acquisition of the Navarre Beach Water System.
  6. Billy J. Sublett’s notes on the recent insurance issue. More specifically, information on employee benefit plans including but not limited to: 2015-2016 Aetna Medical, Vision Humana and Unum Dental, Life, STD and LTD, Defined Benefit Plans and 401(k) Plan. Employer/employee contributions and HIPPA information.
  7. Permits, conditional use permits and the county commissioner discussion.
  8. Any correspondence with Department of Environmental Protection about the affluent water levels and overages.
  9. Information related to the pending easement granting access to the Grescovich Rib sites. Holley Navarre Water System, Inc. is negotiating this easement with the property owner.
  10. All attorney-client privileged communications between Michael D. Tidwell, P.A., and the Board of Directors at Holley Navarre Water System, Inc.
  11. All financial, employee, compensatory, benefits, legal, disciplinary and confidential information pertaining to the Club at Hidden Creek and Municipal Engineering Service, Inc.

At its conclusion, the court agreed that no one can dictate what a newspaper can and cannot talk about – or anyone for that matter. We are charged with being the voice of the voiceless, holding government and in this case a utility accountable, being the watchdog that reports and investigates on wrongdoing.

We knew – and know – things are not right at the water company. The water department is spending a lot of time and money trying to restrict information that you – the members of the water system – should be allowed to have. There are too many secret meetings with no public notice to members. And, by too many, if there is one secret meeting – that is too many. However, in the case of the water department, there are multiple secret meetings a month. These are things that only lead to more questions.

We need the citizens’ help, and the help we need should come easily. The citizens of Navarre need to care. Poor water quality or an ineffectively run water department will affect your wallet. However, we think you need to care because this is your water department. And wars are fought over water or the lack thereof. However, in this case, this involves a water department, and what the water department considers to be private business concerns – a golf course and an engineering company that are owned by the water department. This sets up our water department and those in charge for multiple opportunities for corruption and theft. And they don’t want anyone to see how the money flows between all three companies. Yes, you should be concerned…for this and for other reasons. Stay tuned…

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