Local activist arrested while inspecting ballot records in Alachua
Charlie Grapski, a University of Florida instructor and doctoral student who is also a candidate for Florida's State House, was arrested and sent to jail after Alachua City Manager Clovis Watson Jr. alleged Grapski recorded him without his knowledge on Friday, April 28.
Grapski had met with Watson "to discuss Grapski's request for public records relating to last month's Alachua city election." Watson alleged that he "left his office briefly during the discussion, and only realized when he came back in and saw a blinking red light on what appeared to be a phone that he was being recorded." Watson asked if the meeting was being taped and Grapski said it was and "since Watson is a public official, the recording was legal."
Watson disagreed. Grapski, in an e-mail to Watson, said Watson could "clearly see" his recorder, because Watson "openly stated" he knew he was being recorded and because "as a public official . . . anything you say is deemed to be a public statement."
The two agreed to meet again on Monday where Watson told Grapski that the public records they discussed on Friday would be available.
Grapski arrived on Monday with co-chair of the Alachua County Green Party Michael Canney. When Grapski was finished reviewing the records, police arrested him. Grapski was charged with "interception and disclosure of wire, oral or electronic communications."
Charlie Grapski wrote about these events on May 3:
"Last Monday [April 24], along with Prof. Joe Little of the Law School (who I have worked with for many years on such cases) we filed a lawsuit challenging the election based upon improprieties of the election officials, including Clovis Watson --the City Manager and Police Commissioner--who is also on the Canvassing Board.
"I filed a public records request on Thursday to review the absentee ballots and all of the related documents.
"On Friday I tried to inspect those documents. Alan Henderson, the Deputy Clerk (Watson is also the City Clerk by the way) who also is the Supervisor of Elections tried to stonewall me. I recorded that.
"Then I was seated--with a witness--in Watson's office when I would not be bullied by Henderson (and that is not an overstatement--this is how the city officials treat the residents). I continued to record--and Watson walked in--and saw and knew I was recording and spoke to me about the records request. He tried to find ways to delay or deny, but I was not taking no for an answer. Eventually we discussed the issue of recording, on the tape (which by the way he and the Chief of Police (who works under him) confiscated). They thus took the evidence AGAINST them into their custody, by arresting me.
"Now - the arrest happened after I appeared for an appointment on Monday to inspect the ballots. I made that appointment with Watson.
"No arrest was made on Friday, when he alleges the "secret" recording was made. He never went to the State Attorney to have me prosecuted. No warrant was issued for my arrest."
But instead, on Monday [May 1] he had the Chief of Police and two officers in his "office waiting to arrest me (and then effectively sent out a press release about this!) when I was reviewing the ballots.
"The editor of the High Springs Herald was there, because I was speaking with him, and he wanted a picture of me inspecting the ballots (he got a lot more than he--or I --expected).
"While I was reviewing the ballots--in mid-process--they arrested me (as in the photo--those are ballots on the table)."
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