JASPER, FLORIDA – Robert “Bob” Burton is a deadhead logger in the Florida panhandle. In the course of his business, he stumbled upon some illegal activities carried out by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), including state employees dumping toxic waste in Florida water reclamation areas.
On Friday, Hamilton County sheriff’s deputies and Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agents, dressed in tactical gear and armed with assault rifles, served him with a search warrant. Agents seized his computer, cell phone, and video camera. However, Burton has not been charged with any crime.
He also reported that the DEP had seized a logger’s entire season harvest, even though the logger had the proper permits, and was violating no laws. A judge later ruled that the logger in question had legally harvested the logs, valued at over $300,000, but the DEP has refused to return the logs. He contends that public records regarding this case were intentionally destroyed.
Burton recorded a telephone conversation with Ryan Tyson, the Chief of Staff for State Senator Charles S. “Charlie” Dean, Sr., in which
Tyson may have made incriminating statements regarding DEP activities. Sen. Dean is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation. Burton published his conversation with Tyson, along with other evidence of corruption, on YouTube.com.
As of Friday evening, those videos have been deleted by YouTube.
All of that apparently led to deputies and FDLE agents in tactical gear with assault rifles paying him a terrifying visit.
On Friday, January 14 around 7:30 am, Burton got a knock on his door. Standing there was a Hamilton County sheriff’s deputy and several heavily armed FDLE agents. They presented a warrant. Not an arrest warrant, but a warrant to seize Burton’s computer, video camera, cell phone, and documents.
No one was arrested — they just wanted the documents and recordings Burton had made of state officials engaged in what appears to be illegal activities.
Burton’s wife, Katherine “Kathy” Scott, was in the shower at the time. She was forced out of the bathroom. They brought in a female agent to observe her as she dressed.
The Burtons were deeply shaken by the raid. “I’m rattled right now. They’ve confiscated everything,” said Burton. “When they come to your door with assault rifles…if I had a phone or remote control in my hand at the time, there’s no telling what would’ve happened.”
In Florida, both parties must be aware that a phone conversation is being recorded in order to comply with the law. However, when a citizen calls the Senator’s office, there is a recorded message at the beginning of the call that says, “This call may be monitored or recorded.” Therefore, both parties would presumably be aware that the call was being recorded, complying with state law.
Florida takes pride in the “Government-in-the-Sunshine” law, which assures that dealings between the public and state government officials are open to the public, and can be copied and republished by the public at large.
“They way [the DEP Inspector General’s office] has been destroying public records, we had to do something to expose what they were doing to us and to everyone in the State of Florida,” said Burton. Burton said he has been in contact with representatives for Gov. Rick Scott’s office.
Burton says he has official documents, recordings, and other evidence proving his claims. He says that the state has attempted to intimidate and harass him on several occasions in the past, but this is the most aggressive act toward him and his family to date.
Burton’s crusade against the Florida Department of Environmental Protection began years ago. His investigation has led him to believe that this corruption is part of a wider, perhaps more sinister plan.
According to Burton, many of the state’s illegal activities may be an effort to fulfill a United Nations plan known as Agenda 21.
The UN Division for Sustainable Development describes Agenda 21 as a “comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts (sic) on the environment.”
Under Agenda 21, the UN is promoting the forceful transfer of ownership of forests and natural resources away from governments and individuals to entities which they refer to asPrivate-Public Partnerships (PPP). These PPPs most commonly consist of partnerships between global corporations, universities, private foundations, and environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club.
At this time, there do not appear to be any charges against Burton, but the state has issued him a trespass warning on state-owned land. Because of this recent raid, Burton is deeply concerned for his family’s safety.
All attempts to contact Sen. Dean for comment were unsuccessful. Hamilton County Sheriff J. Harrell Reid did not return our call for comment. Keith Kameg, public information officer for the FDLE, said that he had no information regarding the warrant, and that they were likely there only to assist with serving the warrant at the request of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office.
We will have more on this story as it develops.
UPDATE (01-15-2011 15:47) 1787 Network has obtained a copy of the search warrant, and the complaintant on the warrant is Special Agent Eric Daniel of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
UPDATE (01-15-2011 18:30) Keith Kameg of the FDLE has now confirmed that this is an FDLE-led investigation. Kameg said he was unable to give any additional information because the warrant executed at the Burton home is part of an ongoing investigation. Kameg would not confirm if any charges were pending against Burton, nor would he comment on the nature of the investigation.
UPDATE (01-16-2011 22:58) We met with Bob Burton and his wife Kathy Scott to go over the remaining evidence that was not seized by the FDLE. Unfortunately, all video evidence of the dumping of toxic materials by state employees at Suwannee River State Park was stored on the computer taken from the Burton home by the FDLE. No other copies were available. However, they were able to provide us with a wealth of DEP and other documentation dating back to 2003 to support claims of an official investigation into impropriety by state officials, including dumping of hazardous materials into sinkholes at Suwannee River State Park. All state employees were ultimately exonerated by the DEP Inspector General and a criminal investigation was launched against non-state employees for the dumping.
We confirmed that the justification for the search warrant was Burton’s recorded conversation with Ryan Tyson, former Chief of Staff for State Senator Dean. The warrant reads, “the following laws have been or are being violated within said Premises: Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications F.S. 934.03(1)(a)(c).” However, neither Burton nor Scott was charged with violating this law.
In a follow up interview with Burton and Scott, they told us that the FDLE agents executing the warrant said it was highly unusual to execute a warrant for the alleged offense of recording a public official in the course of conducting business. Burton said that the agents gave indications that the raid may have been politically motivated.
They also provided us a chilling recording of a 911 call made to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office from Easter Sunday 2008 in which the Burton home was apparently fired upon repeatedly, allegedly by family members of a Hamilton County Commissioner. Automatic weapons fire can be clearly heard at 57 seconds into the recording.