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Hogan Law Firm Blocks Production of RNRF’s “COPS” Series

HERNANDO – As if there weren’t enough obstacles to overcome, as a journalist it doesn’t make it any easier to have the power brokers in your own community stand in the way of gathering facts and reporting the news. Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened over the course of the last few weeks, and you, the viewer, are paying the price for their interference.

On February 22nd we announced that RNRF would begin production of our new “COPS” style series, 1097 BPD. After gaining the approval of Brooksville Police Chief George Turner, we set the wheels in motion to begin shooting in early March and planned to broadcast our pilot episode by the end of this month. To our dismay, a local law firm stepped in and “persuaded” Chief Turner to reverse his decision and dissolve our agreement. That law firm is none other than RNRF’s arch nemeses, The Hogan Law Firm.

Why do I refer to them as a nemesis? Well, that is a long and complex story, but one that should be told, because their actions affect every citizen in Hernando County, not just RNRF.

For the sake accurate reporting, let’s review a series of emails and text messages between RNRF and the Brooksville Police Department (BPD). Images of those emails will be shown below in order that they are mentioned.

On February 6th I presented our show idea to Captain Rick Hankins and asked if he would share it with Chief Turner. Later that same day he responded with “It worked – Chief is good with the ride-along…” After putting the plan together, I contacted Chief Turner on February 17th to schedule a meeting for a review my proposal. Because our show would shine a positive light on his agency, Chief Turner was eager to get started and so were we. By Thursday the 18th, Chief Turner, Capt. Hankins, Lt. Alan Whitacre and I were hammering out the details of production. At the end of that meeting, Chief Turner directed Lt. Whitacre to be my point of contact for scheduling shoots and other logistics; meanwhile, Chief Turner said he would began working on liability waivers with the department’s legal advisors.

With the official “Green light” from Chief Turner and our first video shoot only a few weeks away, we began organizing equipment, solidifying advertising contracts and announcing the big news to our audience.

On March 2nd I notified Lt. Whitacre that we were ready for the first shoot; he replied, “Would you like to start Fri or Sat night?” But before we could say the words “Action” Chief Turner emailed me and said the deal was off. His explanation of the “bombshell” reversal was “Between CFA Accreditation, FCIC/NCIC issues, Computer Aided Dispatch issues and personnel issues I have decided it is just too much for us to take on at this time.” When I respectfully asked for his reconsideration, due to the monumental preparation we had undertaken, he replied “I authorized research into a PRESS ride along by you… Unfortunately staff has identified numerous issues that cannot be overcome…” One would think that Chief Turner, who was recently appointed by Governor Rick Scott to serve on the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, would immediately know what “issues” could arise at the onset of our discussion. That’s because it has nothing to do with Chief Turner but a lot to do with the Hogan Law Firm and an array of other anti-RNRF adversaries who are seated in powerful positions.

Because RNRF is a news source that provides “Real News” without pressure from politicians or large corporate sponsors, we are somewhat “feared” by local government officials. It’s not clear to us why, because we rarely cover political “drama” or publish “slam” pieces, unless we find corrupt activity or unjust legal practices.

Why do we believe the Hogan Law Firm is at the center of this controversy? On a hunch, we requested a public record search of all correspondence between the BPD, the Hogan Law Firm and the City Attorney, Cliff Taylor (Also of the Hogan Law Firm). We were shocked to find out that when Taylor caught wind of our proposed program, on February 25th he notified City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha and stated “We probably should talk;” Vacha replied “I am very familiar with this.”

Two weeks later, RNRF would receive the proverbial ax from Chief Turner at the presumed direction of the City Manager and City Attorney, in effect, the Hogan Law Firm.

The demise of what we hoped would be one of the county’s most popular programs, had tell-tale signs of an underhanded bureaucratic backstabbing. But this wasn’t the first time.

In 2011, while I still worked for RNRF’s former owner, I requested to be placed independently on the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Media Relations email list. Surprisingly, that request was denied. When I asked why and reminded them of my First Amendment Rights, I received several letters from the Hogan Law Firm stating “…there has been no violation of your constitutional rights…the Sheriff’s Office has processed your request consistent with its policies and procedures.”

It wasn’t until 2013 when I purchased the website that I was “grandfathered in” and subsequently placed on the list. Keep in mind that other local online journalists were approved upon their initial request, without a shred of resistance from the Hogan Law Firm. For those who do not understand the importance of this “list” it essentially notifies a recipient of media releases, press conferences and any other media related notification. This access is vital to a news agency in a highly competitive industry.

To exemplify how serious this issue is; in 2009, three online bloggers were denied NYPD press credentials, prompting the trio, backed by the ACLU, to file a lawsuit against the Mayor’s Office. Before the case could go to trial, the bloggers received their credentials, preventing a PR nightmare for the Mayor.

With the Hogan Law Firm receiving nearly $400,000 of tax payer money each year to handle legal matters between the County and City, aren’t there more important issues to be addressed than being the government’s media watchdog? Why are they so concerned with a Hernando County based Journalist who is just trying to run a small business like any other entrepreneur? Could it be that RNRF reaches over 100,000 people each month and we are the only news source that exposes judicial and political corruption? Maybe… Stay tuned for the second chapter of this continuing saga, where we uncover mafioso style extortion tactics, conducted at the direction of some VERY big names in the State.

Before I don my life-jacket and prepare to drown in the onslaught of hate mail that is sure to come, let me close with a few lines from the classic 70’s film All the President’s Men.

Ben Bradlee speaking to Woodward and Bernstein:

“You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a s**t. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up… 15 minutes. Then get you’re a**es back in gear. We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys f**k up again, I’m going to get mad. Goodnight.” – Ben Bradlee, Washington Post.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ™2013 – 2015 Real News Real Fast, Inc.

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  • RNRF is a GREAT site! The local rags don’t publish anything, and, if they do, it is a week later. If I hear a siren going down the road, a check with RNRF is usually right on top of it if it is newsworthy…like within minutes. Now, that is news! Keep it up, Tom!!!

    Monday, 13 February 2017, 1:39 pm
  • Brooksville PD is way too corrupt to be engage in this type of scrutiny. Straight from the top down! Captain Hankins is involved in a multitude of shady business deals and the chief is well aware.

    Sunday, 12 February 2017, 11:34 pm
  • I was distressed when this show was announced and am relieved to hear its not going forward! Brooksville PD certainly doesn’t need the distraction of a ride alone film crew when responding to calls…..could be the difference between life and death to a potential crime victim. I hadn’t thought about the possible ramifications Angie mentioned, but I completely concur.

    Thursday, 26 March 2015, 7:14 pm
  • I heard the sidewalks are some sort of federal or state mandate and are paid for that way….(now before you string me up…the key phrase is “I heard”……so it is unverified). The red light cameras are gone in December and the speed limit for right on red was increased for the duration of the debacle. In all the time they have been in place I have not received a ticket and drive the city daily. Guess the key here is don’t run it….no ticket… But…I will say the right on red debacle was ridiculous…. However, this gets away from the topic at hand. Too bad the show was ditched….would have enjoyed another “cops” show. Have you tried HCSO and see what their response is?

    Thursday, 26 March 2015, 10:16 am
  • Hernando County good ole boy system hard at work. The corruption and cover-ups run deep. They cover each others asses from those who work in law enforcement to the city manager. I am NOT surprised they did not let you film.

    Wednesday, 25 March 2015, 7:07 am
  • If I were running a Police Dept that I considered to be appropriately trained and acting in the best interests of the citizens of my county, I wouid be proud to work with and have the local media document the caliber of our police force to show what a professional dept looks like in our state. However, if i could not count on my depts ability to perform with professionalism and integrity, I too would, use whatever means at my disposal to deter media scrutiny. Of course there is nothing stopping RNRF in working without the consideration and cooperation of the local government and do the best they can do as media professionals trying to keep the public accruately informed of the daily occurances of crime related information that have a direct effect and impact on Hernando and Pasco county residents. The lack of cooperation that is currently being shown to RNRF coulld reflect many insights as to who is controlling the ploitical interest of the county and could spark enough interest for our citizens to become much more diligent of how our local government is being run.It would be interesting if anyone cared enough to see if Hernando County is abiding by “The Florida Gov’t Sunshine Law” in all of its political day to day operations and communications. The only problem is: Are there enough Hernando County Citizens that actually care enough about what is going on in our county to
    stay abreast of the county decisions that affect us all (ie: Red Light Camera’s, Sidewalks from Hell?) Who knew they were coming before they were here? Who paid for these things? Who made the money from them. Has the Public benefitted from them? What else has been pushed through without public knowledge? This is why we need some type of oversight, regardless of how innocuous they seem to be, to bring attention to those public issues that seem to slip by those of us who accually care!

    Wednesday, 25 March 2015, 6:02 am
  • I am not a support of the Chief but they do have some very good and very dedicated officers. In this case I would say his reaction and replies are simple related to the trickle down effect the Law Firm had. Although I supported the program when I read about it and thought it would be “cool” I immediately had reservations as about it ever getting off the ground. Not going to trade barbs back and forth…..but keep up the work Tom. Very nice to see the news in a timely manner with no punches pulled.

    Wednesday, 25 March 2015, 4:52 am
  • Hats off to you Tom. Keep on keeping on ! What’s up with Hogan watchdog group / Maybe they have something they don’t want to share with the Hernando county residents.

    Tuesday, 24 March 2015, 2:34 pm
  • Well, if you do decide you want to do a political interview, I’m game. And Mike Gordan too.

    Tuesday, 24 March 2015, 4:39 am
  • I believe the Brooksville Police Chief Should resign and his department absorbed by the Sheriffs Dept. It is a waste of taxpayer monies, since they don’t even patrol all of the city limits

    Monday, 23 March 2015, 6:50 pm
  • It all boils down to the mighty Dollar with the law firm, no more, no less!

    Monday, 23 March 2015, 4:29 pm
  • It’s all about the power and money. You get more viewers and sponsors, your business grows…you hire more reporters and become a force in the community. They can’t have that uptown.

    Monday, 23 March 2015, 1:35 pm
  • @keep we live in a small community people are not stupid and its this comment you made “OR they should keep themselves from running into the law by being a law-adbiding citizen . If they didn’t do wrong there would be no reason for them to be on the show.” That proves regardless of the story or reason you have already judged them guilty. When your rights are infringed as statistics show the state of Florida will eventually do to you then you will understand what I am saying. Case in point. My mother was arrested when she was 52 hadn’t even had so much as a speeding ticket. Reason for arrest my drug addicted sister and her boyfriend detained her in her own kitchen and she couldn’t get away. They both refused to move and my sister slapped her so my mom defended herself and pushed passed to get out. My sister with a long history of arrests was allowed to walk my mom did 6 months misdemeanor probation adjudication with held. So think about that next time you decide to pass judgment on a person just because they where arrested. Our judicial system is corrupt and innocent people who are within their rights as citizens get railroaded daily.

    Monday, 23 March 2015, 10:18 am
    • Sounds like your mom’s story needs more investigating and IF what you are saying is true, should be reported and bought to the light of day! Something smells here one way or the other!

      Monday, 23 March 2015, 10:50 am
    • I agree with you @angie smith. There will always be the people that believe whatever the newspaper says is the gospel and that they do no wrong.

      Monday, 23 March 2015, 3:09 pm
      • Nope, I don’t ALWAYS believe what the newspaper says nor do I ALWAYS believe what the government and the attorneys say either! As I said we need to know more and if what she claims (i.e. the police and court were unjust) is true it should be exposed!

        Monday, 23 March 2015, 5:06 pm
        • My mom passed away shortly after of cancer. One thing you also learn is that by trying to make a stink about something that occurs when the community it occurs in is your permanent residence its better to keep your head down and move forward better that than become a target of the justice system.

          Monday, 23 March 2015, 5:51 pm
          • Very sorry about your moms passing! I can’t even imagine how you feel after the lost!

            Monday, 23 March 2015, 8:07 pm
    • Angie I agree. a life can be ruined by a photo. I was pulled over for a stop sign (first time in 52 years) I did not receive a ticket but I was arrested/Detained as a fugitive from justice because of a warrant from out of state. That was all people saw.It’s two years later now and what was the truth…A mistake and unnecessary extradition during which time i was locked in a cage in a van for 8 days abused in every way , left disabled and now reliving the trauma in a federal lawsuit. I admire what RNRF wants to do…but it is a big risk and frankly wouldn’t work. Does anyone really think the officers here want a camera over their shoulder? Would a civilian sign consent to be used on show.. without a check..hope not. After all this is a “show” advertising dollars and all. In my situation I can imagine what it would have done to me if this show existed two years ago.

      Tuesday, 24 March 2015, 1:50 am
  • Don’t give up! I really like the local news you report,I lok at it everyday,

    Monday, 23 March 2015, 8:18 am
  • Bonnie, most of the news people here have to watch their Ps & Qs politically. So most just report the news releases. The local politics, is really much more interesting.

    Monday, 23 March 2015, 12:30 am
  • When something happens i look for your news. I too would like to hear more about local politics.

    Sunday, 22 March 2015, 11:11 pm
  • I also have to agree with these post it seems that the law firm has something it doesn’t want known, i believe
    any business that is in business with the county and city of Brooksville and receives taxpayer monies should have to report in full the reasons why you Mr. Lemons you should not be allowed to produce this show, perhaps it time for the taxpayers to demand full transparency from this law firm,if they refuse then put the contract out for bid with the caveat that they may not bid nor ever bid on a county or city contract for minimum of 10 years.

    Sunday, 22 March 2015, 9:24 pm
    • AMEN!!

      Monday, 23 March 2015, 10:44 am
  • @Angie , I get what you’re trying to say , although , when anyone is on camera , whether they are being interviewed or being detained , they have the right to sign a consent form to have their faces put on camera, if they do not sign the consent form their face will not be exposed on camera . With any show you see on tv , Internet , ect.. They are not allowed to show an individuals face without consent . Hence ( sometimes ) they have a blurred face , and use a voice enhancements so they can not be recognized .
    And also , just like any show that shows anyone being detained , they have a scripture that states ” COPS is filmed on location with the men and women of law enforcement. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty, *in* a court of law!” Therefore what you’re saying is true , and if it’s not fair to have their name out in the public they shall have the freedom to keep that information disclosed . OR they should keep themselves from running into the law by being a law-adbiding citizen . If they didn’t do wrong there would be no reason for them to be on the show.

    Sunday, 22 March 2015, 7:11 pm
  • Thanks for keeping them straight. We need you and your site.

    Sunday, 22 March 2015, 6:01 pm
  • Sometimes its important to see both sides of a thing. As citizens we want to know what’s going on, but as people we tend to judge others based on their actions before we know all the facts. A show like this would put the spotlight on only what caused them to be arrested and never the results or the back story of the event. Just because someone is arrested it doesn’t always mean they are guilty of the thing they are being arrested for. Its important to protect the rights and identities of those arrested until they are proven to be guilty. After all it could be your rights as a citizen that get infringed on next.

    Sunday, 22 March 2015, 3:27 pm
    • You rather watch Law & Order where everything is Plea Bargained??This is a show that yes tell’s the Story of WHY people are Arrested and the Law enforcement it takes??And every show states the People are INNOCENCE till Proven Guilty in a Court of Law??Who is it Important to to Hide the Identities???Their RIGHTS are protected under Law…Case being you go to any Police Web Site and see the Arrested in Mug Shots and Why arrested??Where do you find Infringed??Do you read at all or just do whats told??

      Sunday, 22 March 2015, 6:36 pm
  • Haa, Big Tom, don’t give in! We need some one to keep them on their toes, since the passing of Big Bob!

    Sunday, 22 March 2015, 1:47 pm
  • Tom,
    I stand behind you 100%. Oddly enough, it seems as though the Hogan Law firm is trying to either hide something or cover something up. What happened to many of our constitutional
    Rights? The desire to want to block your show only tells the public that there is something they do not want the public to know. Do not give up. I am sure the AGs office would be interested in knowing why, not to mention an investigation should begin into this law firms activities. I mean come on, $400 K per year to do nothing but be on retainer? That’s fishy. Yea the AG would love to know why. Yes They are schoolyard BULLIES!

    Sunday, 22 March 2015, 1:18 pm
  • It seems that RNRF is the quickest source of news in Hernando County. Maybe your show was going to get a little too close to “something” that is out there!

    Sunday, 22 March 2015, 12:57 pm
  • Good luck, Tom – you and I don’t always see eye to eye . . . 🙂 But I do like reading most of your stuff. They’re nothing more than a typical schoolyard bully, don’t give in.

    Sunday, 22 March 2015, 11:48 am
  • PRESS on Tom! We need more local news! Wish you would delve more into the politics in the county/city, they need more of the light of day!

    Sunday, 22 March 2015, 11:35 am

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