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How I broke the story about Goliath Davis’ stop for suspicion of DUI

in Peter/The Bay and the 'Burg by

Since Thursday, when I first broke the story of Deputy Mayor Goilath Davis being stopped by the Gulfport Police Department in the early morning of December 15, 2009, for suspicion of DUI, I have been inundated for answers to questions as to how I, a singular writer and blogger, broke a story of this magnitutde.

How did I scoop the St. Petersburg Times?  Still others wanted to know what my motivation was for investigating the story?  Some wished to know if I had a score to settle with Goliath Davis.  Fortunately, I have my own blog to answer these and any questions about my involvement with this story.

On Thursday, a source contacted me with a promise of a story that would reverberate throughout the city.  I am not going to say much about this source other than to describe them as a high-ranking member of City Hall and/or The Police Department.  I think this information is important to know because it remains to be seen whether Mayor Bill Foster or Police Chief Chuck Harmon knew about the incident.

After I received the information, I immediately drove to the Gulfport Police Department and asked for the police report of an incident that occurred on December 15, 2009 at 1:42 a.m.  I did not immediately provide any other information.  So when the clerk at the front-desk made a phone call to another desk in the office, I knew right then that I was on to something.  A minute or two later, an administrator with the Gulfport Police Department appeared and sequestered me to an interview room where she described what I was asking about.

That was when my heart began to race.

Only, I am not a journalist.  I am not a reporter.  So in the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld, I don’t know what I don’t know, so I didn’t know what information to ask for.  I asked for a copy of a log. I asked for a police report.  I asked for the video.  I asked for “everything related to the stop of Goliath Davis for suspicion of DUI.”

Then I asked for a moment to gather my thoughts.   I called one of my closesf friends in politics and asked them to meet me at St. Petersburg’s City Hall in one hour.  I called Noah Pransky at 10 connects and asked him to stick close by because I thought I had an important story.  I called my attorney and told him what I was up to, because, I was beginning to worry about my own personal safety.  I was now actively investigating perhaps the most powerful person in the City of St. Petersburg and I did not how far down this rabbit hole went.

When I returned to the police  department office, the Public Information Officer was there to greet me and to show me the entire video of the incident — not just the three minute clip everyone else would see later on the news.

Watching the footage from the dash cam, from the first moment the police officer notices Davis’ car on the wrong side of the road to the moment Davis is taken off camera by the officer to give him the “pen test”, one word keeps coming out of, not just my mouth, but also that of the Public Information Officer: “suspicious.”

What also became apparent was that no one in St. Petersburg knew about this incident.  In not so uncertain terms, everyone I dealt with at the Gulfport Police Deparment was entirely surprised no one from the St. Petersburg Police Department or anyone from City Hall or anyone from the media had come asking about the incident.

The controversial Deputy Mayor of a major city is stopped for suspicion of DUI in a city vehicle and no one bothers to ask about it?

Unfortuantely for my purposes, the video of the incident is too large a file to download, so the only proof I had of the incident even occuring was a nebulous, bureaucratic incident log.

At this point, I really didn’t know what to do.  Post the informationon my blog? Approach Mayor Foster about the incident?  Go to the Times?  Go to other media?  I wanted to accomplish all of this in the shortest amount of time without endangering myself.

Yes, I did worry about endangering myself.  I didn’t want to post this information on my blog and then later that night get pulled over by a cop loyal to to the ol’ boss.   “Excuse me, Mr. Schorsch, but why do you have this vile of crack in your posession?” Yeah, maybe I have watched too many episodes of The Wire, but I wasn’t taking any chances, so I began calling reporters I trusted.  I tried to reach David DeCamp, but he was out of the office.  So my second call was to Adam Smith.  I may not agree with everything Adam has ever written about me and there have been times when he has done me no favors, but it’s because of that history I figured I could trust him.

“Adam, I think I have video of Goliath Davis being stopped for a DUI.  In a city vehicle.  At 1:42 a.m. in the morning,” I said breathlessly to Smith, while pulled over on the side of the road. Smith agreed to introduce me to the new City Hall reporter.

Concurrently, I updated Noah Pransky at 10 Connects and cut him in on the story.  Pransky is, flat-out, a rising star in local journalism.  He said he had intended to pursue a story in Bradenton, but had stayed in town waiting to hear from me.  I don’t think I disappointed him.

Although I was on my way to the Times’, my ultimate destination was City Hall.  So after I delivered the goods to Adam Smith and Mike van Sickler, I drove to City Hall, where the City Council was currently in session.  Ash-faced, I subtley motioned to Councilman Karl Nurse to meet me outside of Chambers.  I didn’t say anything, I just showed him the sheaf of paper detailing the incident.

Nurse insisted I immediately take the information to Foster, which I would agree to do, but do so reluctantly.  Neither of us knew if Foster was aware of the incident.  For all we knew, Foster did know and would take the news as some sort of effort to stir up trouble.  I imagined Foster crumbling up the sheet of paper and throwing it — and me — the hell out of City Hall.

But when Foster read the paper, his reaction was unforgettable.  We were in Nurse’s office. It took Foster a moment to read the entire sheet and realize what he had in his hands. “Oh, wow” were the first words out of his mouth.

I went on to ask Foster three times if he was sure that he did not know about the incident.  He insisted he did not and he made sure to say that he was not asking me not to disclose the information.

The most telling thing Foster said was something about “this is just what I needed.”  At first, I thought he meant that this was just what he needed to finally unburden himself of Go Davis.  But later, upon reflection of the day’s events, I began to realize that what Foster meant was that what he did not need, as mayor of a city with a difficult history of racial problems, was to have handed to him is a story about the black Deputy Mayor getting pulled over for suspicion of DUI while in a city vehicle.

On an episode of The Wire, such a story would just be another minor subplot, but in St. Petersburg, there are no minor subplots when it comes to Goliath Davis.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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