Ethics, Schmethics

Last week Commissioner Doug Underhill was cleared in his ethics complaint by the Florida Ethics Commission. They did not find anything unethical in a representative of a county, a public servant, asking for hand outs from his constituency for a defamation suit, resulting from talking smack about a political opponent.  In the most bizarre stretch of the tenants of ethics, there is nothing, even remotely, of which resonates this as an  ethical decision.  The taxpayers did not make the comments for which the Commissioner was sued over, nor would any greater good benefit anyone but the mouthy Commissioner.

So I did some research into who is making the decisions of ethics in the state of Florida.  What I found explains everything.

Before going into the composition of the commission,  here is what their statement of purpose is:

The Commission is created by Sections 112.320 and 112.321, Florida Statutes, and is
governed by Article II, Section 8(f) and (h), Florida Constitution, which authorizes it to investigate complaints alleging breach of the public trust by public officers and employees.

They also have the authority to:

  • Investigate complaints alleging possible violations of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees , to accept referrals from the Governor, State Attorneys, U.S. Attorneys, or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement ,
  • Render opinions about the applicability of the Code of Ethics to investigate and render opinions about possible violations of the standards of conduct for members of the Public Service Commission and the Public Service Commission Nominating Council to investigate and render opinions about possible unlawful use of public funds to lobby ,
  •  Grant a hearing on the petition of a public officer or employee who has been accused of a possible violation of the Code of Ethics to investigate complaints from the Comptroller of possible misuse of State vehicles  to register executive branch lobbyists, receive their compensation reports,
  • Investigate and render opinions concerning possible violations of the lobbyist law, and review and waive in whole or part late filing penalties for executive branch lobbyists to promulgate and disseminate forms for complying with the financial disclosure laws and other provisions of the Code of Ethics  to grant extensions of time for filing disclosures to receive and file financial disclosure, gift disclosure, and honorarium event-related expenses disclosure forms  to review and waive in whole or part late filing penalties for persons filing financial disclosures,
  • Garnish wages or initiate wage withholding for persons who fail to pay their financial disclosure fine and to investigate officials who fail to file entirely,
  • Impose costs and attorney’s fees on complainants who filed complaints with a malicious intent to injure the public official’s reputation ,
  • Serve as a clearinghouse for possible forfeiture of retirement benefits by public officers and employees who have committed felonies involving a breach of the public trust ,
  • Seek to void contracts violative of the Code of Ethics, to adopt procedural rules and rules interpreting the ethics laws , and to recommend that the Governor enforce the ethics laws in court .

This is what the Florida Ethics Commission has the power to do.

The people who have this expansive power are a collective group composed in accordance with the Florida Statutes. The intent of how the commission is filled is supposed to negate any alliance or political manipulations. If this collection of people are not politically connected to anyone, they stay objective–in theory.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The above graphic shows the 8 people on the Ethics Commission. My question was if any of these fine people had a political dog in this decision with Mr. Underhill.

First off, 5 of the 8 went to the famous Levin Law School,  Michelle Anchors, Jason Berger, Guy Norris, Matthew Carson & Kimberly Bonder Rezanka.  Michelle Anchors was appointed by Don Gaetz. 

Those two names, Levin & Gaetz tell you all you need to know about this commission.  Five members of the panel are at the dispose of political sway of Levin. One has Levin & Gaetz. Dr. Brady has a special interest in keeping Escambia County happy because of PACE Center for Girls. Morgan has funded that to the hilt with the LET money. Who wouldn’t be swayed by that?

In just this bit of research, 6 of the 8 Florida Ethics Commission members show that, unless either Morgan or Underhill is screwing a goat in town square, they will turn a blind eye. Their political careers depend on it.

Advertisements

You Have Got to be Joking?

There were 2 articles in the news today that caught my attention. The first was :

Governor Rick Scott calls for FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign

Highlights from this article:

“The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable,” Scott, a Republican loyal to Donald Trump, said in a statement. “The FBI has admitted that they were contacted last month by a person who called to inform them of Cruz’s ‘desire to kill people,’ and ‘the potential of him conducting a school shooting.’ 

 “Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn’t going to cut it. An apology will never bring these 17 Floridians back to life or comfort the families who are in pain. The families will spend a lifetime wondering how this could happen, and an apology will never give them the answers they desperately need.  

“We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act. ‘See something, say something’ is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow through from law enforcement. The FBI Director needs to resign.”

The second was an opinion piece in today’s Mullet Wrapper:

Editorial: Are local leaders driven by ethics and intentionality?

This is the beginning of the article:

Speaking in Pensacola last week, former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy offered a specific recipe for civic reform that delivered cultural and economic rebirth to his city. According to Murphy, there were two prerequisites for Pittsburgh’s rise from a dying steel town to a center of economic and cultural growth — “ethics” and “intentionality.”

Murphy made it clear that ethics and transparency were mandatory starting points in the many deals that were made on behalf of the public sector. Without that ethical foundation, any potential plans or partnerships were poisoned from the start. 

As we look to creating a stronger city in which to live, invest, grow and prosper, we must ask that hard question of our own public leadership in Pensacola, Escambia and Santa Rosa County: Do you believe we have either? 

Where to start?

Let’s just use Rick Scott’s reasoning. He says:

The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable……We constantly promote ‘see something, say something,’ and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act. ‘See something, say something’ is an incredibly important tool and people must have confidence in the follow through from law enforcement. The FBI Director needs to resign.”

On June 2, 2017, Kevin Robinson of the PNJ wrote: “The sheriff confirmed that Naomi’s mother had been arrested on an outstanding warrant after she called in about her missing daughter.”  What isn’t said is that the mother was arrested in lieu of the sheriff actually starting the search for Naomi for another 24 hours. In that time, Naomi was murdered before the ECSO ever started the search.

Based on lack of action taken after law enforcement had the ability to prevent a child dying and didn’t, Morgan should be asked to resign. The parallel fits and Naomi’s mom knows this.

But before this inaction that endangered a child in the community, let’s go back to another case right before this. On Feb. 3, 2017, Billy Boyette killed Peggy Broz in Lillian, Alabama.  Mrs.  Broz’s car was found along Nine Mile Road in Lillian, AL.  Kayla Crocker was killed on Feb. 5th, after traffic cameras caught Boyette and Rice coming out of the woods, DIRECTLY ADJACENT to where Mr. Broz’s car was found.  Search and Rescue people deployed to look for Boyette called me to tell me they were upset because they urged Sheriff Morgan to bring in bloodhounds offered by local K9 agencies to thoroughly comb those woods, but Morgan declined the offer, saying the interstate being right there, it would be a waste of time. He felt sure Boyette fled the area. This bit of discernment by the Honorable Sheriff ended up costing Kayla Crocker her life the following day.

These are only 2 instances just in the first 6 months of 2017 that are documented, where was Rick Scott and why didn’t he ask for this man’s resignation?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The second article offered up the question: “And do you believe that our local elected officials surround themselves with the sort of talent that Murphy hired — smart, experienced, ethics-driven people who are capable of brokering good and fair deals on behalf of taxpayers?”

I think Ashton Hayward and David Morgan have both shown their egos and self-interest are their priorities. In December, Hayward fell under fire for appearing in an AirBnB commercial leaving his opponents to point out that AirBnB has been lobbying to prevent regulations on rental properties. This is conflicting an earlier statement Hayward made on camera saying mayors should be in charge of regulating rental properties in their area which is contrary to plight of AirBnB.  Intention and ethics are absent in this decision by the fine Mayor.

Morgan’s recent blitzkrieg on the county commission. Using taxpayer money to buy billboards, commercials, and air time for his videos, Morgan opened fired regarding the county budget, particularly giving deputies raises. Everywhere you turned even in movie theaters was Morgan’s face calling citizens to contact their commissioner to tell them to support his agenda.  While this is intentional, ethical it is not and it is more self serving than in the best interest of the taxpayers. Morgan has forced good cops out creating a vacuum in the department.  Morgan’s solution was to promote more people to admin positions and bloat the budget, causing more deputies to leave He then created internal policies to counter any measure made by the commission. The BOCC offered him a lesser amount to be earmarked for deputies, but within the agency, Morgan has implemented caps on certain officers, thereby denying them the money that the BOCC allotted for them.  Intentional, yes. Ethical, no.

So to recap.

Rick Scott called for the resignation of the FBI director for failure to act which allowed for a tragic loss of life.  If that is the standard, Scott should ask for Morgan’s resignation. His failure to be a cop cost at least 2 citizens their lives, one being a child, the other being a mother.

Is Escambia County built on a foundation of ethics and intentionality? Hell is it even trying to act with intentionality in accordance to ethical standards?  What do you think?

tumblr_mzu6xq1e2f1qjr14ko2_500