I’m very curious about the county’s refusal to fund emergency vehicle purchases for the Key Largo area. I’d like more information about that. It’s a serious issue involving public safety. So on September 10, I submitted a public records request. I heard nothing, and so I repeated the request five days later. Still nothing, and so I sent a third request – thirteen days after my initial email. County attorney, Bob Shillinger, responded immediately to my third request by pretending that my earlier requests probably went unanswered because nobody is monitoring the Office of Management and Budget email account. He made a reference to Tina Boan’s motorcycle accident in his response. Ick. Using such an unfortunate incident to excuse the county’s failure is just…gross. Besides, my first email was sent about nine days before the accident even happened. The second was sent four days before.
I also copied current Strategic Planning Director, Kevin Madok, who hopes to be Clerk of Court one day. You would think he’d be extra sensitive to the importance of public records with everything that’s going on right now. Nope.
None of this happens in a vacuum. Shillinger’s zealous approach to the issues at the Clerk’s office clashes with his own attitude toward public records requests and with what he allows other county staff to get away with. They delay, they stonewall, they argue and they lie. They do everything but provide public information politely and efficiently. That includes Shillinger himself.
Can county officials simply blow off public records requests they don’t like? Can they accidentally-on purpose allow them to fall through the cracks? No, they cannot. Here’s how Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi put it:
In Florida, transparency is not up to the whim or grace of public officials. Instead, it is an enforceable right.
The county disagrees. They’ve demonstrated that by their actions many times over.
I asked for the documents regarding the emergency vehicles because I wanted to verify the county’s claims. Because of county staff’s convenient delay it’s too late to affect the outcome of the budget. Unlike the other unincorporated areas, Key Largo will not be able to use the sales tax to replace antiquated safety equipment. The county made sure to withhold the information that Key Largo citizens needed to argue for basic fairness. Typical.
Shillinger, made a huge deal out of possible document-shredding and email deleting at the Clerk’s office – as well he should. So where is the outrage over repeatedly making access to public documents onerous and difficult? Let’s be real for a second. I don’t believe that Shillinger or any county official gives a damn about transparency or public records. There’s nothing in their track record that indicates that they do. The county slimes people they don’t like or who become “inconvenient” in some way. That’s what I think this whole brouhaha at the Clerks’s office is really all about.
Heavilin corrected some creative accounting regarding the wastewater projects and also performed an audit that found county officials misused their purchasing cards. I’ll wait to hear what the State Attorney has to say but I’m pretty sure Heavilin got on the county’s bad side just by doing her job.
We’ll see if I ever get the information I asked for.