I you want A story, read the Citizen. If you want THE story, read the Blue Paper. And if you want to know what’s going on in “other news”, read the Reporter/Keynoter. Lol.
The state attorney’s office recently concluded a very brief investigation into perjury allegations against developer, Pritam Singh. You get two very different stories depending on which news source you read. The Reporter/Keynoter isn’t covering it at all, so if that’s your only Keys news source, you wouldn’t even know there was a perjury investigation.
Before I get into the details, let me point out a few things.
- The Blue Paper apparently initiated the perjury investigation by bringing their findings to the state attorney’s office.
- The Citizen’s story, published Wednesday, March 1, is about the state attorney’s decision not to pursue perjury charges based on their own findings.
- The Blue Paper’s story, published Friday, March 3, tells us what happened after the state attorney’s office made their decision. Apparently, the investigation itself shook some additional documents loose.
The Citizen’s reporting isn’t always blatantly misleading and inaccurate. In fact, more often than not it’s about timing and emphasis – what we might call “spin”. Which voices are amplified? Which are distorted and made to seem less credible? Which ones are silenced altogether?
If the Citizen’s coverage of the matter ends with Wednesday’s story, readers will be left with the impression that the investigation is over.
“The alleged vested rights are the basis of this complaint in that there are disagreements as to build out and the actual amounts of bedrooms,” State Attorney Investigator Chris Weber wrote.
Weber interviewed the publishers of the Blue Paper, Singh’s attorneys and county legal and planning staff, and he reviewed planning documents and watched a video recording of Singh testifying at the 2014 Planning Commission meeting, according to his report, which was released Tuesday.
Weber acknowledged the “allegations of the development containing more bedrooms than permitted by the DRI (Development of Regional Impact) does have some merit from a skewed perspective,” he wrote.
“There is no evidence to show that any home sold by the Singh Company was sold other than as intended according to the DRI,” Weber wrote. “There is no known evidence of a deviation from the building plans or that Pritam Singh provided a false statement to the Monroe County Planning Commission as alleged in the complaint.”
I’d love to see some details on what that “skewed perspective” entails. I mean counting bedrooms and bathrooms shouldn’t be that challenging or controversial. How were the units marketed and sold? It’s not easy to pull all this information together. I know that. But I would think comparing real estate listings and sales records with permit documents would be quite straightforward.
The Blue Paper’s story is here. As always, there are links, along with a thread of humor. Among the points made…
- Errr…teehee…Singh apparently claimed that two of the units he built in Hawk’s Cay have no bathrooms. I wonder what the ad copy said. “Come shit your pants in the Keys?” How rustic!
- The Blue Paper used some of the documents shaken loose by the investigation, to motivate Chris Weber to dig a little deeper. By the end of the story, Weber had planned to speak with Bob Shillinger. I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
Whether this particular investigation yields any criminal charges or not, one thing remains crystal clear: the county does not, cannot, and will not, do what is in the public interest. They say one thing, and do another. They are totally, completely, and utterly untrustworthy. One of these days it will trip them up. Legally, politically, somehow, someway.
Worth remembering, too, that Bob Shillinger is not a watch-dog. He is not looking out for the taxpayers. He’s there to keep county commissioners and staff out of legal trouble. And he has come to their aid in attempting to aggressively fend off a public records request. So while I think he’ll see to it that the county follows the letter of the law, don’t expect him to be as mindful of the spirit. If there’s a damning document out there, and nobody specifically asks for it, I would not expect Shillinger to produce it.
Bottom line: if you’re deciding which newspaper to read in your luxury vacation, outdoor poopin’ spa on Duck Key, I say read ’em all.