It’s funny. That phrase has popped up more than once in the past few days. Donald Trump used it.
“People’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” the president said in his tweet Saturday. “There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
He’s referring to a staffer who resigned over domestic violence allegations. Now, of course, there was photographic evidence to support the “mere allegation”. And reports from not one, but two ex-wives to the FBI. The FBI found those reports compelling enough to deny a permanent security clearance. I’d say that goes beyond “mere allegation”. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, right?
I’ve been having this ongoing email dialog with Chris Weber, Chief “Investigator” at the state attorneys office. He used similar logic to shake off my suspicions about the county’s handling of public records and other matters.
Criminal complaints made to this division are followed up on the basis of evidence presented that would indicate a violation of Florida Criminal Statute having had occurred. Mere accusations or allegations without a basis for follow-up are treated accordingly.
You know what’s most interesting about that statement? It’s not entirely true. For one thing, my suspicions go beyond “mere allegations”. The suspicious circumstances and behavior are well-documented. For another, evidence of criminal conduct is not necessary to initiate an investigation.
Off the top of my head, I can think of two investigations where no criminal activity was alleged.
- The Stock Island sewer project. That investigation was initiated in part by Grinder Pump George Neugent, one of five ethically-challenged county commissioners.
- Amy Heavilin’s deleted email “scandal”, which was pushed hard in the media by Bob Shillinger. Even Shady Bob himself admitted there was no evidence of a crime.
Here’s a quote from the Stock Island grand jury report.
The Grand Jury has broad powers to make inquiries into civil administration, regardless of whether criminal or irregular conduct is charged. It has powers to investigate public offices to determine if they are being conducted according to law and good morals. It also has power to investigate the conduct of public affairs by public officials and employees, including the power to inquire whether those officials are incompetent or lax in the performance of their duties.
My dialog with Weber started because of a questionable bidding process which resulted in the Florida Keys Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (FKSPCA) being paid 70% more for running the Marathon animal shelter – a job they’re already doing. You can catch up on the whole sordid tale here and here.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the county is “incompetent or lax” in the handling of animal control and other matters; or to make a person doubt that county business is “being conducted according to law and good morals”. I would argue that there’s enough questionable activity to make any reasonable person suspect fraud or bribery.
Consider the following:
Poor performance. The Upper Keys animal shelter has been running for years now with a kill rate 2-3 times higher than the other two county animal shelters. One would expect a responsible county government to correct or at least look into that situation. Monroe County government allows it to continue saying only that they are “perfectly happy” with the shelter’s performance. Poor performance and the factors that contribute to it are swept under the rug. For instance, the Upper Keys shelter receives far less funding per animal than the other two – a fact that nobody wants to talk about. Except me.
Lying and/or distorting data. As documented here on this blog, the county used phony numbers to exaggerate the number of animals handled at the Key West and Marathon animal shelters, an apparent attempt to hide the funding disparity suffered by the under-performing Upper Keys shelter.
Mismanaging the procurement process. The 70% price increase to run the Marathon shelter was legitimized using a questionable procurement process. At this point, there’s nothing else to support the validity of the contract amount. This isn’t the only time the county has used a sketchy procurement process to rationalize a transaction that would otherwise be very difficult to justify.
Mishandling of public records. I’ve requested several documents in an effort to determine what due diligence was done by the county to confirm that the 70% price increase was reasonable and appropriate. The county provided some of these documents, but others are still missing. This isn’t the first time they’ve stonewalled a request for public records. Even Shady Bob gets in on the act, and it’s his job to know better.
History of unethical or inappropriate conduct. All five county commissioners have admitted to ethics violations. An audit found that three of five misused their county-issued purchasing cards; and so did the iPhone Bandit. (By the way, that audit was performed by Amy Heavilin, who somehow became the subject of an investigation after a round of over zealous housecleaning.) There’s the iPhone scandal, of course, which earned the iPhone Bandit his nickname. And the regular, ongoing, low-grade lying and deception that occurs repeatedly day in and day out with depressing regularity. These guys couldn’t go straight if they wanted to. They don’t know how.