Dear Rep. Raschein,
Monroe County government is plagued by corruption, incompetence and waste.
The latest outrage is the $425,000 per year contract awarded to the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (FKSPCA). This is an increase of $175,000 (or 70%) over the previous contract amount. The county has been unable to explain the massive cost increase and refuses to provide documents that justify it. In fact, available documents show that the actual cost of running the shelter is much lower than the amount of the contract awarded.
I feel strongly that this matter warrants an investigation by law enforcement and I have relayed my suspicions to the appropriate agencies. In the course of researching the how, where and who of reporting my concerns, I ran across a corruption situation in Brevard County.
Former Brevard County Clerk, Mitch Needleman, was recently convicted for his role in a bid rigging scheme. In addition, one county commissioner, Jim Barfield, was fined for ethics violations related to his financial disclosure forms. Barfield chose not to run for re-election.
Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) wrote an editorial denouncing Barfield and other shady officials. Here’s an excerpt from an article about his comments.
“When I ran for office, cleaning up local government corruption was not a part of my campaign platform,” Fine said. “It was not that I didn’t care about it, but like most of the public who is focused on working and raising a family, I assumed most politicians’ goal was to make Brevard County as great as I wanted to make it. Boy, was I wrong.”
Fine also took a direct shot at Barfield, as well as the company that Barfield founded.
Fine said Barfield’s oversights on his financial disclosure forms “makes me wonder what else Jim Barfield has ‘just glanced over,’ while supposedly working for the people of Brevard County. What we do know is that he doesn’t ‘glance over’ his efforts to line his pockets by securing government contracts while serving as an elected public official.”
All five of Monroe County’s ethically-challenged commissioners are still in office despite having been fined for violations similar to Barfield’s. Only one has chosen not to run for re-election. No one in a leadership position has said a word. There are no editorials denouncing these deceptive and unethical actions. The silence is deafening.
Let’s not forget that Commissioners Neugent, Rice and Carruthers were also found to have misused their county purchasing cards. Neugent, Murphy, Carruthers and Rice allowed County Administrator, Roman Gastesi, to keep his job after a grand jury recommended that he be terminated for his mishandling of the iPhone scandal. Commissioner Kim Wigington was the only “no” vote. Her seat is now occupied by Danny Kolhage. I’m sure if the grand jury report had been issued today, the vote to keep Gastesi would have been an enthusiastic 5-0.
Needleman’s bid-rigging activities were brought to light by Matt Nye with assistance from Scott Ellis, who is now the Clerk of Court for Brevard County. Nye is running for Florida House of Representatives District 52.
It’s clear that Brevard County has something that Monroe County does not – political leadership which actively and vocally opposes waste and corruption.
Fine, Nye, and current Brevard County Clerk, Scott Ellis, have all taken a very public stand against government corruption. It’s been an eye-opener.
- Until I saw Fine’s editorial, it never occurred to me that a politician would speak out against corruption, especially within his own party.
- Until I read about Ellis’s role in uncovering Needleman’s misconduct, it never occurred to me that a County Clerk could act as anything but a pampered lap dog without being viciously attacked in the media.
- Until I visited Nye’s Facebook page, it never occurred to me that law enforcement might actually take suspicious bidding activity seriously.
Why were my expectations so pathetically low? I guess my ten years in the Keys taught me that waste and corruption are things to be rewarded, not punished. It shouldn’t be that way, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Now that my eyes are opened, it is clear that Monroe County citizens and taxpayers deserve political leaders who will speak up for them, too.
I hope you agree.