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Rick Scott's elite and unaccountable government

October 16, 2013
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

While reviewing the state's red light camera program, I found a $30 million discrepancy in revenue for fiscal year 2012. Since I spent over 25 years in law enforcement here, I researched the situation and ultimately filed a written complaint with our Attorney General alleging either theft or official misconduct by local officials. Sending it in via certified mail return receipt, I later received a postcard stamped "RECEIVED" but unsigned by any human being. After a month of no information, I stopped by the Attorney General's office in the Capital this week to follow up. I did not speak to a human being in person, but instead a staff member over the phone. Ultimately, I was told the FDLE needed to investigate the complaint. The FDLE is not a line-response agency - you as a citizen cannot walk in and file a complaint - and by law they can only investigate allegations of public corruption by written directive of the Governor.

Due to these facts, I revised my complaint and went to the Governor's office on Wednesday, Oct. 9. After waiting in the lobby and filling out a citizen form, eventually two young girls came out to speak to me. I was directed into the hallway of the Capital, and I gave one of them the complaint and explained the above circumstances. I asked that she sign a receipt for the complaint, and she refused to do so. A written receipt is the only proof I would have that the complaint had been filed. Without it, the complaint could be thrown away or ignored, and there would be no way to document it being filed. This is accountability. I explained to the girls that as an investigator for the highway patrol, I had run into this situation in the past when dealing with the former state attorney where I worked. We had to get receipts for all paperwork submitted due to claims of it never being received.

When I determined she would not sign the receipt, I took a photo of the receipt with her in the background. Again, this was in a public hallway of our Capital. She reported me to the Capital Police - apparently it is OK for the government to use cameras on the public in public places, but not vice versa. I had a nice conversation with one of the officers, who ended up thanking me for my service.

This situation is a far cry from our government here in Jefferson County. The same week as the above took place, I walked into the County Coordinator's office without an appointment and had a talk with the coordinator. I've had a similar good experience with our Property Appraiser.

It's also a far cry from how I treated people as a state employee. One day while working at the highway patrol, a man came into the station that had been the victim of identity theft. He had been to local law enforcement, who wrongly told him there was nothing they could do since crimes had been committed out of the county using his name (the law allowed investigation either there or where the victim resided). I took the case and within a few weeks had located the suspect in Baltimore, Maryland and obtained a warrant for his arrest. I worked with the Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecution to ensure the victim received restitution and that the suspect would work to help him clear his name. I could have likewise turned him away, but that was not the right thing to do.

Will my complaint be investigated? I hope so; $30 million is a lot of money to me. Integrity and accountability in government is worth even more.

We used to be a government of, for, and by the people. Under Rick Scott, it's a government of, for, and by the elites that think themselves unaccountable to the public. This needs to change in 2014.

Paul Henry




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