Forging the path to sound decisions, good government

Article Posted on October 12, 2018

Dear Friends,

No wonder Martin County residents are so divided. They simply do not know what is accurate or whom to believe. One of their primary sources of information (more likely, it's misinformation) comes from emails frequently published online as facts.

We understand that this flow of misinformation will attempt to counter One Martin's fight to get accurate information into the public domain. We expect it to peak when we ask the county commission to form an independent Ethics Commission and an Office of Inspector General. 

We don't like that prospect, but it will not deter us from continuing the effort.

You may ask why they would oppose One Martin's ethics initiative, since our local government will become immediately more efficient, cost effective and truly transparent as a result? The answer is simple.

Having an Ethics Commission and an Inspector General in place will end the constant, unfounded accusations, such as those revealed in a recent online tirade by attorney Virginia Sherlock, one of the county's loudest voices with one of the longest email lists.

She accused the current county commission majority of being “transparency-challenged.” It's a laughable accusation, considering the blatant transgressions of the previous commission majority, which led us into multiple lawsuits by ignoring our Comprehensive Growth Management Plan's rules and our laws.

That commission majority of Ed Fielding, Sarah Heard and Anne Scott are the ones facing criminal charges now for allegedly hiding their emails showing they conducted public business in secret. Sherlock considers those commissioners as models of transparency? We don't think so.

Sherlock further charged that the current commission majority uses the meeting's consent agenda to “keep secrets” from the public and for “secret approvals.” An empty claim, since she knows full well that any item may be pulled out of the consent agenda by any commissioner and added to the regular meeting agenda for further discussion. The public also may comment on any consent agenda item, too.

Sherlock also announced rather sanctimoniously that neither Sarah Heard nor Ed Fielding have an MSTU (Municipal Services Taxing Unit) for their district in this year's budget. The district MSTU taxes the residents who live within the district at a low rate, less than half of one percent, to create a small pool of funds to be spent directly and only on that district's immediate needs.

She knows fully well that Ms. Heard and Mr. Fielding already hold unspent district funds in their accounts from previous MSTU levies in their districts.

Although there's nothing inappropriate with having a district MSTU, this is a practice that likely would be closely examined by an inspector general to ensure that the funds are being spent in the public's best interest.

That is, if Martin County had an inspector general.

Sherlock also attempted in her emailed rant to cast doubt on the validity of a construction contract awarded to Ferreira Construction, because the company is a client of one of the county commission candidates who does not yet hold office. The construction contract was a sealed bid that followed the county's strict procurement rules.

Outside of voting for denial or approval of expending the funds, elected commissioners have no influence over contract awards. They are prohibited from even knowing who applied. 

To suggest that a nefarious motive was behind the contract award, as Sherlock did, simply was an obvious attempt to promote her own political candidate – by casting aspersions on his opponent.

Sherlock's other unfounded allegations and unfairly presented “facts” in her most recent emails are too extensive to dissect here. Besides, we hope residents have learned to read her commentary a little more critically these days.

Yes, you may be tired of hearing it, but these are yet more examples of why this county needs an inspector general. Contracts will be examined carefully, including those in the consent agenda, and because independent eyes would be on the process, all doubt will be erased, ending the constant innuendo that undermines our political process now.

Sherlock and her compatriots likely will argue against the initiative, cloaking their comments with some far-fetched claims to disguise the fact that the plug on the power of misinformation and fear-mongering in Martin County will be pulled.

They will not welcome an initiative to create an independent voice to end doubt, because it will also end their ability to manipulate the public consciousness. Martin County citizens, at long last, will know what is accurate and whom to believe!

We feel confident that the majority of residents will be eager to take part in this important endeavor. We encourage your participation, and please invite your friends and colleagues to sign-up for One Martin newsletters or follow us on Facebook. More information will be coming this way soon!  


Rick Hartman

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