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Brevard County: Isnardi: Criticism Of Sheriff Is “Pretty Obscene.”

Sheriff Wayne Ivey and Commissioner Kristine Isnardi (Space Coast Daily)

Last Tuesday, the Brevard County Board of Commissioners approved a $1.33 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) which included a controversial tax increase for the Sheriff’s Office.

Brevard County commissioners on Tuesday night approved a $1.33 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

But the controversy related to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office budget remains.

The county’s overall budget plan and accompanying tax rate cuts will mean lower property tax bills for most homeowners with a homestead exemption, according to County Manager Frank Abbate.

However, much of the discussion at Tuesday night’s final budget hearing focused on the one tax rate that is increasing — the rate for the Law Enforcement Municipal Service Taxing Unit, or MSTU, that goes toward the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office budget.

Even after the FloridaToday and others had asked for the line item budget under Florida Statute Chapter 119, the so called “Sunshine Law, the Sheriff’s office was still not providing the document.

The Commissioners knew this of this failure on the part of the Sheriff’s office, yet they voted to pass the budget.

What is additionally troubling to us is some of the comments which Commissioners made:

During Tuesday’s final budget hearing, Tobia addressed the issue of the BCSO not providing a line-item budget to the extent that is provided by county departments overseen by the county manager and County Commission.

Unlike individual departments of county government, the BCSO and four other county entities run by elected “constitutional officers” are run independently.

Tobia said Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey “met the minimum requirement of transparency” under Florida Statute, and it is up to the County Commission to insist that the sheriff provide more detailed budget information, if that’s what commissioners want.

Not providing the line item budget meets the “minimum requirement of transparency?”

Other than in George Orwell’s 1984, in what world does “transparency” mean “hidden from view?”

County Commission Vice Chair Bryan Lober said he has no qualms about the increase in the sheriff’s budget, contending that his top priority as a commissioner is public safety.

He said the same charter cap provision voters approved in 2008 also provides for the mechanism of exceeding the cap with a supermajority vote of commissioners.

Lober said he had several meetings about the budget with Ivey and top members of his staff.

“As far as a lack of transparency, insofar as my experience is concerned, I’ve not had that at all,” Lober said. “I’ve had the opposite. I did have questions, and they were all answered, as least to my satisfaction, if not better.”

Once again, this is not about the transparency of Ivey meeting with Commissioners behind closed doors. The transparency issue is that of the line item budget being made available to the public. It doesn’t matter one iota that Lober saw the budget (even though he didn’t see the line item budget either.) What matters is Lober’s commitment to the people that he claims to represent and the transparency they demand.

“I would never just pass a budget because I trust someone, although I am kind of fond of the sheriff,” Pritchett said. “I think we have honorable people up here serving, and we’re doing the best we can to not waste taxpayers’ dollars.”

Let’s back the budget truck up a moment and see what Pritchett said previously:

Pritchett, a certified public accountant, told FLORIDA TODAY she has no qualms about the limited financial information she is getting on Ivey’s budget.

If you only have “limited financial information,” you are in fact trusting that what you don’t know is acceptable because of that trust.

Commissioner Smith had said earlier:

“I trust the sheriff,” Smith told FLORIDA TODAY, adding that the top priority of government is to protect its citizens.

“To me, this is just an attempt to stir up emotions,” Smith said, referring to criticism by some members of the public to the sheriff’s critical needs request.

“I think it’s absurd to even question” the BCSO budget, Smith said.

Smith trusts the Sheriff and claims it is absurd to question a budget that is being illegally hidden by the Sheriff’s Office while that hiding and violation of the Sunshine Law by the Sheriff’s Office is sanctioned and approved by the County Commissioners.

Excuse us and the rest of the County residents for saying hiding a line item budget, hiding a document, and violating the Sunshine Law is not very “trustworthy.”

Other county commissioners defended the sheriff’s transparency during Tuesday’s budget hearing, saying they were adequately briefed by Ivey and his staff, and had their questions answered.

It is mind boggling that Commissioners think that a private briefing is the same thing as “public transparency.”

Yet in our opinion, one of the most egregious, if not the most egregious statements was made by Chairwoman Kristine Isnardi in regards to criticism of Sheriff Ivey by the Florida Today.

Chair Kristine Isnardi also criticized FLORIDA TODAY for its reporting on issues related to the sheriff’s budget.

Isnardi said she voted for the sheriff’s budget because she believes it is a “solid” spending plan.

Isnardi said she will support the budget, “not because Wayne’s my friend or not because of his politics, but just because I agree with the budget, and I think public safety is our No. 1 responsibility.”

Additionally, Isnardi criticized FLORIDA TODAY for the extent of its coverage of the issue of the sheriff’s critical needs budget, saying it was “pretty obscene.”

“How about not writing stories that are so slanted that it makes you not want to talk to the press?” Isnardi asked, contending the stories focused on a potential lack of transparency in the sheriff’s budget, which she disputes.

“To act like we don’t care is simply reckless and irresponsible,” Isnardi said. (emphasis ours)

If Isnardi disputes the lack of transparency, she is free to show where the Sheriff’s Office has fulfilled the many legal public records requests in a “reasonable time” as required by law.

No fulfillment means no transparency no matter how many times she or any other Commissioner thinks that a private briefing where Commissioners were not given the total budget details of the Sheriff’s Office is “transparency” for the citizens of Brevard County.

Repeating the same illogical statement does not make it true no matter how many times you stamp your feet in protest.

The Florida Today has been somewhat aggressive with their coverage of Ivey, but even if that coverage is biased, it is not “pretty obscene.”

That’s more hyperbole from an elected official.

Yet that hyperbole is troubling when you think about it and think about it under that mathematical law know as the “transitive property.” Even if you are way over the hill or being taught math via “common core,” you should remember the transitive property that if “a = b,” and “b = c,” then “a = c.” There’s no way around that certitude.

So let’s apply that to this situation and Isnardi.

Sheriff Wayne Ivey is a public servant.

Ivey was criticized by the Florida Today (and others.)

According to Isnardi, criticism of Ivey was “pretty obscene.”

Therefore in Isnardi’s eyes, criticism of public officials is “pretty obscene” or just “obscene” if you’d like.

This means that under the new rules passed by the Brevard County Commission which ban “obscenities,” you won’t be able to say anything negative about a public official. You’d be thrown out of the meeting for uttering “obscenities.”

Is that really what we want? A system where criticism is viewed as “obscene?”

We don’t believe so.

Ivey Endorses Isnardi for Commissioner. Nothing to see here….move along.

Under the law, it is not even “obscene” what the Sheriff’s Office and the five Commissioners are doing, which is protecting themselves and keeping the public from lawfully viewing documents. As “obscenity” must be “in some significant way, erotic,” the actions of the Sheriff’s Office and the Brevard Board of County Commissioners is not “obscene,” but it is morally and ethically wrong.

No one ever votes for someone saying, “you know, I think John Doe is an unethical man. Because of that, he gets my vote!”

We all want ethical people in office. After all, ethical behavior and trust is what they campaigned on.

So why do we keep accepting actions and conduct of elected officials that is neither trustworthy or ethical?

Why do we accept a small cabal of people that are willing to make statements and protect others rather than serve the people who elected them?

We wish we had an answer to that question, but we don’t.



5 Responses to “Brevard County: Isnardi: Criticism Of Sheriff Is “Pretty Obscene.””

  1. Concerned taxpayer says:

    So the BIG question here is why does the Sherriff not want the public to see his line item budget, which is PUBLIC record? Who is filing the complaint to have a judge force the production of this budget?

  2. Carla says:

    Thank you for posting this story. Sheriff Ivey was wrong not to share the details of his budget when asked. Is he still keeping his budget details secret from Florida Today? Even if he does make provide them now, the budget has already been adopted, so it’s too late for the public to influence the Commission. However, the public still has a right to see the budget. Florida Today was, in effect, acting on behalf of the public when it made its FOIA request.

    It irks me that the Commissioners didn’t demand that the Sheriff provide for full transparency. Rita Pritchett, the CPA, should know better. I wonder what her CPA work experience is.

    Kristine Isnardi’s blind support of Ivey’s budget, along with her statements condemning Florida Today for its coverage of the situation, could be looked upon as a quid pro quo. The sheriff endorses her in exchange for her blind loyalty to him.

  3. Percy says:

    We elected our county commissioners to “act on behalf of the public”, on this issue it appears they have let us down by not insisting that all the budget documents be made available to the public before the final budget vote. It shows we need to be more selective on who we elect next time to ensure they represent the citizens and not just the big donors.

  4. Accountability says:

    Citizens have a right to know where their hard earned money is being spent and for what purpose. When you run for any job that serves the public sector, you need to be above reproach and honor that commitment to serve with honesty and character. In modern tech times there is no excuse for any government department to not provide budget information to citizens in a timely period. They have paid staff and plenty of time to have the content especially if they have asked for an increase to cover those expenses. The last three years have taught citizen they can no longer be complacent when trusting the people they elect to represent their constituents. With a recession looming and housing cost out of control, every penny counts when our counties continually ask for more taxes.

    Stay engaged and watchful.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Accountability,

      Thanks for the comment.

      You wrote:

      They have paid staff and plenty of time to have the content especially if they have asked for an increase to cover those expenses.

      While we agree with you, we would also say that the line item budget is an integral part of the budgeting process. It is not something that is worked backwards from the final numbers.

      As an example, when creating a budget, things get broken down into categories. The whole numbers are not the budget. Someone sits there and looks at the amount of office supplies the agency used in the last year and projects forward to account for increases / decreases in usage and cost increases. You don’t just combine the office supplies with personnel costs, health care, retirement, etc. You don’t even throw office supplies in with office machines (copiers, computers, etc.)

      The point that we are trying to make is that the data – the line item budget – is already there. It is a document and data that the Sheriff’s office already has.

      The failure to produce the document and data in the wake of legitimate and legal requests by news agencies as well as citizens is a failure of the Sheriff’s office to uphold the law of the land. That the Brevard County Board of Commissioners went along with this shows a complete disregard for the law in their minds as well.

      The Commissioners had the keys in their hands. They could have said “we aren’t voting on this until the Sheriff’s office complies with the Sunshine Law requests,” but instead voted to give the Sheriff’s office a pass and the citizens of Brevard County the middle finger.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

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