search
top

Brevard County: Sheriff Ivey, Dorian, Budgets And Transparency (With A Side Dish Of Florida Today.)

We’re really not sure where to begin this story, but we know where it will end.

One of our ninjas sent us a link to an article from SpaceCoastDaily.com concerning The Brevard Board of Commissioners and Sheriff Wayne Ivey:

Brevard Commissioners Approve Resolution Recognizing Sheriff’s Office for Superb Service During Hurricane Season

BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – Brevard County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution offering special tribute and recognition to the Brevard County Sherriff’s Department for the agency’s service during Dorian and the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season.

The resolution, introduced by District 4 Commissioner Curt Smith during a meeting Tuesday morning in Viera, and unanimously approved, said “the people of Brevard County owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Brevard County Sherriff’s Department under the direction of Sherriff Wayne Ivey for their commitment to Brevard County residents.”

Resolutions were also unanimously approved honoring Brevard County Fire Rescue and Brevard County Emergency Management for their work during Hurrican Dorian.

Generally speaking, we don’t like this type of public pat on the back type thing as it seems strange to us that after spending literally millions and millions of dollars on facilities, equipment, and training, we praise people for doing the job the taxpayers pay them to do. We know that sounds odd, but we look at the hundreds if not thousands of workers in places like WalMart, Publix, Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware, etc., that moved literally tons and tons of supplies not only into the area, but stocked, restocked, continually restocked and sent merchandise out of stores so people could be prepared for Dorian if and when it hit. Those people got a pat on the back from management, some cold pizza (if they were lucky) some overtime, and sheer exhaustion for their effort.

No one asked any of them to come before the County Commission for a resolution to thank them for actually helping people prepare for Dorian. Their thanks were mostly private within their stores and not a part of some public relations effort.

But we digress.

What is odd to us about this resolution is that the Florida Today has an article on how Sheriff Ivey had sent mixed messages, and that coordination between the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, local officials and the Brevard County Emergency Services was “off” and lacking.

The problem is that Ivey largely took it upon himself to provide the flurry of live-streamed social media updates and videos, sometimes without careful coordination with emergency authorities. And even when Ivey alerted the emergency authorities to something he planned to do, county officials didn’t put out the same message.

On at least two occasions, Ivey’s announcements left county emergency officials scrambling to catch up, and muddied the clear communication and accessibility of essential information that emergency management practices call for during an impending crisis.

The sheriff relayed evacuation information 18 hours before the timeline initially agreed upon by the committee charged by the county with making decisions during a crisis. In a second instance, Ivey closed the causeways as planned just after Dorian passed, yet caught emergency authorities off-guard with his announcement when he did — creating confusion with uncoordinated, conflicting messages.

We here at Raised on Hoecakes are skeptical by nature and there is an ongoing feud – a really silly and non-productive feud in our opinion – between the Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Today:

This is the second week in a row that you’re reading a story from FLORIDA TODAY that raises questions about decisions made by Sheriff Wayne Ivey.

Both of those stories featured a statement from Ivey noting that neither he nor the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office will answer questions from FLORIDA TODAY. According to the latest version of Ivey’s statement, it’s because, he said, “we do not consider them to be a credible news source.”

You may be wondering: What’s going on?

Sheriff Ivey and Brevard emergency officials send mixed messages during Dorian

Ivey notified us that his agency would no longer answer our questions after we’d asked about his actions during Dorian. Earlier, he called us “a joke” when one of our reporters questioned his presence at a press conference alongside two Republican politicians in an identity theft case against a Democrat campaign worker in which no charges were brought. Ivey told the reporter afterward to “never challenge my authority.”

Our skepticism kicked in as we wondered whether the Florida Today was skewing their coverage of Ivey’s role in during Hurricane Dorian because of that feud.

We mentioned Ivey’s combativeness with the Florida Today in an earlier post and thought it was unseemly at best:

IVEY: Well you ought to do your homework before asking me questions.

REPORTER: Why is the Sheriff, who is a non-partisan elected official is here talking about an investigation where no charges were brought…..for what is clearly a politically motivated press conference.

IVEY: So talking about an investigation that is closed, is a politically motivated press conference when I was asked to come here to talk about the investigation? Did you hear me make any political comments?

REPORTER: Well, I’m asking….

IVEY: This is exactly why I don’t talk to the Florida Today. They’re a joke. Sit down.

PEOPLE IN THE CROWD: Wow.

Wow indeed.

We didn’t realize that being asked to come to a press conference meant the Sheriff had to appear at that press conference. Furthermore his dismissal of the question and the order to “sit down,” is troubling on many levels.

So is the Florida Today skewing what happened?

It doesn’t look that way to us:

It was not until about 8:30 p.m. that Emergency Management catches up to Ivey’s announcement with its own news release, relaying the evacuation information.

On social media, residents expressed confusion in the intervening hours.

At 7:11 p.m., Facebook user Jamie Willis writes: “Sheriff Ivey just announced evacuations for the barrier island on Sunday at 8am. Is this accurate information?”

On Twitter, when Emergency Management does issue its announcement, user @bosco_central asks: “Is this a Sheriff Wayne (Ivey) decision?”

“Evacuation and other public safety decisions are made in coordination with the Brevard County Policy Group,” Emergency Management replies the next day, responding further in a follow-up that “county leaders make up the Policy Group and work together to coordinate in decision making.”

The sheriff also directed listeners to consult the county’s Emergency Management website for information, which wasn’t yet there, as viewer John Mooney notes when he wrote: “not finding specific shelters locations listed on website, especially pet friendly.”

West Melbourne City Manager Scott Morgan, who is the representative of Brevard’s 16 municipalities on the Policy Group, said he thought the initial plan of announcing on Aug. 31 the mandatory evacuation and the timing of the opening of shelters was “the proper timing.”

He said he would not comment on the decision by Abbate and Ivey to change the timing, other than to say that emergency officials “work really hard to have clear, consistent communications. Consistent communications is important for the public in general.”

[….]

Ivey’s Facebook Live videos caused a bit of a stir again on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 4, just after the storm had passed Brevard.

Speaking from an outdoors location, Ivey announced at 7:11 a.m. that he had closed Brevard County’s causeways so they could be inspected and that he could check with beachside officials to see if the roads there were passable.

A FLORIDA TODAY reporter embedded at the Emergency Operations Center asked for information about the sheriff closing the causeways, and was met with blank stares. County officials were then seen watching a replay of Ivey’s Facebook Live to determine what the sheriff said.

About 10 minutes later, Emergency Management messaged: “The BCSO is securing the causeways to allow FDOT to verify the bridges are safe to travel and confirm barrier islands are safe.”

Four minutes after that, emergency officials announced the causeways were open.

The sheriff broadcast live at 7:42 a.m. to announce the reopening.

“It’s got to be some kind of record here in Brevard,” Ivey says, as to how expediently the “job” was done, crediting the beachside police as well.

The communication breakdown over the causeways actually began the day before.

Ivey brought up his plan to temporarily close the causeways during the Sept. 3 meeting of the Policy Group. He told members that, after the storm, he would secure all the bridges, communicate with beachside police chiefs, then reopen the causeways once the chiefs “give us a thumbs-up” that roads were in good condition, with no downed power lines or other debris blocking roads.

“I’ll do it just like I did it last time, and if the DOT doesn’t like it, they can talk to me,” Ivey told the other Policy Group members, who apparently didn’t take notice.

Then, in his 6:24 p.m. live-stream on Facebook on Sept. 3, Ivey announced his plans to close the causeways the next morning, promising to “try to get those reopened as fast as possible.” At the same time, the emergency officials messaged the roads would remain open.

One viewer, Darby Phillips Miller, pointed out that “EOC says bridges don’t close — why the mixed messages?”

[….]

[Public Safety Group Director Matthew Wallace] also said he wants to get more media specialists to appear on camera and do social media; and make sure that, next time, there is no miscommunication.

“We have to do a better job, so that we don’t get our wires crossed,” Walker said.

We have a hard time agreeing with the Brevard Board of Commissioners that the services provided – all the mixed messages and a lack of a single, reliable source of information – was a “superb job” during Dorian. If that is “superb,” we’d hate to see “okay” or “good.”

Furthermore, Ivey and the Sheriff’s Offices failure to communicate with or answer inquiries from the Florida Today on Dorian is rather despicable in our opinion.

We get the idea that there is a fight between the paper and Ivey. Can’t that be put aside during emergencies? Are regular citizens supposed to be caught in the cross-fire like they were?

Frankly, we find the lack of communication between the Ivey and the Florida Today a dereliction of duty from the Sheriff. To ignore one of the largest media outlets on the Space Coast is baffling in our opinion.

What always amazes us is that during the run up to hurricanes and after hurricanes, most normal people are extraordinary in many ways. We can’t tell you how many people we saw helping others load supplies. There were citizens with trucks offering to deliver supplies to people. We saw people helping others put up shutters and move things so they wouldn’t be blown away if Dorian came at us. Race didn’t matter. Gender didn’t matter. Creeds didn’t matter. Age didn’t matter. Politics didn’t matter. “One for all and all for one!” was on display around the county.

Except for Ivey and the Florida Today.


However, while we find the battle between Ivey and the Florida Today distasteful and non-productive, there is another battle that is looming that affects us all and it involves the two again.

On Tuesday evening, the County Commission is set to pass the county’s $1.33 billion county budget that will include the extra money Ivey wanted, for a total of $136.11 million for the BCSO, in the budget year starting Oct. 1.

That represents a $6.01 million increase from the BCSO’s approved budget for the current year, before midyear adjustments. Most of the raise comes from the county’s general fund and other revenue sources, but $1.77 million is added tax money for the BCSO from a tax rate component called the Law Enforcement Municipal Service Taxing Unit, or MSTU.

The proposed increase in revenue from that unit exceeds a tax rate cap set by voters in 2008. The cap can be overridden only by a “supermajority” of four of the five county commissioners, in a process that includes a declaration of “critical need,” which is what the sheriff claimed in July.

Hmmm…okay….and what does that budget, especially that of the Sheriff’s Office entail?

When county commissioners give final approval to the sheriff’s budget on Tuesday as expected — as they did in a 4-1 preliminary vote — they will be doing so largely based on trust. That’s because at least three of them have not seen Ivey’s detailed financial plans of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. The other two — Chair Kristine Isnardi and Vice Chair Bryan Lober — did not respond to written questions from FLORIDA TODAY for comment on this topic.

Ivey seems intent on keeping his detailed budget closely held, despite several citizens and FLORIDA TODAY asking the BCSO for itemized details of the budget.

Unlike other parts of the budget, commissioners and the county’s Budget Office do not have access to a line-item accounting of the BCSO budget — only a top-line summary — partly because the BCSO budget is on a different budgeting software system than the county departments under direct management of the county manager and County Commission. That’s also true of the budgets of most of Brevard’s other elected constitutional officers, but they did not seek approval to exceed the spending cap this year.

The Commissioners will be voting on the budget that includes an increase that is beyond the cap for the Shriff’s Office based on “trust.”

Not seeing the actual BCSO budget and not making the BCSO budget available to the public so they can take a look at it.

Trust.

“A transparent and accessible budget is key for citizen participation,” said County Commissioner John Tobia, who was the only commissioner to vote against the critical needs request. Tobia adding that it’s time to look into getting the sheriff’s budget and budgets of other constitutional officers onto the same system as the county has.

[….]

For Commissioners Rita Pritchett and Curt Smith, this was sufficient for them to support Ivey’s ask.

“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.

Eleven residents spoke during the July 23 County Commission discussion of the BCSO budget, including some prominent Republicans, and nine expressed some concerns or criticism related to either the sheriff’s budget or county spending in general.

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

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

Unlike Pritchett and Smith, we do have issues with the “limited financial information” that has been shown to them and not shown to the public.

The process and the budgets are supposed to be transparent. That’s the way this is supposed to work.

Not “trust me.”

Heck, it’s not even “trust but verify.”

Just “trust.”

Here’s where in our opinion, this whole budget issue gets worse:

In an emailed statement, responding to a request from FLORIDA TODAY for an interview about his department’s budget, Ivey wrote: “While Sheriff Wayne Ivey and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office are always willing to answer questions for our many credible news source partners, we do not under any circumstances respond to questions from the Florida Today as we do not consider them to be a credible news source. Our agency is however more than willing to fulfill any public record requests from the Florida Today that is in compliance with Florida State Statute 119. Should you have a Public Record request for our agency please email your request to records@bcso.us so that a member of our team can process your request.”

FLORIDA TODAY submitted a public records request on Aug. 28 for the BCSO’s line-item budget, and received confirmation on Aug. 29 that the request was received. As of Friday, FLORIDA TODAY has not received the line-item budget or any clear commitment to deliver it.

Other citizens have met the same stone wall.

There are two issues with this. First, Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes requires that public records request be filling in a “reasonable time.”

Chapter 119, F.S., does not contain an express time limit for responding to all public records requests. According to court decisions, the only delay in producing records permitted under Ch. 119, F.S., is the reasonable time allowed the custodian to retrieve the record and delete those portions of the record the custodian asserts are exempt. Therefore, the amount of time required to respond to a public records request will generally depend upon the volume of materials requested and the number of exemptions. For example, in most instances, an agency should be able to provide a copy of a single personnel file in less than 24 hours. On the other hand, a request for a copy of a 3000 page closed criminal investigation file containing confidential information may take one week or more.

The time between the Florida Today request for the budget on August 29, 2019 and the date of the article saying that the information had not been received as of September 20, 2019 is 23 days or 15 work days (over two weeks.)

We defy anyone to tell us honestly that length of a delay is “reasonable.” We defy anyone to tell us honestly that with the budget set to be voted upon tomorrow. the citizens of Brevard County should not have the ability to see the BCSO’s line item budget.

The obvious lack of meeting the standard for releasing the document in a “reasonable length of time” is troubling and appears to us to be against the letter and spirit of the law.

The purpose of the Sunshine Law is to provide transparency within government. When the head of the county law enforcement agency thumbs his nose at the Sunshine Statutes, why should anyone follow any laws or any directions given by Sheriff Ivey, detectives, investigators, correction officers or deputy sheriffs?

Ether laws apply to us all, or they apply to no one.

Secondly, without the line-item budget and this being final vote for the budget, there can be no discussion from the public (or apparently even Commissioners.) No one knows what specifically caused the Sheriff to ask for a raise in taxes to go to his department. No one will see specifically what the cause for the increase in taxes is based on before the budget vote. There is no way that can be defended or supported by Sheriff Ivey or the Brevard Board of Commissioners.

The funny thing is that government officials always claim to want input, and comments from the public, but that cannot happen when the documents needed to make informed comments are hidden from the public view. That can’t happen when elected officials say to citizens, “well, you don’t need to know. Trust us.”


If you have ever been pulled over for a stop by a member of law enforcement, you might have been asked if you would give permission for the officer to search your vehicle. (That answer should always be “no,” but that is another post for another day) If you do say “no,” you will most likely have the officer say to you, “why not? You don’t have anything to hide, do you?”

Sheriff Ivey is not releasing and not allowing the people (and even Commissioners) to see his line item budget.

Using the same logic used by officers when you are stopped, we now ask Sheriff Ivey, “why aren’t you letting people see the line item budget for your office? You don’t have anything to hide, do you?



12 Responses to “Brevard County: Sheriff Ivey, Dorian, Budgets And Transparency (With A Side Dish Of Florida Today.)”

  1. Thomas Gaume says:

    There’s also a requirement in 119 to promptly acknowledge a public records request has been received. Be interested to know if when FT submitted their 119 request if they received the required acknowledgement.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Thomas Gaume,

      Thanks for the comment:

      From the cited Florida Today article:

      FLORIDA TODAY submitted a public records request on Aug. 28 for the BCSO’s line-item budget, and received confirmation on Aug. 29 that the request was received. As of Friday, FLORIDA TODAY has not received the line-item budget or any clear commitment to deliver it.

      Our calculation of how long the request has not been fulfilled is from the date of acknowledgement (Aug 29) until the day the article was published which was September 20.

      Hope that answers your questions.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

  2. Percy says:

    I may be showing my age but I would like to see the Brevard county EOC have one single source public webpage where all the latest county/city info is posted during an emergency. Everyone with internet access could go to one place to view the latest updates, news agencies could go to that website to determine what they put out on the airwaves (tv and radio) based on their listening audiences. As long as they continue putting out official info thru all these different social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter they loose control of getting a single unified message out to the public. And heaven forbid if some Facebook algorithm decides it doesn’t like something posted and deletes an important announcement. The Public and news outlets should have one and only one official website to go to that is controlled by the appropriate authority to get current information. I know it’s trendy to use Facebook and twitter and all the other social media tools but they are all owned and controlled by private entities which are more concerned about ad revenues than putting out factual info.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Percy,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Not sure that you are showing your age, but you are showing a desire to get the information right.

      Here on Raised on Hoecakes and the WordPress platform that we use, there are plugins that take a post that appears on the main website and posts it to social media. The plugins all charge for posting to multiple social media accounts (Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram, etc.,) and as we don’t derive any money from this blog, we aren’t looking to spend money on something like that.

      The point we are trying to make is that both one page at the EOC website and posts in social media are not incompatible. You can make it so that one voice posts on the main EOC page and that post automatically hits social media. After Dorian, we know of at least several people who suggested that to various County Commissioners and were rejected. Even the idea that you bring forth was of one source was rejected.

      Being first to post something on social media should never outweigh being right.

      When the head of the EOC and County Manager Abate both say “we have some things we need to correct,” this mixed messages fiasco was one that should not have needed to have been corrected.

      But we agree with you – one page, one voice, one source.

      From there, the info can “spider out” to social media.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

  3. Carla says:

    Thank you for the article. I agree with you; if the Sheriff has nothing to hide, why is he keeping the details of his budget hidden? He is not only disrespecting our local newspaper, he is disrespecting all the citizens who need this information to have an informed opinion on his budget. For a sheriff to not even honor the FOIA requests for his budget detail in a timely manner as required by law makes me wonder why he would stoop so low. If Florida Today would have received the information in time to share it with the public prior to the Final Budget Hearing, that would have been enlightening.

    I especially wonder why Rita Pritchett, who is said to be a certified public accountant, wouldn’t want to see the details. That, to me, would destroy any credibility she might have as a CPA. But then, I looked on the FLorida DBPR website, and cannot find her listed as having a CPA license. Is she a CPA in another state? Is her license listed under another name? What’s going on here? Remember, Reagan said “Trust, but verify.”

    Also, that all the County Commissioners think that the sheriff deserves special recognition for his service during Hurricane Dorian when his actions caused confusion makes me wonder what’s wrong with the County Commissioners.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Carla,

      Thank you as always for the comment.

      We want to address this:

      But then, I looked on the FLorida DBPR website, and cannot find her listed as having a CPA license. Is she a CPA in another state? Is her license listed under another name?

      We were able to find Pritchett’s license at the Florida DPBR site. Hopefully this link works, but it does not seem to be a link that “times out:” Rita Pritchett CPA License.

      We took a screen shot of the page and you can click here to see it. (It will open in a new window.)

      On the off chance that there are multiple “Rita Pritchet’s” running around, we checked the address on the license and it matches that of the documents she filed with the Brevard Supervisor of Elections when she ran for office.

      We’re satisfied that we have the correct “Pritchett.”

      The license license is current, active and good until December 31, 2020.

      We agree with you. The lack of transparency and accountability on the Sheriff’s budget is troubling and wrong. The fact that the County Commissioners who always talk about “transparency” are essentially letting this go without seeing the budget is mind boggling.

      The vote to blow past the MSTU limit to give the Sheriff’s office more money was taken on July 23, 2019.

      That’s over 2 months ago.

      Are we as citizens expected to believe that a line item budget cannot be prepared in a sixth of a year?

      Why are the Commissioners abandoning their responsibilities for oversight and transparency?

      We believe these questions need to be answered.

      In addition, Sheriff Ivey has filed paperwork to run for re-election next year.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      A. Afterwit.

      • Carla says:

        Thank you for pointing out that Rita Pritchett’s license is on the DBPR website. I have now found it online, too. I think I was in too big of a hurry this morning and made a typo when entering her name. Sorry about that.

        • AAfterwit says:

          Carla,

          Thanks again for the comment.

          We have always said that the only people that don’t make mistakes are the ones who aren’t doing anything.

          We wanted to set the record straight as we didn’t want anyone to think that we (or you) were making a false claim against Pritchett.

          The fact that you tried to look up the license initially shows that you aren’t willing to accept things without checking. We believe that is a good thing. That’s why we try to put links to everything that we do here. There is an element to us of trying to convince people or persuade them, but we would rather people look at the info and come to their own conclusions.

          Thanks again.

          A. Afterwit.

          PS – as a side note, if we had a nickel for every mistake we have made as a group, we’d all be rich. 🙂

  4. Pam LaSalle says:

    Considering possible motivations or possible conflicts of interest, has anyone investigated whether Sheriff Ivey has any ownership in the Space Coast Daily publication?

    • AAfterwit says:

      Pam LaSalle,

      Thank you for your comment.

      We are unaware of any relationship between Space Coast Daily and Sheriff Ivey.

      The officers of Maverick Multimedia LLC who owns and publishes Space Coast Daily can be found here.

      The page lists three “partners” including Dr. Jim Palermo, Giles Malone, and Joshua Adams.

      The incorporation papers found at the State of Florida’s “sunbiz.org” portal lists Palermo as the agent for the company.

      In other words, if there is a connection, we can’t find it.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

      • Pam LaSalle says:

        A. Afterwit,

        I appreciate you checking, thank you for clearing that up.

        Pam LaSalle

        • AAfterwit says:

          Pam LaSalle,

          You’re welcome.

          We had not considered that there might be a link so you bringing up the question was something that we think needed to be looked into.

          Thanks again.

          A. Afterwit.

top