Just Say “No.” Part II

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we wrote this post, it bloomed into something that is over 4000 words, which is far too long for any post – even if you have time to read it during the current pandemic. It’s too long to get through with one cup of coffee and we don’t want to be accused of creating or feeding caffeine addictions.

This is part two of a two part series. You can find part one here.

(That’s assuming we haven’t been arrested.)

Another incident of Ivey and the BCSO being above the law when a citizen was summarily removed from a press conference being held concerning the COVID-19 pandemic being held in a public area. Ivey stood by while his officer illegally removed the person. The BCSO later “defended” the action by saying they have to do what the County Commission tells them to do. In this case, Commissioner Brian Lober demanded that the person, who was not creating a disturbance, be removed. We always thought that the oath Ivey and his officers took was to the US Constitution, the State of Florida Constitution, and the local laws and not blindly follow the directions of a Commissioner.

When we wrote about this incident, we noted:

In the case of Smith v. City of Cumming, Georgia (2000), the Eleventh Circuit (which covers the State of Florida) held:

The First Amendment protects the right to gather information about what public officials do on public property, and specifically, a right to record matters of public interest. See Blackston v. Alabama, 30 F.3d 117, 120 (11th Cir.1994) (finding that plaintiffs’ interest in filming public meetings is protected by the First Amendment); Fordyce v. City of Seattle, 55 F.3d 436, 439 (9th Cir.1995) (recognizing a “First Amendment right to film matters of public interest”); Iacobucci v. Boulter, No. CIV.A. 94-10531, 1997 WL 258494 (D.Mass, Mar. 26, 1997) (unpublished opinion) (finding that an independent reporter has a protected right under the First Amendment and state law to videotape public meetings); see also United States v. Hastings, 695 F.2d 1278, 1281 (11th Cir.1983) (finding that the press generally has no right to information superior to that of the general public) (citing Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 609, 98 S.Ct. 1306, 55 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978)); Lambert v. Polk County, 723 F.Supp. 128, 133 (S.D.Iowa 1989) (“[I]t is not just news organizations … who have First Amendment rights to make and display videotapes of events….”); Thompson v. City of Clio, 765 F.Supp. 1066, 1070-71 (M.D.Ala.1991) (finding that city council’s ban on member’s attempt to record proceedings regulated conduct protected by the First Amendment); cf. Williamson v. Mills, 65 F.3d 155 (11th Cir.1995) (reversing district court’s grant of qualified immunity to a law enforcement officer who seized the film of and arrested a participant in a demonstration for photographing undercover officers). Thus, the district court erred in concluding that there was no First Amendment right. (emphasis ours)

Burns’ right to be at the meeting / press conference is well established law. There is no need for any “investigation” as to the legality of this matter at all. The law is clear.

Returning to Barnett’s email:

It is my understanding that the meeting in question was for credentialed media only and that you were not properly credentialed.

Burns disputes that assertion as he says he showed his credentials yet in the long run, it doesn’t matter.

Once again, referring to the opinion of the 11th Circuit:

  • The First Amendment protects the right to gather information about what public officials do on public property, and specifically, a right to record matters of public interest.
  • finding that an independent reporter has a protected right under the First Amendment and state law to videotape public meetings
  • finding that the press generally has no right to information superior to that of the general public
  • [I]t is not just news organizations … who have First Amendment rights to make and display videotapes of events….”

This is another case where Ivey stood by while established Constitutional law was being broken, and then his subordinates tried to defend the illegal actions that were taken.

In our opinion, that is unacceptable on many levels and shows the issue with Ivey and the people he leads.

Then there is the case of Lee Edward Anderson, an Air Force contractor who is suing the BCSO and Ivey after a 2018 traffic stop by a Deputy Sheriff Zachary Ferreira was shown to false and illegal.

Anderson was pulled over for an alleged faulty license plate light. Ferreria said that he saw Anderson throw something from the car. Additional officers arrived on the scene and they claim to have “found” a baggie with crack cocaine in it. The officers asked to search Anderson’s car and he refused. Officers searched it anyway and found nothing.

State Attorney Phil Archer refused to charge Anderson:

On February 14, 2018 State Attorney Phil Archer’s Office dismissed the charges against Anderson, indicating that prosecutors thought that evidence was insufficient to take the case to court.

“This case underwent a careful and thorough review by experienced prosecutors to determine if they reasonably believed the alleged crime could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial,” State Attorney spokesman Todd Brown said in a statement to FLORIDA TODAY.

“When that process found the required evidence was not sufficient, prosecutors were ethically and legally obligated not to pursue prosecution of the defendant. While there was sufficient probable cause to arrest the defendant, the standard of proof required to prevail at trial, is significantly higher,” Brown said.

According to State Attorney’s Office, review of the footage from the BCSO patrol car did not show anything being tossed from Anderson’s vehicle as alleged by deputy Ferreira.

“Nothing could be seen being thrown from the defendant’s motor vehicle on the in-car video. Additionally, the defendant denied throwing anything from his motor vehicle and provides no further admissions. Under these circumstances, absent additional independent evidence, there was no reasonable likelihood of successful prosecution,” Brown added.

Deputy Ferreira’s conduct “was objectively unreasonable and violated the clearly established rights of (Anderson) under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and 42 USC 1983, to be free from stop, detention and interrogation in the absence of probable cause,” the lawsuit alleges. (emphasis ours)

A further review of the dash-cam footage from Ferreira’s police car showed the license plate light working.

While we can’t hold Ivey accountable for the actions of Ferreira and the other deputies who appear to have fabricated “evidence,” we can and should hold Ivey accountable for the pervasive attitude in the BCSO of being above the law as shown by this case.

There is also the case of Gregory Edwards:

Gregory Lloyd Edwards, a 38-year-old army medic who served in Iraq and Kosovo, was arrested in West Melbourne about 11:30 a.m. Dec. 9. Officers had been called to Walmart Supercenter on Palm Bay Road to investigate reports of a man acting erratically and jumping into a truck packed with Christmas toys.

Kathleen Edwards says the sheriff’s office has not responded fully to requests for information about her husband’s death.

Gregory Lloyd Edwards, a 38-year-old army medic who served in Iraq and Kosovo, was arrested in West Melbourne about 11:30 a.m. Dec. 9. Officers had been called to Walmart Supercenter on Palm Bay Road to investigate reports of a man acting erratically and jumping into a truck packed with Christmas toys.

By 2:45 p.m. the same day, Brevard County Fire Rescue paramedics were called to the county jail. They found Edwards unconscious and without a pulse. He initially had been moved from booking to the jail’s medical building.

An investigation by the Florida Today shows at least 14 violations of BCSO policies the day of Edwards’ death.

Other medical examiners have called into question Edwards’ listed cause of death:

Dr. Stephen J. Nelson — the chief medical examiner for Florida’s 10th Medical Examiner’s District and the chair of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Medical Examiners Commission — said his review of the autopsy report suggests that Edwards’ death was likely a homicide and not an accident as the Brevard medical examiner ruled earlier this year. He also said that the Brevard medical examiner failed to determine what exactly killed Edwards.

FDLE was called in to investigate the death only to find that the BCSO had initiated its own investigation which meant that FDLE was precluded by law from doing its own investigation.

Was the BCSO investigation an “accident” of sorts or a planned maneuver to keep other neutral and unbiased law enforcement agencies from looking into the conduct of BCSO officers that day?

That answer is speculation, but what is not speculation is that there is a video tape of the incident taken from within the jail.

Ivey has refused to release the video.

What stands out the most and should concern everyone is, why doesn’t the Brevard County Sheriff release the video they have of the altercation in the booking area? The Sheriff contends that everything was justified. If it is justified as the Sheriff says, why not just release the video and let people see what happened.

Trust in government, trust in law enforcement, trust in our institutions is what is at stake. Give the public the opportunity to make up their own minds and gain trust along the way. I can not think of a reason that is more powerful than the public trust to NOT release the video.

This was a perfect opportunity for the Sheriff to break down the “Us against Them” mentality some communities have with law enforcement. The Sheriff was given the opportunity to show the public that his department is transparent; why the Sheriff did the reverse is confusing to many. This incident smacks of a coverup when there might not be one.

The video wouldn’t explain why the jail staff didn’t follow their own policies, but at least the public would get an idea of why it took seven officers, pepper spray, six taser shots, and multiple blows to get one inmate under control.

Let the public see why a decorated army veteran lost his life for having a PTSD episode and was obviously NOT of sound mind. The public would still feel bad for Edwards, but they would also see and understand the difficulties the deputies had.

If these examples of law breaking and lack of transparency does not convince you that Ivey should not take over as the head of Brevard County Emergency Management, there are two other factors to consider.

Last year during Hurricane Dorian, Ivey overstepped his roles and boundaries – roles and boundaries that he had agreed to as part of the Emergency Management team

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.

During emergencies, it is important that there is one “voice” from government officials.

Ivey was not that official and his announcements created confusion amongst county officials and county residents.

We would say that had someone under Ivey done something similar, that person would be reprimanded or fired. Yet because Ivey seems to be more concerned with being seen, it appears that “one voice” doesn’t apply to him.

To us, that is very troubling when a person who has shown a disdain for organization planning and hierarchy now wants to sit at the top of that hierarchy.

Finally, there is the fact that Ivey hates the FloridaToday.

To be honest with you, we aren’t thrilled with the paper either and believe they have a definite bias, but we aren’t elected officials and we aren’t hoping to get messages out to the public in times of emergency.

In the case of hurricane Dorian and Ivey’s pronouncements which caused confusion, the FloridaToday wrote:

Ivey declined to be interviewed for this story. In response to a series of written questions from FLORIDA TODAY, Ivey wrote: “While Sheriff Wayne Ivey and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office are always willing to answer questions and work closely with our great partners in the media who work hard every day to accurately report the news, we do not under any circumstances respond to questions from the Florida Today.”

So Ivey won’t answer questions from the largest newspaper in the county?

In that the head of the Brevard County Emergency Management office would be charged with speaking to or having people speak in their name, as the head of the office, Ivey would decline to speak to FloridaToday?

That’s petulant behavior worthy of a 5 year old.

And it’s not like that attitude didn’t continue. As we noted in post concerning a press conference where Ivey spoke about an investigation no one was asking about and did not result in any indictments or charges:

So why the press conference?

When is the last time you remember an investigation being made on a relatively low profile case where the Sheriff came out and said “we can’t forward with charges?” When is the last time you remember such a low level case closing without charges being announced by the Sheriff in a press conference and not the BCSO’s spokesperson?

A reporter from the Florida Today caught the same thing and had this exchange with Sheriff Ivey:

REPORTER: My question pertains to this investigation being led by the Sheriff. Sheriff Ivey, the investigation from my understanding is complete or is it still open?

IVEY: It’s complete.

REPORTER: And nobody was charged at the end of that.

IVEY: That’s correct.

REPORTER: So why are you here?

IVEY: Last time I checked, I’m the Sheriff and over the agency. Since you brought it up, haven’t you guys quoted Robert Burns before in the paper? Using him to define “civility?”

REPORTER: I’m not sure of that fact……

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.


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.

As we said, we can’t remember the last time an investigation of a low level crime where no one knew the investigation was taking place and the result was no charges being filed resulted in an appearance from the Sheriff.

It makes no sense to us at all.

The bottom line is that Wayne Ivey has shown a disdain for the law, a disdain for policies and procedures, a disdain for people with whom he disagrees and a disdain for the First Amendment.

With that in mind, can someone please tell us why in the heck the County Commission would even be considering Ivey for the head of the Brevard County Emergency Management Office, thereby giving him more power and unrestrained authority?

We can do better.

Just say “NO” to Ivey in this position.

One Response to “Just Say “No.” Part II”

  1. Carla says:

    I just want to thank you for bringing Ivey’s deficiencies to our attention at a time when the County Commissioners should not even be considering adding this new role to his duties. For all the reasons stated, and more, they should not give him more power. The Emergency Management Director position should go to the best qualified career professional, not to an elected official, and certainly not to Sheriff Ivey.

  2. […] We wrote a little bit about this case the other day, saying: […]