TC Palm Editorial
November 30, 2017
This week marked a low point in Martin County’s history.
Two county commissioners (one sitting, Ed Fielding, and one former, Anne Scott) were indicted Tuesday by a grand jury and charged with criminal violations of Florida’s public records laws.
A third, County Commissioner Sarah Heard, was charged with a non-criminal violation the same day. She entered a plea of not guilty.
We will know more details of the alleged crimes after the grand jury investigation is complete.
For now, we know this: The charges are likely to disrupt the Martin County Commission and undermine public trust for years to come.
At best, the three accused county commissioners appear to have been sloppy in their handling of emails pertaining to public business. The courts will determine if any of them were deliberately deceptive.
The charges stem from a lawsuit filed by the owners of the controversial Lake Point rock mine in western Martin County, owned in part by Palm Beach billionaire George Lindemann (who has donated heavily to the campaigns of commissioners Ed Ciampi and Doug Smith). Lake Point — which originally was pitched as a polo development and later got approval for rock mining — alleged the county destroyed, altered and delayed producing requested public records pertaining to the project.
Martin County initially was cleared of this accusation in fall 2015. But in April 2016, a new trial was ordered after emails were discovered between then-Commissioner Scott and former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla.
Meanwhile, Heard maintained she couldn’t reveal any public records on her personal Yahoo email account because it had been hacked and all of her emails and contacts were deleted. That defense rang hollow to an arbitrator in the case, who called it “suspicious, bizarre and less than credible.” [READ MORE]