I am writing as a second generation Floridian, whose family has paid and continues to pay Franklin County property taxes over the past six decades. While my roots may not go back as far as some who lived here for generations, I have had the opportunity to have grown up locally, served my country in the armed forces, attended both Florida flagship universities, earned a graduate degree, and have had the opportunity to have lived and worked in other parts of the country. I have retained a special appreciation of the unique qualities of the Big Bend coast communities.
I therefore would like to comment on the issues several letters written recently, critiquing the county’s group of concerned taxpayers whose primary interest is only in an open and efficiently-run county government.
I personally know there are many amazing and dedicated hardworking folks working for the county who deserve our support. We all deserve the best from the local government to whom we have paid our hard earned dollars for their services. The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County doesn’t have a vendetta against the clerk of courts or the county commissioners; it has a mission to improve the transparency of the county governance. I have observed citizens in a official county meetings asking legitimate questions, treated unprofessionally, with disrespect, by a commissioner on more than one occasion. The taxpayers of this county have the right and deserve to be informed, without the attempted official oppression of speech.
With regard to the recent letter written by the clerk of courts, the federal statutes, according to The First Amendment Foundation, allow a citizen the freedom to criticize a public official and in this case an elected government official. Also, in the 2014 Florida legislative session an “anti-SLAPP”(strategic lawsuits against public participation) statute was enacted that further protects Florida citizens from official oppression of free speech by public officials.
A truly independent audit of the clerk’s office by the state auditor general was previously available to the county at no cost and would have only helped to remove legitimate concerns regarding the fiscal operations of that office following the largest theft of public funds over a number of years in the history of that office. At a recent meeting of the county commissioners, a motion to pursue that option was met by silence, staring at the ceiling, and deference by four out of the five commissioners, so it is with concern that I write this letter. Perhaps the four commissioners knew something the rest of us don’t know. Good or bad, we would have liked to have heard something from our elected stewards of our county government why an offer to provide greater transparency was rejected.
While it may not always be easy holding a public office, try rather than criticizing those who are asking hard questions, being thankful that some are doing a thankless job of asking for a better FranklinCounty.
Original article here.