Of the local August 28th primary election races, perhaps none was more contentious than the District 4 County Commission race which pitted incumbent Republican Curt Smith against former District 3 Commissioner Trudie Infantini.
Local WMMB radio host Bill Mick put Smith on a pedestal and accused Infantini and her supporters of numerous conspiracy theories and just plain lying. Florida Today Editor Isadora Rangel accused Commissioner John Tobia of meddling in the race from the dais, and Florida Today Government Reporter Dave Berman described the race as a struggle for the “heart and soul of Brevard’s GOP”.
As someone who sat next to then-candidate Curt Smith as a fellow candidate in 2014 and listened to him misrepresent his positions to voters on issues like the Economic Development Commission of the Space Coast, and someone who has since filed numerous ethics complaints that were found to have merit, I have a different take on the race.
The race was a contest between the corrupt political establishment and the grassroots taxpayers. The corrupt establishment won. Here is their prize:
On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, District 4 Brevard County Commissioner sent two members of his paid commission staff to a Brevard Republican Party general election campaign strategy meeting at Perkins Restaurant at 8200 N Wickham Rd, Melbourne, FL 32940. The meeting ran from 8:30am until sometime after 10am. According to Brevard Republican Party Vice Chairman Nick Tomboulides and other attendees, the sole purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Republican strategy for the general election. Both employees were on the clock.
A photo taken by another attendee shows employee Pat Woodard in the white shirt center right, and employee Molly Tice center rear with the glasses. The Brevard Republican Party Chairman (standing, left of Tice), Vice Chairman and State Committeewoman were all present at the meeting.
Copies of the employees’ time cards show they were not on holiday or flex time that day. They were on the clock, at taxpayer expense.
It is my belief by sending taxpayer paid county staff to a meeting whose sole purpose was to discuss his (and other Republican officials) re-election in the general election, Commissioner Smith has violated Florida Statute 112.313, subsection 6, which states:
(6) MISUSE OF PUBLIC POSITION.—No public officer, employee of an agency, or local government attorney shall corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position or any property or resource which may be within his or her trust, or perform his or her official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for himself, herself, or others. This section shall not be construed to conflict with s. 104.31.
As a resident of Brevard County District 4, a precinct committeeman for the Republican Party of Brevard and a former candidate for office, I believe it is important for both Republican candidates and elected officials to follow the law and act in good faith when it comes to Florida Statute and the use of taxpayer resources.
This is not the first time Commissioner Smith has used county resources to promote his campaign for re-election. At a July 10th commission meeting Smith took the time to brag about his performance at the Republican Party of Brevard straw poll that took place a few days prior. Rep Randy Fine submitted a letter to State Attorney Phil Archer asking him to investigate the matter. Archer declined, and later issued a letter of his own, defending Smith and attacking Fine.
Commissioner Smith has also violated Florida Statute in the past by failing to properly complete his Form 6 financial statements. Smith stipulated to the violations and paid $1,750 in fines.
With this latest revelation, Commissioner Smith has now clearly established a pattern of behavior that shows he has either no understanding of the law and the ethical responsibilities that come with his office, or a complete disregard for them.
While Smith’s behavior comes as no surprise to those who opposed his re-election, you have to appreciate the irony he was endorsed by the two top law enforcement officials in Brevard County: Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, and State Attorney Phil Archer. Archer even closed his letter defending Smith’s promotion of his campaign from the dais with the following: “I will leave it up to the citizens of this community to decide if I have made the right decision.” I already knew the answer to that question, but what say you?
Will Archer now investigate Smith for this blatant violation of Florida statute? Will we see WMMB’s Bill Mick, who repeatedly made the District 4 race about character, condemn Smith’s latest ethical violations, or will he simply gloss over them and say it was just a simple mistake because Smith didn’t read the fine print, as he did with the Form 6 violations? Rather than continuing to attack Commissioner Tobia and Representative Fine for following through on their campaign promises, will Ms. Rangel pen a column about how elected officials shouldn’t be using taxpayer resources to get themselves re-elected?
I’m not holding my breath for any of the above. Neither should you.