Anne Scott, Sarah Heard Back in Spotlight
Just as Indiantown begins to straighten itself out, Port Salerno and Jupiter Island take its place for political shenanigans.
It’s no surprise that the two politicians largely responsible for the turmoil now in these two distinctly different communities are Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard and former Martin County and now-Jupiter Island Commissioner Anne Scott.
Together, and with former county commissioner Ed Fielding to form a majority, they cost the county millions of dollars from court sanctions and lawsuit settlements for their reckless decisions over 2012-2016.
They had flagrantly ignored property rights to do what they wanted, then snubbed the state’s public records laws to keep their actions secret, outdoing even former-Indiantown Village Manager Howard W. Brown Jr. and his lackeys who caused village records to vanish.
Scott now tops even her own record at Martin County, where she — a retired associate circuit court judge in Chicago — failed to disclose to the Martin County Circuit Court a secret email address she used on her private computer to circumvent Florida’s public records laws.
That one lie cost the county $503,000 in sanctions, but did not cost Scott a dime. The lawsuit was against the county, not against the commissioner who violated state law.
Scott and her council majority went on to cost the county another estimated $20 to $30 million in settlements and legal fees, but again Scott escaped unscathed.
Even when two separate grand juries indicted Scott on four criminal misdemeanor counts for allegedly violating Florida’s strict public records laws, she paid nothing out of pocket.
The charges were dropped because the state attorney was prevented from presenting evidence from other trials, or to refer to other convictions or settlements.
As a result, Assistant State Attorney Ryan Butler felt he could not get a conviction on limited evidence. (The jury in Sarah Heard’s public records trial found that the state had not presented sufficient evidence to convict.)
Butler recommended to the judge that the charges against Scott (and then-Commissioner Ed Fielding) be dismissed.
Since the charges were dropped — Scott was not absolved of guilt, contrary to her claims otherwise — the county had to pay Scott’s legal fees of more than $250,000, although the case never went to trial.
The lesson Scott apparently took from her Martin County experience was that she’s immune to any consequences for violating Florida’s public records laws.
She continues to ignore them, and apparently gives counsel to other Jupiter Island commissioners and town appointees also to ignore public records laws AND the property rights of Jupiter Island citizens.
(Three landowners have been fighting for three years after being granted building permits and gaining approvals for their projects to actually begin building.)
Lawsuits now are being filed against individual commissioners for public records violations, as well as against the town for misusing the courts to delay action. One commissioner eventually resigned and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Currently, six lawsuits are active, one of which is against the mayor for her refusal to comply with a court order to turn over her computer and cell phone for a forensic examination after complying only partially to a public records request.
Tonight, Scott will push for the passage of an indemnity ordinance that will provide additional insurance coverage above the $1 million policy already provided by the town, with few guardrails to prevent abuse.
In fact, Scott insists that all legal fees incurred by resigned commissioners or appointees to the Impact Review Committee and the Board of Adjustment, who also were sued for public records violations, also be reimbursed, as well as any settlements paid.
Guilty or not, makes no difference, just settle and the town should reimburse the cost, Scott insists.
The town could become instantly liable for millions of dollars as these cases wend their way through the courts.
Scott often says that Florida’s Sunshine and public records laws “are not a shield (for commissioners), but a sword,” which clearly demonstrates her lack of understanding of the laws’ intent.
Florida’s Sunshine and public records laws were created to protect the public’s right to know what their elected officials are doing — not to shield elected or appointed officials from exposure for their wrongdoing.
Contrary to Scott, who continues to write inflammatory emails that reveal her soiled motives, Sarah Heard learned not to put anything in writing that she does not want the public to know.
She demonstrated that skill in Heard’s relationship over the past year with Port Salerno’s most-hated developer, Corey Crowley, but her history reveals Heard’s nefarious intentions regardless.
Watch for Part 2 tomorrow, “Sarah Heard Taps a Stranger to Torpedo Port Salerno.”