Jupiter Island’s election results could doom us all

Breaking the Public Trust: Anne Scott’s Record Remembered

Anyone concerned about the state taking control of all local growth and development regulations should be wary of Jupiter Island Town Commission’s election outcome on Tuesday, March 21.

If candidate Anne Scott once again holds public office, Jupiter Island could well be the excuse the state needs to take local control from every jurisdiction statewide due to overreaching and unethical local leadership.

Just look at Scott’s record as a Martin County commissioner elected in 2012 and booted out in 2016.

Those four years were the most expensive, if not the most tumultuous, in Martin County’s history. Scott escaped unscathed, however, slithering out from under four criminal indictments by two grand juries for violating Florida’s public records laws.

Martin County taxpayers were left footing the bill, estimated to be approaching $50 million over the next 10 years or so in settlements, sanctions, outside attorney fees, concessions, commissioners’ attorney fees, and a legal department that doubled in size over the four years Scott was in office.

The county even had to pay hundreds of thousands in Scott’s own attorney fees, although her 4-count criminal case never made it to trial.

The charges against commissioners Scott, Ed Fielding and Sarah Heard were dropped by a retired judge (called in to preside) after a jury determined that the district attorney presented insufficient evidence to convict Heard on a similar public records charge as Scott’s.

The judge prohibited the jury in Heard’s criminal case from hearing evidence previously disclosed in the civil case against the Martin County commission, which resulted in $503,000 in sanctions against the county for violating state public records laws.

After the jury failed to convict Heard on the evidence the prosecutor presented, the judge dropped all the charges against all three commissioners, even though two of the counts against Scott were for refusing to turn over public records for months after the 2016 election, instead of the required 10 days.

The charges against Scott were not a part of the previous civil trial, yet were dropped anyway.

As Scott has done on Jupiter Island, she successfully gaslighted residents into believing the environment was at stake, hiding her actual motives, in multiple commission decisions. Their motives were not clearly revealed until after secret emails were exposed, as has happened on Jupiter Island.

Scott even hid one of her private email accounts to thwart the county’s search for public records, lying to the court to cover up its existence.

She also often repeated Maggy Hurchalla’s allegations against Lake Point as fact, although a jury subsequently found that all 11 claims by Hurchalla were false and lacked substance.

As a result, the jury subsequently ruled against Hurchalla, awarding $4.3 million to Lake Point after a week-long trial.

The accusations against Lake Point were simply inaccurate, as will likely be the case should the current cases bubbling on Jupiter Island ever make it before a jury. (One former Jupiter Island commissioner, Michael Brooks, considered to be Anne Scott’s protege, already resigned from the town commission and settled out of court with the landowners who filed suit for an undisclosed sum of money.)

Two additional lawsuits were filed against Martin County due to Scott’s and the commission majority’s actions that received far less attention than the Lake Point case.

Yet all three cases were similar in the commission majority’s deviousness, in their disdain for state Sunshine laws, and Scott’s abject refusal to conform to the Martin County Comprehensive Growth Management Plan — despite her accolades for the “award-winning Comp Plan.”

The Sheridan assisted living project on US 1 in Hobe Sound is the result of one such lawsuit. It first came before the Martin County commission in 2015 as a townhouse project requesting a mandatory rezoning, as required in the county’s Comp Plan.

Scott and the county commission majority denied the required rezoning, although the project met or exceeded all Comp Plan rules, even preserving a 50-foot buffer of native pine trees along the highway.

The result was a $6 million lawsuit against the county under the Bert J. Harris Act that protects landowners from government overreach.

To entice the landowner into dropping the suit, the county offered an approval for the assisted living facility, The Sheridan at Hobe Sound, plus 50 single family homes. Gone was the 50-foot buffer of established, native pines.

The deal required eight Comp Plan amendments specific to this project only, including a reduction of the wetlands buffer to 35 feet, instead of 50.

So much for the sanctity of the Martin County comprehensive plan if it conflicts with what Scott and her cronies want!

Another lawsuit was the result of an error by the county’s Growth Management Department in determining a development’s timeline. Scott argued that the application was no longer valid since the original deadline had passed by a few days.

The landowner sued under the estoppel principle, since he had followed the county’s written directives. The county lost.

Scott and the commission majority were even slicker in the Lake Point case. She helped stir public passions by claiming falsely that Lake Point’s wetlands were being destroyed, ignoring the county staff’s assertions that wetlands were not being harmed.

The owners had purchased the 2,000-acre Lake Point housing development and the adjoining 2,000-acre undeveloped parcel in 2008. Then Lake Point entered into a public-private agreement among Martin County and the South Florida Water Management District to turn the development into a water restoration project, as long as Lake Point could obtain the required state permits to mine rock.

It took two years of studies and public hearings for Lake Point to obtain the required permits from the state Environmental Protection Agency and SFWMD, which they turned into the county.

Lake Point launched its rock quarry and built a pilot project to test SFWMD’s theory that polluted water from the C-44 canal and Lake Okeechobee could be cleansed in Lake Point’s bottom-lined, limestone rock pits and sent south for drinking water and to help replenish the Everglades water flow.

The results exceeded engineers’ and scientists’ expectations, dropping phosphorous out of the entire water column to meet federal standards for water entering the Everglades. The SFWMD agreement with Lake Point stipulated that Lake Point would operate the project under SFWMD’s direction for 20 years, then deed it to the state.

When Lake Point applied to the county to vacate the previous housing development order, Scott and the commission majority denied it, although the county had already accepted the application and cashed the company’s check for the application fee.

Even more egregious, Heard directed the county staff with Scott’s vocal support to stop Lake Point’s mining operation and to inspect the project for code violations, not as a state-permitted rock quarry and water restoration project, but as a housing development!

Scott also ignored staff recommendations and testimonies, berating staff and landowners publicly at times if they disagreed with her pronouncements, and ignoring fact-based data in favor of popular opinion.

She takes the same approach on Jupiter Island as she did at Martin County.

To ensure the commission would always prevail in their actions, if not in court, she joined the commission majority in bringing a new attorney to the county, Michael Durham.

Scott’s already called for replacing Jupiter Island attorney Skip Randolph, who minces no words when it comes to whether or not town commission actions are legally defensible.

Anne Scott’s dysfunctional and destructive public service is a history Jupiter Island residents might do well to remember.

Barbara Clowdus, Publisher
Martin County Currents