New facts surrounding Indiantown’s 2020 election

Going Back to 2020, Ready for 2024

Indiantown’s tumultuous 2020 village council election, marked by campaign smears with racial overtones, is again in the spotlight.

As Indiantown readies for yet another election in 2024 for the same two council seats as in 2020, the answers to many of the questions raised then can now be answered.

We take the closest look ever at Indiantown’s 2020 election shenanigans in this five-part series with lessons for all elected officials and their constituents, regardless of size or location of their governing bodies.

Part I: Two Council Members Implicated

New evidence uncovered by radio commentator K.C. Ingram during her two-part interview March 28 of political operative Robert Burns of Melbourne directly contradicts sworn statements to law enforcement by Indiantown Vice Mayor Guyton Stone. (Her interview can be found on the KC Ingram YouTube Channel.)

The evidence also casts a shadow over a signed elections office pledge by Councilwoman Janet Hernandez.

Prior to the Ingram on-air interview, Burns had revealed in a Brevard County Court’s sworn deposition in 2020 that he’d been hired by developer Brian West as campaign manager for Stone in his 2020 re-election bid for an Indiantown village council seat, which Stone has steadfastly denied.

Other than listing Guyton Stone’s mayoral campaign on his LinkedIn resume, no other references corroborated Burns’ claim — until now.

To prove to Ingram that Stone’s denials are false, Burns pulled up a dozen text messages from Stone still on his phone from August 2020, showing them during his March on-air interview to Ingram. She shared them with the public.

Stone’s denials about knowing Burns went beyond his social media posts, however.

Stone also swore under oath to Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigators in a recorded interview in April 2021 saying, “I managed my own campaign.”

Stone went further to say he had “never met Burns, outside of Facebook,” and he “did not know Brian West” outside of a village council workshop, according to FDLE’s recorded interview obtained through a public records request.

Lying to state law enforcement is a felony.

FDLE was drawn to Indiantown after they charged developer Brian West of Palm City in October 2020 with eight felony counts for an alleged bribery scheme to buy the votes of Palm Bay’s elected officials.

West needed their votes to rezone West’s property there, which would have allowed greater density and increased its value by an estimated $1 million, according to West’s arrest affidavit.

West pleaded not guilty and will go to trial in late 2023 or early 2024.

The investigation revealed West’s relationship to Burns, who told FDLE that West had paid him $7,000 of his $10,000 fee to manage Stone’s re-election campaign in Indiantown, where West had another development project.

One of Stone’s text messages to Burns was Stone’s address and a map to aid Burns in his first trip to Indiantown on August 5, 2020, where Burns says in his deposition that he met “the candidates and others.”

Other texts in August 2020 from Stone to Burns expressed Stone’s concern that Stone did “not want her to get in trouble” for Burns’ plan to publish the list online, using it for Stone’s campaign.

Of the three persons who received the Indiantown mailed-ballot voter list from the Martin County Elections Office, according to Elections Office records, only one was a woman, Councilwoman Janet Hernandez.

Thus the “her” referred to in Stone’s texts to Burns could only refer to Hernandez.

Burns posted a portion of the list of addresses in a social media post as part of his calculated smear campaign against Stone’s opponent and his supporters. The purpose seemed only to be harassment.

Burns also used fake Facebook profiles, fake advertisements, and fake newsletter headlines to undermine the candidacy of the highly popular Guy Parker, Stone’s opponent, who seemed to be overtaking the incumbent.

In the Ingram interview, Burns denies meeting Hernandez or any other person when he came to Indiantown, contradicting his own sworn deposition. Burns also told Ingram that anything he posted “was true, and I can prove it.”

For her part, Hernandez, who likely will run for re-election in 2024, also denied knowing Burns in her sworn statement to FDLE investigators. She also denied turning over the voter list to him.

It took a few years to put together the pieces of the puzzle as to why Brian West was so interested in Indiantown’s election that he would hire a campaign manager for Stone, because accessing Indiantown’s public records was a major hurdle until the council majority shifted in 2022.

Stone escaped perjury charges, which could carry a fine and jail time if convicted, because the statute of limitations had already expired before the alleged crime was revealed.

With West soon going to trial, more facts may be revealed regarding West’s involvement in Indiantown’s 2020 election. Only time will tell.

— Barbara Clowdus

Part 2: Tomorrow, watch for “Going Back to 2020 Election — Behind the Curtain.”