Friday, June 12, 2015

Probable Caustic - Ethics hearing and my date with Joseph Barbetta. He didn't bring me a corsage.

Friday, June 5, 2015, Tallahassee, FL @ the First District Court of Appeals, I finally had my day in court to hear the ethic's complaint I had filed against former Sarasota County Commissioner Joseph Barbetta. You may read the complaint HERE if you are interested. It was a closed session, meaning, I was alone. I felt like I was checking in to the dentist to get all of my teeth yanked out.  Joe was lucky enough to have his attorney there to hold his hand and spent his time laughing gaily in the rotunda while I doodled and read USA Today while waiting for my case to be heard.

Hush, hush, voices carry,

Doodle of Doofus.
Joe didn't see me enter the rotunda and I positioned myself diagonally behind the large column from where he was sitting. Talking and sound have a strange way of bouncing when sitting in a giant rotunda so I was privy to his almost nonstop babble to his attorney. I heard him at one point begin to talk about the recent Sarasota City Commission runoff race and overheard him say "the Republican candidates weren't any good for the city." Before I could stop myself I had jumped up, walked around the rotunda and pointed my finger at him and said "That was so very amusing." As I turned around, his attorney asked Joe "Who was that?" Joe replied, "I don't know, I never saw her before."

Which goes to show you that Joe will lie about anything, anytime, anywhere and about the most stupid things too.I imagine, Joe is that type of person who as a child, during my babysitting years, you'd find one Oreo left, so you'd ask the kid "Binky, did you eat all of those Oreos?" And Binky replies "No" in a squeaky little voice. Some people are just born liars and Joe, I am certain, is of that genetic makeup for sure.  It's OK, he can't help himself.  I'll give him that much.  

While I was flipping through USA Today and enjoying my eavesdropping, I stumbled upon a headline which read like a fortune cookie that I had just cracked open.  Talk about applicable for what was about to begin.  I ripped the headline out just for shits and giggles and held on to it for later.

We were told to be there at 10 and when I asked the assistant if she knew when our case was going to be heard she informed me it was going to be a short hearing which immediately implied to me that old Joey had it the bag. Just like the cartoon to the left, "predictable plot" for sure.  I mean, I went in there expecting nothing and my apathy was resolved so at that point I was just hopeful we were going to get out of there before 5PM; I had a road trip I wanted to get to. Thankfully we were seen before the lunch break and the hearing took no longer than getting a colonoscopy and felt less invasive I guess, but in comparison, this hearing was way more of a shit show then having your colon probed.  I digress as usual.

The Florida Commission on Ethics posted the following press release, cut and pasted below. However, this press release fails to mention that three of the nine commissioners found probable cause in relation to the stocks that Mr. Barbetta failed to disclose ownership on while he was voting as a Commissioner in favor for the companies he owned stock in. The ethic's members wanted to discuss Joe's lack of transparency but the new Chair insisted that she had already made a motion and had a second and refused to let the three members continue with their discussion.  She shut them down quickly.

Findings: The Commission considered a complaint filed against Sarasota County Commissioner JOSEPH A. BARBETTA, finding no probable cause on eight allegations: that he voted on measure that benefited his wife; that he had a conflicting contractual relationship with a company while the company was doing business with the County; that he accepted compensation, payment, or a thing of value which was meant to influence his vote; that he violated financial disclosure laws by filing an incomplete 2012 CE Form 6 financial disclosure form; that he voted on a matter inuring to the special private gain or loss of a company in which he held stock; that he had a conflicting contractual relationship with a company while it was doing business with the County; that he had a voting conflict when he voted on a matter involving an entity, whose stock he owned; and that he had a conflicting contractual relationship by virtue of his stock ownership while the company was doing business with the County. (Online press release available here).

Couldn't say it better!
Slick Joey waiting
for his limo.
Upon completion of this epic waste of civic involvement, Joe and his attorney walked out first, I followed.  I walked up to Joe and told him congratulations or maybe we fist bumped (just kidding!). I think I shook his hand and then said "Joe I have something for you."   As I handed him the headline shown here, he said "What is it?" and his attorney reached for it as well and took it, so it was sort of a simultaneous exchange of three hands.  I don't know if he thought I was trying to serve him a subpoena or give him Ebola but he seemed a bit freaked out when I was trying to hand it to him. I'd have to say, in my humble opinion, he's a bit of a wussy. After the hand off, I told them to have a great day and walked out of the building to wait for my ride.  Meanwhile Joe followed and I only got this shot of him because I was on the phone by the time he got into his shiny black limo.  I gave him the peace sign.

Without this trail, I could not have the opportunity to thank Joe Barbetta for my very fun road trip of the Panhandle.  I went to St. George Island State Park, an amazing piece of Mother Earth and had a hell of a bike ride and an entire beach to ourselves, no one was there.  We visited Apalachicola a place know for its oysters and who have suffered greatly from the recent gulf oil spill along with water problems due to our neighbor state Georgia using so much water for farming and that damn fertilizer runoff.  We finished up with a tube ride on the Ichetucknee, which I highly recommend.  It's a canopy covered spring with a swift but pretty safe current, the clearest water and all there is to do is tube and watch the world go by.

Personally, I think the Commission on Ethic's in the State of Florida is pretty much a joke.  The attorney who had been assigned to my case earlier this year phoned me to tell me he had begun to research my case and then asked me "Who told you about Mr. Barbetta's stock options?"  I immediately was defensive because the implication from this attorney was that I was working as an agent for someone.  It really pissed me off and I told him that there are some of us in Sarasota who do watch the county minutes that are available for public consumption and that other citizens had brought it up way before I had filed my complaint.  I asked him to only write to me if he had a question about my case because I did not trust him to have conversations on the phone.  

And if these flunky, yes, flunky attorneys had done their job at the Commission on Ethics, they could have Googled numerous publications related to Joe Barbetta, his taking a "volunteer" role at SANCA, unpaid (because he's so benevolent) but he is considering a job with SANCA in the future.  Well, Mr. Barbetta better wait the two year period, that is Florida law, as an elected official, he cannot take a paid job with a client who he has voted many recorded favors for.  Also if the attorneys had taken the time the will see clearly that Joe Barbetta's wife and her event company Mary Kenealy Events continues to be the sole event provider for all of the big shit events coming to the Benderson Slush Fund Water Park.  I love the fact that she has written on her website "Mary Kenealy is widely recognized as one of the preeminent event planners in the nation." Which just goes to show how distorted the Barbetta's personal views of importance about themselves are.  Sorry, just sayin'.
In case you are wondering what the legal meaning of Probable Cause, it's a level of reasonable belief; Probable cause is a level of reasonable belief, based on facts that can be articulated, that is required to sue a person in civil court or to arrest and prosecute a person in criminal court. Before a person can be sued or arrested and prosecuted, the civil plaintiff or police and prosecutor must possess enough facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the claim or charge is true.  
Insert Rocky Theme please, I need some uplifting.

Oh yes, there will be more complaints coming soon, about Carlos Beruff, Mike Moran, Eric Robinson, Christine Robinson, the hiring of the SRQ Homelessness Director, Susan Nilon selling out, 390 PR's Walmart efforts, cows in Myakka, Pat Neal ruining a swath of nature in Venice and more.

Do I offer solutions,  most likely not.  But at least I won't feed you bullshit like the other a-holios I referenced in the prior paragraph.  

Yours Truly,

Adrien  Lucas 

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