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Thu Mar 29, 2012, 04:53 PM

Posted another entry on daily kos: Anti-Government Corruption Probes [View all]

Anti-Government Corruption Probes Ė Why does Central Florida Keep Getting A Pass?
By the Baitball Blogger

Are the parameters for anti-corruption probes too narrow, leaving large areas exempt from scrutiny? In Florida I think the obvious answer is yes. Especially in Central Florida. I live in Seminole County and Iíve spent a good part of the last ten years researching a community development matter which never passed the stink test. It was something that should have caught the attention of the authorities, but never did. Since then Iíve tried to understand why, but like most things in Florida, it defies logic.

Around here, political witch hunts are the closest thing we have to anti-corruption probes and itís just not enough. Instead of selecting politicians who have fallen from favor, what we really need is a good shake up which digs deep to get rid of the local operatives who use ethics like a bargaining chip. Until that happens the reality we live with is that it doesnít take much to lower the ethical standards in our communities.

Itís easiest to witness at the bottom of the political spectrum through the actions of the officers who serve on Homeowner Association boards. Too often, their decisions have no legal foundation and no one seems to be concerned about getting slapped for breaches of fiduciary responsibility.

Itís not hard to see why theyíre fearless. This kind of offense is considered small fry to legal authorities who expect homeowners to file a civil lawsuit to resolve these matters locally. Itís a crazy system that for a number of reasons, doesnít work. Yet, the legal authorities wonít get involved even when the actions of the Homeowners board were influenced by government misconduct, which is what sometimes happens when the issue involves a community development matter.

Think of the impossible situation this creates for a homeowner if they now have this added hurdle to overcome through the civil courts. When a government body is involved, young attorneys are quick to recognize the potential career gamble. They not only have to face the Associationís attorney, but any politically connected attorney who plans to represent the city government.

Older and more seasoned lawyers have other problems that may create issues for the homeowner. Many people assume that a lawyer will disclose potential conflicts of interest, but this revelation may be discovered late in the process so the cost to start over puts the entire experience beyond the resources of an ordinary homeowner.

This is the reason why this kind of situation should be handled by anti-corruption units, but it never happens.

Letís see where their attention has been directed:

In 2009 when Governor Charlie Crist requested approval for a 12 month grand jury corruption investigation, the Florida Supreme Court denied his request until he refiled and specified that it ďÖwas necessary in response to a wave of corruption cases focused in South Florida.Ē (See Footnote 1)

And in 2011 the FBI began its own crackdown on government corruption, but its focal point was Tallahassee. Their explanation: ďSince itís the capital and the home of Floridaís Legislature and numerous state agencies, any public corruption there, has the potential to have consequences on a much broader scale than similar corruption in a smaller town or county.Ē (See Footnote 2)

I would have to disagree with that assessment. From a homeownerís point of view, corruption which is closer to home causes more personal hardship BECAUSE nobody in authority is paying attention.

The best way that I can describe the effect of their omission is to compare it to a malpractice case that was published in a Florida paper years ago under the title, ďHer cancer signs were ignored.Ē The patient experienced chronic distress but was called a whiner because the blood work came in within the acceptable, normal range. What everyone failed to notice was that the indicators were on the low end of normal, and steadily dropping. Those doctors didnít just ignore the negative pattern, they also missed that narrow window of opportunity where they could have done something to prevent an absolute travesty from developing.

When the FBI concluded that the cancer which festers in small towns was not worth their attention, they committed the same kind of error in judgment which generally lands a physician in court due to malpractice. That kind of omission has consequences.

We all have seen the evidence. Without the FBIís attentive presence and oversight, local government becomes lax, creating an environment where process and procedure gets bypassed to expedite personal agendas. Before you know it, everyone else catches on and understands that no one will come after them if they routinely cut corners. Thatís how corruption becomes endemic in a community. Thatís what inspires the kind of hubris we find on Homeowner Association boards where officers make self-serving decisions that have no supporting legal foundations.

When you allow this kind of thing to go on for too long, no one should be surprised when the unthinkable travesty takes place that catches the national attention. Case in point: the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Even though George Zimmerman pulled the trigger, as of this writing, itís the Sanford Police Department which will be facing an investigation. Thatís because no one can believe that a police department, and maybe the state attorneyís office, could have possibly overlooked so many procedural steps in a case that involved a shooting. Nobody, that is, except those of us who live here and have been decrying the state of our local government agencies for years.

So I petition the FBI to reconsider its position and find a way to help homeowners who live in small towns across Florida, by getting more involved in cases which involve government malfeasance. This is the kind of misconduct which stretches into our communities, often filtering in through our Homeowner Association boards. Itís hard to believe that no one has thought to take local corruption seriously before now, since it doesnít just destroy our trust in our local leaders, it also lowers the quality of life for too many people. As Americans citizens, we deserve better from our local and state leaders.

Footnote 1: Josh Hafenbrack, Crist, state Supreme Court agree on need for anti-corruption probe, Orlando Sentinel, Political Pulse, December 3, 2009.

Footnote 2: http://tallahasseeo.com/2012/03/06/fbi-cracks-down-on-rampant-government-corruption-in-tallahassee-florida-needs-tips-from-the-public/

Visit www.keystoneworksite.com for the personal research used to support the position in this diary entry.

Daily kos link: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/03/29/1078945/-Anti-Corruption-Government-Probes-Why-does-Central-Florida-Keep-Getting-A-Pass-

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