Sticking its nose in other Brevard Co. Government agencies business is beginning to become a habit for the Brevard County Commission. Just like they attempted to sue the School Board, it is now positioning itself to choose sides against Scott Ellis, Brevard County Clerk of the Courts and his lawsuit against the Economic Development Commission.
Unclear as to who solicited this action, attorney Scott Knox has placed on the July 8th County Commission agenda a resolution in which he is requesting the board to consider filing an Amicus Curia brief in support of the Economic Development Commission. An Amicus Curia (friend of the court) is someone who is not a part to a case, who offers information that bears on the case but who has not been solicited by any of the parties to assist a court.
The stated reason for this proposed resolution is as follows:
The County Attorney’s Office has reviewed the final judgment entered by the Circuit Court in Ellis v. Economic Development Commission. After careful consideration, this office holds the opinion that the Final Judgment entered in the case is so sweeping, a District Court decision upholding the lower court ruling will result in precedent that will put Brevard County — and perhaps the entire State of florida–at a severe disadvantage when competing against other states, other economic development organizations and other local governments in their attempts to attract business. This office is concerned that the final judgment will allow another state, county, city of economic development organization to make public records requests of the Economic Development Commission that will expose a broad range of documents such as client contact lists; telephone records; sensitive email correspondence; and text messaging that will reveal EDC strategies, contracts and potential project information–particularly in situations where the EDC is engaged in exploratory discussions with prospects before any project has been confirmed and before any confidentiality agreement has been requested by a prospect.
This all began with the BlueWare scandal and Scott Ellis asking the EDC (who were very instrumental in bringing BlueWare to Brevard) for their records regarding their dealings with them. The EDC claimed that it would be a violation of their confidentiality agreement that they had with BlueWare so they refused to produce the records.
However, in regards to the EDC and according to their contract, the nonprofit company is a contractor whose “records, books and accounts” are subject to state public-records laws. Last November the Brevard County Commission voted unanimously to ask the EDC to release the documents requested by Ellis “to the extent it’s allowed by law.” At that same meeting, Scott Knox questioned whether those records could legally be released and suggested that the EDC seek a court ruling on the matter. Then in March of this year, Judge Moxley ruled that the EDC is subject to the Florida Public Records Act when working on behalf of the County as its economic development agency. The EDC is currently appealing that ruling.
So why is the Brevard County Attorney asking the County Commissioners to get involved in this case by requesting them to file an Amicus Curia? Is any of this setting off alarm bells with you? If not, it should be and here’s why……
- Judge Moxley’s ruling has NOT changed the state statute detailing what is public record…he only sustains the law. All privileged information will still remain protected so why do we need to invoke this vote from the county commissioners?
- Since the county attorney serves to the please of the board, who requested that he pursue this action and why? If he is doing this on his own, then it also begs the question as to why he continually is protecting the EDC.
- Should the EDC and Brevard County government be permitted to “cover-up” possible corrupt practices in the name of “growth and development” now or in the future?
- Was there someone else in the county that may have been involved or complicit in the embezzlement of clerk’s funds?
- Would the revelation of these documents somehow effect the upcoming county commission elections?
- Is it time to evaluate the mentality of our County management? Just who are they representing, we the people or their special interests?
Quoting Matt Reed, Florida Today, “You’ll only look as if you have something to hide, as the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast has shown in its court fight to seal records related to the BlueWare scandal.”
I, for one am disgusted with the lack of transparency in our government and all the cover-ups. I don’t understand why our elected commissioners and staff would want to keep it a secret on how they interact with organizations that receive and give away our tax money as business incentives. After all, it is OUR money, not theirs.
So I propose that rather than taking a vote for a Amicus Curia, how about it if the county commission take a vote to cut off the 1.4 million dollar subsidy to the EDC and remove the EDC employees off the County’s employee health insurance program? They could then operate as the private agency they want to be and would no longer have to be concerned about revealing any information that would come from future public records requests.
In the meantime, before the EDC claims to have a computer hard drive crash, like the IRS, they should stop wasting everyone’s time and produce the records!