Martin County Consensus names Sherlock and Heims as recipients of 2011 Community Leaders of the Year award

SHERLOCK V. BDB (Business Development Board of Martin County)

October 11, 2011

 

“HOWARD HEIMS WITH THE LAW FIRM OF LITTMAN, SHERLOCK & HEIMS

 

I AM HERE ON BEHALF OF VIRGINIA SHERLOCK PURSUANT TO THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT ENTERED INTO WITH MARTIN COUNTY

 

MS. SHERLOCK PREVIOUSLY SETTLED WITH THE BDB WHEREBY THE BDB AGREED TO OPERATE IN THE SUNSHINE PURSUANT TO CHAPTERS 286 AND 119, FLORIDA STATUTES.

 

THE BDB ALSO PAID MY FIRM ABOUT $60,000.00 IN ATTORNEYS= FEES WHICH COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED HAD THE BDB SIMPLY PRODUCED RECORDS PURSUANT TO MS. SHERLOCK=S SIMPLE PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST.

 

THE BDB PAID ITS LAWYERS SOMEWHERE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF $150,000 TO $200,000 OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS TO DEFEND AGAINST THE LAWSUIT. THE BDB=S DECISION TO REFUSE TO PRODUCE PUBLIC RECORDS AND THEN RUNNING UP ATTORNEYS= FEES WAS A POOR BUSINESS DECISION AND RESULTED IN A HUGE WASTE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS.

 

LIKEWISE, THE SUIT AGAINST MARTIN COUNTY SHOULD NEVER HAVE GONE AS FAR AS IT DID. EARLY THIS YEAR, MS. SHERLOCK OFFERED TO SETTLE THE LAWSUIT AGAINST MARTIN COUNTY FOR A TOTAL OF $20,000 AND TERMS VERY SIMILAR TO WHAT WE NOW HAVE.

 

THAT OFFER WAS REJECTED AND WE ARE TODAY DOING WHAT MS. SHERLOCK ASKED EARLY ON. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT IT IS AT A COST OF MORE THAN $72,000 TO THE COUNTY PLUS COUNTLESS HOURS SPENT BY AT LEAST THREE COUNTY ATTORNEYS, THE COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR, COMMISSIONERS AND OTHER STAFF.

 

I=M GOING TO GIVE YOU THE HISTORY OF WHAT GOT US HERE AND EXPLAIN WHY WE ARE HERE TODAY

 

THEN GOING TO TURN THE FLOOR OVER TO MS. SHERLOCK TO DISCUSS THE JOB CREATION TOOLKIT

 

I DON=T THINK ANYONE CAN SAY WITH A STRAIGHT FACE THAT THE BDB WAS NOT REQUIRED TO OPERATE IN THE SUNSHINE WHEN DEVELOPING AND RECOMMENDING TO THE COUNTY THE JOB CREATION TOOLKIT. THE EVIDENCE IS OVERWHELMING. IT IS NOT EVEN A CLOSE CALL.

 

WHEN THERE IS A VIOLATION OF THE SUNSHINE LAW, THE LAW ALLOWS THE GOVERNMENTAL ENTITY TO HOLD AN EFFECTIVE ACURE MEETING@ TO CORRECT THE SUNSHINE LAW VIOLATIONS SO THAT THE PUBLIC CAN BE ADVISED OF WHAT TRANSPIRED BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

 

THE JOB CREATION TOOLKIT WAS STARTED WHEN THE COUNTY ATTORNEY ASKED RON BUNCH TO DEVELOP AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM FOR MARTIN COUNTY

 

THERE WAS NEVER SUCH A SPECIFIC REQUEST BY THE COMMISSION TO HAVE THE BDB DEVELOP A PROGRAM OF INCENTIVES WHICH WOULD INVOLVE SPENDING POTENTIALLY MILLIONS IN TAXPAYER DOLLARS. NEVER A PUBLIC MEETING OR COMMISSION VOTE TO DETERMINE IF THE INCENTIVES WERE SOMETHING THE COMMISSION WANTED TO PURSUE.

 

RON BUNCH AND THE BDB DID DEVELOP THE CONCEPT OF WHAT WOULD BE INVOLVED IN THE JOB CREATION TOOLKIT

 

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE BDB HELD BOARD MEETINGS IN WHICH THEY DISCUSSED AND VOTED TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THE JOB CREATION TOOLKIT

 

THERE WAS NO NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC OF THE BDB BOARD MEETINGS. THE MEETINGS WERE HELD IN SECRET AND THE PUBLIC WAS NOT PROVIDED AN OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE INPUT ABOUT THE TOOLKIT. THE PUBLIC WAS KEPT IN THE DARK.

 

WHEN MS. SHERLOCK SAW THIS ISSUE APPEAR ON A BCC AGENDA OUT OF THE BLUE, SHE WROTE AN E-MAIL TO THE COMMISSIONERS SAYING WE NEED TO SLOW DOWN AND HOLD WORKSHOPS TO SEE IF THIS IS A GOOD THING TO DO.

 

NO RESPONSE

NO WORKSHOPS

PUSHED FORWARD

 

WHAT WE DIDN=T KNOW WAS THAT COMMISSIONERS CIAMPI, SMITH, HAYES AND VALLIERE WERE HOLDING PRIVATE MEETINGS WITH BDB STAFF AND BOARD MEMBERS TO WORK OUT THE DETAILS OF THE JOB CREATION TOOLKIT.

 

THE TESTIMONY DURING DEPOSITIONS WAS THAT COMMISSIONER CIAMPI, WHO WAS ALSO ON THE BDB BOARD OF DIRECTORS AT THE TIME, MET WITH AT LEAST ONE OTHER BDB BOARD MEMBER TO DISCUSS THE DETAILS OF THE TOOLKIT. THE MEETINGS WERE NOT NOTICED TO THE PUBLIC AND WERE CONDUCTED IN VIOLATION OF THE SUNSHINE LAW.

 

COMMISSIONERS TESTIFIED AT DEPOSITION THAT THEY REMEMBER VERY LITTLE OF THE DETAILS OF THE MEETINGS, AND NO MINUTES WERE KEPT.

 

WHAT WE KNOW FROM THE DEPOSITIONS IS THAT DURING PRIVATE MEETINGS WITH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS AND THE BDB BOARD MEMBERS, THE BDB AND THE COMMISSIONERS WERE WORKING OUT THE DETAILS OF WHAT WOULD BE INCLUDED AND WHAT WOULD NOT BE INCLUDED IN THE TOOLKIT. THE COMMISSIONERS AND THE BDB WERE WORKING OUT WHAT WOULD BE ACCEPTABLE TO EACH COMMISSIONER WHEN IT EVENTUALLY CAME TO A PUBLIC VOTE IN THE FUTURE.

 

WE KNOW THAT SPECIFIC ITEMS WERE REMOVED AND SPECIFIC ITEMS WERE INSERTED INTO THE ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS BASED ON THOSE SECRET MEETINGS WITH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS.

 

THE CHANGES WERE MADE TO INSURE THAT THE TWO ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS COMPRISING THE JOB CREATION TOOLKIT WOULD BE RUBBER-STAMPED BY THE COMMISSION WHEN THE MATTER WAS BROUGHT BEFORE THE COMMISSION.

 

IN FACT THE ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS WERE NOT BROUGHT TO THE COMMISSION UNTIL THE CHANGES WERE MADE WHICH ASSURED ITS PASSAGE

 

AND WE KNOW THAT THE TWO ORDINANCES AND TWO RESOLUTIONS WERE RUBBER-STAMPED BY THE COUNTY COMMISSION. NOT A SINGLE CHANGE WAS MADE AND THERE WAS NO REAL PUBLIC DEBATE ABOUT THE ISSUES, OTHER THAN ISSUES RAISED BY COMMISSIONER HEARD, WHO THE BDB DIDN=T EVEN MEET WITH BECAUSE THEY UNDERSTOOD MS. HEARD WAS OPPOSED TO THE TYPES OF INCENTIVES BEING PROPOSED.

 

WE INITIALLY FILED SUIT AGAINST BDB SEEKING ONLY PUBLIC RECORDS.

 

WE SENT THE COUNTY ATTORNEY A COPY OF MS. SHERLOCK=S PLEADING WHICH ASSERTED THAT THE BDB WAS AN AGENT OF MARTIN COUNTY AND SUBJECT TO THE SUNSHINE AND PUBLIC RECORDS LAW. WE SENT THE PLEADING TO THE COUNTY ATTORNEY BECAUSE WE HAD HOPED THAT THE COUNTY ATTORNEY WOULD ASSIST.

 

WE DID NOT GET ANY ASSISTANCE AND NO PROPER CURE MEETING WAS HELD. IN ORDER FOR THERE TO BE A PROPER CURE MEETING, THERE MUST HAVE AT LEAST BEEN A DISCLOSURE OR AN ADMISSION THAT THE SECRET MEETINGS WERE HELD AND THAT THE TOOLKIT WAS DEVELOPED IN THE DARK. THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN BDB BOARD MINUTES IN WHICH THE TOOLKIT WAS DISCUSSED BY THE BDB IN SECRET PRESENTED TO YOU AT THE PRIOR MEETING IN WHICH THE ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS WERE ADOPTED.

THAT WAS NEVER DONE. THE HEARING WENT FORWARD AND A PROPER CURE MEETING WAS NOT HELD.

 

WE ASSERTED IN THE LAWSUIT THAT BECAUSE THE SUNSHINE LAW WAS VIOLATED IN THE ADOPTION OF THE TOOLKIT AND BECAUSE THERE WAS NO EFFECTIVE CURE MEETING, THE TWO ORDINANCES AND TWO RESOLUTIONS ARE VOID.

 

THIS IS WHY WE ARE HERE TODAY. TO HOLD AN EFFECTIVE CURE MEETING.

 

IN ADVANCE OF THIS HEARING, WE PROVIDED YOU WITH COPIES OF DEPOSITION TRANSCRIPTS, LETTERS, PLEADINGS, BDB BOARD MINUTES DOCUMENTING WHAT TRANSPIRED AND I WOULD ASK THAT THEY BE MADE A PART OF THE RECORD.”

 

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