“In an age that is utterly corrupt, it is best to do as others do.”
Marquis de Sade—
Misuse of Public Position
Public officers and employees, and local government attorneys are prohibited from corruptly using or attempting to use their official positions or the resources thereof to obtain a special privilege or benefit for themselves or others. [Sec. 112.313(6), Fla. Stat.]
Conflicting Employment or Contractual Relationship
A public officer or employee is prohibited from holding any employment or contract with any business entity or agency regulated by or doing business with his or her public agency. [Sec. 112.313(7), Fla. Stat.]
A public officer or employee also is prohibited from holding any employment or having a contractual relationship which will pose a frequently recurring conflict between the official’s private interests and public duties or which will impede the full and faithful discharge of the official’s public duties. [Sec. 112.313(7), Fla. Stat.]
When we ignore the rule of law, we undermine the very foundation of our society.
While the twisting and crowing of lawyers might muddy the water, it can’t change that fundamental fact.
As you may have heard, last week the Florida Commission on Ethics – meeting behind closed doors – ignored the findings of their independent investigator, blocked any opportunity for an administrative hearing, and acquitted John Miklos on charges that he used his appointment as chairman of the St. John’s River Water Management District’s governing board for personal gain.
The Ethics Commission previously authorized an investigation into a citizen’s compelling allegations of official misconduct by Governor Rick Scott’s handpicked appointee to the powerful regulatory board when convincing evidence surfaced that Miklos was personally being paid to influence the very agency he oversees.
Ultimately, the investigation found probable cause that Chairman Miklos violated state ethics laws while working for the city of DeBary.
Now, you don’t have to be Elliott Ness to deduce that Long John Miklos has made a cottage industry out of lobbying the St. John’s River Water Management District on behalf of clients of Bio-Tech Consultants – a company he personally owns and operates.
It’s not enough that Miklos sets the table by exerting his powerful influence among SJRWMD staffers and administrators, then steps aside should the matter come to a vote of the governing board. In my view, his very presence in support of permit applications, or other regulatory actions, constitutes excessive and corrosive pressure that cannot be ignored.
This is especially true after Governor Scott and Miklos physically gutted anything resembling an environmental regulator from the district offices, and replaced them with a puppet administrator and compliant staff who understand which side their bread is buttered on.
And the Commission on Ethics damn well knows that.
During the hearing, Ethics Commission Chairman Matthew Carlucci and member Michael Cox (two of only three commissioners on the nine-member board who aren’t attorney’s) logically suggested, “If you are routinely making a living doing certain projects that eventually will go to certain boards for approval, then you might not want to take a position on that board.”
Instead, Miklos, “took a position on the board knowing full-well” the type of work his company engaged in could lead to potential conflicts.
Unfortunately, influential member – and DeBary resident – Tom Freeman (a retired circuit court judge and real estate attorney) who apparently acts as something of a legal Pied Piper for his fellow commission members, opined that “There’s no way in the world that you have enough facts or a firm foundation to find that he violated the ethics of Florida and we should in manner of justice find that there’s no probable cause for going forward and prosecuting under the ethics laws of Florida.”
You mean other than the fact your own investigator testified that he found probable cause to prosecute Miklos?
You mean other than the fact Miklos routinely accepts $155.00 per hour to personally influence the decisions of the very regulatory agency he oversees?
Per Judge Freeman, “The matter at this point is pure conjecture. The issue was never submitted to the St. Johns River Water Management District for approval. He never took a position and voted on it.”
You mean other than the fact that earlier this year Miklos represented the district at a meeting with DeBary officials and water district staff – while in the paid employ of the city of DeBary?
This is the same screwy reasoning that routinely saw Judge Freeman ranked at the bottom of the barrel by his judicial contemporaries in the 18th Circuit.
In a 2001 poll by the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, he ranked 37th out of 38 judges.
His lowest marks came in the important categories of legal knowledge and freedom from bias.
That same year, the Florida Department of Children and Families asked the 5th District Court of Appeal to remove Freeman from all cases involving domestic violence, due to his perceived bias.
Freeman responded by withdrawing from all child-abuse and neglect cases.
In addition, a Central Florida domestic violence support organization, Families Against Abuse, felt that, based upon Judge Freeman’s actions on the bench, he “didn’t believe in batterers intervention or any help for men” who engage in spousal abuse.
In one of Freeman’s most controversial decisions, he ordered the release of suspected murderer Michael Stoll on $100,000 bail – without setting any conditions. Freeman said Stoll had been sitting in jail too long, and that state law allows a judge to set bail if the evidence of guilt is weak.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Freeman said, “They haven’t brought him to trial in two years. I reviewed the proof (of first-degree murder), and I felt the man deserved bail.”
Prosecutors were shocked.
Despite Judge Freeman’s pre-trial assessment of the evidence in the local media, Stoll was later convicted of brutally killing his wife with the help of an employee of his carpet business.
He was sentenced to life in prison.
The apparent motive? Stoll was angry over a previous arrest for domestic violence and child abuse.
In my view, Freeman showed his political pliability by switching parties – at least three times – in keeping with the sitting governor’s party affiliation.
He retired from the bench in 2003.
Now, Judge Freeman brings this same loyalty and commitment to protecting the public interest to the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Did I mention he lives in the city of DeBary? I thought I did.
No potential for conflict there, I guess. . .
Folks, I’ve said it before, we live in the most corrupt state in the union, and cockamamie decisions by the very tribunal charged with protecting us from government buggery – findings that fly in the face of reason and explicitly reverse the conclusions of professional investigators to thwart an independent finding of fact – is prima facie evidence that We, the People, are screwed.
In my view, John Miklos epitomizes the worst-of-the-worst – a leech who preys on the very constituency he is sworn to protect – and those who can do something about it have been exposed as cheap enablers and appointed fixers.
By suspending logic and reality, Miklos’ attorney, “Bucky” Miller, convinced the commission that the city of DeBary did not provide compensation under the Bio-Tech contract with the hope that it would influence Mr. Miklos’ official action as chairman of the district’s governing board.
Instead, Bucky argued – with a straight face – that Bio-Tech was hired because of Miklos’ “long-term business relationships with Matt Boerger, the city’s growth management director, and David Hamstra, the city’s engineering consultant.”
Long-term business relationship? I’ll bet.
If I’m not mistaken, didn’t DeBary’s duly elected mayor, Clint Johnson, attempt to tell anyone who would listen just the opposite?
Prior to his political lynching by the ‘fraudulent four’ of the DeBary City Council, didn’t Mayor Johnson assure us that the city wouldn’t be moving forward with the Gemini annex land deal without assurances from Bio-Tech that it could get the required approvals from the St. John’s River Water Management District?
Hell, didn’t DeBary’s Transit Oriented Development Director, Roger Van Auker, all but tell us the same thing?
Yes, I’m sure I remember that.
Now, Clint Johnson has been summarily executed by those still clinging to power – and John Miklos has been exonerated of his crimes.
What we don’t know, won’t hurt us. . .