County Commission Tidbits: Jacobs, Ritter Have Good Ideas


I’m going to place a call to the American Academy of Dermatology with a suggestion.

I’ve found a new skin disorder that I’m naming Jacobitis.  It is severe thin skin.  

It is named for County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, who has an obsession with the media.  To hear Jacobs tell it, the media gets it wrong much of the time.

In her Bizarro World, the county commission has been fighting the good fight to improve ethics reform proposals, not gut them.

I don’t agree with Jacobs. 

I do agree with her latest proposals, which would improve the ethics at the Government Center.

You see, Kristin, the media doesn’t bleat one tune all the time…or any of the time. 

This tiny outpost of the Internet is happy to throw you a bouquet when I believe you deserves it.  Today you deserve it.

Jacobs today proposed a ban on commissioners e-mailing one another during meetings.  She’s right.

I believe that practice violates the Sunshine Law, which requires public business to be done in public.  Even if it doesn’t, Jacobs’ proposal would guarantee such private Internet conversations are forbidden in Broward.

Good move, Kristin.


Commissioner Stacy Ritter’s proposal to ban anonymous tips to the new ethics Inspector General is also the right way to go.  It will be on the ballot in November for voters approval.

When I was a newspaper columnist, I got reams of anonymous tips. I read them usually for laughs and threw them in the garbage.

Anyone making a potentially career-ending allegation against a politician should put their name on the complaint.  And swear that they have knowledge of the wrongdoing.

Anything less than that is akin to anonymous graffiti and about as reliable.

Note: Under Ritter’s reasonable proposal, the Inspector General would still have the right to institute any investigation on his or her own. And county employees making a complaint would still be protected by the whistle-blower laws.

It Ritter’s proposal doesn’t pass, the Inspector General will end up wasting time investigating complaints from every crazy with a grudge.  There will be less time for investigating real wrongdoing and that sadly would thwart the intent of the ethics law.

10 Responses to “County Commission Tidbits: Jacobs, Ritter Have Good Ideas”

  1. Politico says:

    Someone (Chaz) should file the records request to get a copy of these e-mails.

    They are public record, arent’ they?

    Sunshine Law, hmmm. Guess that hasn’t been front and center with this whole group of commissioners.

  2. Ritter In Handcuffs says:

    I keep dreaming of Stacy Ritter in handcuffs. Oh, it isn’t a dream. Its the future.

  3. Joe S. says:

    Is it anticipated that the new IG will not have the experience and professional judgment to sort through anonymous claims to substantiate their legitimacy? Quite frankly, I would rather give the IG and staff the latitude to spend a day or two investigating a false claim as opposed to letting a potentially well evidenced claim die because a name is not attached to it. Further, the bit where the “accuser” must pony up and pay damages if the IG’s investigation is unsuccessful (how does one even define successful) is another reason why staying anonymous just makes sense. The person making the claim should not be held financially responsible if the IG is unable to find enough evidence to warrant criminal proceedings. Buddy, just as you were free to pursue or decline anonymous tips, we should not be stripping professional judgment from the new IG. Commissioner Ritter’s amendment is too resrictive, and again, assumes that the IG cannot exercise reasonable professional judgment in determining what to investigate.

  4. NoseBleedSeats says:

    Seriously Buddy? The new IG won’t be smart enough to sort through a bunch of anonymous tips and decide for themselves what merits investigating further? I mean you managed as a mere newspaper columist, this person will certainly be a lawyer. A lawyer like Lieberman/Michalson, Ritter, Keechl, am I missing anyone? What moron would make an allegation, baseless or otherwise, against anyone on the current County Commission? Retribution, retaliation, Lori Parrish’s office, all come to mind. Given the general apathy and expectations of the people of Broward County that this behavior is just the way it is we are in for many more years of exactly what we have now. You will have plenty to write about in the years to come. Al C. Jones is a pefect example – appointed, doesn’t live in the district, just rents. He should run for congress!

  5. AMarkoff says:

    I agree with you, Buddy, and either anonymous tips or signed affidavits are at least worthy of debate. The way Ritter has been portrayed by Tom Francis, Bob Norman and Michael Mayo is disgusting. Instead of sorting through facts and opinions, the opinionistas in S. Florida portray reasoned efforts by officials to best guard the integrity of public servants, including the IG, as entirely, unquestionably nefarious. I’m not buying it. We cannot and should not dismiss the point that Ritter and the rest of the commission are making, and the voters should decide based on careful consideration, not based on chomping at the red meat these columnists toss at them. You, Buddy, stand almost alone in making a considered point.

  6. Floridan says:

    Allowing anonymous charges to be considered is asking for trouble. A reasonable compromise is that the person making the allegation will not have his or her name made public until the IG either brings charges or dismisses the case.

  7. Aap says:

    Maybe I’m too cynical but I don’t believe we should be taking ethics advice from people currently represented by criminal defense lawyers (Ritter & Lieberman) in long-running corruption investigations.

  8. Don't Listen says:

    If you are too cynical AAP at 7:41 a.m., I am too. The sun-Sentinel says that Lieberman and Ritter are both under investigation for corruption. They shouldn’t be giving anybody advise on ethics.

  9. SimpleMan says:

    To disallow anonymity is to ask too large of a sacrifice for most public (or private) employees. There is great risk and little reward in putting your name on a complaint and requiring it is an effective way to squelch dissent. Direct knowledge is a very difficult standard when these people are so good at keeping their special deals on the downlow. I believe the standard we should aspire to for our public officials is to have not even the appearance of impropriety. These posers like Ritter know that forbidding the veil of anonymity would kill most of the complaints before they even get started. Why would any innocent person worry about groundless complaints? If they are without merit, they would die on their own. I have worked in the public sector for almost 20 years and have seen and experienced retaliation against those who are brave enough to try and stand up against corrupt leadership. Also, I have to say I am a little disappointed to read that Buddy is so proud to never have pursued anonymous tips. That policy seems to me to be bit too naive for a political writer to follow. I am glad the Bernstein and Woodward did not adhere to it.


    Bernstein and Woodward did not have a source anonymous to them. They had a source high in the FBI and they knew who he was. Big difference!

    The volumn of anonymous tips I received at a daily newspaper is so enormous it would have been impossible to follow up most of them. The problem is that almost every one doesn’t fit the definition of a tip, which is “inside knowledge” about something taking place. Most of the tips received were from people who either “thought” or “knew” something was taking place, but had no proof. They wanted me to find the proof.

    At the same time, I had at least a dozen tips at any given time from poiltical figures who had “inside knowledge.” Experience proved these “tips” were more likely to produce stories.

    I will fine tune my original comments, however.

    I was on occasion given — and still am given — documents that seemed to indicate wrongdoing or actually proved wrongdoing. These often came in blank envelopes and I never found out the source.

    I often followed these up because I already had the proof that something was wrong. Under the new proposal, the Inspector General would be allowed to follow up such “tips” that come along with proof. I hope he or she would do so.

  10. Concerned Broward Parent says:

    Right now, the problem with our system is there are NO ETHICS at all. Sunshine Law? Laughable. Employees already in fear of their jobs? Plentiful. Having to PAY for unreliable tips? Horrible. Having you follow up on unreliable tips? Not nice. I think we will get LESS GOOD tips from public employees with the “ritter” amendment, but they will be better than no ethics laws at all.