The State legislature currently does not have rulings relative to filing Citizen Complaints. This is due in part that the Sunshine Laws of the State of Florida address public records laws extensively as well as listing civil and criminal ramifications for such violations. The State specifically states that if public records are not adhered to one should file a suit. You would think that the Town of White Springs would be wise enough to understand that a Complaint relating to Sunshine Laws may be preemptive to a suit and that the Council as judge and jury per the Town Attorney’s rulings, would investigate such failings of the law. But of course, we know how that quasi-judicial hearing for Dr Miller worked out with a judge and jury so vindictive and dishonest one could barely believe such a thing could happen.
As one researches complaints, you will find there are few Towns, Cities and Municipalities that have rulings relating to Citizen’s complaints. This is for a large part because most Towns, Cities, and Municipalities do not attempt to violate the laws as White Springs has done for over a decade. Most have complaint forms relating to Police Officers, which in my opinion are not the problem. Let’s face it, the police follow the dictates of a Town, City or Municipality and it is rare that a police officer goes out of his or her way to violate the law. This is because each could lose their law certification and to police officers, these certifications are their bread and butter.
The National Conference of State Legislatures cites that at least 44 commissions allow anyone to file a complaint, although some qualify that a complaint must come from a Citizen. At least 47 allow complaints from public officials which the Florida Ethics Commission and the West Virginia Ethics Commissions do. Therefore it would appear that if a complaint is to be made for violations, such complaints should be filed with the Florida Ethics Commission or if they relate to attorneys, the complaint should be filed with the Florida Bar.
Florida Statutes 112.533 – Receipt and processing of complaints. – stipulates that every law enforcement agency and correctional agency shall establish and put in operation a system for the receipt, investigation and determination of complaints received by such agency from any person.
I rather doubt if White Springs has such a policy for its police officers which currently are not a problem. Previous to Detective Brownfield joining the White Springs Police Department (We still miss him), some of our police officers were the worse of the worst. One officer, who now works for Jennings, chose the word of perpetrators over the word of citizens. The officer not only befriended the perpetrator but took their side, stipulating Joe had to sign the paperwork which the Judge did not require to begin with. The Judge said we could file further suit for the damages. So what did our WS officer do then? He, like a moron, decided to sign the paperwork himself in spite of being told it was not necessary per the judge’s orders.Where was the impartiality of this officer? And didn’t the police officer realize that his signature did not bind the Griffins to their loss of future rights.
The WS police officers not only used their vehicles for hanky-panky but harassed people driving golf carts and one was known for stopping pretty women, just to get to know them. One African American woman whose young son was in a car seat in the vehicle with her told the officer that he could impose a fine against her over a seat belt issue (which was a false fine) because she was not going to take his threats or advances. She ended going before a judge and it was dropped.
That officer turned out to be Super Camel of the Camel Club who got credit for a burglary of Town Property, which Joe retrieved by paying the Thief $200 and returning it to the Town. Did Joe get a thank you. No, the Officer just continued patting his own back. This same officer received credit for another officer’s efforts in retrieving a stolen car across state lines. Excuses were made but the officer who made the effort was an excellent officer and we are happy that he advanced to another law enforcement facility where he was appreciated.
It should be understood that the complaint process is an integral part of maintaining integrity and discipline in Town government. By proper adherence to the provisions of the complaint policy, disputes will be resolved and it will facilitate prompt and equitable corrective action (where applicable). Instead of treating Citizens poorly as a result of a complaint the Town should realize that a complaint and its investigation of any misconduct is a direct reflection of our continuing commitment to excellence. Instead of ignoring all complaints made, the Town should welcome complaints so that the citizens can be assured that their concerns will be treated promptly and with utmost respect.
With Public Records laws, or complaints relating to violations of the Charter or Land Development regulations, the Town officials should have all the paperwork at their fingertips. If not, an investigation in to the law would be extremely simple; simple enough that the Town Manager or our Town Clerk/bookkeeper should be able to secure access prior to a Town Meeting.
Although Mr. Koberlein made it clear that the Town Council of White Springs will be the Judge and jury for all citizens complaints, these complaints should be investigated or discussed before they are dismissed. If additional information is required to make an informed decision, the Town Council should request additional information or additional details regarding the statements in the complaint.
Previously Joe Griffin was threatened with arrest should he attend a Council Meeting and it was Attorney Kennon who provided this policy to then Mayor McKire, which was adopted and approved by the council members. When I, Karin brought up that point to Mr. Koberlein in my complaint against money presumably not approved by the council Mr. Koberlein said I had to be present. In answering my fear that I would be arrested, he nicely emailed me telling me that I should bring a recorder and if I was arrested without due cause, I could use it as evidence. Are you kidding me?
After the Complaint is reviewed by the Town Council, there should be a decision made in writing and provided to the person who made the complaint. The possible decisions made by the council are (1) that possible findings are: Sustained – the allegation has been investigated and the facts show that the allegation is true and the action taken was not consistent with the Constitutions of Florida and the United States, nor the laws or policies therein place construed as standard operating procedures or common practice (2). Inconclusive/Not sustained – the allegation has been investigated and there is insufficient proof to either confirm or refute the allegation. (3) Exonerated – the allegation has been investigated and the facts indicate that the action was consistent with agency policy. (4) Unfounded – the allegation has been investigated and either the allegation is demonstrably false or there is no credible evidence to support it. This finding shall also apply when individual personnel named in the complaint were not involved in an act that did occur.
Even with respect to Land Development Regulations which prompted previous Citizen’s complaints by Joe Griffin, no one seems to feel these are important nor is the law of the State or the laws governing White Springs followed. The Town should be dedicated to maintaining a high standard of living for all citizens of White Springs. Although Code Enforcement is not law enforcement, codes should be enforced to assist in ensuring a safe and pleasant environment while maintaining the highest value for one’s property investment. Areas which become blighted with debris, overgrowth, and condemned buildings which are deteriorating rapidly are more susceptible to crime than areas that remain free of Code violations. These regulations not only should be enforced to ensure that neighborhoods remain safe and healthy for one to live but also the violations of which could be enforced to secure additional revenue for the Town if the codes are not adhered to. What is wrong with White Springs? And what is wrong with our Town Manager whose duty it is to enforce these laws? She apparently stated she worked with LDR’s in DeBary but we have seen nada in White Springs when it comes to code enforcement.
Another area the Town refuses to enforce relates to Complaints against an Employee.It is the responsibility of the Town of White Springs to investigate all allegations of misconduct, regardless of their source. This would ensure the integrity of the Town’s operations and personnel.
If one is unable to speak with a supervisor or your complaints are ignored, one should be able to make a complaint to the Council Members. Yet in White Springs, the Council members will just drop any and all complaints relative to staff or other members because they are above the law. Furthermore, some of these staff have worked for the Town for years and many skeletons are buried and they know where; thus their jobs will never be threatened and the violations of law will continue.
The reason, I believe that White Springs does not provide responses to Citizens’ Complaints in writing is due to the fact that the officials know that they are not following the law and if something was placed in writing, there surely could be a probable filing of an ethics complaint or lawsuit. As I stated to Ms. Tebo, “Why don’t you just follow the law”.
As respects Rhett Bullard, it is noted he verbally gives orders or requests to others so that if something goes wrong they may be blamed instead of him. Remember, nothing to good or too bad lasts for too long and Mr. Bullard, your time may be coming.
Karin for the blog