Friday, June 7, 2013

Politics over Principles on the Hillsborough County Commission

I was surprised to wake up Thursday, read the Tampa Bay Times and see my name referenced in the middle of a political battle that I have no stake in. 
"The fact of the matter is that we have seen people that we appoint to these boards … become candidates and used those boards to put forth their platform when they should not be doing that," said Commissioner Les Miller, who proposed the measure.
Miller, a Democrat, cited as an example, though not by name, a Republican primary challenger to sitting Commissioner Victor Crist last year.
Crist had appointed Sharon Calvert to the county's main citizen's advisory panel and Miller claimed Calvert used the appointment to advance her campaign and denigrate Crist.
The more I read the article, the more I realized I was the scapegoat so the County Commissioners would not have to deal with a conservative voice, Terry Kemple, on the Diversity Panel.

Terry Kemple, Candidate for Hillsborough County School Board
So what really happened at Wednesday's County Commission meeting?

The Commissioners unanimously repealed the ban on gay pride recognition. According to this Tampa Tribune article Commissioners Kevin Beckner and Les Miller both touted the argument of discrimination and that everyone deserves to be treated fairly, equally and with respect.

Then, according to this Tampa Bay Times article, Les Miller proposed the following that the Commission voted 5-1 (Victor Crist the lone vote against, thank you Commissioner Crist, and Al Higginbotham who had stepped out did not vote) to
“prohibit declared candidates for office from serving on county boards and councils to which commissioners appoint representatives. The policy amendment also requires people already serving on an appointed board to report their candidacy for office so that commissioners can vote to remove them.”
So much for treating everyone fairly and with respect ALL the time. The TBT article included a picture of Conservative School Board candidate Terry Kemple who appears to be at the epicenter of Commissioner Miller's proposal and wrath.

Miller's proposal came up two weeks after socially conservative activist Terry Kemple sought a position on a proposed diversity advisory panel.

Miller insists he's not targeting Kemple, but the eligibility change would appear to disqualify him from consideration.

On May 15th the County Commission voted 4-3 to support Kemple's appointment to the new Diversity panel. After the vote, this Tampa Bay Times article reported:
That's when Democrat Les Miller pulled a procedural maneuver. Having made the original motion to approve the appointment list without Kemple, he then moved to table its final approval indefinitely. Hagan joined that bloc, joining Miller, Beckner and Republican Commissioner Mark Sharpe in agreeing to table a vote.
Prevailing commissioners can bring the matter back up later.
Instead of Commissioner Miller admitting that his proposal to prohibit candidates from serving on voluntary committees was specifically aimed at Terry Kemple, he deceptively used me as the example. Commissioner Miller proposed an end around to his own previous procedural maneuver to prohibit Terry Kemple from serving on any committee. Though Commissioner Miller did not mention me by name, come on Les – I was the only primary challenger to Victor Crist, he did so indirectly. Recall from Bill Varian's article:
Crist had appointed Sharon Calvert to the county's main citizen's advisory panel and Miller claimed Calvert used the appointment to advance her campaign and denigrate Crist.
Really? Granted there are no direct quotes from Commissioner Miller so we are left wondering if Bill Varian took liberty with something else Commissioner Miller may have said, either at the Commission meeting or afterwards when Varian spoke to Miller. But please Bill, as I told you, next time you use me as an example, call me to ensure you have your facts straight. I don't appreciate waking up to an article calling me out with false innuendo. And Commissioner Miller, shame on you if you even hinted at such an accusation.

Let's set the record straight:

When I decided to run, I immediately called Commissioner Victor Crist to let him know. I asked him if he would like me to resign from the Citizens Advisory Committtee he had appointed me to. He not only said “No”, he gave reasons why I should stay. So I decided to stay and continue my citizen volunteer duties on the Citizens Advisory Committee. I subsequently resigned July 12th due to what I saw was a conflict of interest that occurred with the non-profit sub-committee I was serving on with the CAC. The non-profit sub-committee was established to reform how non-profit funding was provided in the County. The non-profit funding had evolved since the 1980's and there was very little accountability and discipline for how these dollars were doled out. The conflict of interest arose when the Executive Director of a non-profit that Commissioner Crist had founded and chaired was appointed to the sub-committee. These additional appointments to the subcommittee were requested by Les Miller and Victor Crist after we had been working on this issue for over 8 months. Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars have been directed to Victor's nonprofit over the years Commissioner Crist served in the state legislature and as County Commissioner. I thought that a conflict of interest for a sub-committee who's goal was to reform the non-profit funding process.

Now let's connect the dots of hypocrisy:
  1. The Commissioners all agree - treat everyone fairly and equally and do not discriminate
  2. 5 of the commissioners vote to prohibit candidates from serving on boards – and it's the Commissioners themselves who make the appointments. Certainly they can manage their own committee appointments as the commissioners are paid $92K/year. And if you decide to run while on a committee, the County Commission can decide to remove you. How's that for treating everyone fairly and equally?
  3. There's no problem appointing the Executive Director from a non-profit that has received tens of millions of taxpayer dollars that was founded and chaired by a sitting County Commissioner, to a committee trying to reform taxpayer non-profit funding. That's OK.
  4. Last but not least is Commissioner Miller 's deception. Commissioner Miller had pulled a procedural maneuver to prevent Terry Kemple from being appointed to the Diversity panel by delaying the panel and then he proposes policy changes that totally prohibits candidate Kemple from being appointed to any committee.
Instead of pointing to me, Bill Varian should have asked Commissioner Miller why he used me as his scapegoat to target Terry Kemple? And why didn't Bill ask Commissioner Miller why he was doing an end around his previous procedural maneuver to keep Terry Kemple off of the Diversity Panel and also to throw Terry off a committee he has been serving on for years?

The answer – it was a pathetic political manipulation to limit the ability for someone who's opinion Miller disagrees with to serve his community. Government officials are now targeting individuals solely because of their beliefs.
What are they afraid of?  Regardless of what one may think of Terry Kemple's politics, are you next?

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