Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Palm Beach Post editorial last Saturday, Commissioner Chris McVoy, and the ghost of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy

"When public men indulge themselves in abuse, when they deny others a fair trial, when they resort to innuendo and insinuation, to libel, scandal, and suspicion, then our democratic society is outraged, and democracy is baffled. It has no apparatus to deal with the boor, the liar, the lout, and the antidemocrat in general."
J. William Fulbright, his thoughts on Senator McCarthy and the tactics he employed.

I've had a lot of fun with that silly editorial The Palm Beach Post published last Saturday and you can real all about that using this link. The paper finally got around to making it available to their online readers on Monday afternoon. The Post acknowledges that the city manager, Michael Bornstein, Mayor Pam Triolo et al did nothing wrong or even inappropriate sharing baked ziti but they're still suspicious? Here is an excerpt about the meals that are held in City Hall prior to City Commission meetings:
But Triolo and Bornstein, in separate interviews, insisted that nothing was said then, or at any of the chow sessions, that involved public business. It’s perfectly legal, under the Sunshine Law, for officials to meet in private and discuss non-public matters.
At the end of this blog post are two videos for the editor(s). One is of Lake Worth City Attorney Glen Torcivia explaining the Sunshine Law which the editorial writer(s) is/are still having trouble grasping.

Mind you, less than a month after the Post wholeheartedly endorsed the direction Lake Worth was heading led by Mayor Triolo, Vice Mayor Maxwell, and Commissioner Amoroso they again raise the specter of "secret meetings"? Why are they engaged in an effort to try and drive a wedge between the public and their local government and leadership following such a glowing endorsement? The rights of Free Speech and assembly, according to the editors, don't apply to elected Americans? Hogwash.

The Florida Sunshine Law is being used as a weapon to squash Free Speech. Let's examine what led us to this point:

"It’s healing time, folks."
—Rick Christie, Editor, Palm Beach Post editorial board, 3/15/2015, five days after last year's municipal elections in Lake Worth.

Prior to last year's March 2015 Post endorsements for Lake Worth there were no news reports in that newspaper (or anywhere else for that matter) concerning any alleged violations of the Sunshine Law by City Manager Michael Bornstein or any elected official on the City Commission. Not one single reference. (One of the unelected, Mr. Bornstein, by the way, despite what happened continues to maintain a stellar reputation and has many supporters both within the City and throughout Palm Beach County.)

However, on March 3rd, 2015, one of the editors at the Post, Stacey Singer (with the presumed acquiescence of the rest of the board) penned the candidate endorsements for commissioners McVoy and now-Commissioner Ryan Maier. It is her freedom to endorse anyone she chooses, BUT it was completely unnecessary and unethical to lead the public to believe that the city manager and other elected officials violated the Sunshine Law using very clever, never-proven insinuations provided by McVoy to the editors. Why didn't they do any research to see if the allegations were even true or not?

McVoy started all this nonsense last year and he tried it again (see link above) just a few weeks prior to election day this year. McVoy again made false claims about the mayor, Vice Mayor Maxwell, and Commissioner Amoroso alleging Sunshine Law violations and these false accusations were not taken lightly. What was talked about and also written about on this blog on what McVoy did almost certainly contributed to the recent landslide elections here in Lake Worth.

Here is what Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell wrote in response to this unethical treatment last year:
     “The key issues in Lake Worth’s municipal election seem to be trust or the lack thereof.”
      It would appear that a key centerpiece of the quote above is your paper’s inference that elected officials sharing meals constitutes a violation of the State of Florida’s “Sunshine Law”—or some other unstated wrongdoing.
      The assertion of a Sunshine Law violation, the term The Palm Beach Post and you (Stacey Singer) carelessly used within your endorsement as an example of the trust concerns expressed by Christopher McVoy (without the benefit of fact checking for validity) is irresponsible and damages the reputations of innocent, hard-working elected officials who, in my experience and in fact, operate well within the provision of the Sunshine Law Statute and/or the State and Local Ethics Codes.
The Post editorial board set a very bad precedent last year and continues to do so:
     Argument from ignorance (Latin: argumentum ad ignorantiam), also known as appeal to ignorance (in which ignorance stands for "lack of evidence to the contrary"), [emphasis added] is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false (or vice versa). This represents a type of false dichotomy in that it excludes a third option, which is that there is insufficient investigation and therefore insufficient information to prove the proposition satisfactorily to be either true or false. Nor does it allow the admission that the choices may in fact not be two (true or false), but may be as many as four,
  1. true
  2. false
  3. unknown between true or false
  4. being unknowable (among the first three).
In debates, appeals to ignorance are sometimes used to shift the burden of proof.
Does the word hypocrisy come to mind? How about the term "Ivory Tower"? Did the Post even think about picking up the phone and calling the Inspector General for advice on having ziti at City Hall?

Note that many people have been working very hard and making very difficult decisions in Lake Worth on many issues and the Gulfstream hotel is just one on a very long list. Here is how that vote turned out:
Voting "Yes" and making hard decisions makes elected officials easy targets for the "slings and arrows".
Maybe the Post could examine why commissioners McVoy and Maier oppose nearly everything the majority on the City Commission and the public also supports? Now that would make for an interesting editorial. Just don't hold your breath.

For a concise and clear explanation of the Sunshine Law please watch this video:

The video below is also quite interesting. If you're short on time fast forward to the 1:00 mark and see what Commissioner McVoy does when all the other elected officials are not in the room. He was unaware that during breaks at City Commission meetings the sound is turned off but the video keeps on recording. Hope you enjoy the music that accompanies the action!