Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thoughts on former County Commissioner Koons...

It is always a sad day when the news comes that an elected official falls from grace.  Unfortunately, we have had our share of these days in Palm Beach County.  When I worked for the city of West Palm Beach, Jeff Koons was a Commissioner and Mayor before the charter change to a strong mayor system.  He had his detractors, as elected officials always do, but I knew him to have a level head on his shoulders and generally act in the best interest of the public.  While a County Commissioner, Mr. Koons was an advocate for many planning related issues:  mass transit, redevelopment of blighted urban areas and preservation and enhancement of natural areas.  It was this last area where he met his "Waterloo."

This whole episode is ironic in that he didn't have to go to the lengths he did - beyond the law - to further the project in question.  Most people were supportive of the concept and liked the project.  So, in a way, it comes across to me that he chose the wrong people to cross.  The group that he threatened had money and privilege.  They had the connections to get the attention of a Grand Jury and initiate an investigation that ended up in Mr. Koons' arrest.

But this whole episode makes me wonder how many other times this elected official and others use the power of their office on those that might not have the money or the privilege or the connections?  Those are the people that we don't hear about.  These are the people that receive taps on the shoulder late at night, when a local business owner is told "we don't like you."  They are the ones that are stonewalled through city processes left wondering who they have to talk to or promise what to whom.  These are the same people that are treated differently if they support the wrong candidates and then written off as "it's just politics." These people do not have the resources of the group that Mr. Koons aggrieved.  These are the people that I worry about.

And, when you think about it, these people without resources are usually the ones that we deal with in Lake Worth.  Many have been wronged by the city, in my opinion, and actions are pending in the courts on many of these matters.  But how many have been blocked or hurt due to the action or inaction or violation of a state law that don't have the resources to pursue their claim?  Maybe they have too much to lose if they make noise and file a complaint.

You can fool some of the people all the time.  You can fool all of the people some of the time.  But you can't fool - or take advantage of - all the people all of the time.  Let this be a warning to our elected officials that the laws mean something and, if the stakes are high enough and the "egregiousness" is great enough, someone will have the ability to pull back the curtain and the gig will be up.

Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.