Sunday, March 8, 2015

[UPDATE] Letter from Lake Worth Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell to Stacey Singer, Palm Beach Post editorial board: demands retraction

[UPDATEThe Palm Beach Post editorial board (Stacey Singer) has so far not responded to the demand by Lake Worth Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell: Lake Worth City Manager Michael Bornstein and city commissioners have done nothing improper. The letter from Maxwell to Singer follows:]

March 7, 2015

To: Stacey Singer
The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board

I [City of Lake Worth Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell] have attempted to reach you by telephone using two different telephone numbers earlier this week and had left messages requesting you return my call. I am sorry that I missed you and that we could not speak directly.

It has been brought to my attention that The Palm Beach Post has misinformed the community—suggesting that 4 of 5 members of the Lake Worth City Commission have routinely violated one or more laws of the State of Florida—by sharing meals prior to publicly noticed commission meetings.

As one of the four members of the city commission referenced, I would like to state for the record that any assertion or inference by Commissioner Christopher McVoy (and/or others) that I have violated ANY state law by sharing a meal with, or been in the company of, another member of the city commission is not only an absolute untruth but is also a carefully calculated and executed act of political theater at the highest level. The public deserves better from the paper of record, The Palm Beach Post.

Your endorsement of Christopher McVoy and Ryan Maier earlier this week was prefaced with the statement that: “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.

Ms. Singer, I’m quite sure you are aware that a violation of Florida’s Sunshine Law provision is a crime, and as such, you must be aware that penalties for violating the Sunshine Law are severe and can lead to imprisonment and/or the removal of elected officials from office.

I’m sure, Ms. Stacey Singer, you would agree that my following statement is true:
to accuse, suggest, imply or infer that someone has committed a crime is a serious position to take and should not be done so lightly and without benefit of proper examination of the facts that led to your believing a crime had in fact been committed.
Therefore, Ms. Singer, allow me to make myself very clear on this issue. I consider your assertion or inference that I have in the past, or in the present, committed any Sunshine Violation will not go unchallenged. I therefore demand an immediate retraction, apology letter, and proper investigation/publication of the FACTS surrounding the information provided to you by Commissioner Christopher McVoy (and/or others) regarding the sharing of meals between elected officials in Lake Worth. Should my demands be honored on or before Monday March 9th, 2015. I shall consider this matter closed. [Emphasis added]

To aid in this matter, and for your benefit, I’d like to take the time to share with you the facts surrounding the ENTIRE Lake Worth City Commission practice of sharing meals prior to publicly noticed meetings:
  • Sharing a meal between all 5 (FIVE) members of the Lake Worth City Commission, city manager, city attorney, city clerk, or any other staff person/citizen present for meals to be served has been taking place for a very long time 
  • Prior to beginning this ongoing practice of sharing meals between all 5 (FIVE) commissioners and staff, each commissioner was asked if they would like to participate in this meal program, with each member picking up the cost of a meal on a rotating basis.
  • All 5 (FIVE) members of the commission agreed to participate in this meal sharing program and that the cost of these meals would be rotated among the regular members of the parties sharing the meal. To be very clear—the 5 (FIVE) commissioners, the city manager and the city attorney were considered to have been the regular participantswith each agreeing to pick up the cost of meals on a rotating basis.
  • The commission’s executive secretary was charged with the responsibility of coordinating and ordering the type of meal to be served, by asking each participating member what they would like to serve to the other participants and when it was time for them to pick up the cost of the meal (In fact, the executive secretary maintains a list of personal credit card numbers for each participating member so as to facilitate the ordering and delivery of every meal to be shared.)
  • Please note that one member of the Lake Worth City Commission (Christopher McVoy) is a self-described vegetarian, and as such, his dietary preference and need is considered and accommodated for EACH AND EVERY MEAL! 
  • In the past, unless a member of the meal sharing rotation is late or altogether absent for the meal, all 7 members of the meal sharing rotation are present.
  • Of course, this would also include the commissioner who now asserts that he (Commissioner McVoy) has not participated in the meal sharing practice because of his concern over the perception of wrongdoing, lack of transparency, or violation of the Sunshine Law. The fact is that Christopher McVoy has been present for virtually every meal unless he was running late or was altogether absent.
  • To prove my points above, I have in my possession a detailed account of every meal ordered during the past 2 years or so, as well as what meal was served, who paid for it, and when . . . clearly demonstrating that Christopher McVoy not only participated in the meal sharing rotation, but in fact paid for meals when it was his turn to do so within the rotation. [Attachments to come]
It is most unfortunate, Ms. Stacey Singer, that Christopher McVoy was dishonest with you and your editorial board in his assertion that he has not participated in the meal sharing program because of his deeply held concern for maintaining his high personal ethical standard and/or his unwillingness to violate Florida law.

It is even more disturbing that in doing so, McVoy took advantage of The Palm Beach Post, potentially placing the paper at risk by relying on a version of unverified "facts" which the Post printed without verifying first . . . and he did so simply for political advantage to win a political race for office.

Ms. Singer, I feel confident that as a Professional Journalist, you will take immediate steps to verify my claims related to the sharing of meals with other elected officials and honor the demands stated above in your sincere effort to set the record straight for all parties concerned—including the readers and subscribers of The Palm Beach Post.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Scott Maxwell
Vice Mayor / City of Lake Worth