Florida State Representative Randy Fine: We Need to ‘Drain the Swamp’ in Brevard County
By State Representative Randy Fine // January 29, 2018
FINE represents District 53 in Florida House
When I ran for office, cleaning up local government corruption was not a part of my campaign platform. It was not that I didn’t care about it, but like most of the public who is focused on working and raising a family, I assumed most politicians’ goal was to make Brevard County as great as I wanted to make it.
Boy, was I wrong.
Last week, I learned with dismay – but no longer surprise – that County Commissioner Jim Barfield has been under investigation for a year by the Florida Commission on Ethics for multiple violations of the Florida Constitution.
After completing their investigation, the Ethics Commission found probable cause that Barfield made multiple false statements, under oath, about his personal finances — information the taxpayers and voters have a right to know. After being faced with the results of the investigation, Barfield stipulated to the charges – essentially pleading guilty – and paid a substantial fine.
Barfield’s excuse that he gave investigators – under oath – was just as troubling as his crime. He said he didn’t take seriously the requirement to disclose his financial interests. As he put it, he ‘just kind of glanced over them.’
It makes me wonder what else Jim Barfield has “just glanced over” while supposedly working for the people of Brevard County. What we do know is that he doesn’t “glance over” his efforts to line his pockets by securing government contracts while serving as an elected public official.
The voters of Brevard County deserve someone in that office who isn’t just “glancing over” the problems that affect us, and someone who is more focused on improving the economic health of our county as opposed to getting rich off taxpayers.
Barfield’s comments to Florida Today after the conviction became public are especially troubling. He is guilty of violating the Florida Constitution, yet blames the person who uncovered his fraud for pursuing the case.
He describes lying about his financial assets as a “minor deficiency.” He says that refusing to provide the actual value of his assets was simply a “clerical” mistake. And he arrogantly states that “because these were my mistakes, I have paid my own legal fees and will pay the fine” – as if he had a choice in the matter! Was he considering charging the taxpayers for this as well?
The Barfield scandal is just the latest in an avalanche of corruption. We must face that we have a culture of corruption in Brevard County. One County Commissioner is found defrauding the voters.
A City of Melbourne and West Melbourne Councilman are being investigated for possible embezzlement. I’ve had to request a Special Audit of Palm Bay after one elected official attempted to usurp the authority of the Council. The Mayor of Palm Shores illegally paid herself more than $100,000 after hiring herself for a second government job.
Local politicians are using tax dollars that are supposed to go to fix blight to offer parades and festivals. And while the Indian River Lagoon is dying, we have local politicians spending money that could be spent to fix the Lagoon on payoffs to special interests.
This has to stop. The swamp doesn’t just exist in Washington, DC. It exists right here in Brevard County. In Washington, they talk about draining the swamp. Here in Brevard, we need to remove the muck.
– Florida State Representative Randy Fine
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