STUART — The grand jury that indicted former Martin County Commissioner Anne Scott and sitting Commissioner Ed Fielding in November is considering filing criminal charges against sitting Commissioner Sarah Heard, Gossip Extra has learned exclusively.
The grand jury is meeting today at the Stuart courthouse and could end up indicting Heard on charges that she obstructed the release of public records requests from members of the public.
In November, Heard was charged with a non-criminal offense of failure to respond to a public records request and faces a $500-fine akin to the traffic ticket when her case is scheduled to be heard Feb. 19. We were told at the time the grand jury believed Heard had no criminal intend.
If she is indicted this week, however, Heard would have to surrender to the Martin County jail, where she’ll be photographed, fingerprinted and processed before being released on her own recognizance several hours later.
Heard could face up to a year in prison per count and be removed from office by the governor.
Neither Heard nor her lawyer, Barbara Kibbey Wagner, commented.
A source close to Heard tells Gossip Extra the office of State Attorney Bruce Colton has been pressuring Heard to resign, which she wasn’t obligated to do while facing the non-criminal rap. Colton’s people decided to ask the grand jury to check out the evidence again when Heard refused to go away.
“These are bully tactics,” the source said. “But I can tell you Sarah will not resign. She has been a great public servant and she’ll continue to be one.”
Colton didn’t reply to an email asking for his comment.
Scott, Fielding and Heard, who is in her fourth term on the county commission, are accused of failing to surrender emails from private servers to developers investigating why the commission suddenly started voting against them.
The emails were requested by Lake Point, a mining company on the banks of Lake Okeechobee. It was out to prove that commissioners were illegally communicating and discussing public business in private, and conspiring with members of the public against the company’s interests.
It took several years for the trio to produce their emails. When she was asked to show emails from her private Yahoo account, Heard claimed it had been hacked. In a civil lawsuit, several witnesses testified Heard was lying.
Florida law mandates public officials to surrender any form of communication dealing with their elected office within days of requests.
So far, the county has lost one civil lawsuit over Lake Point’s records request and was ordered to pay Lake Point $500,000 to cover legal bills.
And the commission voted last year to settle a second lawsuit brought by Lake Point, for breach of contract. Depending on how to calculate the loss to taxpayers, the county may end up having to pay more than $25 million to Lake Point. The commission, including Heard and Fielding, even voted to borrow money to pay for the settlement.
Scott, 69, and Fielding, 73, were charged with two misdemeanor counts each of failure to permit inspection of public records and their trial is scheduled for December.