STUART — Through her lawyer, Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard put out a statement this afternoon just hours after she was arrested, and the least that can be said about it is that Heard doesn’t seem to think the laws apply to her.
She will, she says, fight on and seems to have no plan to resign.
With Heard and Commissioner Ed Fielding, who was arrested in the mushrooming public records scandal in November, two of the commission’s five members will be under indictment when the board meets for the first time of the year at 9 a.m. Tuesday
That must make the residents of Stuart and the area mighty proud!
“Commissioner Sarah Heard, for more than 15 years, has been a tireless advocate, seeking to protect and preserve the environment and special community of Martin County that we all enjoy,” high-profile lawyer Barbara Kibbey Wagner wrote. “This has made her the target of attacks from big land developers and ‘big business.’
“The indictment yesterday, while unfortunate, came as no surprise to Commissioner Heard and the Defense.
“We feel that this indictment was purely an act of retaliation after Commissioner Heard refused to plead guilty and resign from office for a the noncriminal citation- a charge that she was given no evidence or facts from the State Attorney’s office.
“We fully intend to make the retaliation issue a matter for the Court to decide in the upcoming weeks.
“Commissioner Heard thanks the community for their outpouring of support during this time, and looks forward to a full vindication at her trial by jury.”
In clear: Public records laws don’t apply to Sarah Heard!
The statement doesn’t explain why it took Heard, as well as Fielding and indicted former Commissioner Anne Scott, years to surrender public records that she created by discussing county business in emails hosted on private servers.
Heard was arrested and booked last night and charged with two misdemeanor counts of failure to produce public records.
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.