Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Florida and Transgendered Sports


 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Manatee County Commissioner Vanesa Baugh - Ethics Complaint

Florida West Coast

Opinion By:
Jennifer L. Hamey Esq.

 Ethics...this whole matter boils down to ethical behavior.  When someone opts to be an elected official, they also agree to the responsibilities that come with it.  These responsibilities include integrity, trust, transparency and yes, ethical behavior.   What Vanessa Baugh did was just wrong.  This is not a political issue.  It doesn't matter who you voted for.  It doesn't matter your stance on Covid, masks or vaccines.  I have no personal issue with Vanessa Baugh, I have never even met her.  But what I do have is an absolute utter disgust for her behavior and actions which effected EVERY SINGLE RESIDENT of Manatee County!

 Now as I speak of responsibilities of our elected officials, it is imperative to also point out that we as the voting population also have responsibilities.  We have the responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable.  We have a responsibility to demand transparency from them and to speak out when clear wrongs have been committed. 

 It was this epiphany that arose within me as I realized it is unfair to expect all these responsibilities of our elected officials, if we too don't adhere to our own responsibility to act when appropriate.   When the story first broke about what Vanessa Baugh had done, I was appalled, but I too am busy and thought what can I do about it?  It is what it is. Then I took a step back and thought no, if we don't speak up, then accountability will never be reached.  As an attorney I am held to a set of rules and ethics within my field.  I am held accountable for my actions.  Why shouldn't she be held accountable for what she did?  I was reminded of the concept, loosely quoted, of "all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men (or women) to do nothing."  I don't get the right to complain if I am not going to take steps to fix it.

So at this point, if you don't already know, you may be asking what did this Vanessa Baugh person do?  Well, I have attached the below complaint that I filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics outlining exactly what, in my opinion, she did wrong to violate Florida laws, Administrative laws and the Florida Constitution while in her role as a public official.  Now disclaimer: this is just my personal complaint that I filed, and the matter is pending.  There has been no outcome at this point.

 Secondly, I have begun a petition on Change.org (link is also attached below).  Manatee County is unchartered and not a municipality so the recourse is that the governor must be the one to suspend Ms. Baugh.  But this petition is not just for Manatee County.  This petition is for anyone and everyone in Florida that wants their elected officials to be held accountable for their behavior.  This is an issue for every voter who cares about their local and state government doing what is right.  So please take a minute and read the petition and if you agree, please sign it.  We hope to get many, many signatures of Florida voters to the governor so he can see how many people care about holding public officials accountable.     

Now at the end of the day, will these steps I've taken result in any action being taken place against Vanessa Baugh?  I don't know.  But I can sleep well at night knowing I took the responsibility to speak out about something that I think was really wrong.  I have done everything I can do at this point to spread the word and inform people.  Because remember, this issue is not about politics...it's about ethics!

Change.org:  http://chng.it/RCsgYXHjP6

The text below is from the Formal Ethics Complaint and was created using a PDF to Microsoft Word Converter. It is a reasonable rendering but should NOT be relied on for legal or professional reference.

 Some Addresses and Phone Numbers have been redacted

 

 Florida Commission on Ethics

P. 0. Drawer 15709, Tallahassee, Florida 32317-5709

 "A Public Office is a Public Trust"

1. PERSON BRINGING COMPLAINT:

Name: Jennifer L. Hamey Telephone Number: (941) 932-6217

Address; 3815 US Highway 301 North 

City: Ellenton, County: Manatee, State: FL Zip Code: 34222

 2. PERSON AGAINST WHOM COMPLAINT IS BROUGHT:

Use a separate complaint form for each person you wish to complain against:

Name: Vanessa Baugh Telephone Number: (941) 745- 3703

Address; PO Box 1000

City: Bradenton, County: Manatee, Zip Code: 34206

Title of office or position held or sought: Manatee County Commissioner

 3. STATEMENT OF FACTS:

Please provide a full explanation of your complaint, describing the facts and the actions of the person named above and why you believe he or she violated the law. Include relevant dates and the names and addresses of persons whom you believe may be witnesses. Please do not submit more than 15 pages, including this form. Please do not submit video or audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, flash drives or other electronic media; such material will not be considered part of the complaint and will be returned.

 4. OATH  (See original Document for formal Oath and Official Witness)

I the person bringing this complaint, do swear or affirm that the facts set forth in the foregoing complaint and attachments thereto are true and correct to fittest of my knowledge and belief.  

MEMORANDUM – COMPLAINT

I. ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATION

1. Did Respondent violate Florida Statute 112.3 1 3(6), Misuse of Public Position, by ignoring the county‘s lottery system for the Covid—19 vaccine distribution and instead unilaterally picking two zip codes in her district to receive 3,000 additional vaccines issued by the State, to the detriment of all other Manatee County residents 65 and over who had signed up for the lottery system?

 2. Did Respondent violate Florida Statute 112.313(6), Misuse of Public Position, by putting herself and four friends onto a "VIP" list provided to the county to insure she received a vaccine from the extra doses provided by the State?

 II. SUMMARY OF FACTS

On or around early February, 2021, Vanessa Baugh (hereinafter referred to as "Respondent") was approached by Governor DeSantis with an offer of 3,000 additional vaccines to be used for Manatee County at a pop-up location in Lakewood Ranch, specifically Premier Sports Campus. Interestingly, that location is owned by Manatee County as a park, not any individual ownership.

 Respondent, by her own admission as stated by her at a County Work Session on February 18, 2021, took full responsibility for choosing the two zip code locations (34202 and 34211) and advised she was not directed by the Governor to do so. Both of these zip codes are located in her district, are predominantly white and have an average median income of over $100,000. Respondent also lives and owns a business in zip code 34202.

 Subsequently, on or about February 15, 2021, Respondent provided a list of five names, one of which was her own, that stated in the subject line "Names for List", which was directed to the county employee working on the list of people to be vaccinated at the pop—up location. (See Attached Exhibit A). This information was revealed to the public and other commissioners shortly after to which Respondent then issued an apology for what she did during a public commissioner meeting. Respondent further admits in her response to correspondence from an angry resident that she "did have a lack of judgment." (See Attached Exhibit B).

 III. ALLEGED VIOLATIONS

A. Florida Statute 112.313: Standards of conduct for public officers.

Pursuant to 112.3 13(1), Respondent qualifies as a public officer subject to the requirements of this section as she is a "person elected or appointed to hold office in any agency. . .“. Respondent was reelected as Manatee County Commissioner, District 5, on November 3, 2020 and was sworn into the position on November 17, 2020.

 Further, pursuant to 112.313(6), "no public officer...shall corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position or any property or resource which may be within his or her trust, or perform his or her official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit or exemption for himself, herself, or others." Discussion of said violation to this section is divided into two separate incidents as discussed above under issues for consideration.

 The first instance of violating 112.313(6) occurred when Respondent took it upon herself to determine what two zip codes were worthy to receive an additional 3,000 vaccines and chose two areas that were advantageous to her personally and to the detriment of the other 150,000 persons over the age of 65 who had done as directed and entered into a lottery system. Respondent used her position to advise the Governor of her choices. She did so with no discussion with the other six commissioners and she did so without any consideration of the very lottery system she put into place for the residents of Manatee County to maintain fairness in the process.

 The second instance of violating 112.313(6) occurred just days later when after already excluding over 140,000 residents from a chance at the 3,000 vaccines (only 7,285 of the approximately 150,000 signed up residents for the lottery lived in 34202 or 34211, See Attached Exhibit C), Respondent created a "VIP" list to insure that she and several friends and neighbors got vaccines out of those 3,000 that were provided by the state. As shown in Exhibit A, two of the parties that she listed on her "VIP" list didn't even live within the two zip codes that she chose as the ones to get the vaccine!

 These actions taken by Respondent, separately and over the course of approximately a week, are a clear violation of the requirements outlined in 112.313(6).

 B. Florida Administrative Code §34-18.001: Scope and Applicability of Chapter

 This Chapter of the Code is designed to define disproportionate benefit as used in Article II, Section 8(h)(2) of the Florida Constitution. Fl. Adm. Code §34-18.001(2)(a) defines disproportionate benefit as a "benefit, privilege, exemption or result arising from an act or omission by a public officer or public employee inconsistent with the proper performance of his or her public duties."

 Fl. Adm. Code §34-18.001(3) discusses the points the Commission shall consider to determine disproportionate benefit. Complainant will discuss each item below, briefly outlining how Respondent violated each item:

 1. §34-18.001(3)(a): The number of people who would experience a benefit was different in each instance of Respondent violating 112.313(6). The first act of Respondent picking two zip codes, which isolated only certain people to be chosen for 3,000 vaccines, resulted in 7,285 people getting the potential benefit of securing a vaccine to the exclusion of the other 142,000 in the lottery pool for the county. 1She further benefited herself because she also lived in one of the chosen districts. In the second instance, five people, including Respondent, benefitted from being on the "VIP" list to receive the vaccine to the exclusion of all other residents of Manatee County who were waiting in the lottery system set up by the commissioners, including Respondent.

 2. §34-18.00113)(b): Simply put, the nature of the interest was personal gain and to help her political and social friends.

3. §34-18.00113)(c) and (d): The degree to which the interests of all those who would experience the benefit are affected is substantial and greatly more advantageous compared to others. Millions of people are waiting to get a vaccine during a pandemic that has crippled our nation for almost a year. Respondent used her position of power to bypass every one of her constituents who have been following the rules put in place by her and the other commissioners to jump to the head of the line and receive a vaccine. Furthermore, Respondent chose to forego the needs of the rest of the county, all of whom she has an equal duty to same as her own district, to put the needs of her own constituents in front of all the others entered into the lottery system.

4. §34-18.001(3)1e): There was zero degree of uncertainty! Respondent knew from the very beginning her actions took away over 3,000 vaccines to the majority of those in the county lottery pool, for the benefit of two zip codes. Further, Respondent knew from the very beginning that it was completely wrong to add herself and several friends to a "VIP" list to insure they received the vaccine. By engaging in this course of action, she took the opportunity away for there to be an equal likelihood of all people in the lottery to get picked for the 3,000 extra available doses.

 5. §34-18.001(3)(f): Respondent lives in Lakewood Ranch and sits as a Manatee

County Commissioner with six other individuals. In neither instance was what she did available to any of those persons. Neither the residents of Lakewood Ranch nor the other commissioners were given an option to pick zip codes to get the extra 3,000 vaccines nor did they have the opportunity to be put on a "VIP" list.

 Finally, 34—18.001(4) outlines that the requisite intent for finding a violation to Article II,

Section (8)(h)(2) of the Florida Constitution is that the officer acted with a wrongful intent for the purpose of obtaining a benefit which is inconsistent with the proper performance of her public duties. Respondent is an elected official who was voted in to serve as a Manatee County Commissioner. While she was voted in by her District, which is not comprised of the entire county, she is still obligated and has a duty to serve the needs of the ENTIRE county. Respondent intentionally chose not to do that. The exhibits attached to this complaint, as well as by Respondent's own admissions, clearly reflect poor judgment and an intentional failure to avoid a disproportionate benefit to herself, her friends and to the residents of 34202 and 34211.

 C. Florida Constitution, Article II, Section (8)(h)(2)1: Ethics in Government

Florida Constitution, Article II, Section (8)(h)(2) states in pertinent part that a public officer shall not abuse her position in order to obtain a disproportionate benefit for herself. This Article and Section further outlines that an independent commission shall conduct investigations and make public reports and that said commission shall be this Florida Commission on Ethics.

Complainant will not re-address all of the arguments regarding abuse of power under this section as they have been adequately addressed in the paragraphs above.

 ______________________________________________

1 Complainant notes that Section (8)(h) was previously designated Section (8)(g). And while all remaining amendments to this Section shall not take effect until December 31. 2022, the pertinent one to this matter did take effect on December 31, 2020.

 IV. CONCLUSION

Respondent is an elected official, specifically a Manatee County Commissioner. When

Respondent took the position she was aware, or should have been aware, of her responsibilities under the Florida Statute, Florida Administrative Code and the Florida Constitution to never misuse her position of power for her benefit or the benefits of friends and family.

 Respondent is in a position of trust with a duty to serve ALL of the county to which she was elected. This includes in situations where decisions can be very difficult and the need may arise to put aside what is best for one's self for the benefit of those whose needs you swore to uphold. This country is in the middle of unprecedented times when the need for leadership has never been greater. The residents of this county turned to the commissioners as the leaders to set the rules and the guidelines for the Covid vaccine. The county commissioners collectively agreed to a lottery system to instill fairness that all of those residents over 65 that signed up would have an equal chance at a vaccine.

 Respondent abused that system. Respondent did not seek advice or counsel of her other commissioners to search for a fair way to distribute the extra 3,000 doses available to the county. She unilaterally decided on her own to pick two zip codes that she wanted to receive the vaccine to the detriment of all the other county residents. Further, she knowingly and willfully put her needs before those of the residents of her county by creating a VIP list that she was on, as well as including two people on the list that didn‘t even live in the zip codes she chose to receive the vaccines. Trust has been lost and cannot simply be regained by an apology. Respondent should be held accountable for these violations.

 Exhibit A

Dana Rawls

 From: Vanessa Baugh

Sent: Monday, February ‘15, 2021 12:58 AM

To: Jacob Saur

Subject: Names for lis

 Names for vaccination requested

Rex Jensen,

Lawrence Jensen, 

Robert E. Keehn. III, 

Marie E. Keehn,

Vanessa Baugh

Sent from my iPad

 

Exhibit B

Dana Rawls

From: Vanessa Baugh

Sent: Thursday, February 18, 2021 6:57 PM

To: STEPHEN MILLER

Subject: Re: COVID POP—UP LAKEWOOD RANCH

Mr Miller, I did have a lack of judgment, however I did not have the vaccine and there were 200 more vaccines added today. I do hope that you and your wife will get it soon.

Sent from my iPhone

 On Feb 18, 2021, at 6:31 PM, STEPHEN MILLER  wrote:

I AM A RESIDENT IN THE 34211 ZIP CODE OF LAKEWOOD RANCH. MY WIFE AND I ARE BOTH 72 AND HAVE HEALTH ISSUES. WE HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING TO GET THE VACCINE. WE ARE REGISTERED WITH MANATEE COUNTY AND READ IN THE OBSERVER THAT THE POOL IS AS FAIR A SYSTEM AS YOU CAN

HAVE SINCE ALL REGISTRANTS ARE SELECTED AT RANDOM BV COMPUTER WITH NO HUMAN INTERVENTION.

 NOW WE READ IN THE SAME PAPER HOW COMMISSIONER BAUGH, WHO COORDINATED THE EVENT, INTERVENED TO HAVE HERSELF AND SOME FRIENDS (OUTSIDE THE TWO ZIP CODES) BE PUT AHEAD OF THE REST OF US WHO ARE ASKED TO ACCEPT THE RULES AS BEING FAIR TO ALL.

 ABOVE ALL ELSE, WE EXPECT OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO HAVE INTEGRITY AND TO REPRESENT THE CITIZENRY FAIRLY. WE USE OUR VOTES TO PUT THOSE PERSONS IN OFFICE WHO WE BELIEVE IN. NEPOTISM SHOULD HAVE NO PLACE WITHIN THE MANATEE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS.

 MY WIFE AND I CONTINUE TO GET ON THE COMPUTER AT 7:00 AM TO LOG INTO THE PUBLIX, WINN DIXIE, CVS, WALGREENS, WALMART AND ANY OTHER SITE THAT MAY OFFER AN OPPORTUNITY TO SIGN UP BUT NEVER MAKE IT TO THE SCHEDULING SCREEN. WE REGULARY MONITOR OUR TEXT MESSAGES HOPING WE WILL BE SELECTED FROM THE MANATEE POOL BUT NEVER ARE.

 I JUST WANTED TO SHARE WITH YOU HOW WE AND I'M SURE MANY OTHERS FEEL WHO ARE DESPERATE FOR THE VACCINE ONLY TO FIND THAT IT IS STILL "WHO YOU KNOW" THAT REALLY MATTERS.

 STEPHEN AND GAIL MILLER 

Sent from Mail for Windows 10 1

 Exhibit C

Dana Rawls

From: Jacob Saur

Sent: Saturday, February 13, 2021 1:53 PM

To: Vanessa Baugh

Subject: Zip codes  

HI Commissioner,

 There is 7,285 people registered with the primary residence listed as 34211 or 34202. I have a team meeting tomorrow to discuss the logistics of scheduling.

 That includes both 65 and older as well as frontline healthcare workers.

 Jake

 Jacob A. Saur, RPL

Director of Public Safety

Manatee County Government

Office: 9414493585

Cell: 941-705-1246

PO. Box 1000 Bradenton, FL 34206

Twitter: MCGPublicsafety

 Outlook for 10

 **********************************************************************

The text from the Formal Ethics Complaint and was created using a PDF to Microsoft Word Converter. It is a reasonable rendering but should NOT be relied on for legal or professional reference.


This post is contributed by
Jennifer L. Hamey Esq. The views expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of BayPost Internet or any publications, blogs, or social media pages where it may appear.