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Wakulla Times Article-Political Independent Reporter needs to get a grasp on the facts--Dec. 2010

Shortly before the Tuesday, Nov. 2 General Election many Wakulla County residents received an unwanted and unrequested piece of political junk mail. Many people realized what it was and threw the “Wakulla Independent Reporter” into the trash. A few others opened the malignant document and viewed the venom that was spewed across the pages before realizing what horse droppings looked like in print.

The person or persons responsible for this allegedly every other month publication refuses to identify themselves. I guess if I was printing total faceless nonsense and drivel I wouldn’t want my name on it either.

The Wakulla Independent Reporter is disguised as some sort of newspaper, but it doesn’t follow any rules set forth for newspapers except for use in the bottom of bird cages and wrapping mullet. It can only be classified as electioneering garbage.
This individual or group of Wakulla County citizens have spent the fall bombarding local voters with information about political candidates who are running for office and bogus nonsense and half-truths about the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office.

It is time that the citizens and voters of Wakulla County know the facts and not the lies and half-truths of a politically motivated tiny minority of residents in the county who are seeking to discredit the sheriff’s office with fabricated information.

The Wakulla Independent Reporter is the latest load of manure to hit the mailboxes of some of our citizens. The “independent news publication” claims that it is providing a newspaper to cover issues the local newspaper is unwilling to cover. In reality, it is only mailed out a few short days before each General Election to add a little last minute smearing of candidates they oppose on the November ballot. Does it come out during the summer on non-election years? Does it come out in the early months of election years? The answer to both questions is no because you can’t attempt to influence elections during that time of year.

The publication has gone to great lengths to publish some fluff news about Jarhead the Bear and a visit to the great tourism hot spot of Mount Dora to make it seem like some sort of legitimate publication. Tossed in for political gain were stories related to the Wakulla County Commission race in District 4 between Commissioner Howard Kessler and challenger Jerry Moore.
The publication provides a platform for the anonymous publisher and the anonymous writers to create political mumbo-jumbo that suits a specific political angle.
Certainly the writers and publisher have enjoyed making up facts and writing about subjects that they know little about like the closing of Wakulla Bank and the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office budget.

To find out facts about the bank all you have to do is talk to them. To find out information about the sheriff’s office all you have to do is visit us. We are happy to share whatever information we can.
Let’s start with the Wakulla Bank story. This publication blames me as the one responsible for the Wakulla Bank closure. Their logic includes the paragraph, “Sheriff Harvey’s widely publicized car accident and admission that he had been drinking at the Wildwood Country Club beforehand led to a series of events rumored to have brought the bank down.” Yes, rumors, not facts.
It is an interesting way to reach the voters. First you create the false rumors and then, you report them as fact.
I settled with Wakulla Bank on everything related to the Wildwood Country Club so how could I be responsible for the closing of Wakulla Bank? The bank closing “rumor” is strange logic even for a publication with as warped a view as the political Independent Reporter.

There are a number of budget related claims in the Independent Reporter that need to be addressed. Politicians making claims to cut budgets during election years sound wonderful to the voters but the bottom line is that it costs money to provide law enforcement and corrections services to Wakulla County citizens 24 hours each day, 365 days each year.
The Independent Reporter wanted the sheriff’s office to absorb a huge budget cut. Strangely enough, that was the same stand taken by Commissioner Howard Kessler. It stands to reason that if you cut a large chunk of the sheriff’s budget it would have an impact on the quality of life citizens enjoy in the county. A large budget cut would have cost Wakulla County jobs in a weak county economy while also weakening our ability to Keep Wakulla Safe.

When calls for service dramatically increase there is a need for more law enforcement officers. WCSO has not received an increase in its budget for additional law enforcement officers since October 2006.
Lean budgets have forced the sheriff’s office to disband the SWAT team and dive team. The jail accreditation was questioned, but it results in lower costs to taxpayers who don’t have to worry about huge legal costs involved if someone sues the jail when it isn’t accredited.

Our traffic unit is made up of a team of dedicated law enforcement men who were already working for the sheriff’s office but are now used more effectively answering traffic incidents that were once handled by the Florida Highway Patrol. The FHP might have one trooper on duty and he might be in Apalachicola at the time an accident occurs at Wakulla Arran Road and U.S. Highway 319.
Instead of wasting a deputy’s time waiting 45 to 60 minutes for the trooper to investigate the minor crash, Wakulla deputies became trained and can handle the cases in a fraction of the time and send motorists on their way. Frustrated citizens were being asked to wait long periods of time for the FHP to respond to the scene and our deputies were forced to wait at the scene as well. The Traffic Unit has eliminated that problem. The citizens of Wakulla County demanded the change and Florida Highway Patrol Col. John Czernis agreed with the logic and was glad to get the help from the WCSO.

The vehicle I drive was questioned along with vehicles for a major and chief deputy. I drove a hybrid vehicle that I felt would not meet the needs of the sheriff’s office in times of emergencies so the decision to change to trucks was made. The trucks can carry equipment, reach places the old vehicles couldn’t, carry groups of workers and pull trailers when necessary, especially during hurricane season.

The sheriff’s office has not gone to “new look Stetson hats” as reported by the publication. The sheriff’s office eliminated the old shoe allowance in a budget cutting move. The WCSO is attempting to provide law enforcement officials with on duty hats that protect them from rain and the harmful rays of the sun. The cost is less than the $100 reported in the publication.
The new decals on the patrol vehicles were added because many of the old decals were aging and becoming less effective to view at night. The new decals provide a safer environment and a more reflective element for deputies working at night.

All sheriffs’ office operations and many other government entities have a public information officer. The PIO stays abreast of all safety events and criminal cases, development of an effective means of communicating with the public and the addressing of all media requests. The Wakulla County Commission and Wakulla Health Department have public information officers because they know the importance of being able to communicate with the public.
The sheriff’s office does not have a departmental lobbyist and does not “contrive high numbers of service calls to prove need.” Activity within the sheriff’s office is documented to include all types of calls.

The political Independent Reporter claims that crime rates are “plummeting around the country” and the reduction is not due to exceptional law enforcement. While crime rates have declined in some areas, crime is not plummeting. There is a direct correlation between good law enforcement, the dedicated law officers Wakulla County is fortunate to have and lower crime rates.
The Independent Reporter also has some facts crossed over WCSO employees who took advantage of the state retirement system as it was structured. Employees who retire and later return to their positions in law enforcement cost taxpayers less than those who qualify as “at risk” retirement candidates. The employees who chose to retire and return to work cost taxpayers much less than having to hire a new employee and provide the “at risk” contribution to the state retirement system. It is hard to imagine how one could poke fun at someone in the state retirement system that was just following the rules that existed at the time they entered the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP).

The publication goes on and questions the integrity of former Supervisor of Elections Sherida Crum and her handling of the 2008 election as well as the dedicated poll workers who were employed at the Sopchoppy precinct. The Independent Reporter also threatens new Supervisor of Elections Buddy Wells stating that, “Citizens concerned about the neutrality of the office and its ability to provide ‘clean’ elections are paying close attention to November’s results.” Hopefully, those citizens will know more about the election process than they do about law enforcement.

Printing pictures of children playing in child patrol cars implies that the sheriff’s office purchased those toys. The WCSO did not purchase those cars and the Independent Reporter should know better. It was this type of tactic that motivated many WCSO employees to dig into their wallets and pay for a full page advertisement in The Wakulla News stating the facts. No taxpayer money was used to pay for this ad which was initiated by the employees.

The Independent Reporter claimed that Kessler was a victim of “attack” tactics in the same issue with lies about the sheriff’s office, Wakulla Bank, the Supervisor of Elections and poll workers in the Sopchoppy precinct. It is easy to appear to keep your hands clean when faceless political publications create the stench of manure for you.
In the meantime, Guinn and Lady Haskins will continue to identify themselves. That’s because they don’t hide behind a hidden agenda. Their only agenda is they love Wakulla County.

Many citizens are coming forward to ask about identifying the writers of the Independent Reporter and to ask for a re-investigation of the political publication for liable and slander and for violations of election laws. Stand by folks.

 

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