After requesting State Attorney Phil Archer investigate and potentially prosecute a Brevard County Commissioner for campaigning while on duty, state Rep. Randy Fine is following up with Gov. Rick Scott‘s office, requesting Scott appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.
The reason? Fine now understands Archer already had endorsed the commissioner in question, Curt Smith, for his re-election bid.
“I was not aware when I sent my letter to Phil Archer yesterday that he had just days earlier joined Curt Smith’s campaign team,” Fine said in a Tuesday follow-up. “It puts Mr. Archer in an untenable position, which is why the Governor has the ability to appoint Special Prosecutors.
“The public deserves an objective and unbiased investigation into Curt Smith’s potential criminal conduct.”
Fine, a Palm Bay Republican, is accusing Smith, also a Republican, of misusing his position to campaign while on duty as commissioner. That’s a violation of Florida law: “An employee of the state or any political subdivision may not participate in any political campaign for an elective office while on duty.”
In a Monday letter addressed to Archer of the 18th Judicial Circuit, Fine details an incident that occurred during a July 10 board meeting. Fine writes that Smith, from the commission dais, said: “I want to thank all of my supporters for coming out to the Brevard Republican Picnic this past Sunday and voting me as the Brevard Republican District 4 straw poll winner and in fact I [sic] they did such a good job I got more votes than anybody else in the entire room.”
“There can be no question Commissioner Smith was participating in a political campaign through his comments,” Fine wrote in the letter. “He was, literally, talking about winning votes at an event designed for candidates to campaign for an upcoming election. His comments had nothing to do with his official duties.
“Short of showing up to a Board meeting with a sign reading ‘Vote for Curt Smith,’ it is hard to imagine a more obvious case of an employee campaigning while on duty.”
After realizing Archer had endorsed Smith, Fine followed up with a letter Tuesday addressed to Scott requesting a special prosecutor be appointed to look into the described incident.
“It is not fair to Mr. Archer, Commissioner Smith, or the public to be in that position,” Fine wrote to Scott. He supplied the Governor with his original letter to Archer.
The Florida law cited by Fine is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Smith is challenged in the race for his District 4 seat by Republican Trudie Infantini and Democrat Matthew Fleming.
Smith was recently the subject of an ethics complaint accusing him of failing to fully detail his financial disclosure form. The January 2017 complaint was settled this year, and Smith will pay a $1,750 for the violation that he described as a “clerical error,” according to Florida Today.
Fine, although a member of the Legislature, has made a point of criticizing local governments in or around his district. He told Florida Today in January that there is an “avalanche of corruption” at the county level.
That sentiment is reiterated in a statement provided with Fine’s letter.
“We cannot allow commissioners to campaign from the dais,” Fine said. “This kind of blatant misuse of office reinforces the culture of corruption that pervades Brevard County.”