Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mike Whitehead - Still Stupid?

It seems Escambia County Commissioner Mike Whitehead finds himself on the south side of law and ethics once again. This time, he tried to buy for $65,000 a county-owned house and one acre lot in nearby Beulah with an assessed value of $83,490 -- and a market value, you can be sure, well above that.

County commissioners (including Whitehead) voted on December 7 to auction the property off through sealed bids. The agenda item [# 12] can be seen here. That same month, Whitehead submitted his winning bid.

The almost-done deal "came to light when Whitehead's signature was noted on a check" by an assistant in the office of County Clerk and Comptroller Ernie Magaha.
[I]n a letter to County Commission Chairman Kevin White, the clerk's office cited Florida law governing standards of conduct for public officials and state Ethics Commission opinions that call such property transactions a conflict of interest.

"Upon advice of our legal counsel, we must advise you that the Clerk of Court and Comptroller will not process any remaining transactions to conclude the purchase of this real property by Commissioner Whitehead," wrote Patricia L. Sheldon, Magaha's administrator for financial services.
Whitehead has abandoned his scheme for now. He told Derek Pivnick of the Pensacola News Journal he didn't realize that what he was doing was wrong.
Whitehead said he didn't seek the advice of County Attorney Janet Lander before submitting his bid, because he didn't think there would be a problem. He said he has bid on property foreclosed on by banks before.
No "problem" when a county commissioner votes to sell public property one week and tries to profit off that sale the next?

Of course, this isn't the first time Mike Whitehead has pleaded his own stupidity as an excuse for violating the law. Last year we learned it was his principle defense to Wisconsin charges of illegal deer hunting.

Maybe he really is dumb. Maybe not. Whitehead's latest gaffe seems to us to pose an irreducible puzzle: Have the voters of Escambia County District 1 elected a self-confessed idiot who doesn't know the law and ethics of county government, or have they elected a self-aggrandizing liar who only claims to be that stupid?

No comments: