Thank you, FDLE: Claims of strippers, excessive travel at Rick Singh’s office need probing
Last week, Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh made headlines after two of his former top staffers accused him of a laundry list of things — including having strippers in his county office one night.
That sounds like the worst dance party ever.
Shockingly, the stripper claim wasn’t even the most troubling accusation in this 40-page whistle-blower complaint.
In fact, I’m not sure it’d crack the top 10.
Instead, there were pages of allegations against the second-term Democrat — all of which he vigorously denies — about wasted tax dollars, excessive travel, questionable deals with vendors; even his office concocting bogus photographic evidence to help Singh dodge questions in a county audit.
His former finance director, Aisha Hassan, claimed Singh took trips to Spain, Boston, New York and elsewhere, often using bogus reasons to spend public money on personal travel.
His former communications director, Laverne McGee, said Singh went so far as to simply create a list of places he wanted to go, ordering her to “come up with justifications for these things to show why I’m going.”
There was much more — accusations that Singh did tax-cutting favors for his friends and tried to punish his enemies, that he was connected to a “sham charity” and destroyed public records.
Singh says the entire complaint is bogus — nothing more than “a shakedown by two employees who essentially tried to extort money from me.” (As for the travel, Singh said if he didn’t travel to so many events and conferences, “I would be abdicating my duty.”)
But I was only 10 pages in to the 40-page complaint before I concluded a formal investigation was needed.
Keep in mind: The accusations came from people Singh himself hired for top positions.
So last week, I wrote that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would be the ideal agency to conduct such a probe. The next day, the FDLE said it would do just that, deciding to launch “a preliminary inquiry to further assess these allegations for potential criminal conduct.”
Singh said he welcomes the scrutiny; that it will show the claims against him were “frivolous, salacious and artfully crafted to generate headlines” – the result of bitter employees he chastised for not doing solid work
If he’s correct, then he deserves to be vindicated by an outside agency with no dog in the hunt.
If even a portion of the accusations are true, Singh probably shouldn’t be in office.
Either way, taxpayers deserve the truth.
This week’s only-in-Florida headlines:
“FAU student threatens to kill professor for scheduling 7 a.m. final exam” … “Florida man who posed as housewife to trick men into sex gets 3 years in prison” … “85-year-old man bitten by alligator at Lakeland retirement community”
Between the gators, hidden-camera cross-dressers and sleep-deprived college students, Florida can be a scary place.
Ertel to Tallahassee?
Reports surfaced this week that Governor-elect Ron DeSantis might be interested in Seminole County Elections Supervisor Mike Ertel as Florida’s next secretary of state.
Ertel would be a fine choice. The Republican has run a solid office, is responsive to problems and citizens and has also refused to play along with hysteria-hyping games when it comes to elections. Last year, for instance, when President Trump claimed that “millions and millions” of people voted illegally, Ertel made headlines for calling the president’s claims malarkey, saying they simply weren’t supported by the facts.
Why? Ertel believed the sanctity of the process was more important than any political gamesmanship — and that’s a valuable characteristic in any elections chief.
Crack those nuts
Looking to get into the holiday spirit? Well, the Orlando Ballet kicks off its holiday tradition this weekend of presenting “The Nutcracker” at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
And if you attend and look closely, you might spy a cameo in the performance. The Ballet has tapped newly elected Sheriff John Mina, Mayor Buddy Dyer, WESH meteorplogist Amy Sweezey, Spectrum News 13 anchor Ybeth Bruzual and others for brief walk-on roles in each show, often two at a time.
I’m taking a turn in Friday’s opening-night performance, along with new Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon. (If we actually dance, I’m going to insist on leading.) More info on the shows at orlandoballet.com.
Honoring thy father
Today’s last word goes to former Gov. Jeb Bush.
At a Wall Street Journal event on Tuesday, Bush said he had received 1,800 emails expressing love and condolences about the passing of his father, former President George H.W. Bush — and plans on responding to every single one.
Why? “Because,” he said, “my dad would ask me to do that.”