First of all, we couldn't help but wonder now that the owner of the Orlando Lions is going to build his own stadium, will Osceola County continue to pay the City of Orlando the million dollars a year, or will at least one commissioner begin to ask about the deal? That million could go towards the Osceola choo-choo expenses, couldn't it?
We're also wondering about the poor condition of the county's roadway culverts (again) Seems that every year we have to remind the county that we're into the hurricane season and there's all kinds of litter and high grass throughout the county and those items mentioned just might create unnecessary flooding if the county is hit with heavy rains and wind.
Okay, once again we're going to tell you a story, which was stated here almost a year ago when the United States Specialty Sports Association, USSSA, was making plans to depart Osceola County because they were unable to reach a deal with the BOCC. Remember? Well, now this very same Association is now on the cusp of a very nice deal to move its' Kissimmee Headquarters to Space Coast Stadium in the section of Brevard County known as Viera, in exchange for promising to hold youth and other amateur events for at least 175 days per year! The Association also guarantees at least 75,000 hotel room rentals, per year, including its' first year of operation. In exchange for this sweet deal, Brevard County will
Okay, we're going to get right to it. Here first is a comical note Armando Ramirez sent to WFTV! Oh, this is really good!
OSCEOLA COUNTY CLERK OF THE CIRCUIT COURT
2 Courthouse Square • Suite 2000 I Kissimmee, Florida 34741 I The United States of America
May 21, 2015 Good Afternoon,
This statement is being released in response to a news report aired yesterday, May 20, 2015, by WFTV, Channel 9, under the title “9 Investigates Nepotism at the Osceola County Clerk of Court Office.”
Several serious allegations were made in regards to the Osceola County Clerk of Court nepotism policy, including the alleged employment of relatives and/or friends, the utilization of employees for campaigning and the employment of friends with criminal backgrounds.
To reiterate what I have communicated to you previously, I do not have any relatives employed at the Clerk’s Office. The Florida Statutes made provisions for governmental agencies in connection with the hiring of relatives of employees. See section 112.3135, Florida Statutes (attached). Furthermore, the story failed to mention that our nepotism policy was updated as a matter of course with all organizational policies in January 2015 upon issuance of our 2015 Employee Handbook.
Carmen Soto is the sister of Chief Deputy Jennifer Soto. Ms. Carmen Soto is the only relative of the Chief Deputy that works at the Clerk’s Office and she is employed as an Imaging Technician in the IT Department and is not directly supervised by the Chief Deputy. Again, this office adheres to the provisions of section 112.3135, Florida Statutes. Although the reporting within your story is inaccurate, as we did not hire an IT director with a criminal background, we stand on the fact that we would not use the presence of a criminal history as the sole disqualifier for employment. We are a diverse office, we serve a diverse community and believe that every group and cultural subgroup within our community deserve better government.
Towards that end, and in regard to community events, the intention is to bring knowledgeable staff into the community to disseminate information in connection with our services. There are revenue-generating services provided by the Clerk’s Office for which citizens can choose to conduct that business with other entities. Examples of these are marriage ceremonies and passport applications. The accusations contained in the story that these events are geared toward political campaigning using Clerk’s employees to do so is absolutely false and the continued advancing of these accusations are very disruptive to the morale of this office.
I agree 100% with the comments of your legal analyst that positions need to be filled based on merit and not marriage or personal connections. Consequently, your legal analyst interviewed me in connection to the issuance of marriage equality licenses on January 6, 2015, one minute after midnight, and characterized me as a “courageous man.” As a ministerial officer, I run this office pursuant to the Florida Statutes and best business practices. As an elected public official, I do not have any discretion but to follow the law. I will continue to follow the law and will not deviate from it to gain any personal benefit.
I am hopeful that this communication brings light into the report aired and clarifies any ambiguities within your investigation. Additionally, it is my hope that this statement will aid you in an effort to responsibly report the news. Please feel free to contact my office with any further questions on this matter.
We just wanted to share something we got our hands on. Letter from the Orange-Osceola current State Attorney. He boasts of certain convictions but fails to mention a single word regarding political corruption! Guess he believes everyone is following the laws. This letter was sent out May 1,2015.
When I took office on January 8th of 2013, I felt very strongly that the procedure in place for reviewing allegations of use of force by law enforcement officers was inadequate to the task of assuring the residents of Orange and Osceola Counties that these claims would be taken seriously, investigated thoroughly and decided in a manner that is transparent and fair. I appreciated your support of our efforts to improve these procedures. Events have transpired throughout the nation that have only served to highlight how vital and timely those changes have been.
As an unfortunate by-product of those events and some recent prosecutions initiated by this office, I fear your officers, who risk their safety every day protecting this community, feel that they are under attack by the public and that they have lost the support of this office. People have shared with me that there are those who suggest our enthusiasm for prosecution wanes when a law enforcement officer is the victim of the crime. That we, in essence, no longer have their “backs”.
Our records show that nothing could be further from the truth. Of the 632 cases alleging Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer received by this office in 2013, 94% were charged. In 2014, of the 591 cases received by this office, 91% were filed. So far this year, 95% of cases have been filed. My attorneys and investigators take it very seriously when anyone hits, kicks, bites, head butts, or spits on a law enforcement officer in this circuit.
Once charged, we pursue these cases as aggressively as the facts dictate. In both 2013 and 2014, only about 19 % of the cases charged were subsequently dismissed by this office - the vast majority (70%) of which were the result of successful completion of pre-trial diversion programs approved by the victim officer. The majority of cases that proceeded to resolution resulted in a plea of guilty (56% in 2013 and 55% in 2014) or a plea to a lesser crime (22% in 2013 and 19% in 2014). As you are aware, case resolutions are always after consultation with
the victim officer and generally with his or her approval. These statistics do not include the more egregious crimes committed against law enforcement officers which are aggressively prosecuted by our major crimes prosecutors. I feel so strongly about these cases that I often prosecute them myself.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that the rare case in which a law enforcement officer exceeds the bounds of the law in the use of force makes headlines, but the hundreds of cases where the public uses excessive force against officers are rarely noticed.
Our commitment to fairly and responsibly hold officers to task when they exceed the bounds of the law in the use of force is not a reflection of a lack of support for law enforcement officers in general or a lack of appreciation of the dangers, stresses and difficulties they face every day.
I would request that, if you feel it appropriate, you transmit this letter to every officer under your command along with our gratitude for their service and our commitment to defending their right to be respected in and protected by the criminal justice system.
Jeffrey L. Ashton
State Attorney-Ninth Judicial Circuit
Have a GREAT day EVERYONE!!