Hey, Orange County Sheriff's deputies: Have you ever come across a particularly sordid miscreant and thought, "This fellow could use a good skull-cracking"? Well, unsheathe your batons and crack away! As of May 29, whatever thin veneer of external accountability that existed — outside of the sheriff's office's own professional standards division — was eviscerated by the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Daytona Beach.
In a far-reaching ruling, a unanimous three-judge panel effectively shut down the county's Citizens Review Board, the volunteer group that investigates allegations of police brutality. The ruling finds even the minimal powers allotted to the CRB — like the ability to subpoena deputies — unconstitutional.
The case stems from a 2004 incident involving OCSO Deputy Steven Jenny, who, while arresting a 17-year-old for a curfew violation, allegedly used excessive force. Professional standards ruled that Jenny had done nothing wrong. The CRB launched its own investigation and sent Jenny a subpoena demanding that he testify. Jenny declined. The sheriff's office filed a complaint in circuit court challenging the CRB's authority. The case made its way to appellate court.
The court's ruling has more to do with Orange County's CRB composition than the nature of its oversight in general, but the effects are the same. The appellate court decided that, because the sheriff is an elected official who answers to voters rather than the county government, he has the authority to discipline his employees any way he sees fit.
The appeals court gently recommended that the county make the CRB a more toothless entity, one that looks over public records and takes testimony from those who volunteer their time (read: not cops): "We see no reason why the county could not create a board with more limited power to review and comment upon internal investigations conducted by the sheriff."
Translation: You can have your CRB; just don't expect it to do anything.
On June 23 — as this column goes to bed — the county commission will be deciding whether or not to appeal the case to the Florida Supreme Court.
And now it's time for another edition of What's Up With Alan?™, our attempt to keep you up to date on the comings and goings of Orlando's favorite congressman, Alan Grayson!
This week's installment finds Alan once again sticking it to evil bankers with menacing hyperbole, wooing the teabaggers and staring down challenges from as many as five different Republicans. Exciting!
The same day the Obama administration was trotting out its new regulations for the financial services industry, Grayson was telling the Huffington Post that he wanted to go further: "The main thing is that not a single person has been held accountable for the destruction of multibillion-dollar businesses, and that's disturbing. We have to learn from our mistakes. Letting the people who destroyed these huge institutions continue to function in the financial industry is like giving a gun to my 4-year-old child. A loaded gun."
Grayson wants to use civil injunctions to ban any executive who took the TARP bailout money from serving as an officer or director in any publicly traded company, ever. Yikes! Even his pal Barney Frank, D-Mass., called that idea "wacky." After all, the feds urged some banks to take the money.
No one's taking Grayson's proposal too seriously. But still! Grayson's sure making a name for himself in the anti-bailout crowd, which according to recent polling is pretty much everybody. Remember his (widely viewed on YouTube) dressing-down of a Federal Reserve lackey a few months back? And how he signed on to Rep. Ron Paul's bill to audit the Fed?
A few minutes on Google shows that the Paultards have taken a liking to our Alan, even though he's a rabid liberal. In fact, Grayson might even be indulging the various Fox News acolytes at the July 4 Tea Party, if his office can work out some scheduling issues. Bipartisan-crazy! Nonetheless, he's still in local Republicans' sights; they think he's the state's most vulnerable Democrat.
Every big-shot Repub in town is eyeing this race. Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty — he of the recent Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority pay-for-play scandal — has all but announced. State Sen. Andy Gardiner and former state Sen. Daniel Webster are pondering it as well. More recently, state Rep. Steve Precourt and state House Speaker Larry Cretul — who is from Marion County and pretty anonymous around these parts — have dipped their toes in the electoral pool.
So who does Grayson fear most? A source close to Team Alan would like Republicans to know that they're concerned about Precourt, and (via e-mail) "TERRIFIED!!!!!!!" about Cretul. Make of that what you will.
In the meantime, thanks, Alan, for keeping us entertained!
Last week, we regaled you with the exhilarating numerical fanfare of the Florida Hometown Democracy juggernaut: The environmentally-minded group had obtained more than the required 676,811 signatures to finally make its way on to the 2010 ballot — in fact, they submitted 711,168 — and were one step closer to giving Florida voters the chance to essentially veto comprehensive land use decisions made by legislators with fat development friends named "Bud."
There is a hitch, though. In addition to needing those signatures to be spread out over Florida's congressional districts, there is still the looming Florida Supreme Court consideration as to whether the opposing chamber group, Floridians for Smarter Growth, had acted constitutionally in its signature-revocation campaign. FSG was pretty crafty in confusing the matter all around, even submitting their own plan that, while claiming to give voters a choice in land use matters, was prohibitively worded so as to make that a near-impossibility.
That brings us to now. On June 17, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hometown Democracy and ruled that Smarter Growth had in fact been unconstitutional with their revocation campaign, clearing the way for FHD to pop up on next year's ballot, along, quite possibly, with Floridians for Smarter Growth's Trojan horse amendment. Nope, not confusing at all. Get ready to feel pressure from both sides over an issue you probably don't understand. Politics as usual.
Brian Feldman wears green underwear. Brian Feldman owes everyone in earshot $10, which he will pay promptly after finishing this reading. Hello, Brian Feldman. We know you're reading this, mostly because we always know what you're doing — jumping off of things, throwing pillows, Tweeting drama, staring at fuzzy analog television screens, lying on a sidewalk — because you've made yourself into a social networking performance art installation the likes of which we have nightmares about. We can't even think of you without humming "Together in Electric Dreams" while drumming our fingers and wondering when you are going to show up at our office and eat us alive to feed the mainframe of your heart.
This week, your shenanigans involve us. Right about now, you're sitting over at Frames Forever and Art Gallery in Winter Park, it's about 8:37 p.m. on July 25, and you are reading this entire paper aloud in protest of WMFE-FM 90.7 killing their audio reading service due to state budget cuts. Are there people around you, Brian? Run over and kiss one of them. Do it. Do it right now. With tongue.
OK, Brian, we'll let you get back to your business of making events out of monotony. Wait, did you just hit yourself? Why do you keep doing that? Does Brian Feldman really shower once a week, or is that just a firstname.lastname@example.org