The nonpartisan position of School Board member couldn't be further from reality in Pasco County. Voters have grown accustomed to party endorsements and thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the Pasco Republican Executive Committee to its favored School Board candidates. But, the flip-flop of School Board member Cathi Martin on what would have been a career-ending decision shows she and the Democratic Party leadership put partisan considerations above accountability and public duty.
It is an arrogant disservice to Pasco County's 67,000 public school children, the 9,700 district employees and their respective families. Martin has demonstrated no prolonged ability to fulfill her obligations since her 2006 re-election. Her frequent absenteeism provoked state legislators to ask Gov. Charlie Crist to remove her from office. Martin circumvented that maneuvering in a March 12 e-mail to Superintendent Heather Fiorentino and fellow board members in which she announced her resignation because of unspecified health issues.
Her supposed ailments were cured by the name of Richard Corcoran. The longtime Republican ally of Sen. Mike Fasano moved back to Pasco County with a contract to do legal work for the Sheriff's Office as a precursor for an anticipated run for the state House of Representatives in 2010. He was one of several people who applied for the vacancy expected from Martin's resignation, which signaled Democrats and others to lobby Martin to stay put. They feared Corcoran using the School Board as nothing more than a bully pulpit to build name recognition for the next year's political season.
Martin had a window to rethink her departure — or be influenced by the political motivations of others — because her March 12 e-mail carried no legal authority. It it was not signed, nor sent to the governor's office. In other words, she even managed to mishandle what would have been her last official act as School Board member.
After skipping the board's March 17 meeting, Martin, one of only three Democrats in elected countywide office, decided her self-interests and those of her party superseded the public's interests. Last week, Martin sent notice, a signed letter on School Board stationery, that she would not be leaving.
"I have come to realize that my resignation would not be in the best interests of the School Board, the students, the teachers or the people who elected me of Pasco County,'' she wrote and included yet another pledge of commitment to fulfill her duties.
That makes four such pledges, but the first one she put in writing. We'll believe it when we see it. Unfulfilled promises are as much of Martin's record as missed meetings.
Public service goes beyond accepting a $37,714 annual salary and the accompanying benefit package accorded full-time district employees. Her performance has been pathetic, marked by a high absenteeism rate from board meetings and workshops, disengagement when she does attend and now extended periods of incommunicado.
How is that serving the best interests of the public?