Editor: As a public officer who, together with my staff, must make untold numbers of decisions, I recognize that often there will be those who disagree and may criticize some of those decisions. I have never objected to that criticism if fairly done. I must, however, complain that your editorial of Jan. 24 is unfair because it is based upon the untrue assumption that Joe Mason received preferential treatment by my office.
Our experience with this type of crime had been limited to the one instance of Sheri Davis of Sumter County who illegally voted in the Dec. 4, 1990, Wildwood city election while residing in the county. We charged Ms. Davis on Jan. 22, 1991. She was eligible for the pretrial intervention program, and we approved her for that program when we filed charges.
Mr. Mason voted illegally in the Brooksville city election of Dec. 3, 1991, while living in the county. We charged him on Jan. 16, 1992, and as he was also eligible for the pretrial intervention program, we approved him for that program when we filed charges.
In both cases the defendants were charged with two felony counts. In both cases those felony counts remain against the defendant pending the successful completion of the program. If either person fails to complete the program, prosecution of the felony charges will proceed to trial.
Otherwise there are three differences in these cases, none of which has anything to do with the prominence of the defendants.
First, as Ms. Davis was publicly employed in law enforcement, we were able to require that she withdraw from that profession. As Mr. Mason is privately self-employed as a lawyer and the Florida Bar controls his licensing, we were not able to affect his employment status. We have, however, reported the matter to the Florida Bar for its consideration. I also have made a recommendation to the governor that Mr. Mason be removed from the Judiciary Nominating Committee (for the Fifth Judicial Circuit).
Second, as Ms. Davis voted illegally only once (that we know of) and the day after the election re-registered according to her true residency, we did not demand that she forfeit her voting privilege. As Mr. Mason had voted illegally for some time before he was discovered and indicated no remorse when confronted with his conduct, we demanded that he withdraw his voter registration for this year's elections.
Third, Mr. Mason took the initiative and proposed an early entry into the pretrial intervention program on the basis of a misdemeanor admission of guilt. Undoubtedly, his knowledge gained as a practicing lawyer allowed him to know that alternative was available. Had Ms. Davis done the same, she too could have qualified on that basis. The difference in admissions, however, means nothing as they both still face felony charges. As to Mr. Mason's submitting himself directly to the court without arrest, again I'm sure he knew that was permissible because of his experience. Again, the difference means nothing, as both still face the initial charges.
Neither of these people ever risked 10 years in prison as you claimed of Mason's plight. In neither case have the felony charges been dropped as you claim of Mason's case. We took the same time, almost to the day, to investigate and charge Mason as we did in the Davis case. Both cases were handled under the same rules and both persons suffer the same consequences as would anyone else in the circumstances.
The veiled suggestion of your editorial disturbs me. That is, because Mason is a lawyer, because you perceive him to be prominent (powerful, as you put it) in the community, he should have been treated differently than anyone else and that he should have the book thrown at him. That concept is as egregious as your erroneous claim that he received preference.
The record I have established in prosecuting public corruption at all levels is unequaled in the history of the Fifth Judicial Circuit. Politicians, police officers and others of prominence have been prosecuted when there was evidence to support such prosecutions. If my actions are accurately presented to the public, then there could be few who could criticize what I have done.
Bradley E. King, State Attorney
County engineer denies accusations
Editor: Thus far, I have remained quiet in my response to the news media regarding the accusations surrounding my tenure as county engineer. But I must take issue with some of your facts noted in your editorial Monday.
1. The construction of the seawall was not mishandled by the County Engineer's Office. The only citation and fines for Pine Island are the result of the placement of unapproved materials at that location without the knowledge or approval of the County Engineer's Office. We have worked actively with state agencies to resolve this situation.
2. The Spring Hill Drive overruns would have surfaced regardless of the consultant, contractor or county engineer. The additional asphalt was needed to correct drainage problems. Quoting from the County Commission minutes: "Commissioner Harold Varvel stated that the happenings had nonetheless caused the creation of a better road for less money." In those same minutes, Commissioner June Ester stated that "she did not disagree that the additional asphalt was needed nor the fact that the county now had a fine road; however she believed that procedures were not correctly followed by all three parties." Commissioner Tony Mosca Jr. asked whether any less asphalt would have been used if correct procedures had been followed. The reply was negative.
3. Your editorial stated: "He gave himself a raise." I, nor any county staff, am in a position to "give myself a raise." My evaluation and pay increase was imparted by County Administrator Chuck Hetrick.
4. "(He gave) his employees raises above the county-approved level." I did not bestow any raise to any of my employees that was not within the county-approved range. All raises that I gave had to be approved by Hetrick and the Employee Relations Office. These raises followed the administrative guidelines.
I definitely want it known that I only want the very best for Hernando County and its citizens. I have a dedicated staff that endlessly works to see each task completed, and will continue to strive for excellence in service.
Charles G. Mixson, County Engineer
Veteran: Traitor-writer should be shot
Editor: Re: Ford family member gives up on American cars, Feb. 9.
Just as we Americans are trying to change the economy of our country, someone like Barbara Fredricksen sticks a knife in our backs as the Japanese are doing also! Surely as a staff member, she must know about the unemployment problems in the good old USA. Even her own father isn't that crazy about her, as I surmised in what she says he says. Articles like she writes only give the other traitors a sense of well-being, and there are others out there who will help them do our country in.
What possible reason did she have for printing that article? I believe it is guilt and shame. As a former military man and veteran of World War II, I think she should be shot as a traitor. If it were wartime, she would be!
Do you know that I was so outraged that I couldn't finish reading the rest of the paper? In fact, I am going to deliver this letter in person so that it doesn't get lost in the mail! I honestly thought it was the duty of the media to try to solve our problems, not add to them. Let's have a little compassion for the unemployed and the hungry who need an upturn in the economy, not another negative attitude that escalates the situation in this country.
I was thinking of changing papers to another American paper because I am dissatisfied with her. If she is dissatisfied with one American automobile, change to another. If she says all American cars are inferior, then she is indeed a traitor!
George F. Drobina, Spring Hill
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