Hillsborough Judge Robert Bonanno has stalled long enough. The public deserves an accounting of why he was caught after hours in the private chambers of a fellow judge who was out of town. A grand jury reportedly found Bonanno likely was snooping for documents and suggested he resign from the bench. The panel's report is an important document that should be a guiding force in restoring trust in the Hillsborough courts; it should be released immediately and in its entirety.
Bonanno should welcome a report that attempts to explain why a bailiff discovered him in Judge Greg Holder's darkened office in July. Holder was away on military duty. He is not close to Bonanno, and their duties generally do not overlap. At the time, Holder was on the outs with several judges with whom Bonanno was aligned. According to the Tampa Tribune, the grand jury concluded Bonanno likely was seeking documents on someone else's behalf. Holder called the event "nefarious," though Bonanno has denied wrongdoing.
The grand jury was empaneled to sort out this mess, and the community deserves to see its conclusions _ without further delay. It is telling that Bonanno has allowed his attorney, Ralph Fernandez, to seek legal action against the Tribune for disclosing details of the grand jury report. Bonanno forgets he has a public job. He has embarrassed the entire Hillsborough judiciary. The judge continues to act as though he has something to hide. If Bonanno objects to the report's findings, he should state his case publicly rather than battle to put his words in the jurors' mouths.
The Tribune reported Bonanno will seek to keep the report private as he considers whether to challenge the findings. That poor judgment is self-serving, and Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer, who is presiding over the case, should not allow the grand jury's work to be held hostage to such tactics.
Bonanno has a duty to his profession to face the scrutiny of open court. Secrecy has done enough damage. It's time to throw some light on the people's courts.