Editorial: Rashid should resign from aviation authority

Published Dec. 15, 2015

The language that Hillsborough County Aviation Authority member Sam Rashid used this week to denigrate a female consultant working for the county is unacceptable and beneath anyone conducting the public's business. He should resign from the aviation board, and Gov. Rick Scott should replace him with an able successor who better appreciates the balance between public and private life.

The Valrico businessman and Republican political activist called a Tampa public relations executive handling the county's transportation initiative, Beth Leytham, a "taxpayer-subsidized slut." On Facebook, he also wrote that Leytham had enriched herself on the public dime by having "an intimately close relationship with three of our local elected officials."

Rashid initially defended the post, saying it was not sexist but aimed at calling attention to Leytham's political ties. That is ridiculous; the degrading term is never used against men because it's aimed at debasing women on a fundamental level. Rashid later acknowledged, though, that he had lost his cool. "I admittedly made a mistake," he told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Friday. "I shouldn't have used the word." Rashid also said he recognized that his personal advocacy on political issues might be a bad fit for a political appointee. "My statements are colliding with my public service," he said, adding that he was considering notifying the governor that he would resign.

That would be an appropriate move. Appointees are a reflection of the officeholders who put them in positions of public trust. The Scott administration, which has not shown any tolerance for this kind of language, has been tainted by its association with Rashid. Though Rashid's comments fell outside the scope of airport business, it was a loaded and demeaning attack meant to influence public policy.

Rashid said he will think the matter over, though it appears he will offer his resignation. But if he doesn't, Scott should remove him from the aviation board and select someone based more on expertise and temperament and less on partisan political clout. The quicker Rashid can make amends to Leytham, the governor and the public, the sooner the airport can move beyond this needless distraction. And the governor should remind Rashid's successor that the words of a public official matter, whether they are used during a public meeting or on Facebook.