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Milton Mayor Cleared of Possible Wrongdoing

City of Milton

Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay has received a clean bill of political health, on a self-reported possible violation of Florida’s Sunshine Law.

In a written release, the State Attorney’s Office said after review, it’s determined that no violation was committed, and no further action would be taken against the Mayor on this matter. Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille conducted the investigation.

“What that came out of was, [Lindsay] had sent a memorandum to the members of the City Council regarding the changing of the name of the community center there in Milton as a result of the criminal prosecution of the former mayor,” said Marcille.

The City Council voted to change the name back to the Milton Community Center. Prior to that vote, the memo was entered into the public records of the City of Milton, which Marcille says satisfied requirements under the Sunshine and Public Records laws.

“So when you took the facts as they were clear – and there was absolutely no evidence there had ever been a discussion outside a public meeting between any of the members of the council and the mayor,” Marcille said. “When you take the law and put it with the facts, it was clear there was no violation of the law.”

For such a violation to occur, says Marcille, the law anticipates there’s been a back-and-forth conversation – an exchange between two members of the same elected body.

Credit via Facebook
Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay.

“The law has clearly held in the past that a board member can send a written report to other board members,” said Marcille. “As long as it’s a one-way conversation; is made a part of the public records, and not being used as a substitute for actions that should be taken in a public meeting. And that’s the exact situation that we had here.”

In the past, elected officials have been very careful to avoid any hint of running afoul of the Sunshine Law, says Marcille, by circulating memos where there were no back and forth conversations.

“Our office has taken a very strong position, ensuring that our public officials do follow both the Sunshine and Public Records laws,” Marcille said. “While there have been issues in the past, I think overall there’s a fairly good level of compliance with all our elected officials.”

“I’m grateful the State Attorney’s Office was able to investigate the matter without delay,” said Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay. “It was the right thing for me to do, and I believe that there’s nothing to fear when we’re trying to do the right thing.”

As for calling for the investigation, Mayor Lindsay points to her predecessor, Guy Thompson, who recently pleaded guilty to embezzling 650 thousand dollars while running the local United Way.

1st Judicial Circuit Florida

“It occurs to me that it’s very important – even more so than what people already say – that we in Milton be transparent and accountable as leaders,” Lindsay says. “And that we welcome being reviewed and scrutinized so that we can assure people that we’re meeting the standards that are expected of us.”

Guy Thompson’s sentencing on federal tax evasion and wire fraud convictions is scheduled for July 29.  Lindsay concedes that many would say – since Thompson was not in office at the time of his arrest – that the office of mayor wasn’t tarnished. She considers that just a technical interpretation.

“The kinds of rumors that have passed around town over the years about Mr. Thompson predated his guilty verdict,” said the Mayor. “I don’t know how people are feeling directly except what people have told me. Generally, what people feel is just very sad that the man they believed in, is not the man they knew.”

Asked if other elected officials should undergo the same self-scrutiny to remove any doubt about their integrity, Lindsay says that’s a decision to be made by the individual.

“If someone’s falsely accusing us, or we feel like we’re being attacked unnecessarily, then go ahead and allow an authority figure to review the situation and resolve doubts.”