Sunday, September 29, 2013

Commissioner Fisher Questions Infantini's "Transparency"

Robin Fisher                           Trudie Infantini   

VIERA, Florida -- During last week's discussion amongst Brevard County Commissioners regarding a pay raise for County employees, Brevard County Commissioners Robin Fisher and Trudie Infantini traded barbs over staff salaries and employment practices.  

"You supposedly try to have so much transparency in government, [you say] your'e gonna tell everybody exactly what you do, on November 24, you give your staff a $7,700 pay raise without having any discussion at all," said Fisher.  A little while later, Fisher told Infantini,  "Be transparent, isn't that your term?"  

In past Commission meetings following the BlueWare scandal, Infantini had called for more transparency in government, including an audit of the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast (EDC) - a measure that Fisher opposed while expressing his support for the EDC.

After the Commission meeting, Fisher explained and expanded on his remarks from the September 26 Commission meeting to Brevard Times:

"Commissioner Infantini voted against a 2% raise for all employees.  Which means she denied our employees at the $35,000 range a $700 salary increase.  Yet in November 2012 she had quietly given her two employees, who she promoted to “Chiefs” more than ten times that amount with a $7,700 raise each.  I took offense to that and I thought people should know that while she is always asking for “transparency” she actually gave these raises without any discussion of the board and she did it right after the election and before this budget year had been adopted. 

She then turned the conversation around on my staff.  I don’t apologize for what I pay my staff just like I don’t apologize to my staff for having high expectations. I believe in hiring and retaining experience and talent and I am a very demanding boss.  I require a lot and I am very proud of our team and our part in the current historic economic growth for North Brevard.  Every Commissioner should pay their staff what they feel they are worth and I’m not saying the Commissioner Infantini’s staff don’t deserve their current salary. 

When I was initially elected for my first term, I retained the experienced staff from the previous Commissioner and therefore inherited their salaries.  My first four years those salaries stayed flat while others got raises.  My aides also participated in the countywide furlough.  My original team of three has now retired and I have now hired three new staff each at a lower rate than their predecessors, so our District 1 salaries budget actually went down." 

At one point during the September 26th meeting, Fisher accused Infantini of keeping Matt  Nye, a citizen activist who brought the BlueWare scandal to the attention of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, on her payroll as a way to fund Nye's political campaign for County Commission Seat 4 for the 2014 election cycle.  

"I think you were doing it to fund his [Nye's] campaign," Fisher told Infantini at the September 26 meeting.  "You put on originally in your budget, in November, $32,000 for Matt Nye.  You were gonna fund him $32,000 as a part time employee while he run for County Commission.  Is that true? Cause I've got a piece of paper showing that you requested out of the budget office?"

"No, it is not true," Infantini replied.  "What part isn't?" Fisher followed.  "The part that I'm funding his campaign," said Infantini.

Public records show that Nye, who announced his candidacy on July 1, 2013, had been employed on Infantini's staff during the summer.

"I believe Mr. Nye’s last day was June 28th," Infantini told Brevard Times.  "However, I did not submit his termination of service until after that date in hopes he would be able to find additional time in his schedule to continue working with my office.  Mr. Nye had tremendous talents he brought to my office and I respect his decision to leave."

"I just know that when we started our budget process in July, Matt Nye was on her staff and she asked that he be paid $32K per year," Fisher said in an email to Brevard Times after the meeting.  Fisher's office produced documents to support his contention, including a screen shot of the County website on Friday that still listed Nye as a staff member for Infantini and a County HR spreadsheet dated July 23, 2013 that showed a budgeted amount for Nye's salary as $31,200.

Matt Nye
Nye, an hourly rather than salary employee who disclosed his payroll records to Brevard Times as confirmation, issued the following statement regarding Fisher's allegations:

"Commissioner Infantini hired me on a part time basis earlier this year to help her with research, communications and to attend functions and meetings in her stead. We mutually agreed after four or five months I had too many things on my plate and I wasn’t going to be able to keep up - especially with me planning to run for Commission - so I resigned. I believe my employment was for approximately five months (around February to July) and according to my last paystub, my total compensation was less than $1,800 for the period I was employed.

I am very grateful to Commissioner Infantini for giving me the opportunity to work in her office, and even though my time there was short, I learned a great deal about how both the Commissioner’s office and how the county operates.

As Commissioner Fisher seems very adept at exploiting his position to benefit those he is affiliated with, I suppose it makes sense he would jump to such a conclusion regarding my employment in Commissioner Infantini's office. His allegation is completely unfounded, however, as Commissioner Infantini didn't extend a job offer to me until earlier this year. As you can see from the paystub I provided, my earnings were minimal because the time I was able to commit was limited.

Furthermore, as Commissioner Fisher's comments implied I need help financing my campaign, I've attached last year's W-2 in the name of transparency. I'm on track to do a little better than that this year. As you can see, $1,800 from Commissioner Infantini's office isn't going to make a big difference in my ability to finance my campaign.

I was curious to know how Commissioner Fisher arrived at his conclusion, so I did a public records request this morning for any documentation he had indicating Commissioner Infantini had planned to hire me in November of last year as he claimed on camera, and the only thing he produced was a spreadsheet from HR from July of this year.

It appears he has no evidence to support his false claim, and his comments were made out of pure ignorance or pure malice, or perhaps both. This isn't the first time Commissioner Fisher has made false allegations about me. In 2009 he wrote a letter to the editor of the Hometown News that was factually incorrect after I went after him and Commissioners Bolin and Nelson for voting to extend a $3.2 million AT&T contract without putting it out to bid. Not only was the letter riddled with false information, he had the audacity to deny he wrote it on camera at the next commission meeting when I confronted him about it.

If elected Commissioner, I’ll have the opportunity to not only defend the taxpayers of Brevard from his tax and spend policies, but to defend myself and Commissioner Infantini from these types of false and cowardly attacks. It's time he had somebody his own size on that board to pick on, and I'm just the man for the job."