Welcome to the Thunderdome, Keith! How long will he survive? What's the over / under?
Since you have officially joined the Dark Side of the Force let me give you a friendly introductory blog post. I look forward to reading your emails regularly. Hope you know how to text.
FYI here in the City we the Citizens ask questions so you can't get so testy as in the interaction with the Citizen below!
Remember transparency in appearance but not in practice!
Here is my first email to Keith:
Can you tell me on what date it was determined that Robert would be attending the recent Gulf Council meeting on January 28 in Bay St. Louis, MS? In an email on January 21, 2009 I asked Robert if he would be attending the Gulf Council meeting. In his email reply on January 26, 2009 Robert responded to my question, "At present, that has not yet been determined." Much to our suprise on January 28, 2009 Escambia County citizens walked into the Hollywood Hotel to attend the Gulf Council meeting and found Robert Turpin sitting in the Gulf Council meeting. Not only did he attend, but he also got up and addressed the Council. I was never afforded the opportunity to address with the Chief of Marine Resources for Escambia County my position on the Red Snapper issue as it related to the Gulf Council. This is a problem for me Keith. If my representative is not only going to attend a meeting that personally affects me, but also speak, I feel as though I should have an opportunity to discuss that with him before hand (especially when I specifically ask him about it.)
This is just one more instance of the public losing faith in the Marine Resources Division. I hope that we can count on you to fix the problem. Until accountability and transparency are brought to the Marine Resources Division problems like these will continue to occur. In the future, if Robert plans to attend any fisheries or reef related meetings at the federal, state, or local level I would like to be notified. I should not have to pry this information out of Robert, but this is apparently what it has come down to.
Here is Keith's reply:
If there is a factual problem then we are more than anxious to address it at the direction of the Board of County Commissioners and the County Administrator. However, I will not tolerate or entertain your misguided personal attacks on Robert. Your representatives are the elected officials, they have an Advisory body, the Marine Advisory Committee. We work at the direction of the County Administrator, upon guidance from the Board and the MAC. If you are not pleased with the County's direction, please present me with factual, objective information and I will address it. If you fee like your position wasn't represented, then you should discuss it with the MAC who we utilize for guidance.
I totally believe in and support transparency. I count on our citizens and interested parties to do the same but to date have not found that to be the case in my discussions with many of those involved in these issues. If you have a specific public records request on county travel arrangements or travel plans you may request so.
In that vein, we will provide you with the Travel Authorization Form for Robert's trip to the Gulf Council meeting. However, please keep in mind that authorization to travel is not verification of travel. Trips may be cancelled due to other circumstances or tentative depending on other demands. Robert may have had authorization to attend but not decided to do so until a later time than your discussion.
And here is my reply to that:
First, I fail to see how asking for clarification on a county employee's travel to a meeting in which he wore his Escambia County Marine Resources shirt and stood up and stated that he was representing the Marine Advisory Committee, the Board of County Commissioners, and the citizens of Escambia County before addressing the Gulf Council as the Chief of Marine Resources is a "misguided personal attack on Robert." Second, I should not have to force you or Robert to be open and honest with the citizens which he claims to represent, especially when it is an issue that directly affects me. Thirdly, the idea that the onus of providing transparency falls on the citizens and not the government employee is ludicrous.
I simply asked you to clarify Robert's attendance of this meeting since Robert refused to do so when directly asked. You do not get to dismiss that as a personal attack. That is a legitimate question. The day that a County employee is no longer accountable to his constituency is the day that you as a government employee have lost focus on your role as our servant.
So let me ask my question again, and if need be consider this an official public records request, can you tell me on what date it was determined that Robert would be attending the recent Gulf Council meeting on January 28 in Bay St. Louis, MS? I would like to know if he specifically discussed the Gulf Council meeting with the Marine Advisory Committee, or the Board of County Commissioners and what their input was. I would like to be sent a copy of Robert's travel authorization form as well.
I do not find it acceptable to ask a County employee if he plans on attending a federal meeting to represent our County and not getting an answer. That will continue to be unacceptable to me, and that should be unacceptable to you.
PS Good Luck Keith! Enjoy your how to violate the sunshine law briefing!