About a month later, in Perhaps Yet Another Reason Not to Run for Tax Collector, I reacted to another story about the same tax collector. Additional federal charges were brought, accusing him of using information from surrendered drivers’ licenses to manufacture fake IDs with his picture on it. After this indictment was handed down, he resigned his office.
A month after that, in Running for Tax Collector (or Any Other Office)? Don’t Do These Things, I shared my thoughts on yet more news about the same tax collector. In a superseding federal indictment, was been charged with sex trafficking a minor. According to the indictment, he was able to get “personal information from motor vehicle records to engage in commercial sex acts and accessed personal information to engage in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships, including with someone who was between the ages of 14 and 18.” The tax collector’s attorney said that his client denies the charges.
Two days ago, in When Behaving Badly as a Tax Collector Gets Even WorseI wrote about still more news about the same tax collector. According to the story, six women who worked for him at the tax collector’s office settled lawsuits and complaints against the Tax Collector’s Office, based on allegations of sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and First Amendment violations. Shortly after I wrote Monday’s post, reader Morris sent me a link to the same story published by another news outlet. I let him know that I had seen the story and that my commentary would appear on Monday. Soon thereafter, reader Morris sent me a link to yet another story about the same tax collector. Somehow I missed this story, which was published about a month ago. According to the story, Seminole County records reveal that the tax collector spent more than $65,000 in county funds to purchase computer servers for a blockchain company that he had formed. Eventually he repaid the county, at about the time the Tax Collector’s Office retained an attorney to represent it in one of the criminal investigations underway with respect to the tax collector’s activities. At this point the County undertook a forensic audit and discovered that the tax collector had funneled roughly $3.5 million to friends and associates through consulting contracts and employment. The tax collector, who has been charged with using information from surrendered drivers’ licenses to manufacture fake IDs and using motor vehicle records to engage in commercial sex acts, planned to use his private blockchain company to take information from property tax records, tax payments, and drivers’ licenses onto a blockchain to start a digital ID arrangement. The tax collector had a private business partner in his enterprise, and he caused the Tax Collector’s Office to hire that partner as blockchain advocate and legislative affairs director drawing a taxpayer-funded salary. The tax collector referred to these allegations with a word describing excrement from a bull, and launched into criticism of the federal government and its “all out assault on anyone that attempts to embrace crypto and change the way our financial system is set up.” I suspect that when people voted for this fellow they did not know what he had been doing and what he would end up doing. Perhaps close investigation, analysis, and critical thinking would have revealed something. Perhaps not. But I fear that even if it did, too many people would simply see the candidate’s party affiliation and pull the lever or push the button or check the box or do whatever was necessary to put the candidate into office despite the red flags. That has happened with the nation’s highest office so it’s likely that it would have happened with a minor office such as tax collector even if the electorate knew what was happening. There’s ignorance and there’s willful disregard of information. Both are dangerous. Both put people at risk. Both threaten democratic (lower case “d”) values. Both are a sorry testament to the deterioration of this nation.