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Multiple current and former Martin Co. commissioners under fire for violating public records laws

Posted at 12:15 PM, Nov 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-29 09:51:46-05

Editor's note: Because of a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly said that an arrest warrant had been issued for Sarah Heard. Heard faces a non-criminal charge of failure of a public official to respond to a public records request.

There was a major shakeup Tuesday in Martin County, with multiple current and former county commissioners facing arrest and charges for violating public records laws.

It’s even grabbed the attention of the governor’s office.

First on Tuesday, Commissioner Sarah Heard’s seat in the commission chambers was the only one empty as she was in court entering a written not-guilty plea to a non-criminal charge of failure of a public official to respond to a public records request. She also requested a trial, according to court documents.

Court documents say Heard failed to promptly acknowledge a request to inspect or copy public records in January 2013.

Only hours later around 5 p.m. Tuesday, Commissioner Ed Fielding turned himself in to the Martin County Jail on two counts of a misdemeanor criminal charge of failing to allow the viewing or copying of a public record. He was booked and released on his own recognizance shortly thereafter.

Then, around 8 p.m. former County Commissioner Anne Scott turned herself in to the Martin County jail on the same misdemeanor criminal charge of failure to allow the viewing or copying of a public record. She was also booked and released on her own recognizance.

WPTV tried to get a comment from Fielding at his home, but he did not come to the door.

Sarah Heard’s attorney, who she just hired Tuesday, Barbara Kibbey-Wagner, spoke to reporters following her court hearing.

"So we were just retained on this case this afternoon. Obviously, we're going through all the information. We're still looking at everything, and seeing what really this involves. With politics, you never know what's behind everything so we're digging deeper into it,” Kibbey-Wagner said.

The two criminal arrests and the non-criminal charge against Heard come during an investigation by the State Attorney’s Office into whether commissioners committed crimes by how they handled public records related to a company called Lake Point.

That investigation is still ongoing.

For years, Lake Point had been in a legal battle with the county, alleging a breach of contract by the county. Lake Point also claimed certain commissioners in the county destroyed and deleted public records.

This summer, law enforcement served a search warrant at the county administration building for emails on Sarah Heard’s private account.

Heard has always maintained she did nothing wrong.

Gov. Rick Scott’s office says the governor will be reviewing the developments in this case.