Hernando County Commissioner Steve Champion has had his feet held to the fire by voters almost daily since he made comments at the August 12 Board of County Commission meeting regarding the Florida Sunshine laws being restrictive and getting in his way of making progress.
In the last 20 minutes or so of the meeting Commissioner Champion told fellow commissioners that he wanted to bring up a controversial subject. Amidst chuckling from the other Commissioners the Hernando County millionaire commissioner informed everyone that he wanted to do something about the sunshine laws because he felt they were restrictive. Two of the other commissioners agreed with him. You can watch that video by clicking here.
Hernando Phoenix News wrote about it after the meeting and social media lit up.
Champion went off the deep end even going so far to attack potential commission seat challenger Brooksville City Councilwoman Betty Erhard for sharing the article on her official Facebook page by falsely accusing her of being a convicted felon. He then publicly threatened her for asking questions by threatening to publish a booking photo from years ago when Erhard was arrested for paying bills from a marital bank account. The allegations were made by Erhard’s former husband of 20 years during a contentious divorce while Erhard was fighting stage III cancer. The matter was rectified and those records were expunged.
“Why would any elected official, a civil servant elected by the people to represent the people want to take away the people’s constitutional rights?,” Erhard asked. “We need more transparency. Why abolish Florida’s Sunshine laws? More back door deals? What has he done for his district? What positive changes has he done for the County? Shouldn’t he be more concerned about the county’s deficit?”
At that point public pushback ensued against Champion and his camp for stooping to such low measures based on an emotional outburst against a potential opponent in the race. It should be noted that Erhard has a broad base of supporters but has not announced her intentions of running against Champion in the 2020 race.
The fire is still burning hot.
A week later on August 21, 2019 longtime reporter with the Tampa Bay Times, Barbara Behrendt, stoked up the flames with her article titled ‘Shut the doors and let us talk: Hernando County commissioners want to ax part of Florida Sunshine Law.’ The story goes into more detail subheading how ‘Commissioner Steve Champion pitched the idea, saying it would make their work more efficient and reduce public disagreements.’
It gets better
Two days after Behrendt’s article, on August 23, 2019 the Tampa Bay Times editorial board brought the blaze to the forefront of the news cycle with a hard hitting editorial titled, ‘It’s your government. Don’t let them shut the door.’ The editorial board let the Commissioner know that whining about the sunshine law is not acceptable and maybe he should look for another line of work.
To anyone that follows Commissioner Champion at all knows he is well known for attacking and blocking anyone on social media that disagrees with or questions him. His tactic is to declare that anyone that disagrees with him or tries to push him for answers is a ‘LIBERAL’ to stoke public outrage by his inner circle of friends that post for him on social media, party affiliation aside.
Today, the Hernando County Progressive Caucus added insult to injury to the liberal hating Commissioner by bringing to light the Commissioner’s total disregard for the best interests of the voters in his district spelled out in the form of a Letter to the Editor. Here’s the letter:
As many residents of Hernando County received their TRIM notices last week, District 5 Commissioner Steve Champion did what he does best: made it all about Steve Champion, all on Facebook. Over several posts, Mr. Champion shared images of his recently-increased taxes, declaring that he would never vote to raise taxes in Hernando County.
The few Hernando residents with sufficient time to follow County Commission business know that this tax hike was precipitated by the fiscal irresponsibility of the Board of County Commissioners. Mr. Champion has repeatedly made it clear that he wants the Board to offset their budgetary mismanagement by cutting and freezing county services. It is worth noting that District 5 encompasses many of Hernando County’s poorest, most rural, and most vulnerable communities, whose residents rely on county services in their daily lives.
But about those photos. Though it surely was not his intent, they illustrate a stark disparity between Mr. Champion and his constituents. He laments his aggregate tax obligation of $15,289.41, while deeming his $940,882 property valuation, on which those taxes are based, unremarkable. Indeed, state financial disclosure forms show that his net worth of nearly $1.1 million is the highest of any commissioner.
According to the Census Bureau data, the median home value in Hernando County is $121,000, and according to the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, the per capita personal income is only $36,000 annually. The United Way’s ALICE report for 2019, meanwhile, found that anywhere from half (North Brooksville) to two-thirds (Brooksville) of residents in District 5 communities were living in de facto poverty. If Mr. Champion is aware of any of this, he seems unperturbed. Instead he uses his platform to wallow in pity that his millionaire self has to pay his fair share to fix a mistake which is partly of his own making.
Perhaps Commissioner Champion realizes that the citizens of Hernando County are awake and watching. Not only are they watching, they are listening and speaking up.
For the good people of Hernando County that can’t leave work to watch and participate in the meetings where decisions are being made on their behalf rest assured that not all news is fake. The media is alive and well and we are watching for you.