By Greg Jackson, Esq.
In following the legal saga involving former Congressional member, Corrine Brown, and persons working in her office before her failed re-election campaign, it is difficult to separate what she is in trial for from what other elected officials do or have done. Granted, not many have started a non-profit organization for the intent purpose of using the funds collected as a personal expense account; but the manner in which she went about collecting the funds and the privilege she demanded due to her position were all too familiar. How often have we seen elected officials using their influence to further causes or issues that benefit them in some form or fashion, but does nothing to better the lives of their constituents?
If the allegations against Corrine Brown are true, then in the court of public opinion she represents all that is wrong, and yet all too often accepted, in politics. Although there are laws in place that provide guidance on what elected officials can or cannot do through their title or influence, does anyone doubt that many elected officials benefit from using their title and influence? Heck, some people even say that is one of the main reasons people go into politics and for some that is okay; but for me, not so much. One situation I recall while working as an Assistant Attorney General was when a State Senator called and asked for a “favor.” His aide’s husband had gone out and purchased a truck and after driving it for a few months was not happy with the terms. So, the State Senator wanted me to help terminate the contract, to which I responded I could not. If that State Senator, were not a State Senator, I can almost bet he would never have had the nerve to ask for such a thing; but you see, privilege affects people’s common senses sometimes.
Those of us who follow politics very closely have seen the person from less than impressive beginnings break into politics and all of a sudden become a consultant or end up with jobs that they are not qualified to hold. Similar to those who gain an identity from being elected, are those who take on an attitude of entitlement once elected to public office. The essence of public service is to serve others; however, the accepted behavior is that elected officials are there to be served; and this is where the problem lies.
When an elected official has become bigger than the community they serve or more important than the people they represent, crazy, unethical things can happen. The entitlement attitude also appears to be infectious and spreads to the people working for the elected official, as well as the associates of the elected official.
The Corrine Brown case is of particular interest because at one-time Congresswoman Brown represented parts of Central Florida and her tag line was “Corrine Delivers!” But, I guess no one ever really thought to ask the cost of her “delivery services” or who her deliveries benefited. According to the U.S. Government, it appears that the cost of those services was one non-profit organization, minus the proper designation with the IRS to serve as her personal account for travel and parties. As the election season kicks up in Apopka, one has to wonder if another Corrine-type situation will come about. Many new faces are hoping to assume positions of “power” that we know very little about, except what they tell us or want us to know about them. As such, I implore each of you to be very cognizant of the other “Corrines” out there. Our community cannot stand many more questionable situations like this when the only thing delivered, at the end of the day, is embarrassment – in my humble opinion
Greg Jackson is a former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, a military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.