Editorial: 'Integrity' is practiced by actions, not words
Saturday, October 13, 2001
The Naples Daily News
Collier County is redefining integrity.
That may seem trivial to citizens who want to see more punishment meted out to the cast of Stadium Naples.
Yet, it is the lack of integrity from the same public figures who were confident they exuded it that got them and the community into so much trouble for the past four-plus years.
Consider Thursday's written statement from county manager-turned-developer Neil Dorrill, upon pleading guilty to felony racketeering conspiracy: "Despite my best efforts to maintain the highest standard of honesty and integrity in the discharge of my public office, certain actions occurring in the last months of my tenure created an appearance of impropriety. I accept full and complete responsibility."
Prosecutor Michael Von Zamft had a differing view on Dorrill and his integrity, saying that only statutes of limitation barred the state from lodging further criminal charges.
Meanwhile, four years ago, after Dorrill himself announced the Stadium Naples project — with all of the associates including John Norris, Bill Rasmussen and Paul Hardy now formally charged — he took part as a panelist in an ethics forum. The public turnout of 200 confirmed public outrage that has yet to subside.
"All of us can be perceived as having conflicts of interest," Dorrill said in 1997. "It boils down to your conscience and your own smell test. How do you feel in terms of your own conscience?"
When asked about the role of public disclosure in ethics, Dorrill commented: "The downside of disclosure is that its there to titillate the public. It provides ammunition to the people who want to tear you down and destroy you."
Others who were charged Thursday spoke of prosecutors being mean and un-American.
Former Commissioner Tim Hancock, who pleaded guilty, has spoken of being naive.
Former Commissioner Tim Constantine, who pleaded no contest and adjudicated guilty by a judge, has spoken of being innocent.
One of the truly impressive testimonials to the public's keen interest in Stadium Naples is that everyone — everyone — except what Von Zamft calls "the Collier County family" of convicted and accused felons, knew all along that buying and selling the public trust is wrong.
The corrupters and the corrupted were taking part in a way of life that was so ingrained that it was right, to them.
Nothing sums it up better than this excerpt from Von Zamft's summary of Thursday's felony charges and pleas.
In a passage aptly titled "The Enterprise," he said:
"Collier County is a political subdivision within the State of Florida. Collier County has an elected Board of County Commissioners. The enterprise is the Board of County Commissioners. Employees of the county administration, developers and business persons utilized the Collier County Commission to deprive the citizens of Collier County of the honest services of government officials and to achieve their own financial gain. They used political corruption, bribery, unlawful compensation, money laundering, and illegal benefits to achieve the desired results."
That's telling the truth and keeping public and private business separate.
Collier power brokers confused integrity with looking good, living well, dressing nicely, speaking softly — and proclaiming themselves to have it.
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Copyright © 2001 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved.
Published in Naples, Florida. A Scripps newspaper.