Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard was not officially arrested Tuesday, as reported in a story that appeared in Sunshine State News Wednesday.
The only official arrest warrants issued by the grand jury Tuesday were for Commissioner Ed Fielding and former commissioner Anne Scott, for two counts each of violating the state's public records laws.
Both reported to the Martin County Jail, were finger-printed and mug shots were taken, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The arrest warrants originated with the grand jury and are sealed until the arrest is made, said Christine Kristofek, the public information officer for the Sheriff's Office. They are not disclosed to the public until court proceedings begin.
“It's a completely different process than what we usually deal with,” she added. “Arrests are always important, but when the grand jury is involved, it's a really big deal.”
The grand jury is still in session.
“The investigation is active,” said Nita Denton, assistant state attorney in the Martin County office, “and that's the only comment I will make.”
Nor will the state attorney comment as to who else is being investigated, or if other charges are forthcoming. No information will be released regarding the arrest warrants until after the investigation concludes, Denton added.
All transcripts of grand jury testimony will be permanently sealed; however, Heard's attorney, Barbara Kibbey Wagner, asked for a transcript of Heard's grand jury testimony, according to court records.
Speculation has been swirling in Martin County circles over Heard's appearance in circuit court Tuesday, because she apparently had not received a copy of the charges against her.
A hearing had been set for 2 p.m. at the Martin County Courthouse. Heard had called in sick prior to the 9 a.m. start of the Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, but the courtroom was closed that afternoon to all except Heard and her attorney.
A copy of the charge against Heard, which stemmed from the grand jury investigation, was not public until her attorney filed a formal request with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. It was filed around noon Tuesday.
Wagner waived a formal arraignment and pleaded not guilty in writing to all charges on Heard's behalf, asking also for a jury trial, according to court records, after which the circuit court hearing was canceled.
Thus far, only one count is on file, a non-criminal information, the formal document that begins a criminal proceeding in the courts. The information listed one count of violating state public records laws by failing to respond to a public records request, punishable by a fine up to $500.
The alleged public records violations stem from a public records request made by the Lake Point mining and water restoration project in February 2013.
Lake Point was seeking evidence in its breach-of-contract case against Martin County and the South Florida Water Management District, and asked for all emails on private email accounts between former commissioner Maggy Hurchalla and commissioners.
As of Sept. 27, 2017, copies of commissioner emails were still being provided to Lake Point attorney Ethan Loeb, according to court testimony.
Arbiter Howard Googe, a court-certified mediator, heard three days of testimony in a court-ordered arbitration in February in the public records civil case, finding Martin County and certain commissioners guilty of violating public records laws. The court ordered the county to pay attorney fees and costs incurred by Lake Point in its attempt to obtain public records.
Thus far, $502,000 have been awarded to the rock mine and water restoration project in Indiantown, which covered the time through July 2017.
Barbara Clowdus is the editor and publisher of Martin County Currents.
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