Correction and Apology: This story includes a link to a September 28
story which reported that the State Attorney was investigating potential
criminal violations arising from the public records litigation between
Lake Point and Martin County. In the original version of this story, we
referenced the September 28 story and said that “A criminal investigation
of Heard, Hurchalla and others by the grand jury … is currently under
way.” We have revised this story to delete Ms. Hurchalla’s name because
we have no information that she is the target of the investigation and we
did not intend to imply otherwise. We regret the error and apologize
to Ms. Hurchalla. On November 29 and 30, we reported on the arrests
of Commissioner Ed Fielding and former Commissioner Anne Scott, who
are charged with criminal public records law violations, and on the charging
of Commissioner Sarah Heard with a non-criminal public records violation.
It's over. After four and a half years of litigation and more than $5 million spent on outside attorneys -- plus a grand jury investigation of the actions by four current and previous commissioners -- the Martin County Commission announced a settlement Tuesday with Lake Point.
The mining and water restoration project near Indiantown gets $12 million and an apology, among other conditions, to drop its breach of contract case against Martin County.
In a twist first alluded to in the South Florida Water Management District's Lake Point settlement on Aug. 23, Lake Point will sell around 400 of its 2,000 acres near Lake Okeechobee to Martin County for $12 million, the first $1 million due within 30 days. The county plans to borrow the money on a 10- or 15-year note.
Both Commissioners Ed Ciampi and Sarah Heard called the settlement "the darkest day" in county government. Newly elected Ciampi called the previous commission's actions that led to the lawsuit under Heard's leadership "reckless government overreach;" Heard proclaimed, "We did nothing wrong."
The settlement does not end the case for former county commissioner and activist Maggy Hurchalla. Hurchalla, who would have had to pay $1,111.11 a day to participate in the mediation, opted against settlement, preferring to take her chances in court. She is represented by attorney Virginia Sherlock.
A criminal investigation of Heard and others by the grand jury for actions relating to the Lake Point operation is currently under way.
Barbara Clowdus is editor and publisher of Martin County Currents.