Thursday, April 16, 2015

Group focuses on corruption, conflicts of interest statewide

Concerned Citizens group focuses on public corruption

Ben Wilcox, left, addresses the Concerned Citizens group while Allan Feifer, right, and Gail RiegelmPhoto available for purchase
Ben Wilcox, left, addresses the Concerned Citizens group while Allan Feifer, right, and Gail Riegelmayer listen.
David Adlerstein
Published: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 01:33 PM.
The research director of a leading Florida government watchdog organization told members of the Concerned Citizens of Franklin County organization last month that it is important to focus on policy issues, and not individuals, if they are to succeed in an effort to rid their government of corrupt practices.
“Corruption doesn’t wear a party label, and all the work we have done has been focused on policy and not on individuals and different officeholders,” Ben Wilcox, research director of Integrity Florida, told about two dozen members of the Concerned Citizens at a March 28 town hall meeting in the Eastpoint firehouse.
“Stay focused on the policy that’s allowing the behavior the that your citizens don’t want,” he said. “If people see what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to get a person out of office and get them defeated at the next election, it’s going to be seen as political.”
Integrity Florida is a three-year old nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute and government watchdog whose mission is to promote integrity in government and expose public corruption.
Allan Feifer, the Concerned Citizens president, chaired the town hall, and before introducing the guest speaker, he, and board members Ken Osborne and Gail Riegelmayer outlined the history of the organization. Osborne said it had its roots in the 1986 federal case, when the county’s African American community sought to create single-member districts. The group was reconstituted about 12 years ago, and among its causes has been as a tax watchdog and advocate for government accountability, particularly on a county level, as well as an active supporter for countywide voting.
In his presentation, Wilcox said he helped start the Integrity Florida, in Feb. 2012, and that he and the group’s cofounder and executive director, Dan Krassner, had spoken with former Florida governor Ruben Askew for two hours a few years ago to gain insight into their task.
“A public office is a public trust,” Wilcox said he told the men. “Those words are the most profound words I’ve ever heard.

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