Baring False Witness

In a dramatic scene, a city official accuses another of falsifying a document

"No," she answered, "and if he would have done it, I wouldn't have added it for him."

Then I asked her how, of all the mistakes in all of the world to make, she managed to make that one.

"I remember him asking the question," she said. "Whether it was done at that meeting, whether I cut and pasted it by mistake, I don't know. I was doing several meetings at the same time. I had lost my computer and lost several minutes, so everything had to be redone. I did a huge batch. I fell behind. I could very well have gone from one document to another."

Lost her computer? Now this was beginning to sound like the sewage corruption case in Hollywood, where several officials, including Mayor Mara Giulianti, couldn't hand over evidence to prosecutors because of suspicious computer problems.

That Medina fell seriously behind in her work is obvious, though. Minutes of meetings dating back to June were up for approval by the commission last week. Most governmental bodies are much more timely than that, finalizing the minutes within a couple of weeks. In fact, Florida law dictates that such records should be "promptly recorded."

I went to Colon, the town's finance director, and asked her if she remembered ever being asked the question by Parker. She told me she had no specific recollection of it.

"I need to review the tape," she said, adding later that she is "just a bean counter."

I then asked Mayor Parker about it.

"You have to understand, I asked [Colon], and she answered back, but she didn't come to the microphone," he said. "So it might not have shown up on the tape."

The place in the videotape where the question was supposed to have been asked, however, shows Parker taking a swig of water and mouthing no question at all.

I tried to ask the mayor about it, but he was already gone. He'd hung up the phone and didn't return my follow-up calls.

The city manager, Robert Baldwin, later told me that the mayor had reviewed the tape and, like McIntee, couldn't find the question. He said the mayor and his own office are both now in the process of reviewing several meetings' worth of tapes to see if it was asked on a different date.

"This is concerning, and I intend to get to the bottom of it," Baldwin said.

McIntee is blunt about what he thinks: The minutes were doctored.

"It would seem to me it would be impossible to make a mistake like that," he says. "If you don't see something or hear something, then it shouldn't go down on the paperwork. It's too dastardly a mistake to accept. This is the key to the mayor's lawsuit."

He pauses for a moment before adding, "There's something wrong here."

That's obviously true, but in the murky political waters of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, it's hard to be sure what it is.

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