RiseMagazine | Sarasota

The Premier Lifestyle Magazine of Florida's Black Communities

Corruption & Cover-up (part 2 of 2)

Should we be more mindful of the actions of those to whom we’ve elected into power? Should policies and procedures go un-checked even when their proof of conflicts are blatant and obvious? Should we be in fear of correcting our government officials? Yes, no and no! Citizens of Sarasota and more specifically, residents of Newtown, we need to remember that our elected officials are in position to do the jobs that we’ve elected them to do! In any other circumstance, an employee that wasn’t performing as expected or promised would be terminated. We have that power!

We should never be as afraid of our government as they should be of us!

In part two of this two-part letter from Ms. Valerie Buchand, we ask a very simple question based on the past performances of our city and county commissioners: who’s side are they really on?


(part 2 of 2)

For two months straight the Sarasota Herald Tribune continued to report inaccurate statements provided by the City of Sarasota, continued to defame Ms. Benton’s character. Now, in light of the continuous reports accusing Benton of fraud and everything else under the sun, there have been no follow-ups on this so-called investigation.


Please explain how can someone be put on administrative leave “PENDING AN INVESTIGATION” and then be terminated prior to the completion of the investigation. Then Mr. Bartolotta was provided six months pay, while under investigation by the FBI, Chance Craig stayed on paid administrative leave for over a month, Sandra Coleman is still on Paid administrative leave amid the investigation, but Ms. Benton was terminated just five days after being put on leave, WITHOUT COMPLETION OF THE INVESTIGATION. How is that ok?

You would think our District Representative would be livid. You would think that the all of the commissioners would be outraged. Bartolotta is gone and he has left a mess. The sitting commission wants fair and impartial policies and procedures; they want employees to feel safe to express their concerns. What city employee would dare trust the establishment that treats their own like that? And Mr. Terry Lewis…..is supposed to be the trustworthy one. He has an opportunity to fix the wrong (and trust me you would have to be blind not to see ALL OF THE WRONGS here) yet he just sits at these meetings not engaged. Maybe he’s not as trustworthy as they thought.

Ms. Benton, a long time city employee, was terminated wrongfully, without due process and crucified in the public and for what? Ultimately, the YELDA program had nothing to do with her duties with the City of Sarasota, she was promoted and if you check her personnel file her yearly evaluations were never below 3.0, so there was no real cause for termination. The City of Sarasota has destroyed her character in the public and the investigation that the city claimed to have done NEVER happened.

Again we, the citizens, have been lied to. The city officials had to cover themselves for not having accountability over taxpayer dollars and they sacrificed one of their own to later find out that the one they trusted was monitoring employees and possibly scrubbing computers.

Ms. Benton spearheaded the MERIT summer internship program for the city that was phenomenal; employing 25 teens and 5 adults to paint homes in the Newtown community. This program came 22% under budget and was also included in that flawed audit, oddly enough found no issues. Imagine that! The programs that she has done were all successful. It was only when the program was taken from Ms. Benton, that things became problematic because the city no longer wanted Ms. Benton to provide this service to the Front Porch Council. Ms. Benton was very instrumental in getting the Robert Taylor Complex done however, the city took that away from her too.

Mr. Don Hadsell and Mr. Tim Litchet continue to play games with taxpayers’ dollars and they should answer for the things they have allowed to happen in the Newtown area.

Money has been given to organizations that should not have gotten a dime. To cover up themselves they let this young lady take the fall for their incompetence in their duty. Ms. Benton should be the Program Manager at the Robert Taylor Community Complex, just as Mr. Pat Carter should have been the Director. It is amazing how we talk about grassroots but the city talks out of both sides of their mouth because I was told that the city didn’t want anyone who was local.

Tim, Don, Lorna, Marlon, Pam, Commissioner Shaw and Mr. Lewis, should all be ashamed. The biggest problem with a cover-up is the cover-up. The truth will come to light every time. Do not continue to take this community as fools. The City of Sarasota wants us to trust them, THEN DO WHAT IS RIGHT! FIX IT! Anybody can be forgiven when they accept responsibility. Nothing can move forward until you right the wrongs whether you were responsible or others and we are not letting this or anything else go. Don’t think that the usual tactic of letting this community run out of steam is going to fly. This is a disgrace to our community and the City of Sarasota. It is time for a real change, to have people that can’t be bought off to deceive their neighbors.

Be blessed,
Valerie Buchand

As is typical of hot news topics, all we need is another big story and we shift our focus off of what’s current to what’s new. Since this issue has been pushed to the side, our commissioners have assumed a posture of confidence in their job security. What can we expect from a council such as this when it’s time to put in the real work of cleaning house? They’ll eat each other alive in a race to throw the slowest one under the bus first!

What happened to building a better tomorrow for the generations to come? All we’ve focused on as of late are improvements to Siesta Key, the Downtown District and apparently anything else that will divert funds away from Newtown! When I can accept the fact that one of our commissioners won’t attend a community event because he “wasn’t gonna get beat up” (verbally) than I have to question how he can attend an award ceremony? The job description has to include taking the lumps along with the “attaboys” too!

Only Commissioner Carolyn J. Mason has shown the guts to stand when it hits the fan as well as to the applause of a job well done. She has been present to more events that display her commitment to seeing Sarasota as a whole than any other member of either the city or county commissioner board. If only we could duplicate her dedication to the betterment of this city, this county and this community. Until then, all we can do is pray.

Read part 1 >>here<<


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