EDITORIAL: Stop dirty politics

Posted on June 30, 2016 by Romi White

The always classy Santa Rosa Federated Republican Women’s group hosted a debate Tuesday between Republican candidates for Santa Rosa County Sheriff. These well-heeled and well-informed ladies provided an informative forum to learn more about each candidate.
The debate was moderated by Yvonne Harper, who is exceptionally knowledgeable about local politics and government operations at the county, state and federal level.
Harper asked candidates Bob Johnson and Robbie Way about topics ranging from their experience to their plans to improve services without an increased budget. A third Republican candidate to qualify for the Sheriff’s race, Chris Roper, did not show up for the debate. He missed a good one.
Toward the end, Harper opened the floor for questions from the audience. But before she did that, Johnson and Way were offered an opportunity to address “issues” either had with the other candidate.
Surprisingly, both men stayed on the high road and refused to go after the other candidate. It was truly inspiring to see candidates show such restraint and respect.
And that’s the kind of leadership we should expect from candidates and their campaigns.
But unfortunately, one local race has taken a nose dive to the negative.
A large manilla envelope arrived in South Santa Rosa News’ post office box Tuesday. There was no return address.
The package contained a half-inch thick file of personal information about Sam Parker, a candidate for Santa Rosa County Commission District 1.
The file included copies of personnel records from Parker’s time serving as a law enforcement officer in Escambia County.
For example, one of the papers showed he was counseled for being tardy. Another showed Parker had to take paid leave, a common discipline for law enforcement agencies, which must adhere to strict policies and procedures.
Fortunately for Parker, the dozens upon dozens of papers sent to us turned out to be quite a boring read compared to other officers’ personnel files I have seen.
It’s sad that deputies are not only underpaid, but any mistakes they make become public record. No wonder we have a tough time getting people to take the job, which requires you to place your life on the line almost daily.
And that’s why the last item in the smut file made my blood boil.
At the bottom of the stack was a copy of an April 2011 letter from Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan to Parker, who sustained a gunshot in the line of duty but returned to the force.
That letter awarded Parker the Medal of Valor, stating he and three others had been trapped in a “life-threatening situation.”
Sadly, the person, or persons, who compiled the information we received stapled a copy of a news article to the letter, underlining a sentence which stated Parker was released from the hospital that same day in “excellent” condition.
What a despicable thing, trying to imply that somehow Parker isn’t worthy of his Purple Heart recognition.
I wanted to know who was behind the attempted smear campaign, so I called the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and made my own public information request.
An employee advised me that although the initial request was made using an anonymous email address, someone named Cindy Cotton picked up the copies.
And a $301.33 check from Cynthia B. Cotton was used to pay for the records.
It turns out Parker’s opponent Mark Cotton has a wife named Cindy Baxter Cotton.
We believe this attempt to besmirch Parker was futile and that the money expended toward it would have been better used elsewhere.