Martin County Commission Chair Slapped With Ethics Complaint

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: July 15, 2014 3:55 AM
Sarah Heard

Sarah Heard

The state of Florida is currently processing an ethics complaint against Martin County Commission Chairman Sarah Heard for fudging the value of her property in the Rocky Point subdivision by more than $400,000 and deliberately excluding details of property she owns in Illinois and North Carolina.

Though the Commission on Ethics is required to keep such complaints confidential, complainant John McAuliffe of Palm City is under no such constraints. On Monday he gave a copy of the June 18 letter and supporting documents to Sunshine State News. 

He claims Heard has undervalued her homesteaded property for nine of the 11 years she's filed disclosure forms -- and out-of-state acreage for all the years she's claimed it,

The Form 6 financial information is required of all public officeholders under Florida Statute 112.3144.

McAuliffe's official letter of complaint includes documentation showing Heard has disclosed only the assessed value of her home at 4584 SE Williams Way, Stuart, which she lists as $457,000.

But the filing instructions on Form 6 call for properties to reflect market value. The Martin County Property Appraiser's Office sets the market value of Heard's Intracoastal Waterway-frontage home at $917,670.

McAuliffe has attached each of Heard's disclosure documents to his complaint letter.

She claims in her latest disclosure that her net worth as of June 9, 2014 is $890,000. In fact, she has always listed her net worth as below $1 million.

In his letter McAuliffe tells the Ethics Commission Heard's motive for undervaluing her property is to show voters she's just-plain-folks. Heard is running for re-election to her District 2 seat this year. 

"Commissioner Heard's filing disclosures," he says, 'represent not only a pattern inconsistent with actual 'market' valuations of her assets over her tenure as a county commissioner, but also a perceived intent to illustrate her net worth below a $1 million threshold in order to appeal to a broader field of voters."

He includes in his packet three news stories showing "newspaper headlines give Heard political motivation of understating the value of her house ... the count in each headline would be one more millionaire -- if Heard were honest in reporting the value of her waterfront house."

The stories McAuliffe attaches are these:

  • "3 Martin commissioners worth millions, despite dismal economy" (TCPalm.com, July 31, 2009).
  • "Eight Martin County elected officials and candidates are millionaires" (TCPalm.com, Aug. 20, 2010).
  • "Martin County Commission and School Board feature two millionaires each" (TCPalm.com, Aug. 14, 2011).

A look at all other Martin County elected officials' Form 6 disclosures show Heard is the only one using assessed property valuation instead of fair market.  Property Appraiser Laurel Kelly, for instance, shows an assessed value of $400,000 on her house, yet she discloses the higher market value of $451,000.

The Heards obtained a mortgage on April 18, 2013. McAuliffe sees it as a tell-all. He believes that action probably inspired 1) a formal property appraisal of the home and 2) a financial statement demonstrating the Heards' ability to repay the mortgage. "If these documents exist, they will highlight any delta between what Commissioner Heard represents to her lender and what she represents to the voting public," writes McAuliffe.

The Martin County home isn't Heard's only undervalued property, he says.

McAuliffe, 47, a computer technology salesman, points out that Heard lists 100 acres of land in "Southwest Washington County, Illinois" -- and in so doing, fails to follow instructions in Form 6 to provide a street address or any description to run down its location. Year after year she lists the same value -- $100,000. Yet, similar properties listed for sale in that county are selling for $23,000 an acre.

Heard also lists ownership of misrepresented property in Swain County, N.C. "This violation is very straightforward," the complainant writes. "... From 2008-2010 Heard claimed she owned one property in Swain County valued at $43,000. A pattern to misrepresent her net worth continues with ownership of three properties with purchase prices totaling $148,000 in value calculated from the real estate excise taxes she paid and the closing documents she signed for the three properties."

Reached at her office Monday, Heard said she knows nothing about the complaint, and if ethics matters are confidential, she said, then "I have nothing to say about this."

McAuliffe told SSN, "I just couldn't sit back and say nothing any longer. I'm a patriot. I care about my country and I care about this county. The way this commission is governing is plain wrong. It's bad government. So much of what's going on is built on lies. This with Commissioner Heard is just one more lie.

"I'm fighting back is all I'm doing," he said.

McAuliffe said, "I don't have a dog in the hunt: I don't own a business, I'm not a developer. I'm just a concerned dad with an 18-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son, a dad who wants his kids to be able to come back to live in Martin County some day if that's what they want. But this commission majority doesn't want families.

"They vote against churches and poor people, they vote against parks, they even voted against the Boy Scouts," he said. 

Kerrie J. Stillman, a spokesperson for the Commission on Ethics, would neither confirm nor deny the existence of McAuliffe's complaint. She spoke generally about the way the system works when complaints are received. In terms of how long they take to be addressed, she told SSN, "Each case is different."

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. 

Comments (32)

Concerned Citizen
5:17PM AUG 4TH 2014
When a public official shows a pattern of underestimating her $1.8M+ net worth by more than $1M+ in her disclosures, hides property ownership in another state and grossly misrepresents her assets to the public, you have a duty to ask: What else is she hiding? For all of those who don't feel this misleading behavior is egregious, what WOULD be unacceptable to you? How about a flyer (I just received) in the mail that suggests Heard received an endorsement from the Stuart News when NO endorsement has yet been announced in this race? Is that okay, too?
Peggy Hess
6:17AM JUL 19TH 2014
Lots of questions about this disclosure format by others too DON’T you all think?

Lorie Shekailo CPA reports her Cypress Land house as $335,000 that property appraiser reports at $296.230.

Ron Rose's disclosure claims house $125,000 but property appraiser has market value at $68,930. Claiming worth double?

Clowdus claims owns "lot and home" in Stuart - $40,000 -- but the lot is still in her brother's name who died. Has this been transferred yet? And… "manufactured home". Property Appraiser says market value is $16,440 with Lot $14,000 & Improvement $2,440.Also... Clowdus claims a $109,000 value for the Currents – a paper that she hasn't published for months - online shows April .

Dr. Dowd running for School Board, $121,000/salary from IRSC groups a home here & a home in Tallahassee -- lumped as $500,350.

Li Roberts reports Pine Lake Drive house at $250,000 that property appraiser reports at $177,500 MV.

Oh yes...
Remember Valliere's lumping things as "Trusts"? … when actually she was hiding interest in her home that "transferred to husband" when fighting the issue of not residing in her district.

Concerned Citizen
5:34PM AUG 4TH 2014
Great research! I read the complaint at the website I shared and a clear understanding of the law and how assets are required to be disclosued may help you understand where the violations exist. That's where Commissioner Heard could be in trouble with the State of Florida. If the "Fair Market value" of the property is available, it MUST be used or a violation exists. "Market Value" is what the property appraiser reflects on their website, so almost all of your examples (other than Valliere - I have no clue on that one) would likely be what's actually REQUIRED by law and not a violation. Heard's been using "Assessed Value," when Fair Market Value is available from the appraisel her bank likely required when she obtained a mortgage. And $479K for a beautiful waterfront home close to the inlet? I'll take TWO!
Concerned Citizen
5:00PM AUG 4TH 2014
truthaboutsarah dot com
Sherrie Lyons
6:30PM JUL 18TH 2014
Now Sarah Heard is bashing her opponent Barbara Clowdus and the reporter Nancy Smith through that handful of people who sit in the front row at commission meetings and cheer her on. Nothing but nasty politics they say. How pathetic. Instead of answering the charge with her real net worth, she makes getting caught in the act a political attack. I hope this will give Nancy strength to keep after Sarah. There is much more to write about on this Martin County commision.
Concerned Citizen
5:01PM AUG 4TH 2014
truthaboutsarah dot com
Born Here, Done that
11:43AM JUL 17TH 2014

Politician = self-serving

Read "This Town"

Blaming Nancy Smith for Sarah Heard's behavior is like blaming the Chinese for JFK's assassination, because they invented gunpowder.


Dolts and sheep.
George Kleine
9:57AM JUL 17TH 2014
Commissioner Heard cultivates a culture of deception and misrepresentation. I think her agenda is NOT the agenda of the people of Martin County but, I feel, the agenda of the "puppet masters" she serves. I do not care if she is a millionaire or a pauper because she is first and foremost a politician and as such is more dedicated to her own reelection than to the SERVICE of Martin County.
Concerned Citizen
5:01PM AUG 4TH 2014
truthaboutsarah dot com
Martin Resident
8:27AM JUL 17TH 2014
Even if she's in prison?
Jackie Trancynger
8:50PM JUL 16TH 2014
I will be voting for Sarah Heard and so will the majority of the voters in Martin County, despite Nancy Smith.
Concerned Citizen
5:02PM AUG 4TH 2014
truthaboutsarah dot com
Hal from Martin County
8:06AM JUL 17TH 2014
Nancy Smith did not invent Sarah Heard's deception. Sarah did this and got caught. Jackie if you think what she did is just fine, it shows what your endorsement is worth.
A Disgraceful Step Backward
10:22PM JUL 15TH 2014
Stuart News is in bed with this damned commission, they'll never post anything like this. Love how a wealthy Republican is trying to make herself look like the common folk of this community. What's there to hide? Obviously there is a disconnect between her and the residents of this county. In addition to voting no for the aforementioned, she votes no for public services, i.e. fire fighters, school board, parks and recreation, etc. Sarah Heard and her cronies are a disgrace and want nothing to do with making Martin County a family friendly community.
Concerned Citizen
5:03PM AUG 4TH 2014
truthaboutsarah dot com
Stuart for decades
9:56PM JUL 15TH 2014
Nancy Smith was a horrible unethical developer cheerleader who hated anyone who had anything to do with controlling growth. She was a Port Saint Lucie cheerleader and look how great that turned out. As soon as some idiot says patriot about themselves anyone with half a brain realizes its another mindless faux news tea party sheep
Concerned Citizen
5:06PM AUG 4TH 2014
truthaboutsarah dot com
10:34AM JUL 16TH 2014
Typical. Blame the messenger. All your evil tone does is to make me admire this reporter and whistleblower more. Sarah Heard lied and all you can do is call the reporter "unethical" and the whistleblower "tea party sheep". Shame on you.
Martin Resident
4:29PM JUL 15TH 2014
Wow Bob...don't blow a gasket. And calling Nancy Smith nasty...hmmm...I think they call that "the pot calling the kettle black". No one is nastier than Sarah Heard. What overdevelopment in Martin County ? BTW Commissioner Heard has had many years to improve the water quality and has done NOTHING!!!! Get a grip Bob!
3:44PM JUL 15TH 2014
Concerned Citizen
5:03PM AUG 4TH 2014
truthaboutsarah dot com
Hal from Martin County
5:00PM JUL 15TH 2014
First I don't think this is a mean article. Second I know all the things Nancy and her husband did for Martin County, Bob, because I have a special needs son & I know how they helped us. I don't know what you did. What did you do for anybody in the county, Bob? It is not that Sarah is a millionaire it is that she lied about it. Also ask the Boy Scouts who the mean one is.....Nancy Smith or Sarah Heard.
Donald Gleichman
11:17AM JUL 15TH 2014
Brings back old memories, aka Fieldings "Bee Farm".
I recall at issue was Fieldings 5 acre "Bee Farm" tax deduction. As a "farmer u could get a farmers tax deduction for 5 acres if u could provide receipts for your "Honey Sales" of $? Fields never did that but still took the Bee deduction. Tax payers STUNG again.
Concerned Citizen
5:04PM AUG 4TH 2014
truthaboutsarah dot com
C Breeze
10:51AM JUL 15TH 2014
"Ethics & Honesty" are such troublesome things for Florida politicians; and the "deeper into the weeds" you go, the more pettifoggers you reveal who mistake duty & honor for privilege & entitlement...
Concerned Citizen
5:05PM AUG 4TH 2014
truthaboutsarah dot com
Hal from Martin County
10:39AM JUL 15TH 2014
This article should be in our local paper for all our residents to see. I hope they will pick up on it and stop enabling commissioners who are feeding us propaganda. I will try to contact Mr. McAuliffe to see if I can help. I have a family I care about too.
7:49PM JUL 15TH 2014
When will the Stuart News publish this and ongoing Sunshine violations involving Commissioner Heard? I have recently cancelled my subscription due to the bias this paper has and will not renew until such time objective and unbiased coverage of the County Commission resumes. Thanks for the Sunshine State News informing the public what is going on here in Martin County since the local paper will not.
mike c
9:59AM JUL 15TH 2014
I received an email this week from Maggy Hurchalla urging my support of a voting block; Sarah Heard & Ed Fielding citing their wonderful works. I guess lawsuits against property owners, the City of Stuart and its residents, failures like the St. Lucie Inlet debacle, the attacks on tourism and abolishment of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the massive reductions in funding to the Business Development Board and the attacks on long standing private property rights are considered as accomplishments!
mike c
9:06AM JUL 15TH 2014
Oh Sarah! Last year, its mysteriously deleted county emails on her personal email account (smells like Lois Lerner - IRS) now this, what are the people of Martin County to believe.
Received her campaign mail piece yesterday, claims to be working for last eleven years to clean up our river, that never happened! River is still polluted, if she was capable she would eliminate polluting septic tanks all over the county but instead is more concerned about taking away the private property rights of unsuspecting residents.
7:24AM JUL 15TH 2014
Absolutely nothing will happen, OR at worse case scenerio, a fine will be issued. If anyone wants to know what happens in their county just look at the supervisor of elections(SOE) web page(or go there and request to see) the mandatory forms each candidate MUST file, NOT that truthfulness matters to any of the SOE's!
Providing an actual street address has always been a requirement, but not one agency, including any SOE has ever questioned the "P.O. box" listings on candidate forms, yet many candidates apparently reside in tiny PO boxes since that is what they list! No suprise in Florida, the state with little to no enforcement of regulations! Even State Attorneys have little to no interest in enforcing these requirements! Easy to confirm this by checking each SOE and State Attorney's office to learn about which candidates have ever been charged, even though only a misdemeanor, but still a violation!
SOE's say they do not enforce or report any violations and that any member of the public may file a complaint with Tallahassee! Even though they are the receiving agency of fraudulent documentation (and they know it's false) they allegedly can do nothing. None of the media see this as a problem and don't expose these elected liars! My question is WHY?
Martin Resident
6:46AM JUL 15TH 2014
Oh my!

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