A proposal by Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin to criminally-background check all future candidates for council drew more cautions and concerns from other council members and zero support, prompting him to withdraw it “until or unless it’s discussed in the future,” he said.
Last June in a conversation with a reporter Alfin said he was considering floating the idea to his colleagues. He said it’s done in Miramar, the city of 135,000 in Broward County.
Alfin was right. The city’s ordinance makes it mandatory for all candidates, including incumbents, not only to conduct a “criminal history background information check,” but to make it part of the public record–and to pay for it out of the candidate’s own funds. The ordinance appears to have been in effect since the 1990s. But it is an outlier.
State law also prevents many felons–at least those who have not settled their court-ordered financial obligations–from having their voting rights restored, which would also prevent them from running for office.
On Tuesday, saying the idea was brought forward by a member of the public, Alfin finally proposed the idea to the council. He said that all city employees, when hired, undergo a criminal background check. “It was suggested to me that candidates for city council should also undergo the same background check in advance of election or becoming an elected official. The city council members have the same access to the same areas, have access to electronic communications, and I’m sure there’s a list of other things.”
Council member Ed Danko–who spent a career in broadcast media–raised concerns. “It sounds like a great idea, but it’s up to the public, it’s up to the media to really vet these candidates,” he said. “And it’s not up to us to produce past criminal activities or questionable activities. It’s not up to us as a council to get involved in an election. I know we’re looking at a situation in Congress where a certain congressman from New York now apparently everything he said was apparently not true.” Danko was referring to U.S. Rep.George Santos, the New York Republican who represents parts of Queens and Long Island, and whose life history appears to be a million little fabrications.
“But again, that’s up to the voters, and if they want to recall him, if they want to vote them out,” Danko continued. “I just think that when government starts meddling into these affairs, it can be misconstrued by the public. It can be used as a political weapon.” Danko couldn’t resist: “I gotta tell you, all those Palm Coast classified documents are not in boxes behind my Corvette in my garage.” But he reiterated–accurately–that elected officials are accountable only to the electorate, leaving it up to voters and media to decide the fate of an elected official–not the government on which the elected serves.
Alfin pivoted, suggesting that the candidates could voluntarily conduct the background check and provide the information–or not. “This would be a candidate undergoing their own level two security check and providing the information or not at their discretion as a public record,” Alfin said, describing it as just a document, without “headlines,” without “spin.”
The last time the council faced a somewhat related proposal to put the city or a government agency in the role of extracting transparency from candidates, Danko had objected as well–not to the transparency, but to the government’s role.
In an effort to foster more civility in campaigns that, especially in the past few years in Flagler, had trended toward the toxic, Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart and Palm Coast City Clerk Virginia Smith last May proposed that all candidates voluntarily sign a “Statement of Ethical Campaign Practices.” The document would not be enforceable. Danko suggested to “crumble it up and toss it in the garbage can,” and the idea was reduced to a statement that would be included in candidates’ election packets, without any signature required.
It wasn’t long after that day that Alfin began discussing the criminal background check idea. He never said what prompted it. The strange and still unresolved allegation that former Palm Coast City Council member Victor Barbosa had criminal charges pending in Costa Rica aside, the council over the years has not been a den of overt criminality past traffic and DUI issues, or the occasional abjuration of citizenship to elude the IRS.
Even if the odd criminal were to run for office, it’s not a given that it would make a difference at the polls one way or the other–not in an era when a twice-impeached ex-president with a lurid history of assaulting women, lying about his taxes, heading an organization indicted for fraud, and fueling a violent assault on Congress remains his party’s front runner for the next presidential election (and not a minor hero for some council members).
So Alfin’s proposal was as if made to “step on the slippery slope,” in Danko’s words. Alfin conceded that the background check carries an element of overreach. “Making the information available as a public record, in my mind was not an overreach, but not necessarily a function of of municipal government. I respect that,” the mayor said.
Of course, nothing has ever stopped candidates–or sitting council members, Alfin included–from providing their own criminal background checks and making them publicly available. None have. Asked today whether he would provide one, Alfin said he would, and “make it available on request.”
Neysa Borkert, the city attorney, noted that even with the criminal background check in hand, “the city doesn’t determine whether or not a person is qualified to be a candidate. It would just be for informational purposes. The city couldn’t do anything legally with that information.”
To Danko, backgrounding candidates is media’s and opponents’ job. “I don’t think government has any business in that type of dealing with an election,” he said. “I just really don’t.”
Council members Teresa Pontieri and Cathy Heighter were on Danko’s side. Council member Nick Klufas, who may or may not have been a member of his college’s volleyball team, left the matter of candidates’ background checks alone, but made a distinction with those who end up winning a seat. “Once we’re actually elected, I’m curious if then maybe something like that is justified,” Klufas said, “because they do have access to the building and everything like that.”
The idea hasn’t died in Alfin’s mind. The mayor, already carrying the extra work load of a master’s degree program, will add it to his research stack and possibly bring it back for another discussion. A policy in one form or another still seemed to be a possibility when he was asked today about his own background check: “If City Council does not approve a policy, I will act as an individual candidate,” he said. Alfin’s term runs to the end of 2024. He intends to run for re-election.
Joy A Mullins says
Just another example of city-state and federal government not being held accountable for their own personal lives. I think that they should have to get the criminal background checks just like everybody else does what makes them so special
So what if you do find someone with something in a background check? Are there “levels” of past criminal convictions? DUI’s? Petty theft as an 18 year old in a Woolworths back in the 70’s? Assault? Homicide? What? Are any of these events more threatening to having access to a building with sensitive information within than, say, someone elected without even a high school diploma? Someone dirt floor poor with all the incentives in the world to steal?
No, this “proposal” merely hammers home even more our mayor’s complete disconnect with any actual reality of life for the average constituent in Palm Coast, or even America. Danko, even in all of his deplorable disgusting glory, is right about this one. Now I’m in desperate need of a long hot soapy shower.
Nothing to hide, no harm no foul!
Look at Walker and Santos in the Cult GOP party they sure should have done back ground checks on those two clowns.
Or Hunter and Dad
Tony Mack says
So, your hero Trump cheated on three wives, he cheated on charities for children with cancer, he cheated on a charity for veterans, he cheated on his so-called Trump University, he cheated on any number of contractors, he cheated on his casinos (who loses billions running casinos?) and what makes you think he wouldn’t cheat on you or this Nation? But go ahead…check the laptop, believe the tripe you hear on FOX, believe Tucker…and when they come for your Social Security, your Medicare, your Medicaid, your VA…Give us a call — we’ll help you out just as we’ve always done.
Or t-rump and his entire family !!!!
G A says
It is very obvious that if you have nothing to hide, there is no reason not to submit to a background check. Lots of jobs, especially government ones, require background checks. It’s a very good idea for any candidate in this county or even this whole country! The only ones who think it is a bad idea have something to hide. It’s just that simple.
Joe Shabotz says
Background checks are an absolute necessity in business these days but more so in local politics. Imagine if we didn’t learn about our five time loser wannabe Alan Shepard Lowes list of crimes? Our mayor could have been an anti-American conman, fiscal fraudster, tax dodging tool and a never voted all around scum bag. Palm Coast would have made the rounds on the nightly talk shows and hurt our ability to attract industry.
If you get a DUI then you carry that brand for life, that’s absolutely fair across the board. We’re not asking for candidates to be perfect but if my choice is between a man that had a singular bad day and earned the DUI vs a man that declared himself free from the USA and paying taxes and never voted and was caught stealing money from family and friends over and over… of course we should be informed about any details that defines them.
Fair is fair.
Doing a background check on candidates and then publicizing that information to the general public to the city they would be representing is an excellent idea. It would show the good and the bad, and then the decision would be up to the voters. To those Council members who disagreed with this, I can only wonder what atrocities are hidden in their closet(s) that they want no one to find out about. Danko, especially, peaks my interest!!
David S. says
I feel that they all need to do a backround check what’s the harm. Especially Trump loving Danko…..
Tony Mack says
Wait — no background checks for carrying a gun but criminal background checks for politicians? What’s the scam?
One of the best comments — ever.
3 Day wait and background check for ALL firearm purchases if you do not have a carry permit.
Tony Mack says
That won’t be the situation if the Republicans in Tallahassee have their way — (FlagerLive, January 30th, 2023)
Calling the proposal an effort to “remove the government permission slip,” House Speaker Paul Renner on Monday announced legislation that would allow people to carry concealed weapons without licenses or currently-required gun-safety classes.
Renner, R-Palm Coast, was flanked by Republican lawmakers and county sheriffs who backed the 63-page proposal, which would create what supporters call “constitutional carry.”
“Central to the idea of freedom is the right that we can defend ourselves against physical attack, as well as defend those that we love. The Constitution did not give us those rights, the creator gave us those rights. But it does put it down on paper in the Second Amendment. And the courts have interpreted that to mean an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense,” Renner said.
Under current law, people who want to carry concealed weapons need to apply to the state for a license and go through a process that includes passing criminal background checks. More than 2.8 million people had concealed weapons licenses as of Dec. 31, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which administers the program. In Flagler County, 19,485 people–more than a fifth of the adult population–had concealed carry permits.
Current law also requires that those acquiring a permit complete a gun-safety class. That requirement would be removed.
But classes help individuals determine their level of confidence, and with that requirement gone, it would be one less check on potentially lethal overconfidence. In 2021, 20 Floridians died as a result of accidental shootings, according to the Florida Department of Health, and 1,924 died of suicide by gunshot, almost twice the number of those who died in a homicide by gunshot.
Lawmakers will consider the proposal (HB 543) during the legislative session that will start March 7. Under the bill, a person would need to “carry valid identification at all times when he or she is in actual possession of a concealed weapon or concealed firearm and must display such identification upon demand by a law enforcement officer.”
Also, current prohibitions on carrying guns at places such as schools and athletic events would continue to apply.
People who are not Florida residents could carry concealed firearms if they are 21 or older, according to the proposal.
Rep. Chuck Brannan, R-Macclenny, and Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, are sponsoring the House measure. A Senate version, which had not been posted online as of early Monday afternoon, is expected to be sponsored by Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa.
A House news release included a statement from Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, supporting the proposal. Also, Gov. Ron DeSantis has expressed support for the idea in the past.
“This bill is a big step to help the average law-abiding citizen to keep from having to go through the hoops of getting a permit from the government to carry their weapons. It is also not going to change who can and cannot carry a gun — people who are prohibited now will still be prohibited,” Brannan said.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Boy thats rich….Its criminal what Stuff Em In Alvin is doing to Palm Coast!!!!!
Why not? City employees get background checked. Also should the council that makes decisions on the community’s behalf.
They have to pee in a cup too
Perfect. Yes. To get a job in government, everyone else must have a background check and also have a urinalysis.
JOE D says
Yes, for all my Nursing jobs for the last 20 years: drug testing at time of hire was mandatory! And they reserved the right to repeat the testing “for cause” ( meaning there was a reason in my behavior to suspect substance use).
Donald J Trump says
It’s necessary because there is no ability to “Recall” someone after they have been elected. Anyone refusing to submit to a background check is afraid of the results. Maybe the news sources should initiate av back ground check on all candidates and publish it during campaign cycles.
I for one would welcome a background check because I have never lied, cheated, stole. I would also suggest that anyone who has been sued or initiated more than 10 legal actions be denied the opportunity to “Screwed” the public again.
We can talk about the facts after the background checks on any an all candidates then make a conscious decision on whether to vote for them or not. Making an informed decision is always best for our community.
Nephew Of Uncle Sam says
Danko couldn’t resist: “I gotta tell you, all those Palm Coast classified documents are not in boxes behind my Corvette in my garage.”
Big difference there, that he fails to mention that it took the FBI and DOJ to wrestle the records away from a basement room in South Florida.
Mandate drug tests too.
Never going to happen.
Concerned Citizen says
My current employment requires a “Level 2” background check annually. That means fingerprints to the FEDS which is shared with licensing agencies. I also have to go thru separate vetting for CJIS and SLERS to access IT and Communications Systems as a volunteer.
The City Of Palm Coast and Flagler County require background checks for employment and volunteering. Why are we not requiring them for folks that represent us. And have higher responsibility?
We should always demand more accountability to those who represent us? Why are you refusing background checks? Why are you trying to hide?
I hope FL will pursue this most interesting development further. And we should keep pressuring the Mayor’s Office for accountability.
Randy Bentwick says
There’s only one reason to be opposed to criminal background checks. Can anybody guess what it is?
I would support a random drug test from the TOP down. Some of the things they come with make ya wonder!
Concerned Citizen says
Especially when you are getting “mistaken,random” calls from someone trying to sell in the middle of the night!!
JOE D says
Just can’t BELIEVE it?!? But then, again, given some of the other recent decisions ( or non-decisions) from our ELECTED Commission, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised!
As a Nurse, I couldn’t work for my hospital without a STATE and FEDERAL background check!!!! When I renewed my former Maryland Nursing license, I was the last group
(in rotation) to be required to get STATE and FEDERAL background checks in 2020!
We are talking about elected officials charged with developing and approving regulations, laws, safety and financial dealings in the MILLIONS of dollars!
It cost $45 to do the background check. The State returned in 1 week. The Federal took about 3 weeks. It required digital fingerprinting.
For the Council to “blow it off” makes me consider WHAT they are personally AFRAID of. The statement listed of “The voters vet the candidates “ is SOMEWHAT true ( voters could elect an embezzler, I guess)….but at least with a background check, voters would KNOW who they were voting for. Although my background checks were not shared with anyone but my employer and were NOT released to the general public. I’m sure guidelines could be developed for the USE and DISCLOSURE of those checks. Talk about Florida SUNSHINE laws….OMG!