It all looks innocent enough and it is. But, it gives the appearance of impropriety on the part of Sheriff Morgan, especially when a $1,000.00 check from the Escambia County General Fund Account is written to a non-existent charity foundation. A few months later, the apparent recipient of the $1,000.00 check, the owners of the car dealership, wrote two $500.00 checks that are given to Sheriff Morgan's political campaign.
There is no suggestion here of a quid-pro-quo relationship--only an observation of sloppiness by Sheriff Morgan in writing the check to a non-existent charity foundation.
But, it raises the question of why the haste to write a check to a non-existent foundation--even the though the cause in question, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, is above reproach and did nothing wrong--instead of writing the check to its real payee--Pete Moore Chevrolet? Pete Moore Chevrolet certainly did nothing improper in matching donations it collected for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The almost $21,000 they raised certainly went to a good cause.
This issue may appear trivial to some or most readers. But, the larger issue is that Sheriff Morgan has held his political opponents to even higher standards of the law for relatively trivial acts while doing everything to wreck their political careers (Mr. John Powell) or force them into retirement (Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Alan Van Camp). Is there really one standard of justice for Sheriff Morgan's political opponents and another standard of justice for Sheriff Morgan himself?
In response to a Public Records request, both the Escambia County and the Escambia Sheriff's Office public records' offices provided all the documentation for a General Fund Account check number 076935 for $1,000 to be paid to the "Light the Night Foundation."
"Light the Night Foundation" does not exist. There is no such foundation on record with Florida's Secretary of State.
The documentation includes what appears to be two different documents to the Sheriff's Office with two different page numbers on its first page: "Page 1 of 3" and "Page 1 of 2." There are only two pages in the documentation with the other three pages missing or having not been sent. The body of the faxed documents is too dark to read. However, both pages indicate that the event in question is a "Light the Night Walk" sponsored by the Alabama/Gulf Coast Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with the webpage source of the information clearly provided: "lightthenight.org/al/."
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Alabama, sponsor of the event in Pensacola, is not registered with Florida's Secretary of State. However, the national Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has a Florida chapter with a registered agent in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The Florida chapter apparently had nothing to do with any such events in Pensacola.
According to a Pensacola News Journal article published on October 20, 2010 (behind Pay Wall), one day before the event, the newspaper noted that the event was sponsored by the "www.lightthenight.org/al" website which was part of the national Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The newspaper also gave a contact person located in Alabama.
The speed of the check being requested and written, suggests that it was Pete Moore Chevrolet that may have initiated the request for funds. A representative from Pete Moore Chevrolet told me over the phone that the dealership ran a campaign among its employees and its vendors that it would match their donations. Pete Moore Chevrolet donated $10,468 and matched donations for $10,468. There is no suggestion here that Pete Moore Chevrolet did anything wrong.
According to the "LET DONATION REQUEST FORM" dated 10/21/10--the day of the event--the $1,000 check made out to "Light the Night Foundation" was to be used as "Matching Funds - Pete Moore." The funds were needed "ASAP" and were to be delivered "to 'BEN' Pete Moore Chevrolet."
The Pensacola News Journal published a photograph of Mr. Pete Moore of Pete Moore Chevrolet giving the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society two checks each of $10,468.00. There is no doubt that the money raised by Pete Moore Chevrolet went to a worthy cause and he is commended for that.
What is in question is the sloppiness of the Sheriff's Office in writing a check for $1,000 to a non-existent foundation when the money was clearly destined to be delivered to and deposited by Pete Moore Chevrolet.
Why not write the check made payable to "Pete Moore Chevrolet" or the "Leukemia & Lymphoma Society"? Given a two-page or a five-page fax from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Mobile, Alabama, what reason is there for creating a fictitious foundation?
Regarding the campaign donations from Mr. Moore and Mrs. Moore, there is no suggestion here of any quid-pro-quo relationship. Mr. Peter Moore donates money to Republican candidates in Escambia County. The Moores donate money to Sheriffs, including McNesby, Hall, and Morgan.
Several months after receiving this donation for the "Light the Night Foundation," he and his wife made two campaign donations to Sheriff Morgan's re-election campaign. If you put in "Moore" for "Contributors" you will find two such donations: $500.00 from Mr. Peter Moore to Sheriff Morgan on 7/28/11 and another $500.00 from "Angela Moore" (same address) 13 days later.
Mr. Moore and "Angela Moore" (or the car dealership) do make political donations to Republican candidates in Escambia County: 4/11/2006, $500.00 to John Fogg for Pensacola mayor; 9/26/2006, $500.00 to Sheriff Ron McNesby; 9/18/2007, $100.00 to Sheriff Ron McNesby; 7/29/2008, $500.00 to Sheriff Ron McNesby; and, other candidates for county commissioner, property appraiser, clerk of the court, and mayor of Pensacola.
Is there any quality control in the Escambia County Sheriff's Office in terms of who they write checks to? Clearly, "Light the Night Foundation" does not exist. The Sheriff's Office knew the check was to be delivered "ASAP" to Pete Moore Chevrolet. They should have known that the donation was for the "Leukemia & Lymphoma Society."
Why not just write the check payable to "Pete Moore Chevrolet"? Why write the check to a non-existent foundation?
It is not clear who initiated the donation to Sheriff Morgan's re-election campaign. Mr. Peter Moore has written other checks for $500.00 to Republican candidates, as has "Angela Moore" (same address). They support Republican candidates in Santa Rosa County as well, including Sheriff Wendell Hall in 2012 (two $500.00 checks reported on August 1, 2012).
The two checks written by the Moores to Sheriff Morgan's election campaign are not illegal. It is the appearance of Sheriff Morgan not paying attention to the checks he writes as the Escambia County Sheriff for charity donations and the campaign contributions he may or may not have solicited from a recipient of funds from the Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Morgan has apparently arrested a political candidate for a ridiculous offense that has proven to be illegal without criminal intent. That arrest ruined Mr. John Powell's political campaign for Sheriff and his political career. Or, Sheriff Morgan hounding a deputy sheriff, Mr. Jeffrey Alan Van Camp, into retirement over accepting legal campaign donations at a charity golf tournament from Sheriff Morgan's political opponent.
So, is there a penalty for "Sir David, Knight of Grace" (or his subordinates) when they state, "I do hereby certify that the attached invoices are correct....the expenditures are in compliance with any applicable laws or grant restrictions" and the check is written out to a non-existent foundation?