It's not too late for former St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara to get proper closure (2024)

Editorial Board

Updated ·4 min read

By signing a stipulated agreement, former St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara appears to be trying to get closure with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

If the commission accepts the terms, scheduled for discussion at the commission's July 26 meeting, Mascara would receive a public reprimand and a $5,000 fine in exchange for his admission he violated Sec. 112.313(6) of Florida Statutes, by "using his position and/or public resources to secure a special privilege, benefit and/or exemption for himself."

That might close the ethics commission's case, but if Mascara truly wants this chapter of his life to be over, he has more work to do.

Mascara needs to come clean with the public about what he did and why he did it.

Questions about the transition cropped up immediately

Mascara was investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for allegedly recruiting and helping coordinate the campaign of a so-called "ghost candidate" to run against a Republican adversary the sheriff, a Democrat, didn't want to face in the 2020 general election.

Mascara won that election, defeating Kevin Carter, the candidate he was accused of recruiting and shepherding to a Republican primary victory. Then Mascara abruptly resigned from his post last December, citing unspecified health reasons.

The same day Mascara announced his resignation, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Keith Pearson, a mid-level manager in the sheriff's office, as his interim replacement.

If Mascara thought there would be no further questions about the transition of power, he was very much mistaken.

A couple of weeks before Pearson's surprise appointment, one of his political allies,Anthony "Tony" DiFrancesco, hosted a fundraiser to support DeSantis' then-active presidential campaign. DiFrancesco and other members of his family also made donations totaling more than six figures to the DeSantis campaign less than a week after that event.

Records provided to TCPalm showthe governor's staff began vetting Pearson almost immediately after receiving the DiFrancescos' political contributions, well before Mascara's supposed surprise resignation.

At an Iowa town hall meeting during his presidential campaign, DeSantis said he had "worked very closely" with the Democratic sheriff of St. Lucie County.

All of that suggests DeSantis' decision to appoint Pearson wasn't made on the spur of the moment, in response to some medical emergency that remains under wraps. It was a politically calculated decision in which DeSantis, Pearson and Mascara played roles.

Mascara can't get past departure unless he talks about it

It's not too late for former St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara to get proper closure (2)

What's less clear is how that plan was hatched. Was it Mascara's idea? Pearson's? Why the secrecy?

After serving as sheriff more than 20 years, what motivated Mascara to leave his final term more than a year early, missing out on the farewell accolades he was due?

Mascara may have thought he could ride off into the sunset without raised suspicions. After what has come to light over the past seven months, he knows better.

Is this really the way he wants the people of the Treasure Coast to remember him?

Maybe Mascara just burned out and saw a way to jump-start his retirement while helping a loyal subordinate gain a political advantage in this year's sheriff election.

Sadly, tradeoffs like that are part of politics.

Still, Mascara hasn't really taken responsibility for what he did.

In a Facebook post last month, Mascara said he asked Carter to run to create more competition in the race, without admitting he took an active role in helping Carter's primary campaign.

That sounds implausible if not nonsensical: What politician, especially a successful incumbent, ever wants more competition?

Rather than show any signs of remorse, Mascara tried to play off what he had done as no big deal.

This is a situation where an ounce of candor and a dash of regret would outweigh a pound of spin. If Mascara could just admit he made a mistake and explain why he did it, it would be easier to balance that against all the good work he did as sheriff.

If he isn't willing to come forward and be truthful about all that happened at the end of his tenure, then his questionable departure is how he will be remembered.

Mascara's career in public service deserves a better ending. We're all ears, just a phone call or email away.

Editorials published by TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers are decided collectively by its editorial board. To respond to this editorial with a letter to the editor, email up to 300 words

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Coming clean would help former St. Lucie Sheriff Ken Mascara's legacy

It's not too late for former St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara to get proper closure (2024)
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