Two Lake County commissioners, in a rare move, chastised one of their colleagues during a public meeting this week, and it was deserved.
Unfortunately, County Commissioner Sean Parks, the subject of the discipline, doesn't understand that he has not yet done the right thing to repair his reputation and clear a cloud hovering over the commission.
Parks acknowledged last week that he established a password-protected account that allowed him to post anonymous comments on stories at OrlandoSentinel.com.
Comments posted from the account referred to his constituents as "hacks and loons," took aim at a south Lake activist fighting for a red light at her retirement community and once referred to a fellow poster in a clever turn of phrase that means human waste.
A dozen of the comments came directly from a computer he regularly uses, and several of them derided two of his colleagues — Commissioners Welton Cadwell and Jimmy Conner.
Parks has said that "multiple" people have access to both his computer and the password for his account. He blamed most of the comments on them but acknowledged that he, too, had posted some. He would not say which ones.
Speaking to commissioners publicly for the first time Tuesday, Parks said: "In regards to a recent newspaper column, I take full responsibility and offer sincere apologies to my colleagues on the board.
"I did not say the things I have been accused of and in the subsequent gossip. This has been a tough week for my family. I've learned some life lessons."
Cadwell, who was criticized in one of the comments for his explanation of the redistricting process, picked up on Parks' statement.
"I hope it is a lesson learned for you," said Cadwell, the most senior commissioner on the board. "There is some nasty stuff out there, and this has cast a shadow on whole board, not just on you.
"You said you didn't write some of that, and if you didn't, I'd like to know who did."
Conner, the other victim of the snarky comments, said, "If you didn't do it, you shouldn't be protecting the people who did do it."
They are right. It is time for Parks' cowardly friends — if they did write anything — to relieve their buddy of the unpleasant burden of taking responsibility for their comments. After all, what kind of "friends" would let a person take public criticism for them? It would be nice to see some folks emerge as grownups from this situation, and that's the only way to do it.
Leslie Campione, who last week was elected chairwoman of the commission, naturally wanted to stop this public conversation.
"You said your piece. You said yours," she said, turning from Conner to Parks. "As a board, we have no reason to have any more discussion. That's how you put an end to it. We just move on. We have important business to take care of here."
In one way, Campione is right, but in another, she is dead wrong. Haranguing Parks about his poor judgment will do no good. But neither will sweeping his actions aside.
Parks, like any other person who has made a mistake, needs to hear clearly from those more experienced and mature that what he has done is not acceptable. The tone of public discussion in Lake County has dropped into the gutter, and it's the responsibility of elected officials to set an example of civility. That's a key part of leadership.
Parks has created quite a dilemma for himself. He must either betray his "friends" or leave at least two of his colleagues wondering about his integrity. Neither Cadwell nor Conner is the forgive-and-forget type. This will be the proverbial burr under the saddle for them, and no wonder. Anonymous attacks hurt.
To re-establish at least some measure of trust, Parks must come clean about this escapade. And part of it involves fully responding to a public-records request from former Mount Dora Mayor Melissa DeMarco. She asked the county attorney's office last week for a copy of the comments that Parks posted.
Presumably, she said, his remarks would be a public record because they are about items on which the commission voted. "Can you just skirt the law by using a pseudonym?" she said. "I don't think so."
DeMarco said that she has been the target of anonymous posters.
"It never occurred to me that elected officials would participate in what has become a Lake County sport," she said. "I wanted to see what he said and then call him and say, 'What were you thinking?' "
If she doesn't get the comments, DeMarco said, she intends to call the state attorney's office because Florida law requires elected officials to keep records.
Lritchie@tribune.com Her blog is online at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/laurenonlakeCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times