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Fernandina Beach News Leader

Some questions left unanswered
By Mike Boyle

Now that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) report on the missing clerk of court funds has been made public, there are still lingering questions that need to be addressed. By simply raising these issues I know some will consider me to be insensitive and callous, while others will say, "After all that's happened, what's the point in raising these questions now?"

To the first group I will assure you my intention is not to be insensitive, and I would much rather have had the chance to pose these questions directly to the key person involved in a one-on-one setting. Sadly her own actions ensured this will never happen. To the second group I would respectfully suggest that we need to learn all that we can from this tragic chain of events so that a similar scheme is never repeated here in Nassau County.

First, I would like to know what motivated a longtime trusted county employee to steal from her friends. Steal from her friends, you ask? Yes, I purposely used "friends" to represent the victim, instead of the impersonal "county," because money stolen from the government ultimately comes out of everyone's pockets, including those who were friends of the thief.

The harsh reality is that we may never know all of the reasons why Julie Mixon chose to take over $1 million from the clerk of courts office where she worked for many years. Those answers were buried with her.

Some have tried to explain that the loss of her son (who was murdered in 1997) may have been the reason she decided to help herself to public monies. However, this explanation lost credibility when it was discovered that the embezzlement began in 1996, prior to her son's death. Others have suggested Mixon used the stolen funds to "help" friends and relatives who had financial problems. Perhaps, but most of it appears to have been used for trips to gambling casinos. Whatever the reasons, motivation, or inspiration, it was stealing, and it was wrong.

What prompts me to make this observation, as unpopular as it may be, are recent attempts by some segments of our society to portray this individual as someone who was "driven" to criminal acts because of some truly unfortunate incidents in her life. Think, for a moment, what kind of world we would live in if everyone who suffered a personal tragedy decided to resort to a life of crime to ease the pain.

This philosophy of "victimization" conveniently blurs the differences between real victims and those who simply refuse to accept responsibility for their bad choices. We need to remember that this was a woman who received free rooms at casinos where she was gambling with our money, and who had the presence of mind to sign over her personal residence to a relative before she took her own life. In all of the public documents available up to this point, I am disappointed that there weren't any signs of repentance or remorse from Mixon at what she had done.

I am also baffled as to why FDLE didn't arrest Mixon the moment she provided them with a detailed confession of her illegal activities. They have since said they were in the process of "verifying her confession" when she committed suicide. What was there to verify? They had documented the theft, they had identified her as the logical suspect (or "person of interest," which is more politically correct), and she immediately admitted to the thefts and explained the procedures when questioned about them. In the criminal justice system, that's more than enough "probable cause" to make an arrest.

If Mixon had been arrested by FDLE at the time of her confession, many of the remaining questions might have answers, and most important, Julie Mixon might still be alive.

The next question deals with the county's outside auditing firm of Farmand, Farmand, & Farmand, which collected more than $450,000 in fees over the last three years for services provided to the county clerk's office. Had Mixon taken a small amount on only one occasion, we might be able to understand how the theft might have gone undetected. But to completely miss a relatively simple embezzlement scheme that spanned at least eight years and looted more than $1 million from the county, well, that's hard to understand.

But perhaps the most intriguing question of all is how did the new clerk of the court, John Crawford, discover the missing funds within weeks of taking office when his predecessor, Chip Oxley, twice asked FDLE investigators, "How did this (the embezzlement) go on for so long undetected?"

Apparently Oxley really had no clue, since he allowed Mixon to retire, and then rehired her

(after the required 30-day break) at a higher salary, even while the thefts were still in progress. (It is now believed that Mixon continued to visit the clerk's office during the 30-day break, a fact Oxley should have been aware of, and should have prevented.)

I have yet to hear a word of appreciation (or apology) from any of the county naysayers who were outraged when Crawford originally went to outside agencies to request investigative assistance with financial irregularities in the clerk's office. And speaking of outside investigative agencies, anyone taking bets on when we'll see the results from that controversial "internal investigation" that was also triggered by questions raised by the new clerk of the court? It should be very interesting to compare the results of these two inquiries (external vs. internal) - that is, if we ever get them.

Mike Boyle, an Amelia Island resident, spent 27 years as an FBI Agent. His column appears Fridays. He can be reached at

michaelhboyle@earthlink.net.
www.fbnewsleader.com/articles/2005/07/23/opinion/02editboyle.txt

 

 
 
 

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