Dear Editors and Reporters:
Robin Smith-Martin will not respond to the facts I reported about his professional claims because he says I am not a reporter and I am a supporter of his opponent.
I readily admit to both. But the facts are all on the public record, accessible to all, whichever side they are on.
You are all reporters and three of your papers have in fact endorsed him, so you should be better able to get his side of the story, to get him to explain how these findings allow him to claim business, managerial and financial expertise.
I am more sorry than any of you should be that these facts were not uncovered until so late in the election. This is more my fault than any of yours. I am a business and financial expert. I carefully inspected Barbara Bowers’ background before I chose to support her publicly, but I did not inspect Robin’s until he attacked her. I am now trying to make up for that omission. I have been very tardy in serving the public’s right to know and understand their candidates. I apologize to you all for not having uncovered these facts two months ago, and having sent you material then, before you made your endorsements. The fault is mine.
I have attached pdf’s of the two hardest-to-find public documents. Every other fact reported in the article has similar support, which I will be happy to supply links or pdf’s upon request.
After you get his reaction, I beg you to report whatever you find out to your readers.
Rick Boettger, 305-294-8503
Robin Smith-Martin Exposed as Inept Businessman, Local Tax Scofflaw, and Irresponsible Investor
KWTN Team Report: published October 22, 2010 in Key West the Newspaper in slightly different form.
School Board candidate Robin Smith-Martin claims he will bring professional financial management expertise to the Board, based on his MBA and experience as a businessman and financial analyst.
But here’s his record:
• As a “businessman” five years out of his MBA program, he earns about as much money as a fast-food cashier.
• As a “businessman” he doesn’t file his corporate reports, pay city and county business taxes, or file his tangible taxes.
• As a “finance expert,” he took out a huge second mortgage of $200,000 in 2006, apparently to gamble in the stock market— and he has less than $45,000 left. In essence, he has risked his family home on a roll of the dice.
• On his financial disclosure form, required of all candidates, he claimed the family duplex is worth $550,000— perhaps its appraisal at top of market. But the County Appraiser values it under $300,000, and his fence-line neighbor has a home and lot twice as large as Smith-Martin’s on the market for only $320,000. The higher figure allows him to claim a net worth of over $134,000, but the true value puts him deeply in the red.
What we report are not mere “allegations.” They are FACTS available to all on the public record, facts that prove Robin’s claims to business and financial expertise are completely unfounded, if not outright fraudulent.
Here’s what our background check of Robin Smith-Martin turned up— the real truth about a man who wants us to vote for him to manage a hundred million of our tax dollars and a thousand Monroe county employees.
He took two years in his mid-30s and borrowed over $40,000 to get an MBA he acts very proud of— but which has resulted in his earning a very modest $23,100 per year, according to his financial disclosure form. That’s about what he’d earn as a cashier at the local McDonald’s.
There is no dishonor in making a low salary. But earning fast-food wages five years out of an MBA program is an embarrassment to his university, not something he should boast about.
Yet, Smith-Martin, with a low income that includes no benefits, says his “businessman” status qualifies him for a public position with immense managerial responsibilities, most importantly, hiring our next Superintendent.
We found no evidence he has ever hired or managed a single soul. His company, “Progressive Strategy Group,” which he lists on his financial disclosure form as his main source of income, is just him. Alone.
We found out that Smith-Martin incorporated PSG in North Carolina in 2007— but never filed a single annual report. After formal warning, the State of North Carolina dissolved his corporation just last month.
After we asked him about this, he rushed to incorporate in Florida— the day after we asked why North Carolina dissolved him.
NO BUSINESS LICENSES.
He has never paid the city or county business tax for his main business, or filed a tangible tax report, all of which constitute violations of law. That means he either doesn’t know about these basic requirements or, worse, doesn’t care. More attention to detail would have uncovered Monique’s thefts years earlier. Although advertising his supposed business expertise, he has shown he can’t take care of the simplest details, while earning little in his prime earning years.
IRRESPONSIBLE FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
But at least he is making some money, however little it may be. As an investment adviser to his own family, we find he has made a number of irresponsible choices. He took out a $200,000 second mortgage on his family’s home for far above its value. It already had a first mortgage for its full worth.
We do not know exactly what he did with the extra $200,000, because he won’t say. But we can see from the public record what he did NOT do with it. He did not pay off the $41,000 student loan and $10,000 car loan he lists on his financial disclosure form. He did not invest in equipment for his business, which would show up on a tangible tax return. He did not further improve his home, which would show up on the Appraiser’s website.
All that’s left is personal expenses and his ostensibly “professional” investments. It is possible a member of his family had, say, extraordinary medical bills, but if so, he won’t say. What is sure is that he borrowed $200,000 and now has an investment portfolio worth less than $45,000, again according to his disclosure form.
And what may be most shocking is that his main holding, making up 62% of his savings, is a fund designed to let investors bet that inflation will rise. Because inflation has stayed low, this fund has collapsed. Buying funds like this is like going to Vegas and betting the future of the family home on “Red.” If he was as irresponsible as this with his own family’s money, what could we expect him to do with our tax dollars as a member of the School Board?
So Robin’s claim to financial and investment expertise is appalling, even worse than his low salary and scofflaw business habits. If he were to advise clients in his position (mid-life with a low-paying job and a wife and kids), to mortgage the family home to buy one of the riskiest bets in the financial markets, he could be sued, and would likely lose whatever professional licenses he might have.
We cannot have his kind of judgment guiding our children’s future.
Researched and written by Rick Boettger, Ph.D., (Business Administration, Berkeley) and Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D. Smith-Martin’s opponent in the race for the School Board, Barbara Bowers, did not participate and, in fact, asked us not to be negative. And that’s the way it would have been— until Smith-Martin sent out his “slime” mailing a couple of weeks ago. Our research and commentary are in response to that mailing. In an effort to tell both sides of the story, we communicated with Smith-Martin in writing, asking for answers to an array of questions. In response, he did not address a single one of our facts.
We also must acknowledge a legion of anonymous government employees serving in the following offices: the Supervisor of Elections; the Harvey Government Center; the City of Key West and Asheville Licensing Bureaus; the City of Key West Code Compliance; the Clerks of the Courts in Monroe and Buncombe Counties; the Monroe County Property Appraiser; and the Division of Corporations for the Departments of State for Florida and North Carolina.
All were open and prompt in responding to our inquiries, because a primary part of their mission is to safeguard the public’s right to know the facts about our political candidates. The laws creating these monitoring agencies were hard-won, and are expensive for us as a Democracy to enforce. To our knowledge no one else has bothered to avail themselves of any of this information, even after we had brought our questions to their attention.
Below is the preceding article, explaining why the above research was performed. It is more obliquely related to Smith-Martin’s claims to expertise, calling into question his political judgment. It was written in my style as an opinion piece, but is based on facts.
Barb’s Class vs. Robin’s Slime
Below is School Board Candidate Barbara Bowers’ classy response to a sadly slimy attack on her by her opponent, Robin Smith-Martin. Barb explains it all herself, but let me expand upon her description of the photo of her that Robin sent to 10,000 voters, which she understates is “quite unflattering.” It’s a photo taken of her when she was talking enthusiastically at a forum, with her mouth open WIDE in the middle of a word.
You, go in the bathroom, right now, and look in the mirror at yourself with your mouth wide open and your eyebrows raised in enthusiasm. Freeze it. You look nuts. We all look nuts. Robin carefully selected a photo of his normally photogenic opponent to put on his postcard mailer that makes her look nuts. As one photo in a selection of her in various action poses, it’s eye-catching photography, and even appears on one of her own websites.
As the only photo chosen from a dozen publicly available, it’s SLIME. And Robin goes on from there. Let me use Barbara’s own words, for you well-read couch potatoes who don’t go to candidate forums, as she now speaks to voters across the Keys:
“I’m Barbara Bowers, the writer and bartender. That, according to my opponent, is what qualifies me for the school board seat in District 1. He recently sent out thousands of postcards that compared the two of us.”
At this point Barbara pulled out the political mailer to point to. “His nice, large photo is on the right and a teensy photo of me is here, but that’s okay because it’s quite unflattering.” As I said above, it makes her look like a crazy person. “In the next column he notes that he’s married and I’m not. He has children and I don’t. Then right here he says that he’s a businessman and I’m a writer and bartender.”
“Of course, he forgot to mention that I’m a teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and a master’s degree in education. He also forgot that I have 20 years of business experience with major corporations like Medicine Shoppe International, where I was the advertising director. Or the regional vice president of a hospital corporation.”
At this point, Barbara looked Robin straight in the eye. “Robin, I am really disappointed in you . . .” (she then turned back to audience) “. . . for demonstrating that you are willing to carry on the half truths and dirty politics that have been rampant in our school system.”
“When you go to the polls, please send a message to my opponent that you will no longer tolerate underhanded, politics as usual by voting for me, Barbara Bowers—teacher and businesswoman, who also bartends and writes. In fact, I brought a copy of one of my books for each of you to take home. In it, the late-great Shel Silverstein is a character, and he once told me that you get to know a man by reading his stuff. By reading my stuff, you can get to know a woman, too: Barbara Bowers, teacher, businesswoman and writer who does her homework.”
“You will get 100 percent transparency from me; never half truths.”
Wow! How often does a political speech down here in our humble Keys make you want to stand up and cheer? I didn’t see it, but just reading it in print gave me chills. That kind of intelligence and backbone, on the foundation of her very real and extensive experience, is why I am so enthusiastically supporting her. Robin’s own top supporter, Steve Pribramsky, asked which of the candidates was tough enough to stand up and say, “Enough!” The answer, Steve, is Barbara.
Because of Robin’s unprovoked, shot-across-the-bow slime attack, I am now going to go forward with exposing his poor record in his self-advertised strengths, as a “business owner” with “expertise in finance.” Next week I will show you the facts behind my opinion that he is incompetent in business and a terrible, money-losing manager of his own family’s money. So please don’t vote early, and encourage your friends to wait a week, to judge for yourselves his record of excessive borrowing, missed legal filings, and bad investments.
Until now, Barbara begged all of her supporters NOT to criticize Robin, even as some of his supporters have been whispering nasty lies about her. She has not even wanted us to defend her against the lies, rejecting my own argument to fight back, especially frustrating to me since I had so much ammunition in defense.
Instead, Barbara sincerely wanted the campaign to be positive, with the candidates staying on the issues, discussing complex matters of substance, like choosing and hiring a new Superintendent. Remember, instead of 30,000 voters hiring our next Superintendent, it will be just the five Board members, based on August’s referendum that ended popular election of the post. Barbara wants to discuss the hiring, school food, vocational training, class size, reduced administrative salaries—things like that, which gravely matter. Apparently Robin preferred to be elected through slime, not taking her on over the issues.
Robin’s unprovoked attack was so inexcusable it forced me to act. I have spent dozens of hours on the internet, driving around to Robin’s business addresses, retrieving official documents, and interviewing people. I would not have done this, and discovered what I now know, had not Robin gone negative on Barb. And I am glad now that he did, for he forced me to find out what every voter absolutely must know about his actual record in his self-proclaimed strengths.
So sorry, Barb, I’m over-ruling your request. I feel it is my absolute duty as a voter myself and especially as a political writer to allow people to know what I have researched about this man who wants to slime his way to a powerful and important position. Everyone should know I am not even sending Barbara my research on Robin, as she doesn’t want to get distracted from her own focus on the issues. This is all on my own.
I’m doing my best to get Robin’s side of the story, without much help. I asked him very detailed questions about his businesses and financial filings, and he has not thus far answered a single one. He did answer about the source of the open-mouthed photo, because he indeed had an excellent source, as I noted above. Curiously, he did NOT answer my simple question about whether he and Bethany married in another state, or were domestic partners, like me and Cynthia, whom as you know I always refer to as my “wife,” because she is.
I only brought this up because in my research on Robin’s business and financial dealings I had not seen their marriage certificate pop up on the Clerk’s website, either here or in North Carolina. This would be so NOT news, except for Robin’s highlighting his family, especially on the mailer.
He did not answer this simple question. Why not? I can only think it would be so that I would erroneously write about it, and he’d grab a whole lot of “Gotcha!” on me. My own research found his mortgages to be in the name of himself and “his wife.” Then I found out from someone who knows him well that they got married in South Carolina. He had an easy answer to a straightforward question. One of some importance. He kept mum.
Why this is especially galling is that he had upbraided me for not interviewing him before my previous article on this race. I promptly had a long interview with him, witnessed by an old friend and main supporter of his whom I respect. In part because of the openness of that interview, I had not intended to go any further into his professional and financial background.
Instead, here I am doing scores of hours of research and writing on a very distasteful topic. Because, despite his lead in the last vote, he decided to go negative. Fortunately, people who read politics at all are used to fights, and many secretly must relish them, as they too often do decide elections. You guys are in luck here. Though I’d so like to be the happy guy, describing how wonderful everyone is, I keep running into locked cemetery gates, tens of millions of dollars of my tax money rat-holed by the county, and on and on, until I stop by remembering the long slow death of my Goddaughter, and just thank heaven that all of the rest of this is small potatoes.
Friends of Robin, please beg him to answer the very fair questions I’ve asked him, so his side of the story can inform my article next week. It will be in the front of the paper. It will be facts, and it will be news.