Naples council member Saad apologizes about driving transgressions

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— He may be in hot water with his constituents, but it’s unclear whether recent news about Councilman Sam Saad’s driving record will have a lasting effect on Naples City Council.

Saad, 32, was notified last month that his license was suspended as of Feb. 25.

While Saad declined further comment on his driving record Thursday, he did apologize to his constituents in a letter sent to the editor of the Naples Daily News.

Saad in the letter said there was no excuse for the transgressions, and he should have known better.

“I have let down the citizens of Naples in disregarding the city’s traffic laws and accruing multiple traffic citations for speeding,” he wrote. “I am truly sorry for acting so recklessly and callously.”

That apology may not mean much when it comes to restoring the public trust, though, said Seana Surgue, an associate professor of political science at Ave Maria University.

Surgue said it’s hard for elected officials to bounce back after they’ve acted inappropriately.

“Scandals have plagued every institution and elected officials are no different than others,” she said. “When you have board members who lose the sense of respect and trust, they have lost a piece of their political capital.”

And that loss, Surgue said, could have an adverse effect on the entire board.

“If these board members are less politically effective, it weakens the board as a whole,” she said.

But Naples Mayor Bill Barnett doesn’t think that will be the case for Naples City Council. Barnett said Thursday he didn’t think recent incidents would have any long-term effect on the board.

“I think people will voice their opinions like they normally do,” Barnett said. “But as far as casting a negative on council in its entirety, I don’t see that.”

Saad isn’t the only council member who has had a run-in with the law lately.

Naples City Councilman Doug Finlay was charged with misdemeanor battery on Feb. 2 after pushing a volunteer for another Naples City Council candidate’s campaign, police reported.

Finlay plead not guilty following the incident, which happened before he was elected but on the day of the Naples election.

Councilman Gary Price, like Barnett, said he doesn’t believe either incident will affect council’s ability to govern.

“I think it says that people are human beings, and whether they’re public service or not, they’re human beings,” Price said.

The incidents may not affect either council member’s ability to serve the entire four-year term.

While Florida law does give the governor the ability to suspend elected officials from office, that is generally extended to elected officials who are arrested for a felony or a misdemeanor related to their duties in office.

Sterling Ivey, spokesman for Gov. Charlie Crist, said in an e-mail Thursday that Crist has suspended 35 public officials since taking office in January 2007.

Saad, in his letter Thursday, said he was not above the law and is “taking steps to earn my driving privileges back.”

Saad’s suspension lasts for 30 days, and was issued after he received 12 points on his license in the past 12 months.

Points are given if a person is convicted of a traffic violation, such as speeding. Once a driver gets to 12 points, his or her license is suspended.

Saad said Wednesday that while he has been trying to obtain a hardship license — which would allow him to drive to and from work — he had not yet been granted one.

Saad also said Wednesday he had been driving to and from his Pine Ridge Road office since the suspension went into effect.

Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna-buzzacco

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Comments » 1

baatman74 writes:

This statement from the Mayor: “I think people will voice their opinions like they normally do,” Barnett said. “But as far as casting a negative on council in its entirety, I don’t see that.”
That is presumptuous and somewhat arrogant; Barnet has been around so long, he has forgotten that council lives in a 'glass house...'
Truth is, Saad is a lawyer, he thinks he is immune to laws that govern others and he is too young to be a council member. He has demonstrated that in his calloused approach to traffic laws.

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