Vanette Hundley Webb (b. 1957) is a former Escambia County School Board member for District 5 who served from 1996 until 2000, minus a five-month period when she was removed from office following her conviction for withholding public records. Her conviction was overturned, then reinstated on appeal. Facing the prospect of another trial, the State Attorney's office dropped the charges against her in 2003.
|Born||January 16, 1957|
|Occupation||Former Escambia County School Board member, District 5|
Webb, a conservative Christian who home-schooled her own daughter and advised many Escambia County parents to do likewise, was elected in 1996 on a promise to shake up the "entrenched establishment." She frequently butted heads with other School Board members, Superintendent Jim May and other district administrators.
Susan Watson, a mother of three public schoolchildren, organized a group called Citizens for Community Values and in April 1997 began publishing a newsletter critical of Webb's "obstructionist agenda." Starting on March 31, 1998, Watson made a series of public records requests, which state law says must be provided within a "reasonable time." Watson accused Webb of stonewalling her requests for months, and on December 8 Webb was indicted for violating Florida's open records law, a first degree misdemeanor. She pleaded not guilty and filed a lawsuit against ten school and government officials for allegedly conspiring to remove her from office. It was later dismissed.
On May 14, 1999 Webb was convicted of withholding public records. She was suspended by Governor Jeb Bush on May 21. Janice Gilley, then legislative aide to Jerry Maygarden, was appointed as temporary replacement. County Judge Pat Kinsey sentenced her to 11 months and 15 days in prison, then suspended all but 30 days of the sentence. She ultimately spent only seven days in jail.
After concluding that Webb had "lied on the stand," Judge Kinsey recused herself from the post-trial motions, in accordance with case law. Judge William White was selected at random to handle proceedings, and he threw out the conviction on October 22, 1999, saying the state had failed to identify any specific public record that had been withheld.
Webb ran for reelection, but was eliminated in the 2000 primary election after receiving only 17% of votes cast. Linda Finkelstein won the District 5 seat after a runoff with George E. White, Jr. In 2001 she and her husband, who had since moved to Navarre, filed for bankruptcy, citing about $200,000 in legal fees related to her trial that she had unsuccessfully sought to have paid by the school district.
The State Attorney's office appealed White's decision, and Webb's conviction was upheld by the First District Court of Appeal. When the Florida Supreme Court declined to hear the case, it was sent back to Judge White, who offered to grant Webb a new trial. The state complained that Judge White had become an "advocate" for Webb, but he refused their motions for recusal. Deciding that a new trial would be costly and serve little purpose, since Webb had served time in jail and was no longer in office, State Attorney Curtis Golden agreed to drop the charges against her in July 2003. Webb said the decision was made "five years too late. Justice delayed is justice denied."
- "Advocate doesn't relish the spotlight." Pensacola News Journal, May 24, 1999.
- Florida Statutes Chapter 119
- "Webb names 10 officials in lawsuit." Pensacola News Journal, February 5, 1999.
- "Webb wins one: Judge agrees to step down." Pensacola News Journal, May 20, 1999.
- "Judge throws out Webb verdict." Pensacola News Journal, October 23, 1999.
- "Webb all business after defeat at polls." Pensacola News Journal, September 8, 2000.
- "Webb , husband file for bankruptcy." Pensacola News Journal, May 2, 2001.
- "Judge will not recuse himself in Webb case." Pensacola News Journal, March 13, 2002.
- "Vanette Webb freed of charges." Pensacola News Journal, July 19, 2003.