It’s not hard to see there’s something very wrong with the wastewater projects in the Florida Keys. Cudjoe Regional is $43 million over the bid price. Key Largo taxpayers over-contribute by $26 million compared to the other unincorporated areas. That’s because they received $100 million less from the county for the same number of EDU’s. These dollar amounts are huge. I’ve probably typed them a thousand times, but they still boggle my mind. Think about how tiny the Keys are – 74,000 people.
The Blue Paper and KeysNet broke the story about the residency and voter registration issues of Robert Dean, chairman of the board of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA). That inspired me to do a bit of digging of my own.
According to the KeysNet story, Mr. Dean is represented by none other than Bobby Highsmith. Mr. Highsmith, as you might recall, is a member of the Monroe County school board and vocal defender of Randy Acevedo. Randy Acevedo, of course, is the disgraced school superintendent who, at a minimum, looked the other way while his wife embezzled $400,000 from the school system. Mr. Acevedo was later hired by the FKAA, and there is strong evidence that standard hiring practices were not followed.
I searched “Highsmith Robert” at SunBiz. It turned up pages and pages of businesses with a Robert Highsmith as some kind of officer or another. In this instance, I’m going to focus on his law practice, Highsmith and Van Loon, PA. The document that I find particularly interesting is this name change from January 2012. Robert Feldman is currently the attorney for the FKAA. He stepped into that role after Kirk Zuelch replaced Jim Reynolds as Executive Director. Anyhow, apparently Mr. Feldman and Mr. Highsmith practiced law together at one time. Nothing incriminating. Just interesting. It’s good to know who all the players are and how they intersect.
My favorite adage: Truth converges, bullshit diverges. That’s just a fun way of saying I always try to corroborate information. If multiple sources are telling the same story than its more likely to be true. So I did a search of Monroe County tax collector records under “Highsmith”. Here’s a link to the results page. There’s a result for Feldman, Koenig & Highsmith, which was closed in July 2012. A few rows down another result pops up with Kirk Zuelch’s name in it. Again not incriminating in and of itself. The connections are interesting though.
There’s a lot more to sift through. What’s most interesting to me are how the county commissioners might be tied in. After all, these are the five people who rubber-stamped the $43 million budget bust. They are also the five people who oversee the infrastructure sales tax, and saw to it that the Key Largo project was underfunded by at least $100 million.
Nice article in the Blue Paper. Well written and above the ‘fray.’
The law firm you mention had another partner a while back – (now) Judge Tim Koenig (recently appointed by the governor to fill a vacant judicial position ).
Yes, I did notice the Koenig connection. The District and Monroe County have a hearing coming up involving the swap agreement. I am monitoring to see who will handle it and what the final result will be. The county successfully used a similar legal maneuver in order to supply funding to the FKAA. Don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work for Key Largo, too.