From KeysNet this morning, a very unsatisfying non-resolution to Dean’s residency issues: Dean said he’d resign if Scott says so.
Yes, throw the hot potato to the governor. Tallahassee is a strange place. The voters of the Keys have made it very clear they want the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) to be headed by an elected, rather than an appointed, board. The state slammed the door on that, not once but twice. The first time, Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed Rep. Sorensen’s bill calling for an elected board. The second time, Rep. Holly Raschein’s bill died in the senate.
As Rep. Raschein’s bill worked its way through the process, there was a push by Governor Scott to closely examine special districts. My understanding is that there were concerns about duplication of effort and lack of accountability – legitimate concerns worth pursuing. In the end, it was decided that most special districts exist for good reason, but certain measures were taken to improve transparency. I find it interesting that Rep. Raschein’s bill died in this political environment. The bill was introduced as a result of a referendum on the November 2012 ballot. The referendum called for an elected board for the FKAA and was overwhelmingly approved by the voters – 70% voted “yes”.
The ball always seems to bounce in FKAA’s favor up in Tallahassee. Aside from the two end-runs around the elected board, there’s also the belatedly tacked-on requirement that Mayfield money, which was originally meant to finance and refinance Keys sewer projects, could only used be for new projects after the Key Largo and Marathon projects were nearly complete. Essentially, this maneuver ensured that the citizens of those two communities would be punished for completing their projects on time in accordance with state requirements. Immediately after receiving $30 million for the Cudjoe Regional project, the county went wild – reducing assessments by $10 million and increasing spending by $43 million. Doesn’t sound like such a great investment in hindsight, does it? Perhaps part of the remaining $100 million can be used to reduce the financial burden on all taxpayers as was originally intended.
If the FKAA board would prefer that Dean hold on to his seat, it makes sense that they would toss the residency issue to the governor’s office. Tallahassee is a much friendlier place for the appointed board than the Keys are. A ruling from the governor gets the board off the hook while at the same time closing off any form of recourse to the ratepayers. Clearly, the board would be violating its own rules if they failed to remove Dean. They simply couldn’t do that without generating a backlash from the community.
Also interesting, Dean’s got a new attorney. I wonder what happened to Bobby Highsmith of the Highsmith-Feldman-Zuelch-Koenig attorney blob. The new attorney, Michael Halpern, does not seem to have any apparent conflicts according to the Monroe County Tax Collector’s database. Sunbiz is down right now, so further checking will have to wait. At least Dean had the decency to find an attorney without a blatant ethical conflict.
The most sensible statement on the issue was made by Dean himself.
“I’m going to resign, bottom line,” J. Robert Dean said Friday following an FKAA board meeting where Dean’s residence was front and center.
Okay. So resign. Barroso resigned. Wagner resigned. Spare the ratepayers this ongoing nonsense. The FKAA, along with their “partner”, Monroe County have made a hash of the sewer projects. The wasted tax dollars have not only created an unnecessary and uneven financial burden, but are also a huge embarrassment to the Keys. In my opinion, the poor management of the sewer projects is now an obstacle to obtaining needed funding from the state. Its the ratepayers who suffer. Why not put them first for once?