Check out the Blue Paper for video of the Florida Keys Aqueduct (FKAA) Meeting on Friday. District 1 Commissioner, Cara Higgins, laid out her case very effectively. The evidence that Dean does not live in the district he represents is overwhelming. Dean is certainly not going to win on the facts, and he certainly will not win in the court of public opinion. So, if he wants to hang on to that seat, what can he do? Here are a few of the strategies employed.
- Make it about interpersonal drama. Dean’s new attorney, Michael Halpern, claimed that Cara Higgins has a vendetta against Dean over the Venture Out lawsuit against FKAA. Doesn’t sound to me like there’s enough material there to generate a vendetta. Even if true, it does not explain away the evidence showing that Dean does not live in the district he represents.
- Make it all about image. District 4 commissioner, Antoinette Appell, scolded Higgins for making a court-like proceeding of the board meeting. Higgins responded by saying that she first approached FKAA’s in-house attorney, Bob Feldman, for an opinion on the matter. He declined to give one. And so, Higgins, brought it to the board. This is a matter that the public is very interested in. People have lost faith in FKAA and want to see how the board will handle the situation. They don’t want to see it just silently fall off the radar. To put it in the kindest possible way, the FKAA is widely perceived as having issues with transparency. Attempting to handle this issue behind closed doors only feeds that perception.
- Pass the buck to the governor. I’ve already spoken about the strategy of passing the matter off to the governor’s office. If the objective is to keep Dean in his seat, it’s a smart move. Based on my experiences and observations, it is quite possible that Dean will get a favorable ruling despite the piles of evidence. The state has been inexplicably generous to the FKAA in the past – to the detriment of the taxpayers and the voters of the Keys. On the other hand, this particular governor and this particular legislature have taken steps to provide more openness and transparency. Perhaps Tallahassee is entering a new era that won’t be quite so favorable to the likes of Mr. Dean.
- Pass the buck to the Key West Canvassing board. I find this one very intriguing. From KeysNet.
Key West’s Canvassing Board, made up of city commissioners Clayton Lopez and Jimmy Weekley and City Clerk Cheri Smith, may decide on the validity of Dean’s vote on Oct. 9, three days after the Oct. 6 City Commission election.
It was Halpern, Dean’s new attorney, who argued that the residency issue should be decided by the canvassing board. The canvassing board is going to decide if it is legal for Dean to vote in the Key West election. As District 5 commissioner, David Ritz, pointed out the canvassing board has no authority over the FKAA. Halpern went on to say that if the canvassing board rules that Dean is, in fact, voting illegally then Dean should resign from the FKAA board. Halpern was sort of making sense until he suggested that if the canvassing board rules in Dean’s favor then Higgins should resign. Lawyers and their silly theatrics. Presumably, this is just another attempt to move the decision into an arena that is Dean-friendly. Most interesting to me, it was clear that Halpern did not seem to think the governor’s office was inclined to side with Dean.
It will certainly be interesting to watch. Governor Scott has already acted to address certain issues that have been brought to his attention. One is curbing the secretive practice of funding projects introduced in committee. Scott was commended by Florida Tax Watch for acting to bring more transparency to funding decisions. Another is increased transparency and accountability for special districts, which I discussed here. Perhaps, going forward, Scott will make positive changes to the appointment process as well.