An Old Man Voted! So What?

I votedThe Blue Paper, my new favorite newspaper, printed some very exciting news.  Bob Dean voted in a Key West election on Monday.  Why should we care?

We should care because Bob Dean is the Chairman of a secretive utility that is responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in public money.  Your money.  The board members are not accountable to the public they serve.  They are appointed by the governor.  The recent controversy over Bob Dean forces us to ask the question:  does the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) follow its own rules?  Do they follow anyone’s rules?

That controversy, of course, has to do with Bob Dean’s residency.  Mr. Dean is required to live in the district he represents, but there are a pile of documents indicating that he does not.  The FKAA board discussed the issue at a meeting on Friday, September 25.  They kicked it over to the governor’s office.  The residency issue isn’t just about Mr. Dean’s ability to represent Key West on the FKAA board.  It turns out he’s also been voting in Key West.  State Attorney Catherine Vogel has determined it is illegal for him to do that.  Dean went and voted any way despite what Vogel had to say.

The matter now goes to the Key West canvassing board.  Dean’s attorney, Michael Halpern, argued that the canvassing board’s decision should not only apply to Mr. Dean’s ability to vote in Key West, but also to his ability to represent Key West on the FKAA board.  Thankfully, the FKAA board rejected that notion.

It will be interesting to see how the canvassing board decides the issue.  The evidence that Dean does not live in Key West is overwhelming.  But will they decide based on the evidence?  Or will they stretch the definition of the word “residency” beyond all recognition in order to support a pre-arranged conclusion?  I’m guessing they’ll go with Option 2.  Why else would Dean’s attorney be so anxious to toss the issue to them?  We’ll see what happens when they meet on Friday.

The governor’s appointment office is another matter.  If you’ve been over to their website, you’ll see it’s a black box.  Applications go in.  Appointments pop out.  There is no information on who the candidates are or what their qualifications might be.  We are told nothing about the vetting process.  Is there a vetting process?  Public input is neither solicited nor encouraged.  There is no timeline.  There is no window into how the decisions are made.  For all we know, the governor pulls a name out of a hat.

The governor’s decision on the matter will also be interesting to watch.  Gov. Scott has done some good things to encourage increased transparency, and of course I am very pleased that he has provided funding for Keys sewer projects.  However, his decision to penalize Key Largo and Marathon for completing their wastewater projects on time and within budget seems irrational on its face and remains unexplained.

I think the decision on Bob Dean will say a lot about what Gov. Scott is really made of.  I think the decision of the Key West canvassing board will say a lot about what they are really made of.  And that is why the story of an old man voting is so significant.  It’s a rare opportunity for the citizens to gain some insight into the true character of the people who have so much influence over our communities.

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