Richard Toppino’s appointment to the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) board is, in my mind, extremely questionable.
Mr. Toppino was very clear in his application for the position. He is an officer at two companies that do a significant amount of business with the FKAA. To be quite honest, the conflict was so blatant I didn’t even think Toppino would be seriously considered. I am surprised and disappointed by this decision.
It makes me wonder who’s pulling the stings? And to what end?
Richard Toppino is the Assistant Treasurer at Charley Toppino & Sons, which currently has a $919,000 contract with the FKAA. He is the Vice President of Monroe Concrete, which according to his application, also regularly does business with the FKAA.
This decision once again highlights the secretiveness of the appointment process. How and why was this particular applicant chosen out of the eleven who applied?
Here is a link to the ethics law. A “public officer” is defined as follows. The bolding is mine.
As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, the term “public officer” includes any person elected or appointed to hold office in any agency, including any person serving on an advisory body.
Most of the eleven applicants had minimal or zero conflicts. Why choose one who has a direct and ongoing business relationship with the agency?
- According to this article from the Florida League of Cities a public official may not “do business for his agency with an entity in which he or his spouse or child is an officer, partner or proprietor or in which he, his spouse or child has a material interest of 5 percent or greater. This statute also covers that same public official in his private capacity doing business with his agency”.
- From the same article, the statute “precludes public officials from having an employment or contractual relationship with a business entity doing business with the agency, or having employment or contractual relationships that create a continuing or frequently reoccurring conflict between the official’s private interests and the performance of his public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of his public duties”.
It seems to me it will be difficult for Toppino to discharge his duties as an FKAA board member without violating the law in some way – or at least without the appearance of doing so. I’m sure Mr. Toppino and the FKAA will find a way to tap dance around the law, but there’s no way they can tap dance around the optics. This looks bad.
As mentioned above, “public officers” are prohibited from doing business with their own agency.
The disastrously over-budget Cudjoe Regional project, Melva Wagner’s residency issues, Bob Dean’s residency issues, and the existing conflicts of interest make it abundantly clear that the FKAA is a troubled organization. This appointment could have been an opportunity to turn things around. Why did the governor’s office take a pass on making changes that Keys citizens have long wanted and needed?
It’s worth noting that Frank Toppino serves on the Key West Housing Authority with Bob Dean. Available documents suggest that Frank Toppino is Richard Toppino’s father. For instance, Frank Toppino is listed as the President of Charley Toppino & Sons on Sunbiz. Richard Toppino named Frank Toppino as “Chairman” and “Father” on his application. The situation with Monroe Concrete is similar. More dots connected.
Like I said, interesting choice.
The governor’s office is also supposedly reviewing Bob Dean’s residency issue. I submitted a public records request to find out what documents, if any, were forwarded to them. I hope that the governor’s office will follow the evidence in making the decision. But who knows?