The “Gang of Three” Vindicated by Reality?

david rice campaign poster

David Rice campaign poster.

There was a comment on an article over at the Blue Paper that referenced the “Gang of Three”.  Hoo boy.  Do not get me started!

Too late.  I’m started.

If you really want to be accurate about it, there were two “Gangs of Three”.  There’s the Spehar/McCoy/Nelson (later Di Gennaro) gang and there’s the Neugent/Rice/FKAA gang.  It’s no accident that the communities who broke free from the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) to do their own sewer projects, were financially punished by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

Well, if I really want to be 100% accurate about it, having the FKAA do your sewer project is its own form of punishment – as the folks in Cudjoe Regional have discovered the hard way.    It’s less financial punishment and more other types of punishment.  You know what I bet its like?   I bet its like being stuck in a job with a horrible boss.  Or having a creepy, incompetent plumber in your house that refuses to leave.  Or maybe some combination of the two.  Shudder.

I found this wonderful piece over at http://www.duckkeyonline.com.  By the way, if you’re into Florida Keys sewer history (I can’t be the only one!) this web site is absolutely fantastic.  It was written as events unfolded, and it is interesting as heck.  It’s like a time capsule.  This particular article is very pro-FKAA and anti-“Gang of Three”.  I wonder how the folks who wrote this article see things today.  Do they care about what’s happened in Cudjoe Regional?  Are they concerned at all with what’s happened to Key Largo?  Are they happy with their own project and all those grinder pumps on their properties?

The article quotes an editorial by Dave Whitney from the Independent:

Seems like the dynamic trio of Mayor Dixie Spehar and Commissioners Murray Nelson and Charles “Sonny” McCoy are smarting after losing their bid to gain control of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority when Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed State Rep. Ken Sorensen’s bill to change the FKAA from an appointed (by the governor) board to an elected one.

Sorensen’s bill was vetoed in 2005.  Seven years later, a referendum on the very same issue was passed overwhelmingly by the voters of the Keys – 70% approved of an elected board.  The results for the Middle Keys area were similar to the results county-wide.

By the time of the 2012 referendum, the “Gang of Three” had been out of office for years.  Sadly, Murray Nelson passed away in 2006.  Could it be that in 2012, the voters finally understood what the “Gang of Three” had already known for years?  Or did the voters know all along?

Rep. Raschein introduced another bill in response to the voters’ clearly stated wishes.  It quietly died in Sen. John Thrasher’s rules committee, much to relief of the folks in Ocean Reef I’m sure, who were the only ones who did not support an elected board.

The quoted editorial goes on to say:

On the winning side of that were County Commissioners David Rice and George Nugent. Rice’s wife, Mary, is the chairman of the board of FKAA.

See what I mean about the other “Gang of Three”.  Might there be a conflict of interest if a husband serves on one governing body and a wife serves on another, and those two governing bodies are engaged in multi-million dollar business transactions?  Isn’t it reasonable to be concerned that some form of favoritism might come into play?  Isn’t it plausible that proper oversight might be brushed aside under such an arrangement?  How did the editorial writer fail to appreciate the significance of this?  I am profoundly baffled by this glaring oversight.

I don’t necessarily mean “conflict of interest” in the narrow legal sense, although I would think this would be awfully close to the line.  (Certain folks always find a way to dance around the law.)  I mean in the sense that it’s just plain improper.  It’s poor optics.  It undermines public confidence.  It would be difficult for anyone to act in a truly impartial manner with taxpayer interests properly centered if your spouse is on the other side of the negotiating table.  Would you say that the BOCC properly centered the interests of Key Largo taxpayers?  How about Cudjoe Regional taxpayers?

The folks who publish this website would have to admit that history has proven that the Neugent/Rice/FKAA** gang’s handling of the wastewater projects was horribly flawed, wouldn’t they?  Even the FKAA has acknowledged that the Cudjoe Regional project is a failure.  At the moment, they are frantically trying to pass the buck.  The expense, the unfairness, the steamrolling of the public – all these are bad things, yes?  This is all the work of the “winners”.

It sure looks like the “Gang of Three” was right after all.

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