Update: If you’re a public official and you’re concerned about running into ethics trouble, you can write a letter to the ethics commission requesting their opinion on your particular situation. The commission then posts those opinions on their website. There’s nothing up yet about Toppino.
Here’s a news story from KeysNews.com (the Citizen) about the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) having some bid trouble because of Richard Toppino’s presence on the board.
No kidding. I’m rolling my eyes at the incredible dumbness of it all. The FKAA comes off as looking pretty ridiculous in the KeysNews.com article, and KeysNews usually treats them with kid gloves. I imagine the situation is actually worse than presented.
Like I said before, there are ways for Toppino to tap dance around the law. In this case, the FKAA is talking about filling out some form. No scrap of paper can ever help them avoid the terrible optics. Or the very real concerns of the other bidders. Or the public’s lack of confidence and trust. Or the fact that the FKAA staff has tried like mad to downplay the amount of work the Toppino companies have done for the agency.
To make matters worse, the other board members were apparently not made aware of Feldman’s communications with the Ethics Commission regarding Toppino’s bidding activities. Wow. Just wow.
This is not going to be a one-time issue. The whole situation is a set-up for a recurring conflict of interest. The Toppino companies have worked on many, many FKAA projects over the years either as a contractor or a subcontractor. They’ve done almost $20 million worth of work in the past ten years – and that’s only what I’m aware of to date. It could be much more than that. Research is ongoing. Are the Toppino companies going to forgo that very significant revenue stream because one of their officers is on the board? I very much doubt it.
I suspected that the FKAA would thread their way around this with some sort of subcontracting arrangement. It looks like Toppino went ahead and bid as a contractor, which I find amazing. I guess the other bidders are just supposed to be okay with that?
What a fiasco. What a sad, stupid, completely unnecessary fiasco. Sounds like certain folks are desperate to make this impossible situation work though. The ratepayers are stuck with it for now.